From the start to ‘The Start’: reviewing + wrapping up JESC 2013
It’s been a week since Gaia and her poofy dress were crowned (or trophied, I should say…this isn’t Miss World) the winner of Junior Eurovision 2013, to the surprise of few. A week is like a decade in Eurovision years, so I apologise for taking so long to get all of my thoughts out on this year’s comp.
I’ll admit, despite my dislike for The Start (which grew out of straight-up hate and, shamefully, could develop into tolerance any day now) I’ve been feeling warm and fuzzy all week over the fact that Malta has finally won an ESC event. For such a small nation surrounded only by water (cross-border voting accusers are speechless right now) to triumph in such a level playing field is a big deal, even if it wasn’t in the adult ESC. Personally, I think it’s even more impressive this way, because while Malta has been successful in the senior contest (including that surprising top 10 result in Malmö) they actually have a below-average track record in Junior – up until now, they’ve only made the top 5 once and have spent most of their time outside of the top 10. So a belated but big congratulations goes to Malta from moi. My fingers and toes are crossed that they choose to host the show in 2014, so I can at least travel there spiritually, if not physically. Unless I win the lottery by then, of course.
But you don’t want to hear me rambling on about winning lotto when there’s JESC rambling to be done. I’m going to run through everything that happened last Saturday evening, including the twelve performances, painfully scripted host banter, and all 1, 254 interval acts (I give mid-voting entertainment the thumbs down).
Did Ukraine do better the second time around? How did Zlata cram her hobbit feet into those fierce stilettos for her act? Will The Start be a karaoke classic? All these questions and more may just be answered in this review and wrap-up of the JESC that was.
Let’s begin with the filling of the sandwich. The most important part. The reason we all watched in the first place (unless you watched for Ruslana and ended up sorely disappointed).
From #1 to #12, here they are – scrutinised and scored for your convenience.
Sweden – My heart breaks for Elias, because, well…so did his voice. And what a time for it to happen! At least Dorijan Dlaka feels his pain. Unavoidable vocal difficulties aside, I enjoyed this as an opener, as I suspected I would. Yes, it was a slow burner, but when the chorus kicked in, the audience made some serious noise. It made an impact, as did Sweden’s excellent use of the background. The staging was a little boring, but you can’t expect acrobats and costume reveals with a song like this. A final question: was up with Elias’ crazy eyes? Was he using those to try and distract us from his voice?
Song (10); Vocals (6); Staging (8); Personality (6); Costume (7) = 7 points
Azerbaijan – This was the first time I’d heard Rustam sing live, and I have to say, just like last year with Azerbaijan, I was disappointed. Maybe it was nerves (he is so incredibly teeny) but he sounded like he had a throat infection, and we cannot blame that on puberty. On the plus side, his costume was as cute as a button (whatever that means) and I enjoyed the choreography. Who could resist a human bicycle? Or a giant guitar, for that matter. In some ways, Azerbaijan stepped it up for JESC this year, but in others, they remained same-same.
Song (8); Vocals (6); Staging (8); Personality (10); Costume (8) = 8 points
Armenia – If I had thought to mute my laptop before Monica opened her mouth, this would have been an excellent performance. The props were sweet (literally), the costumes were as elaborate as I’d expected, and Monica worked the stage quite well. Unfortunately, her vocal performance was hands-down THE worst of the night. In fact, I wouldn’t even call what she did up there singing – it was more a case of yelling out of tune. The song and act were very Georgian, and it’s kind of a shame Georgia didn’t send it, because there’s no way they would have sent a kid who had the ability to butcher their own composition. Sorry, Mon.
Song (10); Vocals (2); Staging (8); Personality (10); Costume (8) = 8 points
San Marino – It wasn’t until this point that a decent vocalist took to the stage, in the gold-jacketed Michele. For me, this was also the first package performance, where everything came together. I loved the beginning, where Michele was sitting in the spotlight á la Dima Bilan, and the audience started singing along with the o-o-o’s (SO CUTE, especially for a country making its debut). He had great stage presence and charisma, and the choreography was enjoyable. Perhaps the Michael Jackson vibe was taken a bit too far with that costume, but this was a top 5 act. Well, it should have been.
Song (10); Vocals (10); Staging (8); Personality (12); Costume (7) = 10 points
FYR Macedonia – It wasn’t a complete car crash, but there were a lot of things wrong with Barbara’s performance. Number one: her voice. Sure, she sounded like Whitney Houston compared to Armenia, but she was definitely ropey. She didn’t look like she was having the best of times up there either. Her costume was business up top and party down below, and it didn’t really work. A lighter, brighter, more summery look would have suited the song more. I also think Barbara should have let her backing dancers do most of the moves so she could have focused on her voice.
