Once again, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged, and it has been torture…well, for me at least. But rather than boring you with the details of why, etc, I’m just going to say that I am here now, and ready to kick-start Junior Eurovision month, EBJ-style!
So here we go. Getting things going today is a rather long but (hopefully) entertaining alphabet of all things JESC, from A to Z. You may want to get comfortable – the livelihood of your popo depends on it.*
For those who play for both teams, I hope you enjoy this semi-educational look back at the history of our beloved mini-vision.
* On the other hand, if you’re Team ESC but not JESC, you may want to take a vacation from this blog until December.
A is for artist parade
Round up of all of the contestants from backstage, hand them a flag, and herd them out front country by country so they can pull a few dance moves and smile like most of Armenia when Azerbaijan came second-last in JESC 2012 (see ‘O’ for more on that shocking/amusing occurrence) and what have you got?
One of my personal favourite parts of Junior Eurovision, that’s what! I’ve always loved seeing the kids come out all dressed up and enthusiastic, like little costumed Energizer bunnies. They always seem so happy to be there, and you have to enjoy that while it lasts because you know in a couple of hours, the hopes and dreams of all but one of them will be crushed. Sad, but true.
The artist parade, like the inclusion of the contestants in the postcards, has become a JESC tradition that’s sorely missed when it doesn’t happen.
B is for Bzikebi
Love them or wish they’d just buzz off (heh), you can’t deny Bzikebi of having that Georgia-ness that gets their country such great JESC results.
The trio nabbed Georgia’s first win in any Eurovision event back in 2008, with their “song” Bzz… (debate still rages on as to whether it is, in fact, a song) and their rather adorable outfits. I’ve never been a huge fan of them as winners – there was at least one entry that year I thought should have swatted them out of the way (heh heh). But I do applaud them, and Georgia in general, for being unique. I only hope Georgia apply that uniqueness to their Eurovision entries in the future.
Ya hear that? No more sappy G:son ballads allowed!
C is for Coś Mnie Nosi
Performed by Kasia Żurawik, this was Poland’s entry in JESC 2003, and will always have the dubious honour of being the first song to lose Junior Eurovision.
This loss took a bit of the shine off Poland’s impressive result in the ESC the same year, although it also served as a bit of prep for results to come (17th in JESC 2004, 17th in ESC 2004, DNQ in ESC 2005…need I go on?) so there’s something of a silver lining there.
Personally, I reckon Coś Mnie Nosi (Something Makes Me Bustle About) is quite sweet, and I don’t believe it came last because everyone thought it sucked. Realistically, somebody had to be at the bottom (yes – even in a competition for children there must be a BIG FAT LOSER! I mean, lowest-ranked but still commendable song) and what with the Dinos, Toms and Annes raking in the votes with their accomplished numbers, Kasia probably just got forgotten.
D is for dubstep
Tell someone out-of-the-loop that a dubstep number won Junior Eurovision last year, and I doubt they’ll believe you. Alternatively, they may ask you why the EBU allowed Skrillex to participate in a kid’s song competition for Europe, in which case I suggest walking away from that weirdo as quickly as possible.
But a dubstep win happened in Amsterdam, and all because of a teensy Ukrainian version of Rapunzel, who had a growl Christina Aguilera would be jealous of. Granted, Nebo isn’t in-your-face, house-shaking dubstep – you know, the kind that sounds like it was made by somebody scrubbing a sink with an angle grinder. But it’s definitely ethno-pop meets Massive Attack meets dubstep, and I love it for that.
It’s actually the closest thing to a ballad that’s won JESC, whilst also being the most macabre winner. Anastasiya didn’t even smile during her performance, which must have horrified all the other manically happy winners who were at home watching the show on TV. Except for Ralf, because he was there.
E is for Erazanq
May I present to you one of my favourite Junior Eurovision entries of all time? Yes? Why, thank you.
It’s Erazanq (A Dream), performed by Arevik, and it represented Armenia in 2007. It’s an impossibly catchy, and – as much as I hate to use this word – groovy, song, which used simple but effective nautical-themed staging to its advantage. This combo led to a tense battle between Armenia and Belarus for the win; but it was the orange-jacketed and orange-haired Alexey Zhigalkovich who won the night, by a single point. This was mainly thanks to Belarus themselves, who would have lost the contest if they’d ranked Armenia just a little higher.
Interestingly, the next JESC where the winning margin was so close was Minsk 2010, when Russia was defeated at the last second…by Armenia. If only they’d beaten Belarus!
