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Finland unveils sensational 7 competing in UMK23

11 January 2023 at 07:00 CET
Finland's UMK23 lineup
The seven finalists of Finland’s UMK have been announced: Keira, Benjamin, Robin Packalen, Lxandra, Käärijä, KUUMAA, and Portion Boys.

Each song will be revealed over the course of the next week at the stroke of midnight (Eastern European Time). The songs and videos will be available on the Finnish broadcaster’s streaming service Yle Areena, as well as on Youtube, Spotify, and other music streaming services

UMK23 Release Schedule
Thursday 12 JanuaryKeira - No Business On The Dancefloor 
Friday 13 JanuaryBenjamin - Hoida Mut 
Monday 16 JanuaryRobin Packalen - Girls Like You 
Tuesday 17 JanuaryLxandra - Something To Lose 
Wednesday 18 JanuaryKäärijä - Cha Cha Cha 
Thursday 19 JanuaryKUUMAA - Ylivoimainen 
Friday 20 JanuaryPortion Boys - Samaa Taivasta Katsotaan  

UMK23 will take place on Saturday 25 February at Logomo in Turku. The final will be broadcast for international audiences on Yle Areena starting at 20:00 CET. The broadcast will also include English-language commentary. 

Tapio Hakanen, chair of the UMK jury said: ‘Thanks to increased interest in UMK, more extremely high-quality entries were submitted this year than ever before, and the judges’ job was anything but easy. 

This year’s crop of finalists offers an amazing line-up of new songs performed by both long-time favourite artists and total newcomers. The UMK23 final promises to be a spectacular show, and choosing the winner will certainly be a challenge for both the international jury and Finnish audience.’ 

UMK23 finalists:

UMK23 - Keira Yle / Nelli Kenttä

Keira - No Business On The Dancefloor

UMK’s youngest contestant, the soon-to-be 18 year old Keira Lundström, stole the hearts of Finnish viewers on The Voice of Finland with her powerful vocals. She will be releasing the first single of her career at UMK. Her song, No Business On The Dancefloor, was co-produced by Teemu Brunila and Axel Ehnström, major names in the Finnish music industry, and German producer Jason Ok. 

Since childhood, Keira has always dreamed of having a music career. Music has always been a shared family affair and Keira’s own passion since her days at music play school. In 2021, Keira competed in The Voice of Finland, and was surprised to win each round, again and again, until she eventually reached the final.

‘When I got to sing in front of thousands of people, this feeling of euphoria just washed over me,’ Keira explains. 

Keira’s influences are K-pop groups, such as BTS and Stray Kids, along with singer superstars such as Ariana Grande, Doja Cat and Dua Lipa. Like her influences, Keira wants to make dance a major part of her music.  

At UMK, she will be giving a complete performance, showcasing her musical talents as well as dancing. She’s very excited about this, because there was not enough time for any choreography in The Voice of Finland

UMK jury: ‘With her charming and convincing performance on the Voice of Finland, Keira has perhaps one of the most outstanding dance songs in the history of UMK. The song’s elements include a true groove bassline, a catchy refrain, a trippy flute drop and Keira’s unbelievable vocals, which could all conspire to make the song a radio hit, even at the European level. Two of Finland’s most internationally successful songwriters, Teemu Brunila and Axel Ehnström, contributed to the song. No Business On The Dancefloor is surely one of the most impressive debut singles in Finland for quite some time.’

 

UMK23 - Benjamin Yle / Nelli Kenttä

Benjamin - Hoida Mut 

The bold, charismatic Benjamin was born for Eurovision. Making a name for himself through social media in 2012, Benjamin has an extraordinary career tale to tell. Benjamin’s international music career was launched in 2014, when his English-language debut single Underdogs climbed to the top of the single and radio charts in, for example, Spain.

In 2018, Benjamin changed his singing language to Finnish, and his debut single Naarmuja shot straight to the top of the Finnish single chart. Looking back on Benjamin’s Instagram celebrity in his younger days, his debut album Someveteraani was released in 2020. 

Benjamin tells of his long search for himself as an artist, eventually figuring out that the best version is, after all, just being himself. Everything culminated in the song GAY, which is based on Finnish pop icon Maija Vilkkumaa’s classic song EiGAY became the Pride anthem for the summer of 2022. Last autumn Benjamin demonstrated his ambition and creativity by winning the Finnish Dancing With The Stars competition. 

