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JUNIOR EUROVISION HAS ARRIVED! The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 + predictions for Sofia’s spectacular show

It’s D-day, guys. #discover day. Saturday, for those less JESC-inclined. For the rest of us, though, the next best thing to Eurovision is about to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, and we (I can safely assume) are very, very excited!

There are mere hours until a certain European – or perhaps Australian – takes over from Vincenzo Cantiello as Junior Eurovision champion incumbent, and I am more than ready to find out who that child is. But before that, there’s some important business to take care of: the business of predicting. Attempting to guess what’s going to happen at any given Eurovision event is tradition, and I don’t like to break from tradition. You can see where this is going, right?

3, 2, 1, predictions!

Oh…hang on. There’s one teensy thing I forgot I had to do first. But you’ll like it, I promise.*

 

*I can’t REALLY promise that.

 

Revealed: The EBJ Junior Jury’s complete ranking, from #1 to #17

Whether you’re an EBJ regular or a random, you’ll be aware that over the past few weeks, myself and seven other JESC devotees have been both extremely catty and extra complimentary in reviewing Sofia’s seventeen competing entries. If you want to revisit all the highs and all the lows, follow Gaitana’s lead and be my guest.

  • Part 1, feat. Armenia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Serbia
  • Part 2, feat. Italy, Malta, Russia and Slovenia
  • Part 3, feat. Australia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine
  • Part 4, feat. Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino

I totted up the top four/five at the end of each round of reviews, but being a fan of a soap opera-style cliffhanger, flatly refused to reveal the full ranking until I was gosh darned ready – i.e. when the suspense had pulled up at the intersection of Unbearable Street and Just Tell Us Already Avenue (in the suburb known as Jaz’s Overactive Imagination). That moment, my friends, has arrived. Without further ado, feast your eyes on this collaborative ranking of the Class of (JESC) 2015.

ebjjj17I’m very happy to report that my hands-down favourite from the start, Belarus, topped the list in the eyes (and ears) of the EBJ Jury. I should think so, too…I didn’t bribe them for nothing! Also in our top five are the highly regarded songs from Slovenia, Armenia and Australia, with Albania making a bit of a curveball appearance. I don’t expect Mishela, as lovely as she and her song are, to dambaje her way to such heights tonight. See my scoreboard prediction below if you want to find out where I think she will finish.

Our gracious first-time hosts Bulgaria didn’t fare so well with the EBJJJ, limping into last place. If that’s their fate in the actual contest, at least Gabriela and Ivan will be spared the humiliation of mimicking The Makemakes’ goose egg – thanks to the ‘Douze points for everybody, dance’ Junior rule, none of the kids will be jetting out of Sofia empty-handed. Bless ‘em.

In case you were wondering (which is highly unlikely, I know), here’s a rundown of the top scores handed out by each of my jury members. Not all jurors reviewed all of the entries – in fact, I was the only one who did – so keep that in mind when you’re about to mutter ‘Well, there’s no accounting for taste.’

  •  Jaimie (Australia) 10 points to Armenia
  • James (UK) 10 points to Slovenia
  • Jaz (Australia) 12 points to Belarus and Slovenia
  • Liam (Australia) 7 points to Ireland
  • Lukman (Australia) 10 points to Belarus
  • Mrs. Jaz (Australia) 8 points to Italy
  • Penny (USA) 12 points to Belarus
  • Rory (Ireland) 12 points to Albania

With three sets of douze points being awarded to Belarus, have we chosen a champ you can bet on? Or have we jinxed Ruslan right out of trophy territory? All will be revealed in a few hours’ time.

To officially conclude my 2015 JESC reviews, I’d like to thank all of my jury members for taking part – some at quite short notice. You guys are awesome, and if we were in the same room right now, I’d give you the high five of the century.

Now, onto what you probably started reading this post for: some predictions!

 

Looking into my (cloudy) crystal ball and getting all psychic on Sofia

Let’s start the proceedings with some standard guesses re: who’s going to hit, who’s going to miss, and who’s going to have it all. I’m the CEO of Never Ever Watch The Rehearsals Enterprises, so the following predictions are based on what I’ve heard about the run-throughs, plus my personal opinions of how the songs will fare.

 

The slickest staging Armenia/Belarus. Armenia never fail to entertain, and from what I’ve heard, they’ve really got their shiz together this year, bringing some of the fun from Mika’s music video to the Arena Armeec stage. Belarus will be replicating Ruslan’s NF performance, having adapted it a little to bring it up to JESC standards. It’s sure to be simple, but super-duper effective.

