Estonia sang itself back onto the map

Eesti Laul 2018 võitja Elina Nechayeva.

PHOTO: Pedro Nunes / Reuters / Scanpix

Estonia took eighth place in the final round of the Eurovision song contest in Lisbon this Saturday. The contest was won by grand favorite Israel. While Estonian social media quickly filled with indignation, singer Elina Nechayeva was happy.

This year’s Eurovision contest stood out as unpredictable. In addition to an incident where a fan ran onto the stage during Great Britain’s performance, points were allocated quite unexpectedly, and political ties were not as pronouncedly reflected in scores. With the exception of points by Russia meriting a choir of boos in the concert hall. One of the authors of Estonia’s song “La Forza”, Timo Vendt, seemed to be praying as he looked hopefully at the greenroom screen whenever a neighboring country was about to announce its points. Estonia did not receive a single point from Sweden or Finland, while Latvia gave Estonia eight points and Russia six. “La Forza” was given the maximum 12 points by Macedonia, Portugal, and Moldova. Nechayeva was also surprised Estonia’s neighbors left it without a point. “I suppose I will not go on tour there,” she joked after the final.

Israeli fans set the stage

Estonia maintained a modest but constant presence on the scoreboards of most countries. Our opera performance got a total of 143 points from national juries and came in ninth in televoting with 102 points for a total of 245. Israel won on 529 points. Sweden was the only neighbor to finish ahead of Estonia, coming in seventh.

Israel won the May 8 semifinal with 283 points, while Estonia came in fifth on 201 points.

Israel’s controversial winning song “Toy” leaves hardly anyone indifferent. It is either loved or hated. A storm of indignation flared in Estonian social media when it became clear Israel had won. People were disappointed not so much because Estonia didn’t win, but because it was Israel’s song that did. Altice Arena was flooded with Israeli fans who knew their song by heart. The arena was alive.

Priit Pullerits wrote in the Saturday issue of Postimees that the final would be a test of dignity for Europe: a battle between culture and carnival. Foreigners also compared Nechayeva’s performance to that of Israel in the evening and could not wonder enough at the way the vote went. Many expressed their support of Elina, praising her voice, while others wondered why the jury vote gave Estonia such a low position. One thing is clear – many expected Estonia to win. Bookmakers gave Estonia a high fifth ranking immediately before polls were closed.

However, the evening’s heroine Elina Nechayeva was not sad. Elina’s goal was to break into the top ten, and that is what she did. Elina was happy with her result. Her performance in the final came off flawless, perfectly polished. After the first verse, ovations became so loud that it was difficult to hear our singer. “A golden experience,” Nechayeva says of the Eurovision contest and adds that her crazy agenda made her realize what energy reserves people can have.

Elina had much better enunciation in the final, her voice was more confident and her heart visibly more in it compared to the semifinal.

After qualifying for the final, Elina said that the pressure created by expectations and forecasts had dissipated, and that now she could enjoy performing in the final. Whether it was release of pressure or hard work, there was no more room for improvement in Elina’s performance.

Nechayeva: I’m on the right path

Elina admits that she never expected participation in the Estonian Song and Eurovision contests would become such a grand undertaking. “Of course, it affects all my loved ones,” she says.

“Everyone who performs on stage has a lot of people behind them, supporting and rooting for them. It is important – to feel the love and support of those who are close to you. So much attention from the media and fans, and the feedback,” she says. “Positive feedback tells me I’m on the right path.”

One is tempted to ask how can such a bright and warmhearted artist handle criticism and negative comments? Elina says that she has nothing against constructive criticism, while the world is dominated by click media that does not hesitate to make money spreading lies and rumors.

“Everyone has their opinion, and I respect that. I care about the opinions of people I trust. I like constructive criticism, but discharge of emotions and negativity do not interest me. I don’t read all comments as I see no point in wasting my time that way. I have enough to do as it is, and I’m in the business of giving people something good. If I let all that negativity in, it would not end well.”

Elina has said in past interviews that she only encounters what the media writes when someone mentions her on social media or when acquaintances share articles with her.

She has already encountered situations where publications were looking for scandals or spreading false information: “I believe that being a public figure is difficult wherever you are. Many publications want scandal and to make money, as do we all. I believe it is like that all over the world, not just in Estonia. Attempts to make money and earn clicks through lies and rumors.”

The singer says many times that it is understandable but adds that she hopes people can maintain civility and goodwill even when making money.

It does not happen often that an opera singer is sent to the Eurovision contest, especially not in Estonia. Elina was all the happier to have a place in the top ten. “A small dream has come true,” she says. The young woman’s next ambition is to perform on the world’s major opera stages: “The places of my dreams are the meccas of the opera world, like La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Royal Opera in London.” There can be no doubt that Elina Nechayeva’s hardworking and positive attitude will allow her to conquer the stages of her dreams one day.