Finland 2024: Our 7 stars for UMK10 January 2024 at 19:30 CET
The Nordic nation notoriously came very close to taking the Eurovision Song Contest trophy in Liverpool in May. Now it's time to see how Finland plans on following up the memorable Käärijä, as the country sets its sights on Malmö!
On Wednesday 10 January, Finnish broadcaster YLE presented the 7 artists that will be taking part in the country's national final, UMK. Exactly one month later, on 10 February, Tampere’s Nokia Arena will host the one-night pre-selection with songs from Cyan Kicks, Sexmane, Sara Siipola, Jesse Markin, Windows95man, Sini Sabotage, and Mikael Gabriel x nublu.
The show will be broadcast live on Yle TV1, Yle Areena, and Yle’s radio channels. During the live broadcast, the Finnish public can vote for their favourite song. Each entry will also be scored by an international jury with industry professionals from 7 different Eurovision countries. The public vote will account for 75% of the final score, and the panel will contribute the remaining 25%.
The UMK songs will be revealed one song at a time on every weekday beginning from Thursday 11 January. Each song will be released at midnight on each artist’s reveal day (which will be in the order we have listed them below) on Yle Areena and YouTube, as well as on Spotify and other streaming services.
Let's get to know our sensational 7, shall we?!
Cyan Kicks – Dancing With Demons
In 2022, Cyan Kicks competed in UMK with their entry Hurricane, placing second in the final. Their success in UMK was followed by numerous gigs all over Europe, a headline tour in Germany and, just recently, a tour in the United Kingdom and continental Europe along with rock group Smash Into Pieces.
The band is made up of vocalist Susanna Alexandra, guitarist Niila Perkkiö, bassist Leevi Erkkilä and drummer Pietari Reijonen. Cyan Kicks’ sound is easily identifiable, thanks largely to the band’s guitarist and producer Niila. “You could say that our music is a metal heart in a pop wrapper,” states Niila.
The UMK entry Dancing With Demons is the result of long, hard work. It received its finishing touches in London’s legendary RAK Studios with the help of British songwriter Dan Lancaster. The song deals with harnessing one’s inner demons and turning them into a strength.
“Everyone has their own weaknesses and demons, which we’re ashamed of and don’t want anyone else to see. Then, we thought what if we were able to make our own inner demons our allies - what would happen?” describes Susanna.
Sexmane – Mania
Sexmane, a.k.a. Max Sene, is currently one of the most listened-to artists in Finland. His 2019 debut album Sextape was a roaring success, sitting on the Official Finnish Albums Chart for over 100 weeks. His second album Väärinymmärretty earned the artist four Emma nominations (Finnish Grammys).
His 2023 album Sextape II sealed his success. After the album’s release, 18 of its 20 songs made the Finnish Top 50 chart. Sene was nominated for four Emmas in two consecutive years and won the title of Finnish Artist of the Year.
His UMK entry Mania was formed slowly from different pieces. Sene wrote the song at different times and in different moods, which is also apparent in the song lyrics.
“The words in the chorus crystallise my thoughts: it’s quite all right to be a bit ‘crazy’. I know that a lot of young people are struggling with mental health challenges. I want to give them the strength and courage to hang in there.”
Sara Siipola – Paskana
Sara Siipola’s dark and soulful voice has enchanted Finns with such songs as Rohkee sydän, Susta tulee tähti and one of her latest, Uusi musta.
Siipola grew up in the Ostrobothnian town of Laihia. In 2016, she graduated with a vocational qualification in business in Vaasa. Shortly thereafter, she began her singing career. Within five years, she had a raft of singles, a debut album and the music programme Tähdet Tähdet under her belt.
“I love writing songs on big topics. I really want people to be able to listen to my songs whenever they want to feel self-confident and connect with others," says Siipola.
Her UMK entry Paskana ('I’m a f***ing wreck') is about a friend who loses their father and the feelings that the loss stirs up. During one evening, Siipola watched how her friend tried to be present at a dinner party after experiencing such a loss. Paskana deals with grief and lets the listener feel heartbroken: why do others go grocery shopping and go on with their lives when my own world has stopped cold? According to Siipola, the power of the song stems from the fact that it doesn’t romanticise the idea of grief, that there will be a happy ending.