The most jaw-dropping vocals Australia/Belarus/Ireland/Malta/Serbia/Slovenia…I could go on. Once again, the 10-15-year-olds of Europe (and Australia…) are singing like they’ve been doing it for decades, and given that flashy vocals were a big part of Italy’s winning formula in 2014, the ability to make us all go ‘Wow!’ could be crucial. My top picks for tonight are Australia and Ireland. If there aren’t any voice-breaking incidents in the Belarusian camp, listen out there too.

The most cutting-edge costumes Armenia/Georgia/San Marino. I’ll admit, I have caught glimpses of these guys in costume, so this isn’t so much of a prediction as an educated opinion. It’s all about colour for Armenia and Georgia, whereas San Marino is going for shattered-glass chic. Believe it or not, it works.

The best backdrop Belarus. Trees are always a crowd pleaser. Hey, prettiness! Hey, symbolism!

The coolest choreography Armenia. Because if they don’t, it just wouldn’t be Junior Eurovision. And I would not know what the heck to do with myself.

The total package Armenia, Australia, Belarus. This trio should have sight and sound fully covered, and that’s what makes them frontrunners for the win.

A positive surprise San Marino. Both in terms of performance and result, I’m hoping Kamilla will surpass expectations.

A negative surprise Ukraine. Usually you can trust Ukraine to nail the visuals and mechanics of their stage performance, but I hear they’ve gone all Amanecer and thrown everything at Anna, including a giant lotus flower and a CGI shark. What the?

Biggest cheer from the crowd Armenia/Bulgaria/Malta. Bulgaria gets a free pass on this one as the host country – even if they’d sent two aggressive feral cats to hiss through a duet (which, let’s face it, is actually a semi-decent way of describing the dynamic between Gabriela and Ivan) they’d be received with rapturous applause. Armenia’s Love and Malta’s Not My Soul will get the audience going in a big way as two of the most energetic songs on the program.

 

Now, to bring out the big guns…guns that fire pixilated love hearts á la Armenia’s. Decoded, that means it’s time to predict the final results.

One of the bajillion things I love about JESC is its unpredictability. For some reason, this contest is always harder to predict than its adult counterpart, which can be frustrating as well as wonderful. 2015 is just as unclear-cut as the previous few editions have been – even in terms of who’s going to finish last, which is usually the easiest call to make – but I’m not going to let that stop me from making a fool of myself! Here’s how I think the leaderboard of Junior Eurovision 2015 is going to look just before the winner’s reprise and the roll of the credits.

 

The bottom five

Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Italy, Montenegro

If I HAD to call it: Montenegro 13th, Italy 14th, Albania 15th, Bulgaria 16th, FYR Macedonia 17th

 

The mid-rangers (a.k.a. the meat in the scoreboard sandwich!)

Georgia, Ireland, The Netherlands, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Ukraine

If I HAD to call it: Georgia 6th, Slovenia 7th, Ireland 8th, Ukraine 9th, San Marino 10th, The Netherlands 11th, Russia 12th

 

The top five

Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Malta, Serbia

If I HAD to call it: Belarus/Malta 1st/2nd (I CANNOT call it, okay?!?), Armenia 3rd, Australia 4th, Serbia 5th

 

Call it controversial (even if it isn’t, just to make me feel badass) but I’ve had a gut instinct that Belarus, my favourite entry of the year, is going to fare a lot better than some believe. I don’t want to tempt fate and ruin Ruslan’s chances, but I ignored the similar instinct I had about Italy last year, and we all know what went down in Malta. The thing is, I’m not anywhere near certain that Belarus will win – perhaps because many parallels can be drawn between their package of singer and song, and Italy’s last year, and I’m wondering if voters and juries will go for the same thing two years in a row. But, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Ruslan’s rehearsals, and provided he kept his voice in check (generally and hormonally-speaking) for the jury final, he would have raked in the points – and as some countries, including Australia, are using 100% jury vote *mutters angrily about not being able to vote*, televoters have less power here. Basically, I think things look very good for Belarus, and if they don’t win, it’ll be at least a return to the top five for them.

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Ruslan had better hope the dry ice doesn’t go all Nina Sublatti on him tonight… (Photo: Wiwibloggs)

If I’m not about to witness my favourite song win a Eurovision event for the third consecutive time, however, then it’s got to be a win for Malta (which I’m steeling myself for as it’s not an outcome I’d be thrilled about…NO NO NO!) or Australia. Armenia could take it out too, but I’m convinced Love is the kind of song that will come second or third rather than go all the way. With adult jury influence heavily in play, “junior” Junior entries have struggled to beat their more mature rivals, and I suspect that trend will continue here. But top five is almost a certainty for Armenia again.

