What has happened to the Estonian national finals for Eurovision lately? They've been low on quality for the past couple years (with the exception of Rolf Junior, whose entry this year is still one of the best singles of the year). Some of the credit for the quality back in the first half or so of the '00s has to go to the team of Pearu Paulus, Ilmar Laisaar, Alar Kotkas, and lyricist Jana Hallas. They contributed some fun, poppy, but kind of classy entries, three of which won and got to represent the country in Eurovision.
Young Ines might not have won the 2000 ESC as many anticipated, but "Once In A Lifetime" is still a gem, mixing a gentle acoustic guitar sound with traditional Europop to create something completely endearing.
Lovely Swedish singer Anna Sahlene ended up singing "Runaway" in 2002 when Ines turned it down. Representing the host country that year, Sahlene did Estonia proud with her performance and the third place result it brought in. Once again, the Paulus/Kotkas/Laisaar/Hallas team turned in a great uplifting track.
Another Swede, Sandra Oxenryd, represented Estonia at Eurovision in 2006 (just beating out Ines in the national final). She failed to make it out of the semifinal despite some of the year's best choreographed group strutting. Come back to national finals somewhere, Sandra--it's been too long since 2008's "Superhero"!
If you're looking for more music by these songwriters, check out Ines's "That's All Because Of You," which was covered by Swedish group Friends as "Favorite Song (That's All Because Of You)." It's another great song in their catchy, upbeat, organic Europop style. "You Wanna Play Too Tough" is also highlight from them. The composers of the group are also part of the group 2 Quick Start, but I've got only the most cursory of knowledge of that group's material. It's in Estonian and more Eurodance, from what I've heard of it.
After 2006, the team had a few more entries in the national final, but none to rival the quality of their earlier work. It's a shame--fans of Eurovision could use them operating at the same level they used to
Tangentially, while we're talking about Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest, I have to recommend the documentary Estonia Dreams of Eurovision, which Len was kind enough to send me a few years ago. It's an interesting look at Estonia's preparations for hosting the contest in 2002, including the falling out between the duo that won for the country in 2001, the national final to determine who would represent Estonia in 2002, and the decision as to who would host Eurovision. It's much more entertaining than that description makes it sound, though.
Ines's debut album, Here For Your Love, isn't really available for sale any longer, but you can always keep an eye on eBay and hope to get lucky. Anna Sahlene's debut album, It's Been A While, released under the artist name Sahlene, is available on iTunes internationally here and digitally internationally here; it's really an enjoyable little album--check out the amusing "House" and her 2003 Melodifestival entry "We're Unbreakable." Sandra Oxenryd's album Through My Window is available digitally internationally here.