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From 'Pump-Pump' to 'Cha Cha Cha': Finland's vibrant Eurovision history

09 August 2023 at 10:00 CEST
Käärijä rehearsing Cha Cha Cha for Finland at the Second Rehearsal of the Second Semi-Final at Liverpool Arena Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU
'Looking Back' through Finland's colourful participation in the Eurovision Song Contest; from the 'Dark Side' through to 'La Dolce Vita' - Finland, we're 'Addicted To You'!

With Cha Cha Cha soundtracking the summer of many pop fans and bop fans around the globe right now, Finland's Eurovision heritage is once again being spoken about with all the enthusiastic energy of a bolero jacket-wearing adonis bursting out of his pallet-crate prison. No better time then, to dive into that rich Contest history that the Finns have curated for themselves over the decades.

Saara Aalto represented Finland in 2018, finishing in 25th place Thomas Hanses)

The number 11 is one that has been quite notable in Finland’s Eurovision history. The country has finished in last place no less than 11 times. And some of the big fan favourites that Finland has contributed to the Contest over the years have ended up finishing in 11th place. Pump-Pump by Fredi & Friends, Fantasiaa by Ami Aspelund and Something Better by Softengine, for example, all missed out on a Top 10 finish by just one place. 

Helping Finland to reclaim the number 11 and give it altogether more positive connotations, we've trawled through the sounds of Suomi and put together 11 memorable moments from Finnish Eurovision history.

1. The Masked Singers

Number one has to be the one and only number one finish that the Finns have achieved at the Eurovision Song Contest. And what a number one it was!

Finnish metal band Lordi won the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest in Athens, Greece

Masked metalheads Lordi rocked up to the 2006 Contest in Athens with Hard Rock Hallelujah, a monster-themed ode to the genre it was composed in. Memorable thanks not just to its catchy chorus, the song made an impression on voters at home via a performance which comprised pyrotechnics, expandable bat wings and a hell of a lot of latex. 

Its Grand Final score of 292 was a record high for a Eurovision winner at that time. The song remains Finland’s only Eurovision winner and, until Liverpool 2023, it was also Finland’s sole Top 5 finish to boast of since its Contest debut in 1961. Prior to Lordi’s win in 2006, Finland’s best result was a 6th-place finish in 1973. 

Some dark times brought to an end by some dark forces!

2. From Hell to Helsinki

Immediately following Finland’s first Eurovision win in 2006, was Finland’s first time hosting the Contest in 2007. 

Finnish broadcaster YLE brought the Contest to us from Hartwall Areena in the country’s capital Helsinki. It was produced and broadcast in high-definition for the very first time, and had a new record of 42 countries competing. 

The bumper edition of the Contest saw a whopping 28 songs compete in the Semi-Final, which remains a record in any Eurovision live show (the highest number of songs to compete in a Grand Final was 27, in 2015). 10 songs progressed to the Grand Final, with an eye-watering number of 18 eliminated. It was to be the last year a Contest would have just one Semi-Final; from 2008 onwards, the Eurovision Song Contest has been made up of two Semi-Finals and a Grand Final annually.

3. A love song to Lapland

Few Finnish entries have screamed 'FINLAND!' quite like what is literally a love song to the country’s largest region. At the 1977 Contest in London, Finland competed with Lapponia by Monica Aspelund. The entry remains one of Finland’s most highly-regarded; a sing-along (and inevitably clap-along, too) favourite that picked up 50 points for a Top 10 finish. 

Lapland was celebrated once more at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007. Finland’s northernmost region’s most famous dweller - Father Christmas - showed up in Helsinki to give off-season’s greetings to viewers at home!

4. Punctual punk

When punk band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät represented Finland at the 2015 Contest in Vienna, they did so with a characteristically punk approach. Eschewing the full scope of the EBU’s three-minute rule when it comes to a song’s duration, the band performed a tune that lasted less than half of the permitted length. 

At one minute and 27 seconds, Aina Mun Pitää holds the record for being the shortest ever Eurovision entry. 

5. Reliable rock

If any genre has become synonymous with Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s rock music. The country’s recent Eurovision history, and particularly its successes, have been punctuated by pyro-friendly guitars and drums, and quite often a fair bit of shouting, too!

