It’s almost here, JESC fans: the biggest and potentially most Belarusian Junior Eurovision ever (we’ll have to compare it to 2010 later and see which show was ultimately more Belarusian). I don’t know about you, but I’m super psyched to see who’ll take over from Russia as the reigning champion. I have a fair idea at this point and for once I’m pretty confident – but my lips are sealed until official prediction time. Keep an eye on my socials (@EurovisionByJaz across the board) over the weekend to see who I think will be on the top – and bottom – of the scoreboard on Sunday.
Before I attempt to predict what’s going to happen I’ve got five of this year’s songs left to review, direct from Albania, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia and Ukraine. There are a few big hitters in there as well as some underdogs, and I do have a douze to give out to one of them…but am I sending it in an obvious direction or not? Keep reading to find out. It’s your moment under my musical microscope, Efi, Taylor, Melissa & Marco, Marija and Darina. I’ll try to be nice, I promise!
I might be in the minority here, but I’m usually really keen on Albania’s Junior songs. Their 2012 debut wouldn’t make my best-of list, but Dambaje, Besoj and yes, even Don’t Touch My Tree? I enjoyed ‘em all. Albania tends to bounce around a bit genre-wise, and this time they’ve taken the old-school JESC (2003-2008) feel of that debut entry and added more energy, cuteness and overall appeal to it, making Barbie a song that shouldn’t be destined for last place. I like it, anyway…though that has been a bad luck charm in the past *cough* Waldo’s People/Tooji *cough*. I think my favourite thing about Barbie is the contrast between the upbeat pop style/pink-tastic presentation, and the subject matter. ICYMI, Efi means business – she doesn’t want to be directed like a doll during playtime without being permitted thoughts of her own. Oddly, she also wants us to know that ‘I’m not a fruit, I’m not an egg’, unless my online translation has let me down embarrassingly. Sorry to be a party pooper Efi, but I think that was already obvious.
The combo of cuteness and substance in this song speaks to me, and even though I feel like Barbie should be a guilty pleasure, I’m going to ditch the guilt and root for it regardless. I was wondering if the whole Barbie concept could put Efi at risk of a lecture from the EBU regarding product placement – but we did end up bopping along to Youtuber at JESC last year, and we watched a song that namedropped Pikachu (and funnily enough, Barbie) win Eurovision in May. You’ve got to love “loopholes”.
Anyway, I will admit that Albania is still an underdog in this contest, especially given NF staging that needed serious workshopping. I want less LED screen lyrics (a pet peeve of mine), more enthusiasm from Efi and preferably some backing dancers to liven things up. Unfortunately – whether it’s habit, preference or a lack of pocket money – the Albanian modus operandi so far has been ‘girl alone on stage’ without even a hint of another human being. I’ll actually be surprised if they don’t take that approach, in which case Efi needs to find some extra sparkle and sell Barbie like her doll collection depends on it. I hope she can do it, because there’s a rough (pink) diamond here. 8 points.
I feel like we should have had a gender reveal party for Ireland, because for the first time in their Junior Eurovision history, it’s a boy! A boy with more luxurious hair than I could ever hope to have, specifically. Rapunzel Taylor is following in the footsteps of Aimee Banks, Zena Donnelly and Muireann McDonnell and will no doubt be hoping to outdo Zena’s 10th place from 2016. With I.O.U up his sleeve (the sleeve of his sweatshirt which, by total coincidence, has ‘I.O.U’ printed on the front) I think that will be a challenge, especially in a field of 20 contestants – many armed with much stronger songs. But there’s something endearing about this track, and about Taylor himself, that makes me want to support Ireland this year.
I.O.U is total ‘JESC early years’, circa 2003-2008 – and that’s actually a redeeming feature in my opinion. I love entries that put the junior into Junior Eurovision, since it doesn’t happen a lot these days. The melody, throwback feel and youthfulness of this take me back to stuff like My Vmeste by Ksenia Sitnik (Belarus’ 2005 winner) and I Mousiki Dinei Ftera by Yiorgos Ioannides (Cyprus’ less-successful song from 2007), plus a bunch of other entries I could mention if I felt like it (and wanted to bore you to death). The chorus is particularly childlike. Overall the song isn’t too young for Taylor though. He sells it well, despite being a less polished (and some would say, manufactured) performer than a lot of the other contestants. I think if this song was in English – even partially, which could have easily been the case – the cheesiness would have been too much to take, but somehow going full Irish saves it from that savoury fate. Apart from being repetitive (which actually helps the catchy chorus get stuck in your brain whether you like it or not) I appreciate this entry for the nostalgia and fluffiness it brings to the table. Sure, the NF performance combined with a song of I.O.U’s style made me feel like I was watching a middle school talent show, but it’s kind of refreshing in that sense. It also boasts the best music video of the 2018 contest, feat. Niamh Kavanagh and Ryan O’Shaughnessy as Taylor’s parents (IDK how they pull it off, but they do).
The problem? While Ireland is giving us something oh-so-junior, they’re also fulfilling a brief from ten or fifteen years ago. JESC has changed and the tone of songs that shoot up the scoreboard has too. Mature, sophisticated ballads sung by female soloists in white dresses are extra likely to succeed, and neither I.O.U nor Taylor fit into that mould (but Kazakhstan, Macedonia and Australia do…just saying). If I’m honest, compared to the lion’s share of Ireland’s 19 rivals this entry comes off as a little amateurish. And I can’t imagine it attracting a sizeable public or jury vote. That puts Ireland in the danger zone as a potential bottom five finisher, but I’d welcome a more positive outcome. I don’t know yet if I have a vote to spare for Taylor in a year of bangers, but I can give him 7 points right now.
If there’s one word that describes Italy at any Eurovision event, it’s ‘classy’. Even Emma Marrone managed to expose her gold underpants to the world in a classy way in Copenhagen – it’s just in Italian blood. I have to admit though, when I first clapped eyes and ears on Italy’s 2018 Junior Eurovision entry I thought they’d finally gone off the deep end and left all of their class on the diving board behind them. This was mainly because I broke my rule of not watching the JESC music videos when listening to the song for the first time, because at best they’re a distraction and at worst they are abysmal. Melissa and Marco’s falls somewhere in between, under the heading of ‘hilariously WTF’, and I let that cloud my judgment of what is a classy and majestic – if cliché-packed – duet. There is something about the 1980s transitions, awkward dancing and…well, everything else happening onscreen that makes me laugh way too hard at a pair of poor innocent children.
Take those visuals away, however, and you’re left with another solid Italian entry that I think tops Scelgo from last year (but has nothing on the pinnacle of Italian musical majesty that is Tu Il Primo Grande Amore). What Is Love is interesting in that it twists and turns along the way to a satisfyingly predictable conclusion. We get Marco – who I think we can all agree is the star of the duo – opening strongly on his own, before Melissa (SHE’S SO TINY AND CUTE I CAN HARDLY STAND IT) arrives during the first chorus to add another dynamic. The two bounce off each other well vocally, with the back-and-forth song structure giving them both a chance to shine (though as I said, Marco shines brighter and could easily have been a solo act). It’s hard to believe there’s a four-year age gap between them – a gap I found a little uncomfortable until I realised this song isn’t a love duet in the traditional sense.
Another thing I like about it is the ‘moments’ sprinkled throughout that make it memorable. Harmonies, clever language changes, big notes and a key change (oh yes, they went there) combine to create a song that has more light and shade to it than main rival Samen from the Netherlands. Having said that, when it comes to the two boy-girl duets competing in Minsk, I do prefer the Netherlands. But because the dynamic between the boys and girls in question is totally different, I think there’s room for both Max & Anne and Melissa & Marco to do well on the night. I highly doubt either duet will walk away with the trophy, or even a podium placement. Then again, there’s been a surprise song in the top 3 for the last few years, and in 2018 it could be What Is Love. For me personally it’s not a top 3 song, but I have grown fond of it very quickly. I just needed to shut my eyes when I pressed play on that video. 8 points.
