It was the 7th of November 2017, when the Finnish broadcasting company Yle made a press announcement of the national selection Uuden musiikin kilpailu (UMK) 2018. To everybody’s surprise, it was announced that the contest will only have one artist, performing three songs. And the artist is well known to everybody – Saara Aalto.
The choice for Saara awakes both enthusiasm and criticism
The news about Yle selecting Saara internally have divided opinions in Finland. The decision first surprised Saara herself. She has always dreamt of being a Eurovision star, but did not believe she would be directly selected, at least not this soon.
Most people, including Eurovision experts, believe that Saara is a great choice as an artist. She loves Eurovision, is a brilliant singer and is able to put on a real show. Because of her success at X Factor UK, she is being followed particularly in Britain. She has all the support of the Eurovision fan scene. Saara’s success eventually depends on the song that is being chosen.
The biggest criticism has been targeted for Yle for renewing the concept of UMK completely this year. None of the demos sent in during the autumn will be used. Internal selections for the ESC have become popular in several countries in recent years, often with good results. If Saara gaines success on the Eurovision stage, then hopefully Yle will be forgiven for changing the rules of UMK along the way. There are even hopes that the new system will encourage some of most popular Finnish artists to participate in UMK in the future.
Saara’s UMK songs to be released on the 9th, 16th and 23rd of February
After all the hard work, Saara and her team – with British and Swedish songwriters – have selected the three songs that she will perform at this year’s UMK. We know some of the collaborators already, such as the choreographer Brian Friedman (known from the British X Factor) and the Swedish songwriter Linnea Deb, one of the songwriters behind Måns Zelmerlöw‘s 2015 winning entry “Heroes”.
No details of the songs are available yet, but fans believe there will be both up-tempo songs as well as ballads. Saara has been looking for pop/commercial style female backing singers – who can also dance! – for auditions, which were held on the 16th February. Saara and her team have also filmed the music videos for the songs. In one of her Instagram photos, she is posing in front of a graffiti wall looking fierce – could that mean we can once again see a new side of the multi-talented singer?
The songs will be released on three February Fridays – the 9th, 16th and 23rd, right at the midnight. The songs and their music videos will be available at www.yle.fi/umk, along with information about songwriters behind them. The newly recorded three songs will be featured on Saara’s new album, to be released this spring.
Saara herself believes strongly in the potential of her songs. “All three songs are so brilliant that any of them could be a Eurovision winner. They all have strong themes and memorable melodies. I’m sure each of you can find your own favourite song out of the three and the UMK show on 3rd of March will be a tough song competition”, she promises on Yle’s UMK news.
UMK18 will take place on the 3rd of March at the Espoo Metro Arena, the same location where the show was held last year. The show will be directly broadcast on Yle TV1 and on Yle Arena.
From X Factor star to X Factor judge
It’s not only UMK and the Eurovision Song Contest that is keeping Saara busy during the following months. After her triumph at X Factor UK in 2016, where she finished second, she is about to take another challenge at the talent show. Saara will be one of the judges at the Finnish X Factor (X Factor Suomi) this spring. The first episode starts on the 4th February on the MTV3 channel. This means that the beginning of February will be extremely exciting to all the fans of Saara!
Video: Watch Saara performing “River deep, mountain high” during her In my wildest dreams concert in Helsinki, in April 2017.