There’s a big space between the top five and bottom five that has to be filled, but it’s ridiculously hard to predict how. Georgia has a good chance of almost being back on form this year, because they know how to put on a show, and Gabede is a song that stands out (not necessarily for all the right reasons, but it’s definitely memorable). I’m crossing my fingers for Ireland to finish in the upper mid-table region, or surprise me and do even better. The Netherlands and Russia won’t perform terribly – which is a relief for me because I really like Million Lights and Mechta – but they’re just not memorable enough to battle for anything other than to squeeze into the top ten. This is, of course, in my opinion, but I am incredibly knowledgeable AND have an impeccable prediction record. Not.

Mikhail-Smirnov-Russia-Junior-Eurovision-2015-rehearsal

Mikhail’s fairly well suited to JESC, and his backing dancer’s all white. (Photo: Wiwibloggs)

I’m pretty sure that FYR Macedonia, who once upon a time sent absolute gems to JESC, is going to be to Sofia 2015 what Croatia was to Malta 2014 – i.e. the loser (sorry, kids, but when there’s an über-accurate word for a situation, you’ve just got to use it). I don’t mind Pletenka, but even I can hear that it’s repetitive and monotonous, and maybe a little too amateur in comparison to the other sixteen songs. But I’m happy to be wrong if it means FYR Macedonia defies expectation, does okay and then decides to return to the comp next year.

 

Finally…the five things I’m most looking forward to seeing tonight

I don’t think this segment requires an intro.

  • Seeing how Bulgaria handle their hosting duties. Malta did an amazing job in 2014, and I’m sure Bulgaria can measure up. With Poli Genova at the helm, the night’s got to be rocking.
  • The performances from my personal top three. I’ll be on the edge of my seat when Belarus, Slovenia and Ukraine have their minutes in the spotlight, hoping for the best (or, in Ukraine’s case, hoping the shark thing was a joke).
  • Australia making their JESC debut. There was a time I would have laughed at you for fifteen straight minutes if you’d even implied that we Aussies would have a delegation at mini-Eurovij, all the whole wishing it would happen. Now it IS happening, and I am psyched.
bella-paige-australia-second-rehearsal-600x400

‘My girls here we goooooooo…to the supermarket, to buy some more alfoil for this dress.’ (Photo: ESC Daily)

  • Speaking of Australia…I’m awaiting our point delivery with eagerness too. Hopefully our jury has made the kind of choices that compensate for a lack of public vote. Although, we’re relying on an ex-Wiggle here…
  • And, to finish off, Vincenzo’s reprise of the stunning Tu Il Primo Grande Amore. I’m keen to see if his sass levels are still higher than a kite a year on from his victory. I’ve no doubt his voice remains spectacular.

 

I think I’ve said all I need to say before the show kicks off – or at least, all I have time to say, as I’ve got to go and have a pre-contest nap so I don’t pass out halfway through the recap. I’ll be doing some live tweeting tonight if you want to meet me on Twitter (I’m @EurovisionByJaz, in case you didn’t know).

Until then, if you catch sight of the comments section and feel like using it, give me one or all of your predictions for JESC 2015! I hope, no matter how right or wrong you turn out to be, you enjoy the show. I know I will, even if it does mean hauling my butt out of bed at two o’clock in the morning.

Merry JESC!

 

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JESC 2015 Judgments feat. the EBJ Junior Jury | Australia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine

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

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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).’

Check out Penny’s Eurovision blog here, and/or follow her on Twitter here.

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.

 

 

Australia15

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

 

 

 Belarus15

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

 

 

Georgia15 

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

 

 

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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.

  1. Belarus (11.33)
  2. Australia (8.00)
  3. Ukraine (7.00)
  4. 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.

 

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EBJ UPDATE | Where I’ve been, where I’m going + where we’re at with ESC and JESC

I’M BACK!! In case you hadn’t noticed (which, let’s face it, you probably hadn’t) I’ve been doing things other than rambling about Eurovision here for a few weeks now. Oops. As usual, life’s hectic tendencies and my general slowpokery are to blame, although I have been away on holiday too (during which time I made it my mission to detach from technology, meaning I checked Facebook ten times a day instead of twenty. Mission accomplished).

