We’ve passed the one-week-to-go mark, people! JESC 2013 has begun, if you count the artist arrivals and rehearsals and all that jazz, which I totally do. That being the case, it’s about time I caught up with the rest of the world and did some reviewing of what’s to come.
You may have noticed I’ve finally got this blog festive, Junior-style, so to keep the momentum going, I present this: the first half of my musings on the Class of Kyiv! Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Macedonia and Malta have all been under my musical microscope (figuratively. I don’t actually own one, or know what the heck it would be/do) and here are the results. There’s a douze pointer among them, but which country is it? Place your bets and read on to see if you’re right.
Choco Factory by Monica Avanesyan
The good: It seems to me that Georgia and Armenia have swapped JESC tactics this year – Georgia’s gone for something more conventional than usual, whilst Armenia has upped the crazy and selected a more inventive entry than most of their previous ones. I don’t know how much this has to do with Monica being inspired by Candy (maybe kids just can’t get enough of confectionary-themed lyrics) but I’m enjoying the results. Choco Factory is less retro than Candy Music, and where that was fluffy and fun, this is interesting, but almost as infectious. It avoids over-repetition of the ‘choco’ by changing up the rhythm every chance it gets, but when that chorus comes around, its simplicity and age-old use of ‘la-la-la-la-la-la’ gets you. Well, it gets me, anyway. The violin interlude seems kind of random, but I think it adds to the interest, and I loved the way it was presented at the national final. All in all, I’m very pleased with Armenia’s choice. Not that I have any clue of what else was on offer…
Everything else: I’ll admit here that I didn’t like this as much the first time I heard it as I do now, possibly because it is more complex than your average ear-worm. That could be a slight danger to its chances of success on Saturday night. Having said that, I’m expecting a colourful and entertaining stage show from Monica and her troupe of pastry chefs-in-the-making, and if that expectation is met, it should eclipse any issues with the song not being instant enough.
The verdict: The Georgia in Armenia works for me. 10 points.
JESC chances: I can’t imagine it crashing and burning by any means. 2nd-6th.
Me and My Guitar by Rustam Karimov
The good: Is this kid not the boy version of Anastasiya Petryk? As in, the most adorable 10-year-old in the world? He is just so PRECIOUS! I don’t know if that will help him at all, since his song ain’t quite so precious. It’s not terrible (and even if it were I don’t think I’d have the heart to say so in case it made Rustam cry). In fact, it’s an enjoyable listen, partly because of the Azerbaijani, which is a lovely language we don’t get to hear often enough in Eurovision. It keeps up a good momentum, and the chorus is nice, if not particularly punchy. It’s hard to say whether his voice will be as good live as it is in studio, since one again we haven’t had a live preview from Azerbaijan. I really hope it is. I also hope he brings a guitar onstage so that the song title actually makes sense. There isn’t a string or pick to be seen in the music video.
Everything else: Like I said, I couldn’t bring myself to be mean about this. What I will say is, it’s clear that Azerbaijan hasn’t taken to JESC like they did ESC. In the adult contest, they chalk up success after success with polished, appealing songs, seemingly without effort, and they have done from the beginning. But Junior is so far proving to be a harder nut to crack. I figured they’d come back with a vengeance after they tasted failure last year, but Me and My Guitar seems like a different song on the same level. It’s sweet, but not that exciting and not very distinctive.
The verdict: Too cute to trash. 7 points.
JESC chances: He may do better than Omar & Suada, but not by a heap. 8th-10th.
Poy So Mnoy by Ilya Volkov
The good: I may as well lay all my cards on the table straight away. *slow claps* Well. Done. Belarus! I LOVE this song, and I don’t care who knows it – especially if ‘who knows it’ turns out to be some rich JESC-obsessed Belarusian who wants to fly me out to Kyiv just so I can wave a flag for Ilya next weekend. Speaking of the man behind the music…Ilya did some fancy backup dancing for Egor Zheshko in Amsterdam last year, and now he’s elbowed Egor out of the way in order to be the main attraction. Good move. Poy So Mnoy is miles better than A More-More. It is the catchiest song of the year IMO, and it’s got those irresistible hey-heys going on that complement verses and choruses made up of actual words (shocking, right?). I love the melody, I love the electronic feel, I love the tricky notes that are thrown in…just…douze points all round! I’m hoping for slick, dance-heavy staging on this one, with a lot of light effects. PS – Ilya is almost as adorable as Rustam. There is much cuteness to be had in 2013!
Everything else: There is something in the way of this that takes me back to earlier years of Junior, and songs like Noviy Den by Andrey Kunets (also from Belarus) and Prati Mi SMS by Bobi Andonov (a favourite from FYROM). I realise those are two very different songs, but it’s stuff like that I’m reminded of when I hear Poy So Mnoy. For me, that’s not a bad thing – I like to get nostalgic whenever I can – but perhaps the voting public/juries are looking for something more ‘now’ than ‘then’. Of course, if nobody else sees this song as harking back to a time gone by, then we have no problem.
