Nine days. Twelve songs. One winner.
And apparently one opening line that sounds like an introductory voiceover for The X Factor. I’m sorry about that. Sometimes it’s hard to think of what to say at the start of a post, and when that happens you’ve pretty much got to launch straight into it. So here goes – this is the first half of my 2012 JESC reviews, featuring Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium and Georgia. Read, enjoy and comment! Please?
Igzidora Gjeta | Kam Një Këngë Vetëm Për Ju
The good: Well, it’s definitely a plus to have Albania in Junior for the first time. If it wasn’t for them the line-up could have been even more pathetic than it is now (don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful the contest is even happening. But we are talking about the smallest field EVER here). Igzidora has the most interesting name of 2012, and I am a fan of the crimped hairdo she rocked at the national final.
Everything else: The reason I didn’t say anything about her song just then was because I think it’s a shocker. It’s dated, it doesn’t have any particular hook to latch on to, and it basically just plods along for two-and-a-half minutes, ending right where it began. Her singing voice is less than impressive – in fact, it’s more of a screech. That (combined with the dodgy song) makes for a noisy entry in no danger of beating the odds to succeed, a la Rona Nishliu’s Suus. I’m not Satan reincarnate so I do feel mean being mean to this poor girl, but honesty is the best policy. And hey, maybe in the arena, with a fancy costume and nifty light show, she’ll make it work? Just maybe…
The verdict: A letdown. It’s 2 points from me.
How it will do: 11th-12th
Compass Band | Sweetie Baby
The good: Hello, and welcome to The Ubiquitous Entry That I Really Like But Nobody Else Does. Actually I have noticed some more love emerging for this diamond in the rough recently, which is good because I think it’s great! It’s not a typical JESC song – there’s a bit of darkness, a bit of grunge there – which works in its favour. It’s down-tempo but catchy, and the Compass Band perform it very well live. I also think the Armenian and English parts go nicely together.
Everything else: Okay, so the ‘baby, sweetie baby’ refrain is a bit nauseating, and as for ‘give me smile’…well, I don’t even know how to react to that. But I’m not too fussed about those things. I don’t expect Armenia to score well this year, but you never know what might happen when a ton of kids get access to mobile phones. I do expect the boys to iron their shirts before the show, something they didn’t do before the NF if the grainy video is any indication.
The verdict: 10 points for originality and my (slightly) guilty pleasure.
How it will do: 9th-11th
Omar & Suada | Girls and Boys
The good: This year’s ESC host country was the second debutant to save JESC from total embarrassment, and for that I thank them. The prospect of having Azerbaijan in Junior was exciting for one main reason: because of the rules, we’d get to hear Azeri in a Eurovision entry for the first time. Girls and Boys was originally released entirely in English, but now the bilingual version has come out, I’m liking this entry more and more (or as the Belarussian contestant would say, a more-more). It’s current and accessible, with the Azeri giving it a decent ethnic touch and the English parts making it a good sing-along song.
Everything else: Concern #1 – this is repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. Not to quite the same extent as Russia, but repetitive nonetheless. Concern #2 – I haven’t heard Omar & Suada perform live, so whether they can sing or not is unknown…and that scares me. Concern #3 – I don’t think this deserves to win, but because it’s a decent pop song from Azerbaijan it just might.
The verdict: Not absolutely brilliant, but I like. 8 points.
How it will do: 4th-6th
Egor Zheshko | A More-More
The good: If nothing else, this song will win the award for ‘Most Choruses Crammed Into A Single Entry’. And doesn’t Egor sing those choruses like a champ? His voice is pretty amazing, so on that note (pun intended) we’ll be starting the show on a high. A More-More is a jazz number that we’ve been hearing less manic versions of for years at JESC, and whilst it’s not my favourite of the genre, it has its merits. It’s even easier to sing along to than Girls and Boys since the chorus is made up of about five words, and it does get stuck in your head which could bode well for vote-getting.
Everything else: Jazz is very rarely a douze-pointer in my eyes, and there’s no denying this is lacking what would push it into winning contention. It’s a step down from their last entry. There are also moments in Egor’s live performance when he seems to lag behind the track, then has to speed up his already rapid mor-ays to get back in time, which is a bit uncomfortable to hear. Hopefully he gets his timing right on the night.
The verdict: A closer-to-5-than-7 6 points.
How it will do: 9th-11th
Fabian | Abracadabra
The good: How do I love thee, Belgium? Let me count the ways. Where JESC is concerned there are about 1094637299 ways, because I always, always love what they send, and you can judge me for that however you like. Fabian’s song is a cruisy, pop-rock ballad that I can only assume is about magical young love since I haven’t had a chance to check out the English translation yet. It’s not a super exciting entry, that’s for sure, but sandwiched between high-energy Azerbaijan and even higher-energy Russia, it should make for a nice interlude.
Everything else: Fabian is trés adorable, but I have doubts about his live abilities. The NF performance I saw wasn’t bad, but his voice certainly isn’t in the league of say, Lerika’s – and she’s on straight after him. I just hope he pulls off a good vocal and doesn’t get completely obliterated by her performance, which will inevitably be louder and flashier. I also hope there’ll be something going on to up the interest – a few dancers maybe, or a sword-swallowing acrobat with a flamethrower. Something simple.
The verdict: An unashamed 10 points.
How it will do: 5th-8th
Funkids | Funky Lemonade
The good: This song is all over the place, but I have to say, I think Georgia may have done it again. Having won twice and placed well on every other occasion, they’ve proven they’ve got the knack when it comes to Junior. This song is a bit strange (in a mostly good way) and incredibly infectious, and it’s likely to have a show-stopping performance. The audience in HMH is going to love it.
Everything else: I am a little worried that these kids are out there tearing up the Georgian highways when they aren’t even old enough to have a part-time job. What was that? That was a fantasy created for the music video? Well, never mind then. I am genuinely worried that they could be the first Georgian contestants in Eurovision history that can’t sing live, but the odds of that are low. I swear there is something in the water over there. The boy’s part in this does annoy me, so maybe someone could switch off his mike on the night.
The verdict: 8 points
How it will do: 1st-3rd
That’s it for Part 1, and at this point it’s Armenia and Belgium topping my rankings. No douze points have been handed out yet, so will another country knock Compass Band and Fabian off their perch? You’ll have to wait and see. Israel, Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine – you’ll get your turn soon enough…
I hope you liked all of the above. Let me know which of the six is you’re loving and hating!