Unsurprisingly, a heap of stuff has happened on Planet Eurovision while I’ve been otherwise occupied, and that stuff is what I’m here to discuss with y’all today. Waiting for you below is some Stockholm news that may or may not blow your mind; my thoughts on the artists chosen by the Netherlands, Montenegro and Armenia for 2016; Melodifestivalen musings to…well, muse over; and, of course *sounds alarm to forewarn JESC boycotters* several Junior Eurovision topics of conversation. We are, after all, speeding closer and closer to the Sofia show, and I refuse to rein in my excitement re: that!

So while I’m doing a celebratory crab dance that Loreen would be proud of, you can read on. If you want to. Which you should.

 

Stockholm Twenty-Sixteen: Finalised flights, country confirmations and selected singers  

News item numero uno? It’s official – I’m STOCKHOLM-BOUND, BABY!

As tickets and accreditation and all that jazz aren’t available to be snapped up yet, the fact that I’ve booked my flights to Sweden’s capital and have secured a backup hotel room there (I’ll be sourcing self-contained digs ASAP) makes my impending pilgrimage to Eurovision as official as possible at this point. I’m still in shock – both at having finally booked the trip, and at my bank balance now that I’ve forked out to fly across the globe, til Globen.

If you’re also gallivanting off to the big golf ball next May, let me know so we can pencil in some plans to party it up in the IKEA cafeteria or something (where Swedish meatballs will rain down on us like Emmelie de Forest’s fire curtain). I’m already booked in to hit up the ABBA Museum and strut around Gamla Stan, and I’m not leaving Sweden without a handcrafted Dala horse stuffed into my suitcase. All that, plus the prospect of seeing Eurovision (and my beloved Måns Zelmerlöw) in the flesh for the first time, convinces me that this trip will be an epic one. I cannot WAIT.

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Möt mig i Globen??

But wait I – and everyone else – must, because it’s only October. Even so, Stockholm 2016 is taking shape, with countries confirming their participation left, right and centre. Bulgaria and Ukraine are both set to make comebacks, and if we assume that Serbia and Romania will be on board, that takes the participant tally up to 40. Portugal is, sadly, out, with Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Turkey still searching for financial backing/making their minds up. But, with those last three countries not giving us a firm, Michele Perniola-esque ‘No!’ yet – and permanency for Australia still a possibility – it’s likely we’ll push past the big 4-0, even if just by one. Not that I’m über concerned about there being over forty countries in Sweden. Eurovision is about quality, not quantity. One freaking amazing entry matters more than ten crap ones.

So, will we get something amazing or something that should be flushed down the toilet from the three acts in the 2016 line-up already? The Netherlands, Montenegro and Armenia aren’t messing around: they’ve decided to send Douwe Bob, Highway and Iveta Mukuchyan to Sweden respectively.

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The first faces for Stockholm 2016. Aren’t they pretty?

Having conducted a bit of research on the boys (I was already familiar with Iveta, and I’m pumped that she’s repping Armenia) it seems we should expect the unexpected where the Dutch and Montenegrin acts are concerned. That’s always exciting, so watch this and all of the other Eurovisual spaces to find out what a mod-folk singer-songwriter and an X Factor Adria man-band have in store for us.

 

Melodifestivalen 2016: A made-over motif + finding out who might follow in Måns’ footsteps

Next on the agenda is host country talk. I feel like it’s close enough to Melodifestivalen time for me to discuss my favourite NF of all time without instigating a worldwide wave of eye-rolling.

The dates and locations for the six-week extravaganza are set in stone as SVT prepares to find a host entry that will outdo Austria’s (not hard); tickets that I will sadly not be buying have gone on sale; and the whole shebang has a shiny new logo to replace the one that wasn’t even stale yet. But hey, the newie is nice.

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Give us a Eurovision logo of this standard, SVT, and the compliments will be rolling in.

A fresh logo doesn’t necessarily bring with it fresh names, and if Melfest-act-predicting machine Aftonbladet is as on the money as usual, the 2016 show will be packed with artists having a second, third or seventy-fifth shot at representing Sweden. So far, Aftonbladet has pegged Ace Wilder, Oscar Zia and Samir & Viktor as definite returnees. Still waiting on SVT to say yay or nay, apparently, are Isa, Molly Pettersson Hammar, Dinah Nah and Dolly Style, plus earlier participants Ola Svensson, Sean Banan, Panetoz, David Lindgren, and most excitingly, Timoteij. Someone who’s set to give Melfest a go without having done so before is reigning Idol champ Lisa Ajax, who entered Lilla Melodifestivalen in 2012, eventually losing to Lova Sönnerbo. Perhaps Lisa will get her chance to compete in a Eurovision event after all?

