Hello, and Happy Weekend, guys! You’ve just made the excellent decision to read the third installment of the JESC 2015 Judgments, and for that, you’re back on my Christmas card list (I’m not sure why you were taken off it, but let’s not focus on that).
I feel a little guilty for being peppy/excited in the wake of the horrifying things that took place in Paris on Friday. However, though my thoughts are with everybody affected, I don’t believe that hiding away all happiness – or putting a tricolour filter over my Facebook profile picture – is going to make anything better. What I do believe is that when something terrible has happened, it can be beneficial to think about something else for a while. Not to belittle or ignore the tragedy in question, but simply to remind yourself that the world has not been turned completely upside down, and to take shelter in some normality in the face of terrifying abnormality.
On that note, let’s remind ourselves that there’s a display of international unity and young talent taking place in Sofia in less than a week’s time. Junior Eurovision is so close that the competing acts have set foot on Bulgarian soil and are swapping email addresses (or, to be more ‘down with the kids’, Twitter handles and Snapchat names) as we speak. I still have nine reviews and a prediction post to cram in before the show starts, so I’d better cut this intro short (well, short by my standards) and get cracking!
TODAY’S EBJ JUNIOR JURY
Lukman Andi Uleng Lukman’s back for another round of reviews, having had his say on Armenia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Serbia in the first installment. The highest number of points he parted with last time was seven, so will he ramp things up today by giving Australia, Belarus, Georgia or Ukraine the big douze…or even an eight or ten? Spoiler alert: yes, he will!
Penny K ‘Hi, I’m Penny *waves from other side of laptop*, a uni student from Michigan in the USA (the land where the ESC only shows up on the last page of the paper every 5-10 years, and never on the radio). I’m kind of late to the club since I started watching Eurovision in 2010, and Junior three years later since there wasn’t anything to do during off-season and I had nothing to blog-rant about. As of so far, my favorite JESC entries are Sokal (Belarus 2014), Mama (Armenia 2010), and Det Är Dit Vi Ska (Sweden 2013).’
Jaz ‘Hello, yet again. This time on Jaz Tries To Write An Original Bio Instead of Repeating Herself and Boring You All To Tears, I’m going to rank all editions of JESC by overall strength of the entries, from best to worst (though at it’s worst, Junior remains awesome, in my opinion. So here goes: 2014, 2011, 2005, 2013, 2009, 2010, 2003, 2006, 2012, 2007, 2004 and 2008. Got it? Because I’m going to test you on the precise order later. Not. There’s too much reviewing to be done!’
The Junior Jury is ready to rumble – and Bella, Ruslan, The Virus and Anna are presumably waiting to hear our verdict (even though they’re on the ground in Bulgaria and have far more exciting things to do and think about). So let’s put them out of their misery in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…now, basically.
Lukman It’s wonderful to see Australia represented at this year’s event – especially by a girl as talented as Bella Paige. My Girls is a really high-quality song, and even beats many adult Eurovision songs in terms of quality. As much as I appreciate the song and recognise the positives, at the end of the day, it isn’t the type of music I normally listen to. But it does have some amazing hooks in there that make it interesting. All the best to Australia! 8 points.
Penny If no one told me that this was a Junior Eurovision song performed by a 14-year-old, then I would have thought it was your standard hit ballad on the radio. It’s definitely well-sung, well-produced, and a good Ohrwurm. Judging by her performances, I’ve no doubt that Bella’s able to pull this off live. It’s uplifting, which is really nice when trying to get through a meltdown. At the same time, it sounds like a hit because it also sounds super generic, like I’ve heard the tune somewhere else before. Part of me is also thinking that a major reason it’s so catchy is simply because it’s in English, so the words are predictable and flow easily, like a Swedish schlager entry. Either way, it’s definitely a solid entry to wave the Australian flag. 8 points.