F is for fifteen
The oldest person to win JESC to date was, you guessed it, fifteen years old. Considering that’s the upper age limit, this is not some kind of record. Still, it’s nice to know JESC isn’t ageist. The senior citizens of the contest have just as much chance of succeeding as the young’uns.
This particular old ‘n’ grey artist was a member of CANDY, winners of the 2011 contest for Georgia. As I have forgotten which name belongs to which, I can’t specify the exact one…but there is like, a 33% chance that it was the one who could sing Pastora Soler under the table.
The age range in CANDY back then was 11-15. Here are the ages of the other winners at the moment of trophy acquisition: 11 (Dino Jelusić); 9 (María Isabel); 10 (Ksenia Stinik); 9 (Tolmachevy Twins); 11 (Alexey Zhigalkovich); 10 (Bzikebi); 14 (Ralf); 12 (Vladimir Arzumanyan); and 10 (Anastasiya Petryk).
G is for Georgia
Speaking of Georgia….they aren’t a country that ‘gets’ adult Eurovision. They’ve had their moments, but you can’t count on a good result every time.
Luckily for them, they totally get JESC – in fact, they get the heck out of it. They seem to have hit on the magic formula: a unique and interesting song + a singer/singers with talent well beyond their years + eye-catching costumes that suit the song perfectly + excellent staging and choreography. Really, that should be everyone’s formula.
If you don’t believe it works, the stats should convince you. Since their 2007 debut, Georgia have won twice, and only placed outside of the top 5 once, when they came 6th. Between you and me, I think they may be adding a third trophy to their already-heaving collection on November 30th.
H is for Harry Potter
No, I’m not going off on a tangent listing my favourite fictional characters (Harry Potter = yay, Spiderman = IDK). I’m actually referencing my first memory of Junior Eurovision, which I used to know only as ‘The Harry Potter/Spiderman’ song.
It was actually called Povestea Mea (My Story) and was sung by New Star Music for Romania, on home ground in 2006. The majority of what I can remember of that show revolves around these four kids appearing onstage in their HP, Spidey and co costumes and shouting all of their names over and over again. It really stuck with me.
I is for Igzidora Gjeta
Albania’s first and so far only entrant deserves a shoutout IMO, for rocking the stage all by herself last year with the pressure of debuting for her country on her shoulders. Igzidora represented Albania in Amsterdam with Kam Një Këngë Vetëm Për Ju (I Have A Song Just For You) which wasn’t well-received – though the final version jazzed it up a bit, it was still the song most of us predicted to come last.
In the end, we were proven right. But after a costume mishap during rehearsals (by ‘mishap’, I mean ‘someone considered her dress too adult and had her delegation alter it at the last minute’) I have to give Igzidora credit where it’s due for coming out and owning the stage, on her own.
She wasn’t the only girl to do it in 2012, but for Anastasiya Petryk, going solo paid off.
When it comes to issues of wardrobe, Igzidora isn’t the only ‘I’ to have been forced to cover up. The Ukrainian entrant of 2007, Ilona Galytska, had to source some extra material for her costume after questions were raised about its age-appropriateness.
J is for Jelusić
I can’t have an A to Z of J-E-S-C without including the very first winner, can I? So here he is. Well, not here, exactly…you know what I mean.
The red-coated pride of Croatia (as I like to call Dino’s eleven-year-old self) took out the inaugural junior contest in ‘03, beating Spain’s Sergio by nine points. Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav was/is an über catchy piano pop song about love – how surprising! – which proved that the curse of performing second did not extend to mini-vision (I’m not so sure it extends to adult-vision either, but we can have that discussion later).
It didn’t take long for Dino to shake off his kid image, á la Miley Cyrus – only he chose to do it by becoming a rock star as opposed to twerking around in latex underwear on live TV (as far as I know).
It also didn’t take long for him to become as hot as a freshly baked tray of treats from the Buranovskiye Babushki’s woodfire oven, but again, that’s something for later discussion.
In case you weren’t aware, Dino’s not the only Jelusić child to have participated in JESC. His younger sister Lorena represented Croatia in 2005, finishing 12th.
K is for Katya Ryabova
The Artist Formerly Known As Ekaterina became the first to represent a country twice at JESC (after some tweaking of the rules) in 2011.
Back in 2009, the then-twelve-year-old had appeared on the Kyiv stage, looking cute as a button in pigtails and singing Malenkiy Prints (Little Prince) for Russia. She placed joint runner-up alongside Armenia, but strictly speaking, came 3rd.