It seems that after two years of musos winning Melfest after multiple attempts, many artists are thinking that 2016 could be their time, at long last. On that note, I’d love to see Darin, Agnes, Josef Johansson, Danny Saucedo and Molly Sandén (Danny and Molly as soloists or as a duet in their capacity as THE CUTEST COUPLE EVER) back again…but I won’t hold my breath. As for further newcomers to Melfest who’d be high on my wish-list – well, the one name that comes to mind is Zara Larsson, who’s a pop princess and a half. She gave the world an awesome summer anthem not too long ago, and would totally do Sweden proud on home ground. Plus, I’d get to see her perform live, which is never going to happen otherwise. If you’re listening, universe, make it happen!

Let me know what you think of Aftonbladet’s list down below, and don’t forget to tell me who you’d like to see take another dip in the Melfest waters…or dive in for their first.

 

JESC 2015: Just three (and a bit) weeks to go!  

DISCLAIMER: San Marino chose the moment after I’d published this post to drop their entry *shakes fist in their general direction* so please take that into account when you’re reading the following. I’ll tell you what I think of Kamilla Ismailova’s Mirror in my upcoming JESC reviews.

You can skip straight ahead to the outro now if you’re not JESC-inclined – but to those of you who are, I say ARE YOU EXCITED YET, OR WHAT?!?!? Bulgaria will be bringing us the 13th edition of Junior Eurovision in just over three weeks’ time, with ESC alumni Poli Genova at the hosting helm. At least she’ll get to attend one final in her lifetime.

The final tally of competitors is seventeen, with Ireland and San Marino still deciding which of the child singers at their disposal can pull in the most points (well, San Marino may have decided, but they haven’t dropped a singer or song name yet). Ireland won’t make their choice until November 8th, leaving their pint-sized performer just over a week of pre-JESC prep time. Is that a smart idea? Only time – and the scoreboard – will tell.

The seventeen-strong field also includes Australia, as you’ll be well aware of by now. Yep, we’re back! If that isn’t a massive placard with ‘WE WANT AN INVITATION TO STOCKHOLM!’ plastered on it, then I don’t know what is, and I suspect we’ll get what we’re asking for. I’ve discussed all the details of Australia’s JESC participation and rated Bella Paige’s chances over on ESC Insight, if you want to check that out. Here’s a preview: I can understand opposition to our presence, but I’m still psyched to support Bella on the 21st…and pathetically hopeful that I’ll have a fellow countryman/woman to wave an Aussie flag for in Stockholm. I can’t help it. If you’re Australian, you’ll probably understand.

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Bella’s first big stage has nothing on the one she’ll be stepping on in Bulgaria.

JESC 2015 has laid almost all of its cards on the table, with hosts Bulgaria, Montenegro and Malta being the latest competitors to reveal their entries. Collectively, they haven’t lifted the standard of a lacklustre year by much – but Malta, at least, is bringing some fun and funk in the form of Destiny Chukunyere’s Not My Soul. My favourites are still the ballads from Belarus and Ukraine, and sophisticated Slovenia, but are they douze-worthy and do I think any of them can win? You’ll find out when my 2015 Junior Eurovision reviews begin next week. I’m currently in the process of recruiting an EBJJJ (a.k.a. a Eurovision By Jaz Junior Jury) to judge and score all seventeen songs in order to come up with a pre-show ranking. Who will come out on top? Will I burst into tears if anyone criticises Bella’s My Girls? Both of these questions, and many others (including, most likely, why are you still reading this ridiculous blog?) will be answered in the very near future.

I hope you JESC fans will drop by for the Junior coverage. The power of Vincenzo Cantiello compels you!

 

 

I’ve said my piece(s) now, so the last thing I’ll say is adios amigos. I’m off to tackle some less Eurovisiony, more boring tasks, but I’ll be back in a few days – after I’ve watched enough horror movies to satisfy my Halloween-weekend cravings (I’m not sure enough have been produced, but we’ll see).

Until then, stay suitably fabulous, peeps!

 

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NEXT TIME No, JESC isn’t for everyone, but some seriously stellar talents have stood on the contest’s stage since its 2003 inception. This weekend, I’ll be counting down the top 10 most incredible singers in Junior Eurovision history – all of whom have voices even the haters should hear.