Jaz I can’t believe I’m about to review an Australian JESC entry. The fact that I said something similar six months ago when reviewing Guy Sebastian’s Tonight Again makes me wonder what could possibly happen in the next chapter of the Aussie Eurovision story (which European event will we wangle an invitation to next?). But those wonderings can wait for another time and another post. Onto My Girls! This track is perfectly suited to JESC, which is odd given that it wasn’t written with the contest in mind – but a big belter of a ballad feat. empowering (though rather cliché) lyrics, performed by a small child with a massive voice, is the kind of thing Junior dreams are made of. I’d describe it as Ell & Nikki’s Running Scared with more oomph (it’s the oh-oh-oh bits that give me that vibe), or as a less annoying version of Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys. ‘Less annoying’ is not a description that extends to the lyrics, though…the cheesy predictability of lines like ‘I know she has wings to soar’ is nauseating *gags*. Still, I’d consider myself a member of Team Bella – albeit partly because I have to. My country is being represented in a Eurovision event again, and what kind of Aussie would I be if I refused to support that? I don’t like Vegemite or cricket, so there’s already a few strikes against me. Sitting on my patriotism and squashing it for a second, I’ll confess that My Girls is far from being my favourite entry of the year – but neither was Tonight Again, and look how that went down in Vienna. Bella’s song is strong and has a catchy chorus, and she is a vocal force to be reckoned with. Both song and singer prove that once again, Australia is taking participation seriously, and that’s something I’m proud of. If we were to win in Sofia (though I suspect we won’t) rest assured you’ll be able to hear my hysterical screams wherever you’re watching from. 8 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 8.00
Lukman Why is it that Belarus seem to send stronger songs to Junior Eurovision compared to their adult counterparts? Ruslan’s dramatic ballad is one such masterpiece that has everything going for it to be the winner. Maybe I’m declaring that a bit too soon, but I just love this song! First of all, Ruslan is pretty charismatic, has awesome stage presence, and has been gifted with a strong voice. I reckon he got a few tips studying the ESC, as he definitely seems ready for the adult contest. I quite like the tune of his song, which slowly builds in an emotional and interesting way, and the music is dramatic, suitable, and easy on the ears. The special effects at the national final weren’t essential (especially the getting “rained” on…I initially thought Ruslan was so nervous he’d sweated!) even though they were cool. I don’t think Belarus needs them, as they have a strong song in the first place. I really can’t fault their act – it’s one of the saving graces of this contest. Good luck, Ruslan! 10 points.
Penny Is it just me, or does Belarus put a lot more effort into choosing their Junior entries than their senior entries? They send a song that’s going to work on the radio, yet they also manage to say through the song, ‘Hey, this is a kid singing!’. Anyways, they’re going with ‘person stands on a platform singing while the magic happens around them’. It took me a few listens to pay attention to the entire song, and another listen to get the tune down, but once that happened, the spell was complete. While I haven’t paid much attention to the on-screen special effects during Ruslan’s national final performance, the song itself is already snowfooting-in-the-woods magical if I close my eyes, and it would be really cool if it ended up playing at the planetarium with all the images of galaxies swirling around the screen. Now just add on the performance where the screen and real world collide with vocal drama…douze points, anyone?
Jaz I don’t know why Belarus nails JESC and (so often) fails ESC, but it’s certainly a truth. Nor do I know if they actually put more effort in to choosing what to send to Junior, or if it’s by accident that they continually select stunners. Either way, a stunner is once again what they’ve got to offer us. I’m not going to beat around the bush with Ruslan and Volshebstvo/Magic: this is my favourite entry of 2015. From my very first listen, I was spellbound by the mysterious and dramatic atmosphere it conjures up, the incredible melody that brings a tear to my eye every time (I’m very pathetic, I know) and Ruslan’s spectacular vocal performance. I was also struck by how much Belarus 2015 echoes a certain other country’s very successful debut last year: Italy’s. Volshebstvo and Ruslan give me the same feeling that Tu Il Primo Grande Amore and Vincenzo did twelve months ago – not necessarily the feeling that it’s a winner, but the feeling that it’s something special that’s going to make an impression on the night. I just love it. The whole package is powerful, classy, and perhaps more contemporary than Italy’s winning one, and if the Belarusian delegation has taken those NF effects and polished them, then it’s not out of the question for Minsk to be the host city of JESC 2016. With a young male version of Zlata Ognevich singing the s%!t out of a brilliant ballad whilst elevated on a pedestal (without having been dumped there by a giant Game of Thrones extra), anything is possible. There’s nothing left for me to say except DOUZE POINTS!
EBJ Junior Jury Score 11.33
Lukman I admire Georgia, as they always send something really crazy, suitable for Junior audiences, and highly original. Alongside Armenia, I reckon Georgia will give us one of the most highly-entertaining routines in Sofia. I have no doubt that The Virus will perform excellently live, as have all previous Georgian singers. Now, back to the song: the first verse is the best-sounding to my ears, while the chorus would probably appeal more to younger listeners. I think the group is going for funny, fun and cheeky! Good luck to The Virus! 7 points.
Penny ‘Ets’ade gaaaaabedo! Sanam gadaaaaagedo…’. I’m pretty sure The Virus has infected me with a 15-second Ohrwurm, because I can’t get Gabede out of my head. It’s not my favourite song in the mix, but considering how many times it has appeared in last place in YouTube rankings, I don’t think it deserves that much hate. I like this entry more than some of Georgia’s recent entries, and it looks like the group’s genuinely having fun. They’ll probably be comfy on stage with instruments in hand, rocking out in their pajamas The only major issue I can see is that there’s no warning that the song (and music video) are approximately twice as loud as the other sixteen music videos. Otherwise (as everyone’s probably asking), WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PARENTS ARRIVE?!? 6 points.