I don’t know what it is with Macedonia, but their last few JESC songs could easily have been sent to the ESC – and in my opinion, they were both better than what was actually sent to the adult contest. Love Will Lead Our Way? Flawless. Dancing Through Life? Flawless with space buns. Now we have Doma, which is very different to those last two entries – a.k.a. it’s a far cry from radio-friendly pop. This is a ballad, and a big Balkan ballad at that. It even has the word ‘molitva’ in the lyrics (as co-written by Elena Risteska) which may or may not be a sign. It too would fit in well at Eurovision, and FOR GOD’S SAKE JAZ STOP RAMBLING AND TELL US WHAT YOU THINK OF IT!!!
Your wish is my command: I LOVE this, and I can safely say that Macedonia has delivered a JESC cracker yet again. From the second Doma starts, elevated instantly by Marija’s beautiful vocals, there’s a magical atmosphere afoot and touches of mysterious ethnicity woven in. I have goosebumps before the first chorus even drops. When it does, things are taken to another level of atmospheric, emotional and ethnic awesomeness (and I’m reminded of EXO’s Mama somehow…compare the choruses and tell me I’m not going crazy). I adore how majestic and statement this song is. If JESC 2018 was a jewelry store, Doma would be an ornate, gem-encrusted necklace rented out exclusively to royalty and Eleni Foureira (our queen). Truth be told, ornate statement pieces don’t win Junior Eurovision, and mature ethno-ballads like this (think Serbia 2015) are usually left behind at the halfway-ish mark of the scoreboard. But hey, that would be progress for poor Macedonia, who’ve been a little robbed for the last few years.
Sadly, I’m expecting Marija to be overshadowed by the likes of Armenia and France – fun, danceable entries that don’t have so much in common with 2017 winner Wings. Not to mention her main rival in Kazakhstan’s Daneliya. Still, if she is as amazing live as she is in studio, and puts on a spellbinding performance (lighting, or lack thereof, is v. important here), anything could happen. I’ll enjoy it, at least. Pre-performance and based on the power of the song alone, I’m going all in and handing Macedonia DOUZE POINTS!
For a brief but terrible time earlier this year, it looked like Ukraine wouldn’t be joining the JESC 2018 party. That would have left a huge pop-masterpiece-shaped hole in the lineup, so I’m glad they changed their mind (or stopped trolling us, one of the two). I say pop masterpiece because that’s exactly what we would have missed out on had Darina + Say Love not been part of Junior. You can find this song online at http://www.thebomb.com, guys. What a banger! It takes the subject matter of Anna Trincher’s Pochny z Sebe (Ukraine’s less poppy but still pretty decent entry from 2015) – in basic terms, humanity’s need to say yes to love and no to war – and presents it in a slick package that, like France’s entry, sits pretty on the fence between too junior and not junior enough.
There are two main things I love about Say Love (which I just did). Firstly, the fact that the song is super contemporary, but doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before. Secondly, how interesting it is – it’s one of those songs that grabs and hangs on to your interest as you wonder where it’s going. The mysterious edge and dynamic structure keep you on your toes, while the repetition of the chorus prevents it from sounding aimless. My absolute favourite part is Darina’s megaphone chant, and if she doesn’t appear on stage this weekend in the exact outfit from the music video, with that megaphone in her hand (looking like the pint-sized yet seriously fierce cheerleading coach of Mylène and Rosanne from JESC 2013) I will be disappointed.
If all goes according to plan, Anastasiya Baginska’s very respectable 7th place from 2017 should be outdone by Darina – but by how many places? I’ve seen Ukraine at the top of a heap of Youtube ranking videos, as I did with Russia last year, but I don’t think Say Love is quite going to get there as a winner. For starters, as we know, any girl who wants to win JESC these days must wear a white dress and perform a ballad. Plus I just don’t have The Feelings about it – that gut instinct that tells you which songs have a real shot at the trophy and which ones don’t. I can’t see the credits rolling over a reprise of this. But if I’m wrong, I won’t be unhappy. It has been a while since Ukraine’s last win, after all. 10 points.
And just like that/just in time, that’s all 20 Junior Eurovision songs reviewed by yours truly. Before I dramatically reveal my full ranking for the year, let’s take a look at the standings from this round:
- Macedonia (12)
- Ukraine (10)
- Albania (8)
- Italy (8)
- Ireland (7)
If you know me at all, you won’t be shocked to see the Balkan ballad on top – and I’m hoping to see it somewhere in that neighbourhood of success on Sunday night. Macedonia is closely followed by Ukraine and Albania, with Italy scoring a much lower 8 than Albania if that makes any sense. Ireland takes the wooden spoon today, but with 7 points that’s nothing for Taylor to worry about (because obviously he’s going to see this post, read it and take to heart…that’s not a delusional thought at all, Jaz).
And now (create your own drumroll, please), I can unveil my complete ranking of all 20 entries, based on my review scores from the last few weeks. All ties have been broken behind the scenes.
- Belarus (12)
- Macedonia (12)
- Armenia (12)
- Israel (12)
- Kazakhstan (10)
- France (10)
- Australia (10)
- The Netherlands (10)
- Ukraine (10)
- Russia (10)
- Poland (8)
- Albania (8)
- Georgia (8)
- Italy (8)
- Ireland (7)
- Malta (7)
- Wales (6)
- Azerbaijan (6)
- Serbia (5)
- Portugal (4)
Well, this has taught me that if your lowest score is a 4 and your 18th-favourite song out of 20 still gets 6 points, you must REALLY be enjoying the bunch of entries in question. I don’t think I’ve been this honestly generous with my points in my entire history of reviewing Eurovision-related music. Thank you Minsk!
Now I’ve showed you mine, you’re pretty much obligated to show me yours – so hit up that comments box and tell me a) how you rank the five songs I reviewed for this round, and b) what your full ranking looks like. You’ve got to have something to occupy the time between now and when JESC kicks off, right?
This is all the pre-show coverage you’re going to get from me in 2018 (I had more planned but life got in the way as usual). As I mentioned in the intro, if you want to see what I’m predicting for Sunday’s contest – including winners, losers and every scoreboard place in-between – head over to my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (all @EurovisionByJaz) and I’ll post them on all three ASAP. Be sure to follow me on Twitter especially if you want to discuss the show during the show. I’m not above making jokes at the expense of children, if that helps – someone needs to toughen them up.
Just kidding. OR AM I?!?!?
See you on the other side of JESC 2018, when we have our 16th winner!
Hello again, and welcome to yet another round of Eurovision 2018 reviews! With two weeks to go until semi numero uno (I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE IT), I’m slowly but surely getting there with these musical judgments. You can bet your brand new ESC board game that I will have all 43 songs covered by then. #womanonamission.
Here’s a spoiler alert for this latest round: it was a big-hitter for me, with three of the five songs currently chilling in my top 10. Who out of Jessica, Madame Monsieur, Iriao, Ryan and Laura am I talking about? Keep reading to find out. And, as always (you must be sick of me mentioning this) vote for your personal favourite in today’s poll.
Now, in true Melodifestivalen style, NU KÖR VI!!!
Yeah…probably should have saved that segue for the round with Sweden in it. My bad.
