Greetings, guys! It’s another day (obviously) and here’s another episode of the JESC 2015 Judgments for you to enjoy…or not. If you’re a fan of the Junior Eurovision offerings from Italy, Malta, Russia and/or Slovenia, you’re bound to feel some enjoyment, though perhaps not when one of this round’s jury members tears your fave to shreds. Just remember: honesty is the best policy, and one fan’s trash is another’s treasure, and a rolling stone gathers no moss, and a stitch in time saves nine, and…I’ve forgotten what I was talking about.
Why don’t we just get on with meeting today’s EBJ Junior Jury members? They’re a stellar bunch of folks!
TODAY’S EBJ JUNIOR JURY
Mrs. Jaz She’s back! Mrs. Jaz, a.k.a. my mother, has once again been forced at glitter-gunpoint to listen to and judge some Eurovision-related music, and I reckon she secretly loved it (her cries of ‘For the love of Lordi, make it stop!’ were all an act, I’m sure). Seriously though, she was happy to help out, and I’m happy to have the perspective of someone who can comment on each entry without knowing where it’s from or what the story is behind it – i.e. provide totally unbiased first impressions. A few of this round’s songs had her nodding in agreement with the rest of the EBJ Junior Jury, but the rest did not. Read on to find out which of the four floated her boat, and which had that boat capsizing faster than you can say ‘Where the heck are the life jackets?’
James Sayer ‘Hello! I’m James, a 20-year-old Creative Writing student at Edge Hill University, which is near Liverpool (nobody has ever heard of it, I’m aware. It’s lovely though, I promise). You might remember me from the EBJ Jury in May, when Jaz gave me Finland…need I say any more? I’m aiming to be a kinder judge this time! The first Junior contest in 2003 was actually my first-ever Eurovision experience: my sister and I stumbled across it and found ourselves captivated by all the exotic sounds on display. I think we took a particular shine to Like A Star from Malta. Junior Eurovision is basically the reason I’m a Eurovision fan, so no matter how immature some of it may seem now, it will always have a special place in my heart. My favourite-ever song from JESC changes between Sensatsiya (Russia 2012), Urok Hlamuru (Ukraine 2007), Svet U Mojim Očima (Serbia 2014) and Anders (Belgium 2007) quite regularly. I reckon 2014 was the strongest contest to date, and fingers crossed that it’s onwards and upwards from here!’
Jaz ‘You’re never getting rid of me, unless the ‘Jaz’ mysteriously drops from the title of this blog (so really, NEVER). Tasked with trying to write a different bio for myself each episode of the JESC Judgments, I figure I’ll follow James’ lead and list a few of my all-time favourite Junior entries from over the years. Just to name a few: Du by Mimmi Sandén (Sweden 2009); Te Traigo Flores by Antonio José (Spain 2005); Det Finaste Någon Kan Få by Molly Sandén (Sweden 2006); and Rodendeski Baknež by Denis Dimoski (FYR Macedonia 2005). That’s the tip of the iceberg, people. Will any of today’s tracks join that esteemed list in the future? Maybe. Just maybe…’
Now we’ve been introduced/introduced ourselves, we’re ready to unleash our opinions on the songs that Chiara & Martina, Destiny Chukunyere, Mikhail Smirmov and Lina Kuduzović are hoping will win them the JESC 2015 trophy. Do Mrs. Jaz, James or myself think that’s even a remote possibility for any of them? There’s only one way for you to find out.
Mrs. Jaz Viva Italia! I liked this one straight away. It’s very catchy, and very happy. Even though I couldn’t understand anything these girls were singing, the positivity of their message was shining through in the sound of the song. They also harmonise really well, gelling and connecting in a way that makes me wonder if it’s purely a twin thing (instead of finishing each other’s sentences, they’re just so in sync that it’s hard to distinguish between them vocally). Yep, I’m pretty keen on this one…though I’m told that’s not a hugely popular opinion! 8 points.
James This one started promisingly for me: there were warm guitars and hints of synths, and I was thinking we were heading for something Tiziano Ferro-esque. You know – an epic stadium anthem, broody verses leading to a killer chorus…and then said chorus dropped. And IDK, it was like watching a basketball player charge up to the hoop, make an almighty leap, and then completely miss the hoop…and probably somehow manage to hit themselves in the face with the ball instead. The beat just plods, and the bassline is about as energetic and interesting as a salmon being slapped repeatedly off a table. My god, this is dated, and not in a good kind of retro way. It’s just cheap. And don’t even get me started on how thoroughly bored they both sound too – it’s as though the poor girls know just how bad their song is and are embarrassed to have to sing it, bless them. Italy really don’t want to accidentally win again, do they! Being nice, I’ll give them 3 points.