The verdict: Yes, Ilya, I WILL sing with you. DOUZE POINTS!
JESC chances: Hopefully a decent placing is on the cards. My guess is 4th-6th.
Give Me Your Smile by The Smile Shop
The good: We’ve become accustomed to getting quirky, creative entries from Georgia that always work, even if it seems like they couldn’t possibly. This year is one of their more conservative (a.k.a. safe) songs, but having come out of Bzikebi Studio (manufacturers of CANDY, the Funkids and obviously, Bzikebi) The Smile Shop’s Give Me Your Smile – a title I assume was inspired by that creepy line from Compass Band – is still pretty good. It’s retro through-and-through with a decent mixed-language hook (luckily, as there’s not that much to latch on to elsewhere). Even though it’s not as standout as usual, I’ll be surprised if the Georgian level of costuming, staging, dancing and vocals isn’t maintained. Generally, I’m not finding myself thinking ‘Damn, they’ve done it again!’; but I still think the song is proof that Georgia knows how to tackle JESC.
Everything else: As you can see up there ↑, I feel like Georgia has come into the contest this year without the hunger to win. Can you blame them? They won in 2011 and scored silver in Amsterdam, and no matter how they do on Saturday, there’s a good chance they’ll get to host the show if it continues (fingers and toes crossed). Even running on a semi-full tank, they’re by no means the weakest competitors as far as I’m concerned.
The verdict: I’m not in love, but I do like it a lot. 8 points.
JESC chances: I can’t imagine a fail, but there’s a first time for everything. 3rd-7th.
Ohrid I Muzika by Barbara Popović
The good: First and foremost, it’s great to have FYROM back in Junior after a year’s break. What they’ve come back with is a catchy, speedy and summery song that’s pretty well performed by Barbara. It doesn’t blow me away, but considering I was hoping for some straightforward ethno-pop and was let down, I’ve come around. The chorus is quite memorable, with the potential to get stuck in people’s heads. You can’t fault the energy levels either, with the pace starting at maximum and ending the same, only slowing for a brief moment before the final chorus. If Barbara can get through to the live final without having collapsed from exhaustion, I will be impressed. She seems to be capable of delivering a decent vocal and dance moves at the same time, so she should turn out an entertaining performance.
Everything else: The full-on pace of this song has its pros and cons. Negatively speaking, it is intense, and even though the length is the same as all of the other entries, it goes by in a flash and leaves me thinking ‘what the fudge just happened?’. It won’t have the luxury of multiple outings to let people absorb its good qualities on the night, and many first-time listeners (apparently they make up a big part of the voting community) may be left dazed and confused when its over. I’d love FYROM to win, but this is not the song they’re going to do it with.
The verdict: If I’m feeling on edge, 7 points. Otherwise, 8.
JESC chances: Middling. 6th-8th.
The Start by Gaia Cauchi
The good: Malta has been absent from JESC for two years now, so it’s good to have them back as well. Unfortunately that sums up all the positive stuff I have to say about their comeback, and as Gaia’s a fan favourite I fully expect abuse for even daring to say that.
Everything else: And the award for Song Most Resembling a Cheesy Talent Show Winner’s Single goes to…Malta! They also get the award for Jaz’s Bottom-Ranker 2013, FYI. I’m sorry, because I know a lot of people are backing this, but…I don’t get it. Yes, Gaia has a big voice and the song is full of show-stopping notes, but that big voice has a strange nasally thing going on that irritates me, and those show-stopping notes (that sound like they were written out of key with the music) follow suit. Adding to my thumbs-down mentality is the depressing ‘wailing’ vibe it gives off, and those clichéd lyrics about believing and achieving from the start in your heart. It’s all too much! Listening to this makes me feel overwhelmed and annoyed, and I don’t think a JESC song has ever given me that combo of emotions before. I really am sorry for the trash talk and I’m sure Gaia’s a lovely girl, but I get paid to be honest. Well, I don’t get paid to blog (unfortunately) but honesty is the best policy, right?
The verdict: No thanks. 3 points.
JESC chances: I don’t think this is the winner (at least I hope it’s not) but because I dislike it it’s sure to do well. 3rd-6th.
So that’s what I’m thinking at this point in time, but please don’t hold me to these opinions or predictions forever, because a) I change my mind all the time, and b) I am the world’s crappiest predictor…especially when it comes to JESC. What is certain is that right now, for these six songs, my rankings look like this:
What about you? What do you think of these six songs, and how do they stack up against each other?
NEXT TIME: It’s the turn of Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, San Marino, Sweden and the host country Ukraine to be reviewed under my imaginary musical microscope (I’ve decided it’s a regular one that plays music…an iScope?). Again, there’s a douze pointer, but it might not be who you’d expect. I hope you’ll drop by to check out the other half of the Class if Kyiv and let me know what you think of them.