That song wasn’t a favourite of mine, but I loved what she came back with two years later, looking and sounding a lot more mature. Kak Romeo I Dzhulyetta (Like Romeo and Juliet) was the first song up in Yerevan. Polished and professional, Katya delivered a great performance, and was a favourite to win – but again, it wasn’t to be, and again, her score tied with someone else’s. She was bumped down to 4th place, behind Belarus.
It’s been two years since Katya last did JESC, and I think it’s time she put her hand up for the ESC now she’s sixteen. How do you fancy Copenhagen, Katya?
Mention must also be made of Katya’s successor Lerika, the only artist to have represented two countries at JESC. She came 6th for Moldova in Yerevan, and 4th for Russia last year.
L is for little margins
For those of us who miss the tense voting sequences of Eurovision gone by, there’s always JESC.
Well, not always. But Junior Eurovision has seen its fair share of nail-biting finishes. With less countries voting and less points available, it’s only natural JESC winners should win by a smaller amount. But when they aren’t taking out the competition by a mere twenty or thirty-something points, they’re doing it by waaay less.
2003 saw Croatia beat Spain by nine points, which seemed a small margin at the time. But in 2005, Belarus pipped Spain (poor Spain!) by a measly three. That was a landslide win, however, in comparison to Belarus’ two years on, when they out-scored Armenia by a single point.
In 2009, the Netherlands beat Armenia by 5 points. Then in 2010, it was another single point that separated winners Armenia from Russia. Talk about teeny margins!
Last year’s (35) was massive by Junior standards, so I’m hoping for a nail-biter this year. With no particular entry standing head-and-shoulders above the rest, it could happen.
M is for Molly, Frida and Mimmi
You may know them as Sweden’s Sandén sisters. Whatever they’re called, I LOVE these ladies. All three have represented their country in Junior over the years with three very different songs, and in doing so have given me three of my all-time favourite entries.
Eldest sister Molly was first in 2006 with Det Finaste Någon Kan Få (The Best Anyone Could Get), a beautiful ballad that secured her Sweden’s best result to date – 3rd place. Frida followed in 2007 with the pop-rock Nu Eller Aldrig (Now Or Never) and ended the night in 8th position. Last came Mimmi, who opened up the show in 2009 with Du (You), an electro-pop number. She finished 6th.
I’ll let you in on a secret…one of the above songs is very, very high in my ranking of all-time JESC favourites, coming up this month.
We’ve already seen Molly take a shot (twice) at Eurovision, so I’m keeping my dream of a Sandén sister supergroup alive for the near future.
N is for Nicolas Ganopoulos
Imagine being the very first kid to step out on stage at a brand new televised song contest. It’s a scary thought, right? Well, for Nicolas Ganopoulos, it became a reality in 2003, when Greece was selected to kick off the proceedings of JESC numero uno. Nicolas’ song, Fili Gia Panta (Friends Forever) was a high-energy number that he performed enthusiastically, if a little awkwardly and vocally off.
Ultimately, he made the top 10, and by the time Greece bowed out of the competition in 2009, he still had their second-best result ever to his name.
O is for Omar & Suada
Azerbaijan is not invincible in Eurovision-related events, believe it or not. We learned that from Amsterdam 2012.
They’ve never finished outside of the top 10 in Eurovision – in fact, their first entry in 2008 is the only one to have finished outside of the top 5 – and they did pretty well during their time in the Eurovision Dance Contest. But during last year’s JESC, poor little Omar & Suada found out that the words ‘Azerbaijan’ and ‘fail’ do go together.
In finishing 11th out of 12 contestants, their debut in mini-vision ended with Azerbaijan’s worst result in any Eurovision event. Oops.
I must admit, I was surprised by this as a fan of their song Girls and Boys. But Azerbaijan didn’t take it too hard, because they’re back for another try this year.
P is for Prati Mi SMS
In 2008, us Australians got to cheer on one of our own at JESC. Well, an Australian-Macedonian, anyway.
Bobi Andonov represented FYROM with the pop masterpiece that is Prati Mi SMS in Limassol, Cyprus. My completely unbiased opinion was that he had the best song of the year, and I had high hopes for a win. But along came Georgia with those three precious kids in bee/wasp costumes, and that was that. Bobi finished in 5th behind Ukraine, Lithuania and Malta, which was at least still a result to be proud of.
He didn’t let the lack of win hold him back. In 2010 he totally re-branded himself…as Bobby Andonov, and auditioned for Australia’s Got Talent. He made it all the way to the final, losing out to the epicness that is dance group Justice Crew, which I can’t argue with. He’s released music since then, and according to Wikipedia has a huge fan base in Europe and America.
I guess you can’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia.