Since Lordi’s win in 2006, Finland has rocked the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final 5 more times, with Hanna Pakarinen, Teräsbetoni, Softengine, Blind Channel and The Rasmus all delivering some of the genre’s best showings at the Eurovision Song Contest. When it comes to rock music, Finland has delivered more than its fair share to the world's biggest music stage. 

6. “Let your hip go hippety pump pump”

Thanks to Fredi & Friends’ evergreen entry for Finland in 1976, Pump-Pump, hips have been hippety pump pumping across Europe for what’s approaching 50 years now. 

The eternally melodic and rhythmic number gave the Contest an inimitable injection of fun when Fredi and co descended upon The Hague in April ‘76. To date, it remains one of Finland's most memorable entries - and for all the right reasons, you'll agree!

The thrust action was strong with this lot

7. OMG UMK

Finland is one of the very few countries that has selected every single one of its Eurovision entries via a national final. And in recent years, the Finnish pre-selection Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (or UMK for short) has been going through something of a golden era. 

As well as being a go-to pre-selection for Eurovision fans keen to unearth new pop gems, UMK has also been yielding some phenomenal results in the wider Finnish music industry. In 2021, UMK winner Dark Side by Blind Channel ended up being the most streamed Finnish song of the year. In 2022, that same achievement went to another UMK song (which didn’t win, finishing 3rd in the national final), Ram Pam Pam by Bess. And in 2023, it’s looking likely that the same feat will be achieved for a third consecutive year, with UMK winner Cha Cha Cha by Käärijä well on track to becoming the most streamed Finnish hit of the year at home. 

Ahead of UMK 2023, 3 of the 7 competing entries had their turn at being number 1 on Spotify Finland.

8. Ding Dong!

One particularly colourful moment from Finland’s Contest history is when a rainbow-hued kiss took place on the Eurovision stage. At the 2013 Contest in Malmö, Finland was represented at the Grand Final by Marry Me, performed by Krista Siegfrids. 

During the performance, viewers at home got to witness Eurovision’s first ever sapphic smooch, as Krista shared a kiss with one of her female backing performers. Krista later revealed that it was a plea for same-sex marriage to be legalised at home in Finland. A bill for the legalisation of same-sex marriages was approved by the Finnish Parliament the following year, in 2014. 

9. Dark Side

It’s fair to say that for a long period of Finland’s Eurovision history, the Nordic nation was considered to be something of an underdog, results wise. In 56 participations, Finland has finished in last place 11 times, scoring an undesirable 0 points on three occasions. 

Finland’s win in 2006 saw it earn the record for the country with the longest wait for a Eurovision win - 45 years after its first participation. Finland held that record until Portugal finally achieved its first win in 2017.

CatCat finished 22nd for Finland in 1994

The darkest decade for the Finns was arguably the ten years book-ending the turn of the century. Due to low placings on the years they did participate, Finland was relegated from taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003. Lordi’s win in 2006 was the country’s first Top 10 finish since 1989. 

10. Blackbird don't sing to me 😔

Since the Semi-Finals were introduced in 2004, Finland has missed out on progressing to the Grand Final on 8 occasions. But few Finnish non-qualifications have caused quite the upset amongst Eurovision fans as the result in 2017 did, when Blackbird by Norma John languished in the First Semi-Final, finishing 12th. 

The atmospheric piano ballad shone resplendently on the Kyiv stage that year. But while viewers did only get to see it performed that one time, the song has nonetheless gone on to leave a considerable impact on fans in its own special way.

11. It's crazy. It's party.

Finland are currently riding a wave of Eurovision glory, thanks to the country’s most recent result. At Liverpool in May, Käärijä’s Cha Cha Cha finished in second place - Finland’s second-best ever result at the Eurovision Song Contest. The song’s success beyond Liverpool, too, has seen to it that the banging schlager-metal hybrid will go on to be one for the history books on the shelf.

Käärijä from Finland attending the Turquoise Carpet event at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU

Cha Cha Cha became the first Finnish-language song to chart inside Spotify Global’s Top 200, peaking at 7. It also became the first Finnish-language song to reach the Top 10 of the UK singles chart, debuting at 6. The song charted inside the Top 10 in 14 other countries, reaching number 1 in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden. 

The cha cha chanting of Cha Cha Cha is a sound that will now echo through Finland's vibrant Eurovision history forever more. 

FIN.

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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.

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