Jaz It’s easy to forget that Italy is the reigning champion of Junior Eurovision, given that we’re heading to Sofia, and not Rome or Milan, off the back of Vincenzo Cantiello’s triumph last November. Then you listen to their sophomore entry Viva, and it’s all too clear that Italy ain’t interested in doing a double. I don’t dislike this song, don’t get me wrong – it’s a fun sing-along song, providing you can latch on to the Italian lyrics (which I can’t, so I just jump in whenever the twins shout ‘VIVA!’). Plus, Chiara and Martina have gelato tub-loads of personality, and as my mum said, harmonise as well as you’d expect singing twins to do. Still, this entry has nothing on Tu Il Primo Grande Amore. That was spine-tingling and timeless, and Viva is neither. The pop-rock sound is pretty 80s, so it’s far from fresh; it coasts along until the key-change arrives without going anyplace that exciting; and I definitely don’t have any hairs standing up on my body when I listen to it, unless I coincide that listening with sticking a knife in the toaster. But si, I still enjoy it, and it’s not like it’s the worst song on offer this year (Italy would NEVER send utter crap to a song contest!). I have a feeling Viva will be better live than in studio, mainly because it won’t be accompanied by a video that looks like something I could have put together in primary school… but I still can’t see it sidestepping 12th-15th place on the scoreboard. 6 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.67
Mrs. Jaz Is this Junior Eurovision or Broadway? This sounds like a show tune the downtrodden star of a 70s-set musical would belt out at the point in the story where she’s decided that nobody’s going to bring her down any more (or in this case, take her soul). I don’t mind that about it, but I do think that sound is a detriment to the studio version. I’d expect this to be far more enjoyable live on stage, when Destiny can fulfill her namesake and get the crowd going (she sounds like she wouldn’t have any trouble doing so). The cons? Well, I didn’t love all of the vocal gymnastics at the beginning…I mean, yes, she’s got a great voice and a great range, but she doesn’t need to do a routine on the horizontal bars with her vocal chords to prove it. Apart from that, this entry is a likeable one, and I reckon it could do reasonably well for Malta. 6 points.
James Two words: CeeLo Green. Both the melody and the arrangement of Destiny’s song are more than just a little similar to the international smash hit Forget You from a few years back. It’s all been ‘kiddified’ though, and although it’s a little sickly at first, on repeated listens, I think it actually really works. I mean, the verses are a bit ‘meh’. But one undeniable positive is that Destiny’s sassy powerhouse vocals are 110% suited to this kind of song, and she really brings it to life. I think with a bit more money invested in updating the production (read: send it to Stockholm and see how it sounds when it comes back), this could be a genuine hit. That post-chorus hook is one of the strongest in the whole line-up this year. Not My Soul is a grower, and may be one to watch. 7 points.
Jaz We’ve known for a while that our girl Destiny can sing like Christina Aguilera on crack (sorry to make a drug reference when discussing the talents of a thirteen-year-old, but I’m really trying to emphasise the extent of said talents). Now she’s been matched with a song that lets her show it off to the fullest, without seeming like a vehicle for her voice and nothing else. Not My Soul is going to go OFF in the Arena Armeec, mark my words. It’s SHRN with those trumpets…well, trumpeting away in the background – and definitely Forget You gone female, youthful and Maltese. It’s made up of the cheesy-but-cute lyrical content we only get from Malta at JESC (and now, Australia, given many of us can’t understand the other countries’ song content without hotfooting it to Google Translate). Destiny crams more defiance into that ‘no, no, no, not my soul!’ post-chorus part than I have into my entire life – and not only do I believe that no-one will manage to take her soul, I also feel inspired to harness my lady power and be generally badass and stuff after hearing it. The whole thing just makes me feel good. It’s not my favourite entry of the year – far from it, in fact – but it’s an absolute match made in heaven between singer and song. And it’s so darn happy, I can’t resist having a moonwalk down the hallway during the chorus. I am more or less expecting Malta to nab another top five finish in 2015. 7 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.67
Mrs. Jaz This is…nice. Just nice. It didn’t grab me, so I can’t imagine it grabbing too many televoters or jurors either (but perhaps I’m just far off the average JESC watcher’s wavelength). I feel like you’d have to hear it more than once for any hope of being hooked in. Overall, it’s fairly forgettable and verging on (sorry, Mikhail!) mediocre. And I can’t think of anything else to say about it. 5 points.
James I’m gonna put it out there: I really like Russia’s song this year. The most striking thing about this one is how strong and professional the production is – it’s the polar opposite of Italy. It’s blatantly obvious that a lot of effort has been put into this song, and that makes me instinctively want to take it more seriously. And past that, it does have a really engaging melody too, which develops throughout and sounds very unique. I can see Russia doing really, really well with this one. Misha Smirnov has such a strong stage presence already – he’s a performer who has an effortless command of both his song and his audience, and has created an atmosphere every time he’s sung Mechta live. Another random observation: the chord progressions are very Russian too. They’ve managed to bring some national flavour by reflecting their domestic music scene rather than chucking in an accordion and a mini Cossack dancer in a bear costume (though I wouldn’t put it past them.) Pretty awesome, methinks. 8 points.
