Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs. I’m hoping that by distracting you with an exotic French greeting, you’ll forget that this is the first post I’ve put up in over a month. Did it work? No? Ah well. I won’t bring it up next time, and maybe that will help.
Basically (pending one mahusive assignment yet to be marked and a graduation ceremony on the horizon) I finished uni FOREVER as of Friday, and the chaos leading up to that point and my horror at coming to terms with my future as a proper adult who has to like, find an actual job and stuff, are my excuses for being AWOL from EBJ up until now. But with a little more free time on my hand at the moment, and Junior Eurovision less than a fortnight away, I’m back to begin my condensed JESC coverage. I’m kicking it off today with the first instalment of my 2014 reviews, only this time, you’re getting two posts for the price of one (I expect your cheques to be in the mail this week). What I mean is, rather than reviewing the sixteen songs participating in Malta in plain old alphabetical order, or putting the countries in a hat and plucking them out randomly, what I’ve done is this: I’ve ranked them from ‘what in the name of Ruslana IS that?’ to ‘Woohoo, nailed it!’ and I’ll be reviewing them in three parts from #16 to #1. That’s my bottom five, top five, and everything in the middle, with the best saved ‘til last.
So, without further boring explanations that have probably put you all to sleep, let’s get started with #16 and finish with #12.
Dreamer by Alisa Kozhikina
What I think: Perhaps it’s a coincidence that so many parallels can be drawn between Gaia Cauchi’s JESC victor and this schmaltzy, totally-engineered-to-tug-at-people’s-heartstrings ballad. If not, it wouldn’t be the first time the winner of a Eurovision event has had an influence on what other countries choose to send the following year. The difference is that Gaia and The Start were unique in the 2013 field, whereas in 2014, nearly half the competitors are bringing ballads to the table (with varying degrees of success in my opinion). Russia’s is far and away my least favourite. Even sweeping the sickly sweetness of it under the rug, I remain utterly creeped out by this tiny child wailing that she wants someone to be her everything and love her until the end of “the” time (I wish she’d specified what time exactly she’s referring to). Speaking of crappy English lyrics, that last chorus is the clincher of cliché, thrown in with a key change just to ensure that no part of the canvas is left blank in this by-the-numbers painting. Precious and talented as Russia’s Voice Kids winner Alisa is, everything about her entry makes me go ‘yeuch!’. I’m praying it doesn’t work on Europe the way it hasn’t worked on me, because if this wins, I’m going to end up being banned from Twitter for my excess use of profanity when tweeting about a children’s competition.
The verdict: No. Just, no. That’s a ‘no’, in case you didn’t get it. 1 point.
JESC chances: Junior songs that make me gag have won in the past, but I’m predicting 4th-8th for this one.
Game Over by Josie
What I think: I was all set to trash this, only mildly less than I’ve just trashed Russia. Then I listened to it again, and realised that I can’t be quite so straightforward (i.e. bitchy) about it. It’s an interesting song that doesn’t seem to measure up to Croatia’s previous JESC standards. But for me personally, said standards weren’t actually that high. Sure, I love Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav, but – and prepare to gasp – Hej Mali never did that much for me, and the two entries that followed it were pretty substandard. So re-listening to Josie’s vaguely electronic, vaguely dubstep track with a catchy chorus that sticks, I found myself intrigued rather than horrified. There are a lot of variables which could affect how Croatia scores on their comeback – i.e. can Josie pull off a live vocal? Which entries will she be sandwiched between? Will she have a bunch of backing dancers who do the robot impeccably while dressed up as Tetris pieces (my suggestion to the delegation)? But if all goes according to plan, I have a sneaking feeling this won’t be left languishing in 16th position come the night, as y’all (and by ‘y’all’, I mean a sample of random individuals whose comments I read on Youtube) seem to be thinking it will.
The verdict: It’s a little disjointed/cheesy, sure, but it’s fun, and stands out from the ballad/dance-heavy crowd. 6 points.
JESC chances: Some might say it’s game over for Croatia, but I reckon this might do surprisingly well. Or at least, not shockingly badly – somewhere in the 11th-14th region.
