Pictures: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
“Much luck to your final moments Saara “Sisu” Aalto – you have done great work! And made Finland very much known,” said President Sauli Niinistö on Facebook, while referring to Saara Aalto, the 29-year-old Finnish singer and finalist in the X Factor UK song competition.
On Sunday, Saara lost narrowly to the English singer, Matt Terry, 23, placing second after singing Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” and the grandiose Whitney Houston tune “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.” “Thank you people for all the support I’ve gotten. This has been an amazing journey for me. I never thought I could make it this far,” Saara said with tears in her eyes after the winner had been announced.
“Every time, you sing, I think I’m looking at a global superstar. You have the potential to be a global superstar. You came in as the underdog but you worked harder than any other contester on this show. You were born to sing,” said Louis Walsh, one of the judges.
Last Monday, Saara flew to Helsinki to meet her fans. She had announced on Facebook of her quick visit to Finland and wished that as many fans as possible would meet her at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. Dozens had heard her message; there were children, teens, adults, mothers, fathers, lovers and cousins – holding self-made signs that said: “I Love You, Saara!”
In the afternoon, Saara appeared in front of the crowd at the top of the escalators, wearing a silver jacket and a wide smile. “Am I really in Finland?” she wondered out loud. “I have never experienced anything like this before.”
A camera crew from X Factor directed Saara’s steps. Sometimes she had to walk the escalators down twice. Saara strolled through the thick crowd and occasionally a small girl slipped under the strong arms of the security. One girl gave her a rose. An adult man in his late 20s also saw his chance and gave Saara a pair of headphones as a gift. In return, he took a selfie.
Later in the evening, Saara was to arrive at the Senate Square to sing on the steps of the Helsinki Cathedral. Before seven, there was a screaming crowd of ten thousand. Even the side streets were packed with people. Saara was wearing a long, white coat and dress, her head covered by a furry hood, her brown locks hanging to her waist. “Saara is walking the steps, looking like a snow queen,” a reporter told a TV camera.
Santa Claus stood below the steps of the cathedral and observed the thousand-fold crowd. “Are you going to hug her?” a woman screamed from the front row, which was sealed with an iron fence.
“I don’t know. Would you hug me?” the Father Christmas asked.
A camera crew zoomed in while Saara arrived in a horse-pulled cart. After receiving the orders from the camera crew, she hugged the Santa Claus (he looked happy) and walked along the fence giving high-fives to some of her fans. The best scenes would be shown on the X Factor UK final broadcast on live TV.
At the steps of the cathedral, Saara performed Sia’s “Chandelier,” the very song she charmed the judges with at the auditions last August. “My ass wants to clap for you,” said one of the judges, Nicole Scherzinger, who started twerking.
At the Senate Square, the thick clothes were too awkward to allow any intense ass-shaking, but Saara’s voice warmed the crowd, who after all the retakes and waiting due to filming in the cold breeze, had started to look stiff like a row of icicles.
But when Saara continued with her song “No Fear,” the audience pulled out their mobiles and formed a sea of light.
“I will never, ever forget this,” Saara said.