For Benjamin, who grew up with Eurovision, Hoida Mut is an important song, as it deals with an important moment in one’s life and also bends conventional notions regarding gender. A man doesn’t always have to be the alpha - even a big, strong man can sing about surrendering to someone. 

UMK jury: ‘Fast-riser Benjamin’s UMK song entry Hoida Mut brings an explosive energy, a contemporary sound that draws from 80s pop, not to mention a truly hit-making chorus. The production brings to mind the driving 80s-style beat used by Ava Max, The Weeknd and Dua Lipa in recent years. The song has a hot and sexy feel from start to finish, and we’re really looking forward to seeing how Benjamin, with his charisma and stunning dance moves, will bring it to life in the music video and stage performance.’

 

UMK23 - Robin Packalen Yle / Nelli Kenttä

Robin Packalen - Girls Like You 

One of Finland’s most popular pop artists, the beloved Robin Packalen has long wanted to enter UMK. Now, the time has finally come. Robin, who got his start as a child star, is ready to conquer Europe with his energy and authenticity. 

Robin Packalen’s first single was released in 2012, when he was just 13. It was an immediate hit, and Robin became a superstar. According to Packalen, the good thing about performing at a young age is that you aren’t afraid of anything and you have plenty of energy. The flipside is the fact that you have to grow up very fast. 

In recent years, Packalen has been releasing songs in English. When making music, he relies on his instincts. Outside his music career, the extroverted Packalen enjoys extreme sports and socialising as much as he can. 

Now was the right time for him to enter UMK. Many people have been wanting to see Robin in the contest and, even though he had been considering it for years, he feels that he is only just now ready for it. 

‘And, this song is so good that the whole world should hear it,’ says Robin.

UMK jury: ‘It’s so good to have one of Finland’s most successful pop stars of all time competing in the Contest for New Music UMK! Girls Like You is precisely the kind of music Robin Packalen wants to make: groovy, catchy and feelgood pop performed in English, which suits UMK to a T. Even though the song has clear Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake influences, Robin makes his own mark with his familiar vocal style. Written in Los Angeles, the song is like a sunny day squeezed into a three-minute audio file.’

UMK23 - Lxandra Yle / Nelli Kenttä

Lxandra - Something To Lose 

With her magnificent voice, Lxandra (aka Alexandra Lehti) is a magical interpreter and internationally successful artist, who won the prestigious Music Moves Europe Talent Award in 2019. Lxandra, who released her debut album Careful What I Dream Of in 2021, strives for timelessness with her music.

Lxandra’s creativity and passion for storytelling took root in her childhood home at Suomenlinna. When she was 19, Lxandra moved to Berlin to work with top music industry players, gaining quite a global following as an artist since her first singles. Filled with a strong narrative style and sensitivity, Lxandra’s music has also been heard in American films and television series. 

Lxandra believes that it is crucial for an artist to evoke an emotional response in people with their music.  

‘I want to create universal music that is personal at the same time. Dark, but still full of colour. I strive for emotionality and connection,’ explains Lxandra. 

The idea to enter her ballad Something to Lose to UMK came from the jet lag she had after a trip to Los Angeles in April 2022.

‘There had been talk of entering UMK for quite some time, but it wasn’t until just that moment that I realised this song could be the right one,’ Laxandra says. 

UMK jury: ‘For years Lxandra has been one of Finland’s most promising export talents, making a career for herself out in the world. Now, she brings her exquisite ballad Something To Lose to UMK. The song is all at once tender and personal, dramatic and epic. Lxandra is a top-notch live performer, who has touched audiences in Finland and abroad, even bringing them to tears. The song will definitely rise to new heights when performed live. Lxandra is also known as a versatile audio-visual artist, so we are very interested to see what kind of world she will build around the song.’

UMK23 - Käärijä Yle / Nelli Kenttä

Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha 

Käärijä is an artist who is almost impossible to define. Unabashed and unpredictable, Käärijä loves to break boundaries, follow his own beat and explore new things. Käärijä’s debut album Fantastista was released in 2020. The artist’s music takes on a whole new dimension live – indeed, Käärijä’s unfettered live performances are what he’s known for.   

Käärijä’s passion for music started with drumming. In grade school he began taking drum lessons, but when he started middle school his interest turned to rap: Käärijä started to practice his freestyling during English classes. 

His debut single Urheilujätkä was released in 2016 and since that time Käärijä has done his own thing. Käärijä hates being confined to a specific genre, preferring to combine elements from, among others, rap, metal and electronic music. His lyrics deal with everyday things, the passage from youth to the threshold of adulthood, from house parties to after-parties. 