Q is for questionable choices
‘JESC’ doesn’t stand for ‘Junior Eurovision’ for no reason; there are a lot of similarities between the two contests.
One is that, for every crop of great entries that comes through each year, there is at least one song that makes you think ‘um…why?’ or sometimes even ‘WHY, GOD, WHY! MY EARS ARE BLEEDING!’. It’s not just the songs that can do this, however. On occasion, I blame the kids for the awful. You know, those kids who yell into the microphone and you can’t tell if they can hold a tune or not?
So, with bad songs and singers in mind, I present you with a taste of what, IMO, are some of JESC’s most questionable selections over the past ten years.
Stoppa Mig by The Honeypies (Sweden 2003)
Hij Is Een Kei by Klaartje & Nicky (Netherlands 2004)
Gränslös Kärlek by M+ (Sweden 2005)
Extra Cute by Sophie Debattista (Malta 2006)
Kapou Mperdeftika by Made In Greece (Greece 2007)
Thalassa, Ilios, Aeras, Fotia by Rafaella Kosta (Cyprus 2009)
R is for ‘Reach for the top!’
This was the motto when Armenia hosted the contest in 2011 – the first country to do so directly after winning, meaning Vladimir Arzumanyan got to do his reprise on home ground.
This motto was appropriate in many ways, with the accompanying logo being based on majestic Mount Ararat, and the contest encouraging the kids to aim high (whilst knowing that there would only be one winner and that all the rest would be losers).
For me, this whole show was top standard. There was nothing I didn’t enjoy, from the quality of the entries, to the stage, the postcards, and the interval acts (Vlad, Molly Sandén, and an awesome remix of Sirusho’s Qele Qele). So in my eyes, the motto was extra relevant.
S is for Spain
The one country I’d have back in JESC if I could is Spain, who not only sent entries I’d give douze to any day every year, but also did really well with them.
Their debut entry, Desde El Cielo (From Heaven) by Sergio, was a simply-presented ballad, much like the UK entry that year. But Sergio finished ahead of the UK’s Tom Morley, in 2nd place.
The following year, Spain came to win (presumably) with a fan-brandishing firecracker named María Isabel, and the epic Antes Muerta Que Sencilla (Better Dead Than Normal). And win they did, with something of a landslide over the UK.
2005 saw Antonio José bring the flavour to Hasselt with my personal Spanish favourite, Te Traigo Flores (I Bring You Flowers), and narrowly miss out on victory over Belarus.
Spain’s final year of participation was with Te Doy Mi Voz (I Give You My Voice) by Dani, which didn’t fare as well as the others, but still came in an impressive 4th place. Dani went on to compete for a place in Eurovision 2011 with the boy band Auryn.
I know there are a lot of Spaniards and non-Spaniards alike (i.e. me) who desperately want Spain back in Junior. Perhaps the power of the people will get a return for next year?
T is for ten
More specifically, ten host cities. JESC has taken place in nine different countries in its ten years of existence, with two-time hosts the Netherlands opting for the capital after taking us to Rotterdam in ’07.
In chronological order, here are the cities we’ve visited: Copenhagen (Denmark), Lillehammer (Norway), Hasselt (Belgium), Bucharest (Romania), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Limassol (Cyprus), Kyiv (Ukraine), Minsk (Belarus), Yerevan (Armenia) and Amsterdam (Netherlands).
In three weeks’ time, Kyiv will become the first city to have hosted JESC twice. Zlata Ognevich, meanwhile, will become the second co-host to also have represented her country at Eurovision – the first being Ani Lorak in 2009. Unlike Ani, however, Zlata will have done both in the same year.
U is for Učimo Strane Jezike
Serbia’s entry in Junior Eurovision 2006 brought Sesame Street to Bucharest – it’s just a shame that the kids from Neustrašivi Učitelji Stranih Jezika forgot to pack Big Bird, Elmo and Cookie Monster in their suitcases.
They did, however, break the record for most languages stuffed into one lot of three minutes, with *takes deep breath* Serbian, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian AND Japanese all making an appearance in the bouncy Učimo Strane Jezike. This would have been a surprise had the title not translated as ‘Teaching Foreign Languages’.
And you know what? NUSJ did teach me foreign languages! Well, sort of. Is a little of a lot better than a lot of a little? I’ll let you decide while I sing my favourite part of the song a few times.
Schprechen sie Deutsch? Parlez-vous Français? Do you speak English? Oui, je sais!
V is for Volshebniy Krolik
If any JESC performance were a drug trip, it would be this one. It’s intense, it’s nightmarish, and the light show will have you seeing spots for weeks afterwards…and it’s about a magic rabbit.