My thoughts I can’t believe this is the fourth time I’ve had the chance to review my own country’s Eurovision entry – totally objectively, of course. Okay, maybe not totally. As soon as I got the opportunity to be biased with Guy in 2015, I instantly understood how easy it is to support a song that you may not normally be crazy about, so long as it’s your country that’s sending it. Don’t Come Easy was a prime example, but Isaiah’s follow-up artist Jessica Mauboy – technically a Eurovision returnee – is packing a song in her suitcase for Portugal that I honestly like a lot. I’m psyched to see Jess back in the contest and actually competing this time, after voting for her to win Australian Idol using my Nokia 3310 (in between playing Snake) way back in 2006. And though she’s dabbled in different genres during her music career, with We Got Love she’s found a perfect fit for her voice and personality. The song is three minutes of pure happiness that radiates out of her every time she performs it. It might be a song that’s obviously trying to tick Eurovision boxes, but in this case that’s not a bad thing, because it’s a) energetic enough to be irresistible on the Euroclub dancefloor; b) armed with simple, one-size-fits-all lyrics and an often-repeated title that sticks; c) the proud owner of a dangerously catchy chorus; and d) got a money note that has ‘Vote for me in 3, 2, 1, NOW!’ written all over it. It’s the kind of song that wouldn’t be out of place at an Olympics opening ceremony (and really should have been performed at the Commonwealth Games a few weeks ago) – a.k.a. it’s ultra uplifting and unifying. Could it be any more of an ESC anthem? And am I irritating you with my gushing yet? Well, don’t worry. I know I said the song was a perfect fit for Jess, but it isn’t a perfect song. We Got Love got flaws, and the biggest of the few I can find is those ambiguous lyrics. While an asset in terms of allowing the masses to relate to them and interpret their meaning individually, they are pretty aimless and clearly weren’t written with a specific situation in mind. They don’t tell a story, so there won’t be one to tell on stage. Then again, we have story songs from the Czech Republic and France, for example, that ARE about particular situations (very different ones) so what’s wrong with a three-minute, generalised but positive mantra? I do think Australia 2018 packs a punch, and in a weaker year than 2017, when we miraculously managed to make the top 10 (I know Europe still hates us for that), Jess should be there or thereabouts. If Sacha Jean-Baptiste can stage something upbeat anywhere near as well as she stages dark, moody stuff, I don’t see why Australia can’t grab a spot in the 4th-6th range. And who knows…if all goes according to plan, then repeating our 3rd place from JESC 2017 might be a strong possibility. Or maybe I’m deluded but endearingly patriotic?
2017 VS 2018? 2018…though so far, I’ve been 100% biased and loved all of our entries.
My score 10
My thoughts Once upon a time, I thought and hoped I’d be reviewing Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva as France’s Eurovision 2018 entry. I also thought I’d NEVER move on from Eva losing out to Mercy at the last minute as it did at the Destination Eurovision final. But time heals all (NF-related) wounds, and now I’m ready to talk about Madame Monsieur’s meaningful electro alt-pop ballad as another success in the string of magnifique French songs sent to Eurovision since 2016. Mercy stood out from the early stages of Destination, even though it was a selection show full of great music, and I couldn’t say I was shocked when it went on to win. It’s one of the most cutting-edge tracks heading to Lisbon, written by Emilie and Jean-Karl themselves and oozing classic French confidence, sophistication and minimalism. I’d compare it to Italy in that it’s an effortlessly classy message song; but being way less wordy than Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente – plus more in line with what streams successfully on Spotify – makes it more accessible. As message songs go, it’s also found the balance between making a statement and avoiding doing so in a sugary, overly-sentimental way (á la Running from Hungary in 2014). Baby Mercy’s story is just that, anyway: a story rather than a controversial political statement that should be banned from the competition (ya hear that, Mercy haters and 1944 naysayers?). Subject matter aside, this is just a really cool song – the kind I’d use to try and brainwash my non-Eurovision obsessed friends into becoming fans without them even realising it. It might be down-tempo and lacking in a big, showy ‘moment’, but it makes an impact in other ways. There’s something in it for Salvador Sobral types who need their music to be meaningful, something for established ESC fans looking for style and a memorable melody, and something instant that should capture the attention of first-time listeners during the final. Then we come back to Emilie and Jean-Karl who have a backstory (they’re married!), are ridiculously good-looking, and perform this song perfectly with just the right amount of emotion – in all black with red accents, of course, because the French don’t do OTT. My sole complaint re: this as a package deal is that the ‘Merci, merci’ chant at the end is a slight waste of song time (I’d have cut it in half and squeezed in another chorus). But that’s hardly a dealbreaker. I love this song regardless, and even though it’s not in my top five at the moment, it’s firmly in my top 10 (sitting at no. 7 FYI). It would be fantastique for Madame Monsieur to at least fare as well as Alma on the Lisbon leaderboard. If they can own the stage better than she did, I don’t see why the actual top 10 (as opposed to my top 10) shouldn’t have a place for France. Either that or they’ll flop and finish 22nd. Europe/Australia, have some mercy for Mercy!
2017 VS 2018? France is constantly kicking goals these days, but for me this tops Requiem.
My score 10
My thoughts If you liked Klapa s Mora in Malmö (they represented Croatia with Mižerja, ICYMI) then you’re bound to like Iriao and Sheni Gulistvis – more than someone who wanted to slapa the Klapa boys across the face, anyway. It’s a similar brand of all-male ethnic ballad that does have its supporters, but will struggle to catch enough votes in its butterfly net to qualify. Now, I was a Mižerja fan, but that had some pop elements to it so it wasn’t alienating. Sheni is fully wedged in its niche genre pigeonhole, and as much as I respect that and am happy to have something unique and cultural in the 2018 contest, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t hate it, but I don’t enjoy listening to it, and that’s why it’s drifted down to the #41 position in my current ranking. It sounds like a cover of an ancient national anthem, and doesn’t have any of the power and/or touch of bat-shit craziness that we’ve come to expect from Georgia. I do find them hit-and-miss at adult Eurovision, whereas I adore them at Junior Eurovision – a contest they completely ‘get’. And if they were sending their JESC 2017 runner-up Music of the Heart to Portugal (give Grigol Kipshidze a fake ID and rip up the EBU rulebook and they’d be good to go), I‘d be dropping a great big douze on top of Georgia right now. Sadly, I can’t do that for Iriao, and I can’t connect with what they’re bringing to the table. I’m pretty sure that Georgia will have to sit out of the final for the second year in a row…but I haven’t seen Sheni performed live, and I do think there’s a chance that the boys can create a magic moment on stage. Still, I doubt a flawless vocal performance will be enough. I don’t want a DNQ to put Georgia off sending ethnic, Georgian-language (this is their first fully-Georgian ESC entry) songs though. This particular one may not my cup of cocoa, and may not have the mass appeal it needs to make the final (in my opinion), but the next one might be more appealing – while staying true to tradition.
2017 VS 2018? 2017. When a rip-off Bond theme is done right, I dig it.
My score 5.5
My thoughts What is it with Ireland associating relationships with death? Last year we had Dying To Try, and now Ryan is lamenting that he ‘thought we’d be together ‘til we die’. RTÉ should be sourcing songs for the next Romeo & Juliet film adaptation. What they should also be doing is taking a good long look at their Eurovision approach, because they still haven’t moved on from their 1990s glory days – and holding onto that isn’t helping them find favour in the 2010s. I was a Brendan supporter last year, and despite what I just said I am a fan of Ryan’s Together. I just think Ireland needs a firework set off under their backside, but more on that later. For now, I want to chat about the pros of this year’s effort, not the cons. It’s a really nice song – easy-listening, soothing, a little bit sad…a song you’d hole yourself up in your bedroom to blast during a breakup grieving period. The lyrics are simple feat. metaphors that actually make sense (yes, it IS possible), and Ryan’s voice is made for this sort of guitar-driven, singer-songwriter ballad – which it should be, since he co-wrote it. I think the vibe and melody of the verses and pre-chorus are stunning. It’s only when the chorus arrives that things start to unravel, because it’s the musical equivalent of a deflated balloon (thankfully Ireland had a fully-inflated one in Kyiv). Again, the lyrics are good, but overall the chorus is weaker than every other part of the song when it should be the star of the show. As a result, I feel like Together goes nowhere. That’s made much more painful by the fact that a powerful, statement chorus would have made a good song great, yet what we have is a good song being dragged down by one weak spot. Even so, this song has the potential for a Tom Dice (or more likely, Paradise Oskar) result. Especially if Ryan is as enchanting (if you’ll let me get away with such flowery language) on stage as I’ve heard he is from EiC etc attendees. It’s far from a cert though, and that brings me back to my irritations over Ireland never truly fixing what’s broken. When’s the last time people were Israel 2018 excited about an Irish entry? It’s as if those responsible for choosing them think it’s only a matter of time (Sennek pun intended) before everything old is new again and songs that would have won at Eurovision in 1994 start doing it all over again. Like Denmark – but to an extreme degree – Ireland sends safe, vanilla songs that are more inside the box than Azerbaijan’s trapped alter-ego man from 2013. Year after year after year! Yeah, I’ve liked what they’ve done the past two years, but neither Dying To Try nor Together were/are potential winners or guaranteed to qualify. Where’s the spark? The x factor? Not in Ryan’s chorus, that’s for sure – but there is a glimmer of hope in the rest of his song. We’ll soon see whether that’s going to pay off or not.