Song (8); Vocals (5); Staging (6); Personality (6); Costume (5) = 6 points
Ukraine – If I had to use one word…PERFECTION! Sofia took a mere few seconds to relegate Michele to second-best performance so far. Perhaps I’m biased because We Are One was/is my favourite entry, but I think every aspect of the performance on the night was top notch: her voice (of course), the costume, the high-tech lighting, the camera work (which was not so good throughout the rest of the night), her emotion, and anything else I’ve forgotten to mention. This was a host entry that deserved the rapturous reception they tend to get no matter what.
Song (12); Vocals (12); Staging (12); Personality (12); Costume (12) = 12 points
Belarus – Ilya was my next favourite, but I was worried about his ability to pull off the vocal in what doesn’t seem an easy song to sing. Fortunately, he nailed it, and everything else. Great entry, and great dance moves, Belarus! The knee slide that accompanied Ilya’s money note was the cherry on top of a polished, professional and entertaining cake. The only thing I would pick on is the lack of colour in the costumes, but only because I just want colour everywhere, in everything, particularly in JESC. It doesn’t really bother me.
Song (12); Vocals (12); Staging (12); Personality (12); Costume (10) = 12 points
Moldova – My favourites just kept on coming. As with Macedonia, I was expecting this to be an epic fail despite my love for it. Aside from an off-key first chorus, I was pleasantly surprised. The change from national final to now was obvious, and not just because there wasn’t a row of bored-looking judges yawning their way through it. Rafael emoted well, and those costumes were the bomb! The addition of the girl-in-a-bird-suit was verging on too much, but it was striking, and she did jeté out at the right moment. So well done, ladies and gents. And bird.
Song (12); Vocals (8); Staging (8); Personality (10); Costume (10) = 10 points
Georgia – I think we all knew there was a certain Georgian-ness missing from this entry, and with the lack of colour (here I go again) and funk in the costumes, that was further emphasised. Having said that, the country continued not to put a foot wrong in the competition, with a polished, vocally together and enthusiastic performance. I liked the Birgit black-and-white effect, although it could have been executed better. It was clear that this wasn’t a winning act, so I hope we get the old Georgia back next year. The Georgia that makes us all think they could easily win.
Song (10); Vocals (10); Staging (7); Personality (10); Costume (7) = 10 points
Netherlands – I thought this would be an act to beat, and the performance gave me no reason to doubt that, though there were times when the twins looked uncomfortable. Maybe those cheerleader outfits were itchy. Still, they put on a great show not that different from what we saw at the Dutch final. The audience seemed to go particularly nuts over this one. This may sound odd, but I wonder if it was too childish for the tastes of the voters? Look at what they ranked first and second.
Song (10); Vocals (8); Staging (8); Personality (7); Costume (10) = 10 points
Malta – Yes, I was won over by Gaia, but I haven’t completely back-tracked on the trashing I gave her song when I was reviewing all of them. It’s just that, in the spotlight and in that adorable dress, she commanded attention without the need for props or dancers, and did give a spectacular vocal performance. The ballad also provided a nice contrast with Double Me before it and Mechtay after it. As soon as Gaia belted out her final note, I was pretty certain Malta had the comp all sewn up.
Song (8); Vocals (12); Staging (8); Personality (10); Costume (8) = 10 points
Russia – Dayana and her troupe of sailors (sadly, she did not arrive in Kiev flanked by the Buranovskiye Babushki) brought some colour to the stage and ended the string of performances with a bang…and a boat that still defies explanation. Generally, it was a good performance. For a song that starts at a high level and only goes up from there, it was well managed by Dayana. I would say that she could have moved around more – she seemed a bit stiff, and never really got down with her dancers, Ruslana-style, which I think would have been a better choice for such a high-energy entry.
Song (10); Vocals (10); Staging (8); Personality (7); Costume (8) = 10 points
These performances went by in a blur on the night, but now that I stop and think about them, and the above scoring, these are the places I believe everyone deserved:
- San Marino
- FYR Macedonia
A few of these came true, or almost true. I’ll remind you of what the actual scoreboard looked like later on (in case you’ve forgotten, because, you know, it’s been THAT long). Right now, let’s talk about…
The interval acts
And when I say ‘acts’, I mean ‘acts’. Seriously, have you ever seen so many interludes of entertainment in your entire life? There were more pauses for IAs than there were lingering hand shots in the broadcast of Eurovision 2013 (which is saying a lot). I’m not going to cover the many random dance routines sprinkled throughout – including mid-voting which nearly killed me (just get on with it, for god’s sake!) – but there were some main events worth mentioning:
- Emmelie de Forest made an appearance with a pint-sized piper and her usual lack of footwear (does the girl own a pair of shoes?) and I have to say, I was underwhelmed. Only Teardrops never did that much for me, and it did even less without the fancy pyrotechnics and with a dress one would wear to a funeral.