Jesse Markin – Glow
With his debut album Folk in 2019, Jesse Markin became one of Finland’s most captivating new artists overnight. Markin was voted Newcomer of the Year and his album won the Critics Choice award in the annual Emma Gaala (Finnish Grammys).
He found inspiration for his music in movies, literature and his own life. Where Folk focused on social perspectives, his 2021 album Noir explored Markin’s personal life. In addition to everything else, Markin has also made music for the second season of the Moominvalley series.
Markin decided to enter UMK because his entry Glow felt right. The song is an excellent example of how Markin combines genres and styles that are important to him right now in one single.
“One of the main points of the song is ‘don’t give up’. Even the smallest spark can get things going if you just try. Musically speaking, the song contains afro-vibes, cosmic soundscapes and so much more,” describes Markin.
Windows95man – No Rules
Windows95man is an embodiment of the '90s, who frees a once timid family man from his everyday life. It all started when Teemu Keisteri’s home videos on YouTube began to circulate all over the world. One of the videos even ended up in a commercial aired during an NHL game.
In 2013, a DJ gig at the Flow Festival brought the character known as Windows95man to life. His artist costume consists of a pair of very cut-off shorts made by Keisteri’s friend, and a Windows95 t-shirt ordered online. Since then, Windows95man has performed at Helsinki’s New Year’s celebration in 2022, as an opening act for Käärijä at the Helsinki Ice Hall and at numerous smaller events.
At UMK, Windows95man will be releasing his very first single, No Rules. The song title refers to the artist’s motto, which appears in both his music and other artistic productions. Henri Piispanen is the singer in No Rules. Keisteri explains that the chorus of the song was so challenging that he had trouble finding a singer with enough technical skill to pull it off. Piispanen was the only one whose voice could go high enough.
“In my opinion, all Finns are a bit looney-tunes deep inside, and I wanted to bring that out more. Now I can share my music with an even bigger audience as well as spread the joyous message of No Rules,” says Keisteri.
Sini Sabotage – Kuori mua
Having sung and played music since childhood, Sini Sabotage rose to fame with her 2013 hit Levikset repee. The song shot up the Official Finnish Charts to number one for singles and downloads, and it went gold in 2013. Sabotage’s accomplishments since then have truly blazed a trail for female rap artists in Finland.
UMK marks a new chapter for Sabotage, or in her own words, a completely new book. According to Sabotage, the colourful contest entry Kuori mua ('Peel Me') was inspired by “a few fireball shots” and a collaborative brainstorming session. The song’s co-creator Vilma Virintie described how Sabotage is like an onion, with its many layers.
“We’re never just what we appear to be on the outside at any given moment. We all have many sides and so much more to give than just one picture, song or moment,” says Virintie.
Mikael Gabriel x nublu – Vox Populi
Mikael Gabriel and Estonian rapper nublu are among the most successful rap artists in their respective countries. Released in 2010, Mikael Gabriel’s debut album Pohjosen poika was well received, and the singles on his 2015 album Versus broke streaming records even before the album was officially released.
Nublu rose to become Estonia’s biggest artist and rap phenomenon when he was voted Hip-Hop/Rap/R&B Artist of the Year in 2020. A collaboration by Gabriel and nublu, Universum, was released that same year, quickly rising to become one of the most listened-to singles in both countries on Spotify.
Mikael Gabriel x nublu’s UMK entry is called Vox Populi. The song talks about how it is sometimes hard to know what’s true and what isn’t in such polarised public forums.
“The song deals with political and cultural divides, saying that even though we’re all entitled to our own opinions, it doesn’t necessarily make them true. Everyone should use their voice, but at the same time you should also keep in mind that you will be judged no matter what,” says Gabriel.
At the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, Finland finished in second place at the Grand Final, thanks to Cha Cha Cha performed by Käärijä.
Its impressive points tally of 526 put it comfortably inside the Top 10 of the highest Eurovision Song Contest scores of all time.
The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Malmö, Sweden on Tuesday 7 May (First Semi-Final), Thursday 9 May (Second Semi-Final) and Saturday 11 May (Grand Final) 2024.