2017 VS 2018? Ireland was a guilty pleasure for me last year – #TeamBalloon!
My score 7.5
My thoughts Being Aminata-short on time this NF season, I didn’t get the chance to follow Supernova – so when I cleared three minutes in my schedule to listen to show winner Laura being a Funny Girl, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would the song be on the same level as Love Injected/Heartbeat/Line, or would it be a jokey, lighthearted (and potentially lame) entry as the title suggested? As it turned out, the title was a herring as red as Laura’s NF dress. There’s nothing funny about Funny Girl, and I mean that as a compliment. My honest first reaction was ‘Wow!’. This song is soulful, sexy and sad all at once, and Laura’s performance was too (with added hair flicks for maximum sass). The situation of not being taken seriously by a boy who Netta Barzilai would definitely call stupid is explored using simple but original lyrics, a musical style that’s both on-trend and throwback, and a dramatic chorus that begs for a seductive lighting scheme (I don’t think the emphasis on lights, not LEDs, on the Lisbon stage will affect Latvia at all). There’s also an atmosphere of tension, frustration and desperation built up throughout Funny Girl that feels raw and genuine on every listen. Basically, I’ve been impressed by Latvia for the fourth year running. Laura’s one of our annual American accents at Eurovision, and her extensive musical education in the US shows in an awesome song that she wrote and composed herself, and in her competent, confident live performances. Although there’s nothing I don’t love about her overall package, I have to admit that Latvia slipped down a little in my ranking through selection season, as songs I liked even more were chosen and already-established entries grew on me. They’ve also slipped down the scoreboard over the past few years, with Aminata’s 5th followed by a 15th from Justs…then a big drop to a DNQ and last place in 2017 with Triana Park (I’m still mad). I do have high hopes that Laura can do better than a semi wooden spoon. There’s a good six or seven countries accompanying her in the second semi that are dead certs or at least very likely to qualify – leaving three or four spots open. I think she’s capable of snatching one, but could finish 11th or 12th as easily as 9th or 10th. Will I be as heartbroken as Funny Girl Laura if it’s another DNQ for Latvia? Pretty much. Particularly if it’s revealed that she finished 11th and Russia went through in 10th…but that’s another story.
2017 VS 2018? Laura gave me goosebumps on listen no. 1, so 2018 it is.
My score 8.5
That’s all for today, folks – and the stats are now 20 down, 23 left. Told you I was getting there. It might be like an arthritic sloth completing a marathon, but that’s part of the Jaz charm, right?
Here’s this round’s leaderboard:
- Australia (10)
- France (10)
- Latvia (8.5)
- Ireland (7.5)
- Georgia (5.5)
Look, I’m sorry/not sorry, but I HAD to put Jess on top when it came to choosing between Australia and France. I’d probably be deported for being unpatriotic if I didn’t. If it makes you feel any better, it was like choosing between a deep-dish pizza and another deep-dish pizza – i.e. very difficult and almost too close to call.
Do you have a few favourites here that you couldn’t possibly narrow down to one? If not, and you know exactly where your loyalties lie, this question will be a lot easier for you to answer.
NEXT TIME It’s full steam ahead with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal and Ukraine. I have some strong feelings about all of them, so drop by again to see if they’re happy-dance kind of feelings…or the punch-a-hole-in-the-wall kind. Subscribe in the sidebar and/or follow me on social media @EurovisionByJaz to make sure you never miss a post!
Today’s the day, everyone who’s into Junior Eurovision! You’d have to be if you’re reading this.
There are just hours until Georgia hosts their first-ever contest, with the jury final done and dusted and a big chunk of votes already in (we still have until 15.59 CET to get our pre-show votes in, so get on it if you’re yet to have your say). What makes things even more exciting is that, even after rehearsals, it’s still an open contest without a totally predictable, probable-runaway winner. So – with due thanks also going to the current method of announcing the results – we should be on the edge of our seats until the very last score is calculated (unless one of the hosts screws things up like Valerie Vella, Queen of Spoilers, did last year). I’m SO excited for this!
I do have another few jobs to do before I can sit back, not relax (TOO EXCITED) and enjoy the show later. One is to make my official predictions for the comp public, which I will be doing on Instagram this afternoon (follow me @EurovisionByJaz…the link is over there in the sidebar). The other job is to squeeze in the final round of 2017 song reviews, of course! Here’s what’s gone down so far:
- Round 1 feat. Cyprus, Georgia, The Netherlands + Poland
- Round 2 feat. Albania, Italy, Macedonia + Portugal
- Round 3 feat. Australia, Belarus, Malta + Ukraine
That means Armenia, Ireland, Russia and Serbia are left – so stay tuned to see what I think of Misha’s Boomerang, Muireann McDonnell’s Súile Glasa, Polina Bogusevich’s Wings and Irina & Jana’s Ceo Svet Je Naš. It’s happening right…
Watch it here
Last year…powerhouse duo Anahit & Mary scored Armenia’s second 2nd place in a row with Tarber – a song I am still listening to on a daily basis and refuse to hear a bad word about.
The 2017 verdict Armenia is one of the most successful JESC countries period, having only finished outside of the top 5 twice in 10 participations. They’re on a particularly impressive run at the moment with a consecutive 3rd, 2nd and 2nd on their performance record. The problem with that, of course (*morphs speedily into Negative Nancy*) is that they’ve set themselves a standard so high, they might need the aid of a professional pole-vaulter to make sure Misha can top it – or at least equal it, since the only way to truly top it would be to win. I will be talking about the rehearsals here, but when it comes to song alone I’d say that Boomerang does have ‘winner’ written all over it. I didn’t feel it at first, but something clicked on listen no. 2 and I began to believe that Misha (well, studio Misha) had everything required in that three minutes to take the new and (some would say) improved JESC trophy home. I’d describe this song Eurovisually as a hybrid of Aram Mp3’s Not Alone – a power ballad that starts off subtly and simply before exploding into a million pieces of ‘Wow! – and Lisa Angell’s N’oubliez Pas, because it’s backed by a pounding militaristic beat. What it adds to that combo is interesting rhythm changes, and a younger vibe thanks to Misha’s delicate vocals (delicate until he unleashes his inner Anahit and/or Mary towards the end). It’s an aurally arresting mixture that suggests Armenia shouldn’t be discounted from the race, as per usual. But PLOT TWIST: from what I’ve heard about their rehearsals (told you I needed to mention the R word), an out-of-character misstep might be in store instead. Live performances can build an ordinary song up or tear a great one down, and though I haven’t watched any rehearsals as normal, reports of questionable vocals, a hoverboard that may not be serving Misha all that well and things just not coming together have me worried. I was going to tip Armenia as a possible winner, but now I’m wondering if they’re going to dip below their current worst-ever result of 8th. Before seeing evidence of that though, I will stick to my guns and not write them off. After all, Armenia has never ended a Junior contest lower than 2nd when they’ve entered a song with a single-word title. COINCIDENCE? Yeah, probably.
Song score 10
Artist score 8
Final score 9
Watch it here
Last year…Ireland participated for the second time with Bríce ar Bhríce by Zena Donnelly, improving on their debut 12th place with 10th (I predicted it to come last…oops).