Käärijä has watched Eurovision since he was a little boy, with Verka Serduchka’s Dancing Lasha Tumbai being an especially memorable performance. He has also been interested in UMK for several years. This year, he was 150% sure that he would be submitting an entry, because when Cha Cha Cha came along, Käärijä knew the time was right. 

‘Finland is a party country, a heavy metal country and a pop country – this song brings all of those together,’ he says.

UMK jury: ‘Will this become the afterski hit of Finland for the spring of 2023? In his song Cha Cha Cha, Käärijä combines rap, electronic, rock and pop in a unique way. The end result is truly one-of-a-kind, but also very approachable, like the artist himself. The song’s hook is one that grabs you on the very first listen, and we can say with confidence that this is the hardest rap banger in the history of UMK. At UMK and Eurovision, there is always room for something off the wall, which this song so perfectly offers.’

UMK23 - KUUMAA Yle / Nelli Kenttä

KUUMAA – Ylivoimainen

KUUMAA is a fast-rising trio, whose core is catchy tunes and emotions on a grand scale, not to mention the steadfast friendship between the band members. The band’s self-titled debut album KUUMAA was released in 2019. 2022 turned out to be a turning point for the band, whose popularity grew when it took streaming services, radio waves and stages by storm with its hits, including Tulipalo and Oo vielä sekunnin mun

KUUMAA is formed of singer Johannes Brotherus, drummer Jonttu Luhtavaara and bassist Aarni Soivio. The band got its start in 2016, when the friends wanted to form their own Finnish pop group. Since then, the band has built their career for the long haul. The pandemic years brought them closer to each other, with the members starting to produce even more music together.

‘For us, the band is, above all, a group of friends. We’re united by our ambition. This should be taken seriously, but not too seriously,’ says Johannes.   

The band’s UMK song Ylivoimainen is a hard-charging pop tune that brings a universal, infectious energy.

UMK jury: ‘KUUMAA sets the tone for how a Finnish band should sound in 2023: it is charismatic, cutting edge and has the ability to make big songs for streaming services and radio, alike. The band’s frontman Johannes Brotherus is charming and the band’s performance at UMK will bring it to a whole new level on its already skyrocketing trajectory. Ylivoimainen is a harder-charging version of KUUMAA that is sure to rock the stage at Logomo and on Finnish television come February.’

UMK23 - Portion Boys Yle / Nelli Kenttä

Portion Boys - Samaa Taivasta Katsotaan 

One of Finland’s most popular party bands, Portion Boys, have been doing their thing for over a decade. With its positivity and sincerity, the band has blazed a trail to become one of the currently most listened-to bands in Finland. The 2021 megahit Vauhti kiihtyy was a turning point, bringing the group to a whole new level. Even though the group has never released a single album, Portion Boys have put out hit after hit, such as Kyläbaari, Karjala takas and, together with former UMK runner-up Teflon Brothers, Nautin elämästä.  

Portion Boys are Kenraali Vahva, El Meissel, A.P. Vuori (who joined the group in 2021 as a singer), JaloTiina and Taitelija Nieminen. The band was formed in 2010 during a ‘legendary night in Tampere’. Within a day, they came up with the idea, the first song, the first music video and the band name, which has a reference to Swedish foods. Since 2010, Portion Boys has written and released songs and built a fanbase through hard, grassroots work. And, interacting with the audience as equals is one of their biggest strengths. 

The idea to enter UMK has been on the Portion Boys’ radar for several years, and now was the right time to do it. The band feels like they have everything in place and nothing to lose - just a lot to give. 

The message behind their UMK entry Samaa Taivasta Katsotaan is meaningful to the band: each and every one of us matters. 

UMK jury: ‘With a career spanning over a decade under its belt, Portion Boys is currently one of Finland’s hottest groups. It’s great to see the band in UMK, bringing its own, unique style to the contest. Samaa taivasta katsotaan celebrates Europe’s diversity in its own playful way and it represents the value of tolerance that Eurovision promotes, something we all need more of in this day and age. The song is an unforgettable earworm, positively brimming with laser drums, energy and musical hooks. The band’s incredible live energy really comes out in the song - underneath its hard-charging beat is a beautiful composition. This could be one of Finland’s most-streamed songs in 2023.’


The winner will be chosen jointly by Finnish television viewers and international juries. The public will account for 75 % of the vote and the juries for the remaining 25 %. The finalists were chosen from 362 applicants by a jury of music industry professionals led by Tapio Hakanen, YleX’s Head of Music.

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