- Miniature powerhouse Anastasiya Petryk half-reprised Nebo, sounding as frightening as ever and looking as tiny as she did a year ago. As she said in her postcard back then, she is still ‘small Ukrainian girl’. She then launched into a surprisingly fluffy (for her, the demon child) song about winning and believing and stuff. I personally would have preferred to hear the whole of Nebo again.
- The class of Kyiv took to the stage to “perform” (a.k.a. mime) the group song Be Creative (I wonder where they got that title from?) which, if you could ignore the obvious lip-syncing, was quite nice. It makes me happy to see all the kids high-fiving and interacting with each other like that, until I get sad that they’re all going to be jetting off home and only communicating via social networks (ooh-ooh, ooh-oh-ohhh…).
- The best was saved for almost-last when the gloriousness that is Zlata put on a show that put Emmelie’s to shame. This included a variety of costume changes involving too much cleavage for children’s television and a dress that I’m sure she stole from Kim-Lian’s host wardrobe. I enjoyed every minute of it! Normally I’d be crushing on the male co-host, but Zlata is the most perfect creature ever to have existed, and if she asked me to marry her, I would totally say yes.
Ahem. Well, this is awkward. Let’s move on!
Other talking points
- The artist parade: I always enjoy this part. I’m not sure about the whole ‘backing it with the entries’ deal though. I think keeping the songs as fresh as possible for the performances is the way to go.
- The stage: Jigsaw-tastic! That thing was grand enough for adult Eurovision, if a little too childlike. I preferred the Amsterdam stage a bit more just to look at, but this one is still one of the best we’ve seen.
- The hosts: I’ve already made mention of my soon-to-be fiancée Zlata, who was joined by co-compere of 2009, Timur Mirosch…Mirochs…Miroschchenkyo. Miroschnychenko! Man, Lynda Woodruff would have a field day with that one. It’s not a bad gig for him, hosting alongside stunning women like Zlata and Ani Lorak. Perhaps he was distracted by Zlata’s beauty (or her massive dress) because he wasn’t as proficient as he was last time. Together, they were competent, but the humour came across forced. I did like their outfits though – very JESC appropriate, and they matched the logo!
- The postcards: Cute, and tailored to the country and artist about to perform, which I find more enjoyable than vignette after vignette of panoramic host country shots. You can never go too far with puzzle pieces, that’s my motto. I also liked the segment that posed the question: where did the kids want to be in 10 years? If it wasn’t for that, we never would have learned that Dayana aspires to be a crazy cat lady.
Now let’s focus on the part of the show that gets everybody’s palms (and probably some other places) sweating.
The voting and results
Once all the performances are over, THIS is what we wait for, right? When it comes to JESC, the voting is often tense all the way through, and 2013 was no exception (the EBU didn’t even have to rig the order to make it more exciting).
There was no tension in terms of technical difficulties, however, as we had live spokespersons presenting each country’s points for the first time. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it eliminates the possibility of cross-continental glitches that leave us cringing at the awkwardness of it all; on the other, it made the process run too quickly for my liking, and felt a bit wrong because we’re all so accustomed to crossing all over Europe and hearing those magical words: ‘INSERT CAPITAL HERE calling!’. I don’t think I want to see it repeated in Valletta next year (as Elias would say, that’s where we’re going. It’s a fairly safe bet).
Let’s take a quick look at some of the interesting occurrences of the swift voting sequence that saw Malta take out the top prize.
- The first douze of the night came courtesy of the kids’ jury and went to Malta. While this foreshadowed the outcome, we couldn’t have been sure at that point that Gaia had the comp in the bag. Last year the kids’ jury ranked eventual runner-ups Georgia first.
- Malta didn’t receive another set of douze until four more countries had voted. Sweden, Azerbaijan and Armenia gave theirs to Russia, and San Marino got a big cheer for sending theirs Ukraine’s way.
- Macedonia only received points from six countries, out of a possible eleven plus the kids’ jury. Barbara’s highest score was the 2 she got from Armenia. 11th-placed Moldova received points from ten countries, the highest being 4 from Belarus, Georgia and Malta.
- We had three leaders throughout the voting: Malta (duh), Ukraine and Russia.
- Russia was the last country to vote, and they had the power to make for a very different story. Had they given their douze to Ukraine and four points or less to Malta, the host country would have won.
- Their points did make for a few less drastic last-minute changes: San Marino moved from 11th place to 10th, and the handy douze to Belarus pushed them ahead of Russia into the bronze position. Basically, Russia scored themselves out of a trophy. Oops.