The 2017 verdict I have to say, Ireland hasn’t exactly set my soul (or any other part of me) on fire with their JESC entries to date. All three have been good but not great IMO – though in 2015 and now in 2017, it’s more a case of the genres not being my bowl of Irish stew. Muireann is a cool kid who’s been personality plus when interviewed in Tbilisi this week, and there’s no denying she’s got talent. But Súile Glasa just doesn’t do much for me. It’s like a bowl of porridge (what’s with all the food references? If I’m not careful I’ll be discussing the Irish Potato Famine in detail next) without any flavouring. Okay, maybe a little flavouring…it is sweet. And the chorus is the stuff of sing-along dreams even in Irish. AND – check out all of these positives I’m pulling out! – I like the breathy, earth-child sound of Muireann’s voice. But like is as far as my relationship with this song will ever go – it’s in the Friend Zone, people. I am aware that my Music That Will/Will Not Work In A Competition Based On What I Think Of It radar is in good need of a repair job – and that my apathetic attitude towards Súile Glasa isn’t shared by many other Eurofreaks Eurofans. With that in mind, Ireland could be on track to improve on their debut result even further by improving on last year’s – I’m sensing 8th place for Muireann using my virtually non-existent psychic powers. In my personal ranking, it’s a lot lower than that, but not because it’s heinous. To me, it’s another You and Me by Joan Franka (i.e. I just don’t ‘get’ it). And Ireland in JESC so far…well, let’s just say I’m happy to have them at the party, but they’re definitely not the life of it.
Song score 6
Artist score 8
Final score 7
Watch it here
Last year…The Water of Life Project’s Water of Life pulled in the third-highest kids’ jury vote which propelled them into 4th place overall.
The 2017 verdict I have ADORED Russia at Junior for the last few years. Water of Life, in fact, was my runaway favourite of 2016 and I still love it a year later. Prior to 2015, though, I found them pretty hit-and-miss. I’m telling you all this stuff you probably don’t want to hear to make you question whether or not I’m a fan of Russia’s 2017 entry Wings. The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is HECK YES. Now for the longest answer of all: while it’s not another hands-down fave of mine (there are a few other songs I love on a similar level) Polina’s musical bid to win JESC no. 2 for Russia is right at the top of my list (floating around with those other few). This is everything I want in a ballad and more – so much so that I don’t even care about the nonsensical areas of the English lyrics despite being a former English major and staunch advocate of correct grammar. Taking inspiration from the soaring, electronic-edged ballads Sia has made famous, Wings is polished pop perfection with a massive chorus, epic build up to that chorus, a strong story backed up well by visuals in the music video (and on stage, I’m told) and a money note that overshadows all others we’ll hear in Tbilisi. Polina is an absolute powerhouse with all the necessary facial manipulation skills to sell the song to the audience and through the camera lens. I may acknowledge that the use of English in Wings has weaknesses, but that’s purely in the lyrics themselves – I really like the way the languages switch, with the song coming to an end in Russian right where it started. Speaking of the end…how good is it with the repetition of the final chorus line? Overall, Wings packs a memorable punch that I’m praying sees Russia in the top 5 again. Sadly, they seem to have trouble winning no matter how hard they try (something Sergey Lazarev could identify with) and this package doesn’t feel quite like the winning one to me – but that’s mainly because my favourites hardly ever win JESC or ESC and I’ve become pessimistic. The almost impossible could happen, and I’ll be doing my part to help it along by voting for Russia!
Song score 12
Artist score 12
Final score 12
Watch it here
Last year…poor Dunja Jeličić was out-hoverboarded by Belarus (ouch!) and ended up at the bottom of the leaderboard in U La La Last place.
The 2017 verdict Unlike Armenia, all Serbia has to do at JESC 2017 is not lose in order to outdo their showing in 2016. Unfortunately, that may be a tall order for Irina and Jana…but you know what? They wouldn’t come last if the outcome was up to me. Ceo Svet Je Naš is a cute little throwback to Junior contests of the past – think 2003 to 2005 – with a 1920s flapper feel shoehorned in. I’ve said before that I like it when countries go classic JESC on us, and the same goes for this entry. It’s clearly a kids’ song for a kids’ contest, and wouldn’t double up as an adult Eurovision song like Belarus or Macedonia, which makes it an awesome addition to the line-up. Being so sweet and simplistic, it’s also a breath of fresh air amongst more serious, hard-hitting and dramatic stuff á la Armenia, Poland and Russia. What puts the girls in losing contention isn’t so much the lack of good material – it’s just that by comparison, most of the other 15 songs have more to offer and are more exciting. Even I, who will bop to this while wishing I was wearing some fringe and feathers, am not tempted to vote for it when there are plenty of other songs on offer that practically demand to be supported. It’d be like picking up a sugar cookie from a buffet full of layer cakes and ice-cream sundaes (here I go again with the food analogies). I’m guessing most other people – those of us at home and those on the juries – will feel the same. As a result, I can’t see Irina and Jana charming their way out of the bottom 5. If Montenegro couldn’t do it in 2014 with a throwback duo, I can’t see Serbia doing it now.
Song score 7
Artist score 8
Final score 7.5
Finally, after four rounds, I get to say it: 16 down, 0 to go! The last mini-ranking for the year looks like this:
- Russia (12)
- Armenia (9)
- Serbia (7.5)
- Ireland (7)
Polina wings her way (HAHAHA not) straight to the top, with Misha not too far behind, and the others fairly far behind…all according to me, obviously. There’s not long at all to wait until we find out who’ll actually come out on top and who’ll be left on the bottom (because somebody has to be).
Now it’s time for The Question I Always Ask Because I’m Nosy.
I know I haven’t asked you yet what your overall Junior Eurovision 2017 favourite is – so make sure you do head over to my Instagram and follow me @EurovisionByJaz if you don’t already. When I post my album of rankings and predictions later on today, put yours in the comments or tag me in those you post so I can see them! We can start a social media war over our differing opinions and trade insults that are definitely not kid-friendly…all that fun stuff.
Then it’ll be show time. Give me a Y A S S S! I’ll be hanging out on Twitter during the contest and I hope to see you there too, hashtagging the heck out of #ShineBright.
Enjoy your viewing experience, no matter who wins. I mean, it actually doesn’t matter since we’re going to Minsk next year regardless. Personally, I’m Team Australia (shocking), Georgia, Poland and Russia, so I’ll be crossing my fingers for them. Waving four different flags is a bit much for me to handle at the moment (also, I do not own a Georgian or Russian flag).
See you on the other side of JESC!
Hello again, and welcome to the second-last round of my Eurovision 2017 reviews! Obviously nothing has changed in my life since I was at university, because I’m still battling to get stuff done by certain deadlines. Just expect a lot of reviews in a short period of time, and everything will be fine (something I’m telling myself at least three times a day at the moment).
There’s just two days to go until the first semi final, and all 42 songs have now been rehearsed on the real-deal stage. We’ve seen our likely winner in action (monkeying around to massive rounds of applause) but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about all of the other songs. So that’s what my mum (she keeps coming back, even though I figured I’d have scared her off by now) and I are up to today.
Keep reading to find out what we think of the songs from Isaiah, NAVI, Svala, Brendan Murray, Slavko Kalezić and Manel Navarro. Spoiler alert: there are some major disagreements involved!
My thoughts A seventeen-year-old fresh from a TV talent show win – which followed an audition during which he forgot his lyrics (for the second year running) – wouldn’t have been my ideal choice for my country’s 2017 Eurovision act. On paper, it doesn’t sound that promising…and me bringing all that stuff up makes me sound mean, I know. But I wanted to make the point that when Isaiah was revealed as our act in March, I had a LOT of doubts that he was ready for such a big-scale show. As it turns out, I think he’s grounded and mature enough, and has gained enough on-stage confidence in the wake of his X Factor victory, to do Australia proud next week. He’s going to do that with a song that may be missing the x factor (ironically) that saw Guy Sebastian and Dami Im smash their respective shots at the contest, but has been a major sleeper hit with me. Don’t Come Easy is a soulful ballad that Sam Smith would totally approve of, and it couldn’t be any more suited to Isaiah’s voice. Lyrically, it could be more suited to his age – it’s hard to buy such tales of woe and heartbreak from a seller who’s still considered a kid in many ways (he can’t legally drink, gamble or complain bitterly about adult responsibilities). But if he can use those epic eyebrows to emote as much as possible, and not just sing the words – even though he’ll sing them terrifically – his age may end up being just a number. Most people watching him belt out the song in front of his own super-sized face (check out some rehearsal footage if you’re confused RN) won’t be worrying about it. I hope the staging doesn’t end up being a worry and lives up to what Australia’s put together the last two years, as both times it has made our songs stronger competitors. Don’t Come Easy has grown on me a lot since I first heard it, and now I find it really sticks in my head and makes me feel some feels (not on a Finland level, but there’s something there). There’s potential in the build of the song to create an explosive moment, like Israel did last year, and I believe we’ve even got a pyro curtain to help that along (just like Hovi did). If it all comes together, then another top 10 result is achievable. I don’t think top 5 is on the cards, but I will be waving my Aussie flag with pride (and probably a sweaty palm) in any case. 8 points.