Jaz Will the not-at-all disgustingly named The Virus (seriously, WTF is with that?) really wear their PJs and towel turbans on stage? Georgia has lost the JESC plot a bit lately, so I wouldn’t put it past them. Of course, when I say that, I mainly mean results-wise – their costumes are always on course, but Lizi Pop’s 11th place in 2014 was their worst result ever. Happy Day didn’t float my boat in a big way, and while I do think Gabede more closely resembles the quirky, carefree Georgia we know and love within the Junior community, it’s still not right up there in the realms of top five-worthy stuff like Odelia Ranuni, Candy Music and Funky Lemonade (from 2007, 2011 and 2012 respectively). It’s rocky, for starters, which is unusual for the retro-pop enthusiasts, and it’s a tad too repetitive for my taste. Previous Georgian entries have made the most of their allotted minutes, but it’s a more a case of a little in a lot here – like the ‘why-ay-ay-ay’ bits in Trijntje Oosterhuis’ Walk Along, the ‘gabedo’ bits in this song’s chorus come around all too quickly, again and again (and again). However, repetitiveness isn’t a cardinal sin for a song to commit, and if we all thought it was inexcusable, there’s no way we’d be ESC or JESC fans! My point is, I’ll forgive Georgia for all their gabedos, because as they always do, they have selected a cute and charismatic act fielding a fun song. It may not be their best ever, but it does tick a bunch of boxes – meaning it won’t finish first, but definitely won’t finish last either. 7 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.67
Lukman Ukraine is one of the powerhouses in both the Eurovision Song Contest and Junior Eurovision Song Contest, and they never fail to deliver a high-quality song. Anna’s Pochny z Sebe has a strong Slavic melancholic feel to it, but at the same time, it’s uplifting. She’s a great singer, she just needs a little work on her stage presence and routine. Hopefully she gets an even more epic outfit than the one worn at the national final for JESC. I really can’t fault the song. I really like it – it has a unique and awesome verse, and the chorus is pretty uplifting. 8 points.
Penny If you watch Anna’s performance with the sound off, it looks like the (not toilet paper) dress and wind machine are controlling her, rather than the other way around. Considering how similar Ukraine’s national final performances are to those on the JESC stage, I’m going to guess that it’ll be the same situation in Sofia, except the cameras won’t zoom in on the machines as much. With the sound on, the verses of Pochny z Sebe remind me a lot of Portugal’s ESC entry this year, as if the song’s cruising down a smooth, non-Michigan highway. And then it picks up with the refrain to a road more hilly, where you can hear the emotions. However, I think the audience is going to remember the dress more than the song, which is somewhat forgettable. 5 points.
Jaz Ukraine is one country you should never ignore in the JESC – or ESC – race. They have a knack for taking the song they select, revamping it (tossing any dodgy bits in the trash as they go), and devising a stellar stage performance to accompany it – one that at least ensures they’re fierce competition. It remains to be seen and heard whether they’ve done the same with Anna’s Pochny z Sebe…but does it need polishing at all? Back in the day of ye olde Ukrainian NF, it was already a) a well-produced song with no cheese and quite a bit of grit (á la Ukraine’s Junior winner of 2012), and was b) performed by a competent, attention-commanding vocalist in a dress made expressly to be worn in conjunction with extreme wind machine use (woohoo!). There’s no doubt it was a strong package from the start. But…I do think Pochny z Sebe is too much of a plodder to place Anna in winning contention (though I reserve the right to change my mind about that ten times before I make my official predictions). Personally, I really like it – like Penny, I’m going to use Portugal’s Eurovision entry from earlier in the year as a sound-alike (with good intentions, as I liked that too). The fact that it’s mature shouldn’t be a hindrance, as JESC is far less focused on the childlike than it once was. And I love the melody of the choruses (the verses are more forgettable, and at times sound like they’re in a different key to the music). I’m just not convinced that the song is instant enough, given that I’m still having trouble humming it to myself, to do much damage to, say, six to ten of the other competing countries. Then again, this is Ukraine we’re talking about. Let’s get the wind machine going and see how Anna performs, both on the stage and on the scoreboard. 8 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 7.00
There’s another four JESC 2015 hopefuls taken care of! Now, there are just five countries left for the EBJ Junior Jury to review. Let’s take a quick look at today’s leaderboard, before I remind you of just who’s left.
- Belarus (11.33)
- Australia (8.00)
- Ukraine (7.00)
- Georgia (6.67)
That’s an impressive score for Belarus – my numero uno. I promise I didn’t rig it in any way; I just happened to assign two like-minded jurors to the post featuring Volshebstvo. Honest.
Georgia, on the other hand, came off worst in this round, but they aren’t the lowest-scoring country to date. You’ll have to hang around for the complete EBJJJ ranking to find out who does finish in spot seventeen.
Clamouring for the precious douze points next time will be Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino. If finding out what two Aussies and an Irishman think of their entries is your idea of fun (which it totally should be), you won’t want to miss it!
In the meantime, hit me up with your comments on Australia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. How would you rank this fab (or not-so-fab) four? And, on a scale of one to Roberto Bellarosa when he qualified to the final of Eurovision 2013, how excited are you for next weekend’s show?
I’m 110% Roberto Bellarosa-level excited, in case you were wondering.