Perhaps best known for representing Finland in the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest, Laura Voutilainen (better known as Laura) was a chart-topping iskelmä (Finnish pop) musician in her homeland throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Born in Jyvaskyla in 1975, Laura began her musical training in kindergarten and had her own band, Kevytlinja, by the time she turned 15. Her first single, "Muuttanut Oot Maailmain" (You Changed My World), came out in 1993, and was quickly followed up by "Kerran" (Once). The latter track shot to the top of the Finnish charts, paving the way for the release of her Emma Award-winning self-titled debut the following year. Laura's sophomore album, Kaksi Karttaa (Two Maps), hit stores two years later, reaching gold status in her home country in only three days' time and eventually earning Laura her second Emma Award. After a whirlwind year of touring and recording, she released her first Christmas album, Lumikuningatar (Snow Queen), and played the part of Meg in the Finnish overdub of Disney's Hercules. In 1999 Laura released her fourth album, Etelan Yossa (In the Southern Night), and starring in her own television show, Laura Wou!!
She toured for the next two years, after which Laura released a couple charting singles, "Neonvalot" and "En Mielestain Sua Saa," and her fifth studio album, Puolet Sun Auringosta (Half of Your Sun). The next year found Laura competing in the Finnish semifinals for the Eurovision Song Contest. She won, and went on to represent the country with a bouncy disco single called "Addicted to You." The song placed at number 20 in the competition, thereby preventing Finland from participating in the following year's ESC. Undaunted, Laura released her fifth studio album, 2003's Paivakirja (Diary), which went on to yield another Top Five hit for the artist. Laura released her sixth album, Tassa Hetkessa (In This Moment), in 2005, and went on to make regular appearances at the Helsinki Grand Casino throughout the following year. ~ Margaret Reges