- All up, Malta received five lots of douze, Russia and Ukraine three each, and Armenia and Belarus one apiece.
To refresh your memory (whether it needs it or not) this is what the scoreboard looked like after all of the above:
- Malta (130)
- Ukraine (121)
- Belarus (108)
- Russia (106)
- Georgia (91)
- Armenia (69)
- Azerbaijan (66)
- Netherlands (59)
- Sweden (46)
- San Marino (42)
- Moldova (41)
- FYR Macedonia (19)
This was not an easy contest to predict, and as I am rubbish at seeing the future, I managed to predict just one placing correctly – Georgia’s 5th. I had a few close ones though, deciding that Malta would come 2nd, Russia 3rd, Azerbaijan 6th and Moldova last. It is shameful that I couldn’t even get the bottom-ranker right (that’s usually the easiest one!) but I’m so not bothered, because Rafael didn’t lose! I love his song but was sure he’d bring up the rear, so I’m thrilled he did better than I expected.
Other surprises? San Marino so low, for starters. After the great performance he turned out, and that encouraging sing-along from the audience, I thought Michele had it in him to make the top 5. He would have deserved it. The Netherlands missing out on a top 5 placing also shocked me. I’m still not 100% sure what went wrong there.
On the ‘happy surprise’ front, Ukraine’s second-place features heavily for me. Sofia was amazing, her song is amazing, blah blah blah…you know I think it was perfect.
But my moment of the night was Belarus’ last-second leapfrog into 3rd place, which secured them a trophy and, technically, their best result since 2007. Ilya aced what I was worried could be a disaster vocal, and everything else just came together, so IMO the placing was well deserved.
My top 3 – Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova – did a whole lot better than I’d anticipated. What about you? How did your favourites go? Did any of the final scores surprise you?
Awarding some trophies of my own
I always hold an awards ceremony for the ESC, so here’s a suitably miniature version for JESC. I don’t actually have trophies to hand out, but the thought’s there.
Mr. Congeniality is Michele Perniola because he was positive, friendly, and super charismatic on stage, even in that questionable jacket.
Miss Congeniality is Mylène & Rosanne because they have double the sunny personality and double the ability to smile 24/7!
The Born Entertainer is Ilya Volkov because he’s a showman and a half, and is totes the Donny Montell of Junior Eurovision.
The Best Artist Gimmick was from the Netherlands because hello? It’s Jedward all over again.
The Artist Most Likely To End Up in the ESC is Gaia Cauchi because she sings, and she’s Maltese. It’s a given. We have two former JESC contestants in the NF for Copenhagen alone.
The Grower Song of the Year is from San Marino because I thought it was average at first, but now I’m o-o-o-ing along with all of y’all.
The Best Vocal came from Sofia Tarasova because whilst her voice may not be as powerhouse as Gaia’s, I know which one I’d rather listen to.
The Best Prop/Gimmick came from Russia because well, there weren’t that many to choose from, and even if the boat didn’t make sense, it was striking.
The Best Choreography was from Belarus because Ilya and his lady friends had the moves like Jagger. Kind of.
The Best Use of the Background was by Sweden because with little else to work with, the spark effect added interest to the performance, and amped up at just the right moments.
The Best Dressed Artist/s were from Moldova because Rafael looked adorable, and the graphic get-ups his backing dancers wore were very cool.
The Worst Dressed Artist/s were from FYR Macedonia because what…was that? Half dinner party and half music festival?
The Most Deserved Final Result was received by Ukraine because they did as well as possible (with a brilliant act) whilst stepping back to let a new country win. Not on purpose, but you know what I mean.
The Least Deserved Final Result was received by San Marino because Michele was the first to impress me on the night, and his performance still stood up at the end of the night.
The Least Predictable Result was received by the Netherlands because most of us thought they’d do excellent, didn’t we? I never would have guessed the twins would be left to loiter so low.
Believe it or not, that is all I have to say about Junior Eurovision 2013 for now. You probably will believe that, since I covered everything whether it was interesting or not (my bad). Kyiv did a pretty good job of hosting the second time around, and if JESC lasts long enough to give the city a third try then I’ll welcome it. I’m sure Timur would too, because there’d be some other superhumanly attractive Ukrainian woman to follow in the footsteps of Ani and Zlata by presenting alongside him. Maybe Verka Seduchka?
Bests, worsts, highlights, lowlights, shocks and surprises – if you’ve got any from last weekend, let me know down below!
Posted on December 7, 2013, in Junior Eurovision and tagged Belarus, Gaia Cauchi, JESC 2013, Junior Eurovision 2013, Kiev, Kyiv, Malta, performances, review, Timur Miroschnychenko, Ukraine, winner, Zlata Ognevich. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.