Tomorrow marks the start of the Finnish semi-finals and the quest to find a suitable entry to keep up Finland's positive trend in Eurovision. After having two big, commercial acts in a row, securing positive results (Hanna's 17th place may not seem fantastic to anyone else, but for Finland to score twelve-pointers is fantastic in itself and when Hanna made it to #1 in the rather important Trackslistan chart in Sweden, we could not be anything but pleased), one would think that step one for the national broadcaster would be to make sure to sign up a few stars for this year's extravaganza.
Think again. The 2008 line-up is remarkably freed from stars. Most of the participants share the dubious quality of being new names to most TV-viewers. None of these 12 acts are big sellers at the moment, and most of them will come onto the screen as unfamiliar faces to the big crowds.
I am in no way saying these are bad acts. In fact, some of them are very promising and some could be waiting for the big break they truly deserve. But the chances of Euroviisut providing that chance lacking stars the way it does are rather faint.
The irony of it all is that Finland, at this moment, produces more pop music of international standards than ever before. There are loads of acts that could be perfect for the contest and, more importantly, benefit from the ESC to make their way outside the Finnish market. Why won't they do Eurovision?
Here are just a few names I would have loved to see in a Finnish final of 2008:
Kwan - Tainted Love
Kwan has been around for a few years, and their blend of pop and r'n'b has been very successful in the domestic charts. "Shine" was also a minor hit in Sweden a few years back.
Lauri Tähkä & Elonkerjuu - Pauhaava sydän
After many years of activity, Lauri & team had their big break in Finland in 2007 with this song and subsequent album. If Finland wanted to stick to rock music this could have been a brilliant way of doing so without repeating oneself.
PMMP - Pikkuveli
Punkpop girls PMMP have blended an almost t.A.T.u-esque attitude with severely catchy choruses for many years already. Around 2006, they expressed an interest in taking part in Euroviisut, which sadly never materialised. But better late than never.
Anna Abreu - Ivory Tower
Anna was the runner-up in the latest edition of Idols in Finland. She was lucky enough to fall in the hands of some really gifted producers and has enjoyed massive chart success ever since. After Hanna Pakarinen sang for Finland in 2007, it is almost shocking not to see Anna among the candidates this year.
Kristiina Brask - Nyt mä meen
Kristiina was one of Anna's rivals in Idols and far from being my favourite there. Her squeaky voice hardly ever found its way along the melodies Kristiina tried to squeeze out, but she happened to end up aided by good producers as well. All of a sudden she sounds good and nailed herself a hit single.
Sturm und Drang - Rising Son
Maybe these teens would be a tad too young to rise to the occasion, but they are one of the hottest emerging acts in Finland, and also a way to keep the rock trend going without getting tedious. And their participation in a national final would nail the younger audience to the screens.
Antti Tuisku - Ei aikaa
And finally, my favourite, the hottest pop star there is in Finland. Controversial for several reasons, but he is not only Kylie and Robbie rolled into one, but also one of very few Finnish pop singers who can sing and dance at the same time. His debut album is the fastest-selling ever in Finland, and he is the only act ever to get to #1 and #2 in the album chart at the same time (with two albums released at the same time in 2006). If there would ever be talk about selecting the Finnish entrant internally, I would put all the money otherwise spent on a final in Antti's pocket to make sure he would do the job for us.