My mum says… I own and treasure a copy of Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, so the fact that this song could have fit right in to that album’s tracklist will give you a good idea of how I feel about Don’t Come Easy. I really like it! It’s retro in a wonderful way, with powerful music and lyrics that are set off by Isaiah’s incredible (especially for a teenager) voice. There’s a bit of an Adele feel to the soul of the song as well, and yes, you guessed it – I also own all of her albums. Is this a biased review? Nope, because I listened to it without knowing which country it was representing. Now I know, I’m proud. 8 points.
Australia’s score 8.00
My thoughts This song is like a musical version of Nathan Trent – so adorable you can’t help your urge to hug it so tightly it almost suffocates. The difference between the two is that the cuteness of Story of My Life doesn’t totally win me over, even though I acknowledge that it’s there. I think it’s fantastic that we get to hear Belarusian on the adult Eurovision stage for the first time ever thanks to NAVI – and I’m so appreciative of the fact that their entry is one of just four this year to feature 100% non-English lyrics *weeps internally*. I also think the sing-along factor of the song is a real asset, giving it an anthemic quality not often found in folk music. But – and you can call me bitter and/or soulless once I’ve said this – the overall ‘aww!’ vibe of Belarus that a heap of other fans feel, I don’t AT ALL. I wouldn’t skip the song if I was shuffling the 2017 album, but I wouldn’t wait for it to play with bated breath. For the sake of Belarus succeeding in the contest, and for the sake of filling the final with as many foreign languages as possible, I hope NAVI do qualify on Thursday. If they don’t, though, I’ll be okay with it. Overall, SOML is too repetitive and maybe too folksy for my tastes. 5 points.
My mum says… I couldn’t have less of a clue what these two are singing about, but it can’t be anything heavy going – the whole song is light and bright, and I really got into it. I especially like the use of instruments. However, that final stretch of hey-ho shouts went on way too long for my liking. That space could have been filled with something less repetitive, and in turn I’d have been giving this entry more than 6 points!
Belarus’ score 5.5
My thoughts There are some songs you can’t help but cut to the chase with when you’re talking about them. And cutting is an appropriate term to use when talking about Svala’s Paper, which I worship. At least 75% of my devotion to the entry has to do with Svala herself, a.k.a. Iceland’s answer to Gwen Stefani. She’s an age-defying, super-stylish GODDESS of a woman, and I am the personification of the heart eyes emoji whenever I think about her. But Paper also rubs me up in all the right ways. It’s like the cutting-edge, 1980s-inflenced love child of Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love and Aminata’s Love Injected – two songs I love to pieces. It’s ice cold and Svala is the ice queen with impeccably styled hair and makeup, plus bone structure that would have made Michelangelo weak at the knees. Not to say that I’m fixating on her cheekbones when she’s performing such an earworm of an electro-pop ballad (IDK how else to describe it). I’m actually getting lost in the dreamy atmosphere that the 80s synth sound provides, which contrasts beautifully with the slick production. It’s a perfect marriage. My only problem with Iceland this year is Svala being a visual force to be reckoned with, yet she’s singing a song that should bring out a vulnerable side based on the story told by the lyrics. She’s a little too intense, pulled-together and in control to pull off Paper with 110% authenticity. At least, she has been up until this point. From what I’ve seen (like, one photo) and heard (*insert long, long list of Eurovision sites/podcasts here*) of the rehearsals, she still needs to soften to match the emotions present in the song. Even if she does, I’m not that confident in Iceland’s ability to score themselves through to Saturday night. But I reckon this song would be an interesting and very contemporary (feat. a throwback sound that somehow makes it even more modern) addition to the final line-up. After the country’s shock DNQ last year – and failure to make the final the year before that – they seriously need a pick-me-up. I don’t want Svala using her Paper to wipe away tears of post-semi sadness. 10 points.
My mum says… This is far from being the worst entry I’ve heard, but it’s also far from being one of my favourites. I quite like Svala’s voice (though I’m incredibly jealous that she looks so young for her age and am wondering if it’s too late for me to up and move to Iceland) but I’m not a fan of a metaphor based on office supplies. I find the lyrics a bit lame in general. It’s just not for me! 5 points.
Iceland’s score 7.5
My thoughts Ireland – or at least those responsible for their recent Eurovision entries – needs a slap. Either that, or Sweden needs to hurry up and overtake them in the wins department so they’ll have to step up rather than falling back on the old line ‘Oh, but we’ve won the contest more than anyone else!’, which is usually accompanied by an entry of the same mould they were sending in the 2000s…which in turn paid tribute to the songs that won for them in the 1990s. Not much has changed in 2017, as the country’s collective face is still looking like it needs a high five. However…my relationship with Brendan Murray’s Dying To Try (not Trying To Die, thankfully) is love-hate. Here’s what I love: the first minute and a half. The understated start, the echo-y beat that kicks in, the melody, the frailty of Brendan’s voice (Svala needs to borrow some of that) and even the lyrics, which are a little cliché but have been neatly phrased and sparingly used, are all really nice. And, if the songwriters had carried on with another verse similar to the first, then a bigger second chorus that transitioned into an even more explosive final chorus without using a cringingly passé key change, all would be well. Instead, the entire second half of the song is one long, whiny chorus that doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. It’s like they literally couldn’t be bothered to write anything after that first chorus, so they dragged it out in order to fill as many seconds as possible. Except, it hasn’t. There’s an emptiness there as you wait for a second verse that never comes. I mean, who’d mix up a bowlful of cake batter and then only pour half of it into the pan? Ireland, that’s who. It’s a wasted opportunity of a song that could have totally tickled my fancy. I honestly love the first half enough to give it 10 points, but the rest deserves about 3. I’ll settle somewhere in the middle and give Dying To Try 7 points.
My mum says… THIS IS A GUY?? Mind = blown. It’s not like I’ve never heard high-pitched male vocals before, but I was completely convinced I was listening to a lady here. That aside (because it has nothing to do with what I think of the song) it’s a nice ballad with a good beat and a soothing quality. I think that comes both from the music and from Brendan’s voice. This is quite an emotional song – not so much that I’m in need of a tissue or ten, but enough to make me feel something. I like that in my music. I do think that this can be categorised as a forgettable ballad though. Describing something as ‘nice’ often leads down that path. 6 points.