Svet U Mojim Očima by Emilija Đonin
What I think: Point numero uno – if Emilija sounds anywhere near as good singing this live as she does in studio, her three minutes on stage will be a treat for the ears. Given her stint on Serbia’s version of Got Talent, it’s highly likely. As far as the song itself goes…well, it’s nice. It’s pretty. It’s age-appropriate. I do find it a little stale in sound with the guitars twanging away in the background, so I kind of wish it’d been composed with violins or vuvuzelas (for that touch of eardrum-bursting fun) instead. But it’s competent. It doesn’t make me want to pick up the phone to vote for it (which isn’t to Serbia’s disadvantage since I can’t vote anyway) nor does it make me want to run screaming out of the nearest door, tearing my hair out and screaming “WHY, EUROVISION GODS, WHY?”. And above all else, I’m happy to have Serbia back in JESC.
The verdict: I want to hear Emilija sing this song more than I want to hear the song itself, but I do think it’s pretty. 6 points.
JESC chances: I can’t see this making its way any further than mid-table – 8th-11th.
Happy Day by Lizi Pop
What I think: Okay, so I WILL say it, but just this once – if people thought Sanna Nielsen’s Undo was Wrecking Ball 2.0, then they must be thinking Happy Day is a carbon copy with (mostly) Georgian lyrics. It’s not often you hear a song that doesn’t remind you of another these days, but in this case I’m a little disappointed, because Georgia can usually be relied upon to send something unique/endearingly bizarre to JESC. Like Moldova in the adult contest, they normally bring something special that helps them stand out; but in the sea of impressive voices and big ballads Malta-bound, Lizi will find it a challenge to carry on that trend. The impact of Wrecking Ball for me lies in both the vocal performance, and the soft, vulnerable verses interspersed with big, loud choruses. Those are also the main pros to Lizi and Happy Day, assuming she’s got the vocal combo of restraint/grunt to pull this off live. I like this song, cringey English bits and chorus chants aside, but it comes up short when compared to the ballads from the likes of Bulgaria and Italy, IMO. I’m hoping that the Georgian-ness we’ve all come to know and love (unless Bzikebi drove you crazy and CANDY gave you diabetes) will be injected into the stage presentation somehow, via outrageous costuming or some kind of massive, distracting prop. My money’s on a bubble-dispensing piñata.
The verdict: Derivative and repetitive, but still a good effort, with admirable emoting from Lizi. 6 points.
JESC chances: It’s hard to fathom a JESC fail for Georgia, but I just don’t see this stealing focus away from all of the other ballads. My prediction is 7th-11th.
Nisi Sam (Your Light) by Ula Ložar
What I think: First things first, I’m the realest. NO, IGGY AZALEA, YOU CANNOT TAKE OVER THIS POST! GET BACK TO TWERKING! Ahem. As I was saying, first things first, welcome to JESC, Slovenia. We’re very happy to have you. Much like Italy, they’ve put forward a sophisticated debut entry – though whilst we all knew that was how the Italians would play it, Slovenia could have veered off in any direction. I think they should be proud of themselves, even if they’re not likely to be topping the scoreboard come November 15. Ula is a phenom live vocalist (sorry to be rambling on about the voices so much, but this is THE year of the miniature powerhouse) and her song has a haunting, understated feel to it that sets it apart. I do feel like the whole package is maybe too mature for the Junior contest – or at least, to work well in this context. Then again, you could have said that about Ukraine 2012 or even Gaia last year, bar the poofy party dress. I find JESC incredibly hard to predict, and without rehearsals to base an opinion on or a running order to imagine the impact of, it’s hard to say just how Slovenia will fare. Though there are songs I like more, I would be happy to see this one get somewhere – even if that somewhere is just out of the danger zone of the automatic douze points.
The verdict: Pretty and classy, and Ula sings like a champ. A strong 6 points.
JESC chances: Like I said, I’m clueless (not in all aspects of life – just this one). Anywhere between 6th-14th would be my broad guess.
So that’s my bottom five, though as you can see, I’m only really anti-Russia. Musically speaking, in this instance. Here’s what my rankings look like so far, with question marks aplenty for added mysteriousness:
#1 | ?
#2 | ?
#3 | ?
#4 | ?
#5 | ?
#6 | ?
#7 | ?
#8 | ?
#9 | ?
#10 | ?
#11 | ?
#12 | Slovenia
#13 | Georgia
#14 | Serbia
#15 | Croatia
#16 | Russia
What do you think? Have I offended anyone with my abuse of Alisa’s Dreamer? Does the fact that I don’t hate Croatia make you want to strangle me with a feather boa? Or do you agree with my sentiments to a shocking extent? Let me know below.
I’ll be back on Friday with Part 2, feat. my #11-#6. Whoever could they be?