Jaz If you read my Junior reviews last year (which I’m sure you did!) you might recall that I detested the Russian song, Dreamer. Fast forward twelve months, and I’m still not mad about it in any way, shape or form, and by comparison, I much prefer Mikhail’s Mechta. It’s a weird track to try and describe, because I’m not sure whether it’s a ballad or a pop song, or both. I can say with certainty that the revamped version is a step up from the national final-winning version – it’s more upbeat and a lot less flat. I like the melody of the verses and choruses (though the latter are definitely stronger) and I think Mikhail is a nice, if not spectacular, singer. The entire entry is just nice, really, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. It’s easy listening and not too showy, which is actually unusual for Russia. Similarly unusual would be pared-back presentation, but as I can’t imagine them overdoing the staging for a song like this, hopefully sight and sound will be equally simple. I’d like this to earn Russia a better result than last year’s, but that’s very unlikely to happen. When I put my objective hat on (which I don’t do very often) I can see that it’s probably too understated and too forgettable to go anywhere. But in terms of what I think of it and what point score I’d give it – which is the purpose of these reviews – it gets a thumbs up and 7 points from me.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.67
Mrs. Jaz Ooh, this is a good one! Once again, I have no clue what’s being sung about, but I found myself getting swept up in the atmosphere created by a ballad that isn’t too much of a ballad, if that makes sense. The music is lovely, and Lina’s voice is even more so – there are no unnecessary vocal gymnastics on display here. She sounds young, but she has a lot of power and clarity in her voice that gives me the impression she knows what she’s doing. It’s a promising package…but I have to say, I preferred the Italian song. 7 points.
James Okay, Maraaya really do know how to create hits, don’t they? I simply love the Slovenian entry this year. It might even be my favourite. It’s classy and captivating, and the melody is interesting enough to make it stand out from the (many) other mini-LLBs (Jaz: lame lady ballads) crowding the field in this contest. I personally thought their song last year was a screechy misstep, but with Prva Ljubezen, Slovenia has officially ARRIVED. To be honest, most of the Balkan nations are bringing it this year, but the advantage Slovenia has is the professionalism. Lina looks, sounds, and acts like a star, and she’s got the mentoring and experience of Eurovision entrants Maraaya to back her up (whereas FYR Macedonia is endearingly home-made, and Serbia have sent a strong song with a singer who looks the absolute double of Honey Boo Boo). If I was to pick one tiny fault with this song, it’s that I think it would work much better in 100% Slovene. They could keep the Italian lines if need be; I just really don’t like the JESC tendency to shoehorn clumsily-written English lyrics into everything, because nine times out of ten it ruins what would have been a great song in its national language. But everyone’s doing it, so I doubt this will really be a problem for Lina! I’m hovering between 10 and 12 points…but I’m gonna go with 10. It’s fab, but it’s no Svet U Mojim Očima.
Jaz Before each ESC and JESC, as the competing songs are being selected, I sit and wait to hear one that gives me THE FEELING. The one that makes me stop in my tracks, gives me goosebumps and has the word ‘WINNER!!!’ written all over it. There are two songs en route to Sofia that have that effect on me, and one of them is Slovenia’s. I’m not saying it’s a shoo-in to win, but it sure as heck gives me that impression. Ermahgerd, it’s good. Maraaya (and Lina, who co-wrote both the music and the lyrics with the duo), take a bow! A good old tinkly piano intro gives way to beautifully-constructed, dynamic verses and soaring choruses, and it’s all very current. It’s instant enough to latch on to without being derivative as well, which is a hard thing to achieve. And I haven’t even mentioned the cherry on top – Lina’s incredible vocal, which is practically studio-perfect live, as you’d expect from someone who won Slovenia’s Got Talent when they were SEVEN YEARS OLD (way to make all of us senior citizens feel inadequate, Lina). Basically, this is the bomb dot com, and if it doesn’t do extremely well for Slovenia, I’ll be boycotting all things JESC for at least five minutes. DOUZE POINTS!
EBJ Junior Jury Score 9.67
Well, that was interesting (I hope)! Reading each other’s minds re: some songs and completely disagreeing on others, the EBJJJ have proved that music has the power to unite and divide in a very short space of time. It also has the power to make me shake my fist bitterly in my mother’s direction for thinking Italy is superior to Slovenia this year…but I have to respect her views. Or at least, I have to appear to.
Here’s a look at the leaderboard for this round of reviews:
- Slovenia (9.67)
- Russia (6.67)
- Malta (6.67)
- Italy (5.67)
I won’t factor in the scores from Part 1 – I’m saving those for the EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 post. But I will remind you that Armenia topped the previous leaderboard with 8.00, meaning that Slovenia is now sitting pretty in the number one spot (Helena Paparizou would approve). With nine countries’ entries left for the EBJJJ to review, can Lina maintain her lead? Or will she be knocked unceremoniously off the top by one of the upcoming acts from Australia, Belarus, Georgia or Ukraine? Time will tell, ladies and gents.
Drop by EBJ at the end of the week if you want to see two Aussies and an American have their say on the aforementioned four. I promise the pair of us from Down Under will try not to be biased when it comes to commenting on Bella Paige. Try, but perhaps not succeed.
In the meantime, let me know below what you think of today’s entries. Which of the jurors was on your wavelength…if any?