Ireland’s score 6.5
My thoughts I never, not even in my wildest dreams, imagined that we would someday have an entry competing in Eurovision that could be considered camper than Deen’s In The Disco and Zoli Ádok’s Dance With Me combined. But Montenegro has given us the gift of Slavko’s Space, and I am SO here for it. It’s like a highly sexualised Alcazar made it to the contest with the help of a sponsor that manufactures hair extensions. What about that description makes it a bad thing? Nada, people. This is a BANGING disco-dance track that somehow doesn’t seem dated and lame like San Marino’s – possibly because it’s right up Slavko’s flamboyant street, and he owns the shit out of it. He whips his hair back and forth (I’m hoping it doesn’t fly off into the audience during the broadcast…or am I?), struts like it’s an Olympic event and has me lip-syncing along with the most outrageously pornographic lyrical metaphors I’ve ever encountered in a Eurovision song (mainly because the line ‘I trample in your arse’ from Slovenia’s 1999 song turned out to be a misheard lyric). I enjoy every second of every minute, even if I feel like my pleasure should be guilty. Generally speaking, I want Eurovision to evolve and be much less of what skeptics think it is (i.e. all novelty, cheese and the worst word ever – ‘kitsch’), but at the same time, I love that Space brings a touch of schlager back to the show. We’ve got plenty of edgy, deadpan entries this year – think Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland and Latvia – plus a classic ESC ballad from Portugal. So Montenegro are bringing some variety along with a suitcase exclusively reserved for body glitter (I assume). Uptempo, catchy and oh-so-danceable, this is the song that’s most making me miss the Euroclub. I would have busted some memorable moves to it on that dance floor, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I can also tell you that it probably won’t qualify, as sublime is likely to beat ridiculous (with the exception of Romania). As I can see that coming from a mile away, I won’t be too upset about it. But I’ll console myself anyway by playing it on full blast at every opportunity, until my neighbours file a complaint regarding excessive noise and sexual innuendos. Bring it on! 10 points.
My mum says… It’s hard to stay focused on how catchy the tune of this song is when the lyrics are so suggestive. That’s an understatement, really – Slavko seems to be less about suggesting than explaining in detail. Just when I thought ‘When you look this f*%$ing beautiful’ was the most controversial (almost) Eurovision line I’d ever heard! I could be convinced to dance to Space, but for the most part I can’t get past the ridiculous, R-rated lyrics. 5 points.
Montenegro’s score 7.5
My thoughts I’m not going to mention the words ‘Mirela’ or ‘contigo’ in this review (apart from mentioning them to say I won’t be mentioning them) because I think it’s about time we all moved on from The Spanish NF Incident of 2017. Manel Navarro is the one rehearsing in Kyiv right now, and Do It For Your Lover is the song representing Spain this year – that’s all there is to it. Speaking of which, there’s not a lot to this song apart from some simple charm, a cruisy surfer vibe and the most repetitive chorus since Ivi Adamou’s ‘La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la loooove.’ Those three things don’t add up to something spectacular, but I have to admit to liking this more than most other people I come across. Any music that sounds perfect for playing while on a road trip, with the windows down and no responsibilities to speak of for a few days, is bound to appeal to me to a certain extent. DIFYL ticks about 60% of my boxes – it’s inoffensive without being too bland, but it doesn’t push any boundaries either, and that repetition of the title (in case we forgot it, it was declared that Manel would repeat it 947 times in three minutes) is pretty irritating. As a result, I enjoy the Spanish-language verses more than any other part of the song. Manel’s aesthetic is casual street busker, which isn’t the sort of thing that does super well at Eurovision: Douwe Bob was a more polished exception. With his song failing to light a fire even for me, the odds are against him to strum his way out of the final’s bottom five. It might be time for Spain to revaluate their approach to the ESC on several levels, unless Manel shocks us all and defies our expectations. I can’t picture it, but I could live with it for sure. 6 points.
My mum says… Well, you can tell where this one comes from, and I like that about it. The Spanish parts are nice, easy-listening material, and I sort of wish that English didn’t feature at all in the song. It’s when that kicks in that things get monotonous. I especially dislike the stutter effect stuck in after each chorus. There needs to be more to a song than Do It For Your Lover has at its disposal to win me over completely. 6 points.
Spain’s score 6.00
That’s our six taken care of for this round…and here’s the ranking:
- Australia (8.00)
- Iceland (7.5)
- Montenegro (7.5)
- Ireland (6.5)
- Spain (6.00)
- Belarus (5.5)
Naturally, I’m HORRIFIED that Australia topped the list. Not. Congrats go to Iceland for not being far behind, and commiserations to Belarus for being very far behind. Lucky for them that this scoring couldn’t have less bearing on the actual contest results.
There’s six more sets of scores for the mini EBJ jury to hand out, and then the full ranking will be revealed! Drop by on Monday to check out our thoughts on Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Trust me, you don’t want to miss my mother’s reaction to a man duetting with himself.
In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s tracks. What do you think will happen to them this week as the competition gets going? I want all the dirt. You guys know how nosy curious I am.
Get (even more) excited – Eurovision is nearly here!!!
Bonjour, people who don’t hate song contests for kids aged 10-14! I’m back, and so is the EBJ Junior Jury. We’re just over a week away from setting foot on Maltese soil (metaphorically…most of the people actually attending who I hate with a passion will be touching down well before then) and finding the fourteenth winner of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Will it be one of the countries the EBJJJ and I are reviewing and ranking today?
The countries in question are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Russia. That’s a mixed bag of competitors who’ve often dominated the contest, have recently proved to be worth watching, or who’ve just joined the party and are still finding their feet. Read on to find out what me and my slaves – I mean, scoring buddies – think of what’s on offer from Lidia, George, Zena and Sofia, and whether any of them have a chance of taking the most precious trophy on the planet back home to their parents’ display cabinet.
My thoughts I’m not sure how Bulgaria stumbled across the formula for JESC success, but they’ve definitely done it. I actually reckon they’ve always had it up their sleeve, despite that not being reflected in their results 100% of the time. Since their second comeback in 2014, they’ve put extra effort into their entries, and it’s easy to forget that they didn’t actually win with Krisia, Hasan & Ibrahim last time Junior traveled to Malta. So can they replicate Planet of the Children’s stellar second place with the more upbeat – and in a lot of ways, just as impressive – Magical Day? Let’s just say I wouldn’t complain if they did. And then say more stuff, because that hardly constitutes a comprehensive song review. This song is absolutely adorable, and so is Lidia (so say dobŭr den to a cuteness overload). It’s so happy and heartwarming, nobody could hate it (unfeeling, soulless psychopaths aside), and with that Gravity-like tribal beat helping it strike a balance between youthful and mature, it never feels too sugary even though it is very sweet. As with Armenia’s song, the English lyrics that finish this off are thematically predictable, but well-written enough to make them a benefit rather than a detriment to the entry. The verses are pretty and the chorus is catchier than a beach ball covered in super glue. Basically, Bulgaria has kicked butt once again, and I hope the juries reward them for it (assuming that all of the other elements of the entry are up to par when it counts). Surely even Christer Björkman will defrost during Lidia’s performance?
My score 10
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 6
- James, UK – 8
- Joshua, Australia – 5
- Matthew, Ireland – 7
- Michael, Australia – 8
- Penny, USA – 8
- Rory, Ireland – 12
My thoughts Cyprus has been doing the hokey-pokey with JESC lately: one year they’re in, the next they’re out. They made a cracking comeback in 2014 only to be robbed of the top five placing they undoubtedly deserved (don’t try to argue with me on this. I have claws and I’m not afraid to use them!). Then they opted to stay home rather than send someone to Sofia in 2015. Now, in 2016, they’re back again, and I’d like to say it’s with a bang…but I just can’t. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot to like about George’s Dance Floor. The title certainly vouches for its unflagging energy, which is a welcome relief from all of the ballads in the comp. It even helps the song stand out next to the likes of Armenia, The Netherlands and Malta, thanks to the intensity of the beat and an ethnopop aura that Sakis Rouvas would be proud of. The verses are also a strong point, with their melody promising good things. Unfortunately, those promises are swiftly snapped in half by a chorus that can best be described as a non-event. It is cool to hear something so minimalist in JESC, but there’s probably a reason why that kind of approach is rarely taken in this context. Plus, this particular bare-bones, mostly musical chorus is the weakest, least memorable part of the song when it should be the opposite. Based on how catchy and unique the verses are, it’s disappointing to have the rest not measure up to the same standard. I won’t write Cyprus off as total failures yet, since a sensational live performance – feat. the difficult combo of excellent vocals and dance moves from George – could secure them a better result than the song alone would. But, prior to seeing how Mr. Michaelides will tackle his JESC trip and discovering where he’s sandwiched in the running order, I’m thinking they’re in trouble.