Belarus chose Yuriy Demidovich to represent them in 2009 with this highly unusual ethno-rock-opera-IDK number that was backed by Gregorian chants, which are creepy enough on their own. When accompanied by the rest of the shebang, plus Yuriy and his bunny posse leaping around the stage and screeching ‘volshebniy kroliiiiiik!’ it was all a bit much. Granted, it did stand out from the bubblegum of the likes of Malta and Serbia. And I guess it didn’t put off too many people, because it didn’t come last. It actually beat four much less scary and much more typical entries.
W is for wedding
But not necessarily one you’d want to be invited to. I’ve already named Greece’s entry of 2007 as one of my least liked in the history of the world, and now, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to talk about it again.
Girl group Made In Greece (who had us all wondering who they were representing) came to Bucharest with Kapou Mperdeftika (Confused) and it seems that they weren’t the only confused ones. Clearly, Greece had been confused when they opted to send the song in the first place. Then, whoever was in charge of their costumes got confused and thought that poofy wedding dresses, which could then be ripped off to reveal outfits that were less formal but just as hideous, would be great for the girls to wear on stage. Finally, all of us viewers at home (and I assume the live audience) were confused as to how this song could actually be defined as a song of merit. I still have no clue.
I don’t want to be mean to children, and I’ve got nothing against Greece, but since this was six years ago and they ain’t kids no more, and I’m not exactly blaming the whole country for this mistake, I think I can say “WTF?!?” without guilt.
X is for X!NK
You knew this was coming. What else was I going to use for ‘X’?
Punk rockers X!NK flew the flag for Belgium in the first JESC with De Vriendschapsband (The Bond of Friendship), and I must admit, I did not like it when I first heard it. The kind of music usually heard in the background of late 1990s/early 2000s teen movies was not my kind of thing. I’m not sure when exactly I started loving it, but it was fairly recently…possibly in the wake of Belgium being all like “Junior Eurovision? Ain’t nobody got time for that,” which is when I got all depressed and nostalgic and proclaimed them as one of my favourite participating countries (which they genuinely are). Anyway, the point is that I love this song now. You may even see it in my JESC top 50, coming to a blog near you very soon. This blog, in fact.
PS – Europe must have loved it back then, because they voted it into 6th place. FantastX!NK.
Y is for Yiorgos Ioannides
If you’ve seen Sounds Like Teen Spirit, then you may also melt at the sight of the name above. If you haven’t, get on it immediately!
SLTS is a documentary that follows four of the artists participating in JESC 2007 in the lead-up to the contest, giving us a glimpse into their home lives and lives as performers. It’s so darn good, and makes you ‘aww!’ at all of the kids. But I go the most gaga over the adorable Yiorgos, who represented Cyprus.
Then eleven years old, he took the filmmakers on a tour of his house and fishing with his dad; to his JESC rehearsals and to meet his equally adorable little sister. He revealed that he’d been bullied and called ‘gay’ for being a keen singer and dancer, but that was alright with him because a) it made him a stronger person, and b) George Michael is gay and he’s a superstar. Oh. My. Gosh.
By the time he arrived in Rotterdam, I was really rooting for him even though I knew what would happen. He didn’t come last, but he finished low, and the disappointment on his face broke my heart. I hope he’s over it by now, and that he’s still as humble, well-spoken and open-minded as the Yiorgos onscreen.
Z is for Zo Verliefd
It’s the last letter of the alphabet, and I’m talking Belgium again. Also, yodeling. Put the two together and you’ve got Zo Verliefd (So In Love) by Laura, the Belgian entry of 2009.
Before this, I never thought I could enjoy yodeling so much. But when paired with an irresistible sing-along tune, it becomes douze-worthy. Plus, at less than three minutes in length, it’s much easier to stomach than The Sound of Music. Nobody’s bottom is going to go numb listening to Laura, especially if they’re up and dancing. And let’s face it: who wouldn’t be?
PS – Despite being a favourite to take out the ’09 contest, Belgium was beaten by neighbours the Netherlands, as well as Armenia and Russia. Oh no-ee-oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ee-ohhhhhh!
Hey! Congratulations! You got to the end of what was a mammoth post. I promise what’s coming will be easier to digest…after all, it’s only my TOP 50 JUNIOR EUROVISION SONGS OF ALL TIME, WOOHOO!!! In three parts, for easy reading, of course. Please drop by later in the week for the first installment.
In the meantime…
What did you think of my JESC alphabet? What’s your favourite letter?