Finland stepped up its Eurovision game by selecting the very first punk band in the history of the competition: Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (Pertti Kurikka’s Nameday; PKN). Consisting of middle-aged men with learning disabilities, the band first started off in a music and culture workshop for disabled people in Helsinki.
PKN won a spot at the Eurovision finals with their song ‘Aina Mun Pitää’ (I always have to). When interviewed about their victory, PKN bass player Sami Helle said: “We don’t want people to vote for us out of pity. We are not that different from other people. We are ordinary guys who have learning disabilities.”
Victory for the band at the national level has received mixed reactions in Finland. While there is excitement over the possibility of raising awareness of people with learning disabilities, not everyone is in favour of doing so at the expense of losing votes in Vienna during the competition finals this coming May. The main concern is not their respective disabilities but rather their choice of language; Eurovision songs with Finnish lyrics have not been successful in the past. However, PKN remains positive: “We have been out and about the world quite a lot and people have liked us and had fun,” they said. “There is no problem.”
Another concern is the song’s genre, something that has caused negative reactions among Eurovision purists.
In my opinion, PKN’s selection can only be viewed as a positive. Not only does it raise discussion on an important topic but also opens a window onto some fresh air in terms of genre. The last thing Eurovision needs is another tired love song. The more generic Finnish entries in recent years – ‘Marry Me’ by Krista Siegfrids in 2013 and ‘Something better’ by Softengine last year – were not successful. Before Lordi’s victory in 2006, Finland held a history of low scores. But those heavy metal moshers in monster masks were, to put it mildly, something different, and they managed to change the competition forever. The success of Conchita Wurst last year showed that being different from the mainstream is the way to win. Why can’t this be just as true for PKN?
The punk group’s song ‘Aina Mun Pitää’ is only two minutes long but says everything it needs to, expressing the frustrations of everyday life:
“I always have to work
I always need to clean
I don’t get to eat candy
I don’t get to drink soda
I don’t even get to drink alcohol.”
The sound is very clear and sincere, so punk fanatics should approve of it.
Yrjö Heinonen, professor of cultural studies at Jyväskylä University, told The Guardian: “Finns have been quite sensitive about their international image, and PKN participating in the Vienna finals would probably result in mixed emotions.
“If PKN won it there, the majority of Finns would be proud of them; if not, many Finns would feel that it was a shameful mistake to send them there and that it would have harmed the international image of Finland.”
If the prevailing idea is that promoting the power of being yourself is a shameful mistake, the members of Finland’s 2015 Eurovision entry couldn’t have been more correct.
The Eurovision Final takes place in Vienna on 23rd May at 8:00 pm