My score 6
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 3
- James, UK – 4
- Joshua, Australia – 1
- Matthew, Ireland – 4
- Michael, Australia – 3
- Penny, USA – 6
- Rory, Ireland – 3
My thoughts It’s fantastic to have Ireland – a country I never thought we’d see in JESC once upon a time – back for attempt number two at finding a kid who can outshine a bunch of other kids from across the continent (and Australia). As they did for their debut, Ireland put actual, televised effort into choosing their entry this year, via a national final of Melodifestivalen proportions (at least in terms of its length). The fruit of their labour was Zena Donnelly and Bríce Ar Bhrice, and together, singer and song have potential…to not finish last. In a departure from Aimee Banks’ classical stylings, this song is pure and simple pop (feat. a tinge of folksiness), and it’s nice enough to listen to. But it never explodes into something spectacular. There’s always a song or two like this participating in JESC (not to mention the handful that appear at adult Eurovision) but they don’t tend to compete very well – they don’t have the spark required to really fight for a good finish. I think Zena’s song is lacking that x factor. Remember The Netherlands’ entry from last year, Shalisa’s Million Lights? That was the same sort of radio-friendly, inoffensive, contemporary-but-not-cutting-edge pop song that is enjoyable, but wasn’t expected to set the scoreboard alight. As such, I could easily make a case for Ireland slotting into the 14th-16th results range next weekend. Personally, I do like this track, but I don’t love it – and if the jury members feel the same way, then Ireland will miss out on hearing their country’s name and ‘twelve points!’ called out in the same sentence. Unless that sentence is ‘Our twelve points go to…someone other than Ireland’. But good luck to the Emerald Isle anyway. I invite them to prove me wrong!
My score 6
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 7
- James, UK – 8
- Joshua, Australia – 7
- Matthew, Ireland – 7
- Michael, Australia – 10
- Penny, USA – 8
- Rory, Ireland – 6
My thoughts I could harp on about Russia’s JESC history, and how they came to be sending Sofia and Team Water of Life (that’s #teamwateroflife on social media, because if it can’t be hashtagged, does it even exist?) to Malta, et cetera, all in order to maintain a sense of mystery before I actually unveil my verdict on Water of Life. But I won’t. Not when I can get straight to the point by saying that I am completely, utterly, 110% head-over-heels in love with this song. It’s my favourite this year by a mile, and I’ll be cheering Russia on to win the whole contest without doubt. The package of this entry is the most well-wrapped, delightfully-decorated one in the pile, and it contains everything I’m looking for in a competition song. It’s exotic without being inaccessible, as a pop-power ballad punctuated by that ethnic riff; it’s melodic, with the verses melting into the pre-chorus and then into the chorus itself effortlessly; it’s powerful and dynamic, especially now Sofia’s being vocally and visually supported by other singers; it’s memorable, with a chorus that sticks in your mind even in Russian….I mean, I need to be forcibly restrained from complimenting it any further! But since nobody’s here to do that, I’ll carry on. The revamp that added the other girls to the line-up, mixed up the language and switched the title from Zhivaya Voda to Water of Life improved on perfection, retaining the essence of what led the song to win the Russian selection in the first place. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to look great on the JESC stage: it’s a song big enough to fill the space, and would have been even if Sofia had gone solo. I’m only worried about what it might sound like live, as four voices are harder to whip into shape than one, and we’re yet to hear Sofia AND The Water of Life Project in action outside of a recording studio. But I’m so biased at this point, I’m going to pretend that a dodgy vocal performance isn’t even a possibility. Water of Life is Belarus’ Sokal from 2014 – a song I also loved – but even better, with a greater chance of winning. As you’ll have figured out by now (both because I implied it and actually said so), I hope it does. At the very least, a repeat result from one Eurovision event to the next should be in store for Russia. But their bronze from Stockholm really deserves to become gold in Valletta.
My score 12
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 12
- James, UK – 12
- Joshua, Australia – 12
- Matthew, Ireland – 12
- Michael, Australia – 12
- Penny, USA – 10
- Rory, Ireland – 5
Eight down, nine to go! Time flies when you’re being too harsh on children and their musical talents (or lack thereof). Let’s have a look at the ranking for this round of reviews, shall we?
- Russia (10.87)
- Bulgaria (8)
- Ireland (7.37)
- Cyprus (3.75)
Clearly the best was saved for last today, with Russia steamrolling straight into the top spot. Last year’s host country Bulgaria snap up second place, not too far ahead of second-timers Ireland. Poor Cyprus falls far behind in what could be an unfortunate foreshadowing of their actual result.
Stay tuned to find out how these figures fit in to the EBJJJ’s full ranking, which will be revealed alongside my predictions for the show next Sunday. Before that time comes, there’s more critiquing to be done – and next time, it’s Albania, Belarus, Italy and Malta’s turn to be judged. You won’t want to miss it, because it’s obviously going to be an irresistible hybrid of hilarious witticisms and high-class journalism.
*cricket chirps/throat-clearing/clusters of tumbleweed a’ tumbling*
Hej there! You have made the excellent decision to drop by Jaz HQ to be debriefed on six more Eurovision 2016 entries – or at least, to be informed of how a small group of ESC fanatics feel about them. If you don’t mind some cattiness (‘cause the claws are out today) then you won’t regret it!
TODAY’S EBJ JURORS
Martin, Nick and I are about to have our say on Armenia, Australia, Ireland, Malta, Moldova and Slovenia – a.k.a. Iveta, Dami, Nicky, Ira, Lidia and ManuElla. Once you’ve heard us out, and seen how the entire EBJ Jury scored these countries, have your own say in the comments. Which is the best song of this bunch?
Martin This is a bold departure from normal Eurovision fare! LoveWave has an unusual spoken start, and is slow-paced throughout with its musical fusion of Western pop and Armenian ethnicity. It’s a difficult song to work out on first listen, and that might be Armenia’s failing this year – for them to qualify, everything hinges on Iveta’s vocals being perfect live and the staging being excellent.
Nick Believe it or not, this is my favorite Armenian entry of the past five years. Think about that low standard for a second. LoveWave has a lot of interesting parts – mainly the music and the structure – but it never coalesces like it should. Part of that has to do with the disconnection between the ethnic tones used for the verses, and the voice-heavy chorus. The pacing also feels off, and I feel like the whole package would work a lot better with a few more BPM. Otherwise, the lyrics are an absolute shambles, probably the worst this year; and I haven’t heard Iveta live, so I don’t know what to expect. Hopefully something entertaining, unintentionally or otherwise, because my god, is the spoken word intro going to be jarring.
Jaz I had sky-high expectations of Iveta Mukuchyan based on her previous form, and to be honest, I still don’t know if she met those with LoveWave. There are moments in this song that make me think ‘This is the weirdest thing I have ever heard’, and others that make me think ‘This is genius!’. The intro is a bizarre, and a beginning that doesn’t lure you in is rarely a positive musical attribute. Still, it did have me hanging around to see what happened next when I first listened to it, and it will probably have the same effect on fans hearing the entries for the first time on the night/s. Once the song settles into itself, it gives off some sexy vibes (thanks in large part to Iveta’s husky vocals), and it’s evident that it missed its calling as a single from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. It’s full of textures and layers and incomprehensible lyrics (which do add a sense of mystery to it all), and the combo of traditional Armenian instruments and the R & B style most evident in the chorus actually works quite well. On the whole, I have to applaud the song for daring to be different. If Armenia has devised a stunning stage concept to accompany LoveWave – the mileage they got out of Don’t Deny on the basis of superb staging suggests it’s likely – then this will make an impression. I do think it takes itself more seriously than it should, but with a slick performance to distract us all from that fact/opinion, a smidgen of OTT self-importance won’t matter.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 4
- Fraser 4
- James 5
- Jaz 7
- Martin 6
- Nick 2
- Penny 12
- Rory 12
- Wolfgang 6
Armenia’s EBJ Jury score is…6.44
Martin Australia are definitely in it to get at least a respectable placing in Stockholm, but there’s something missing that means that this will not win Eurovision. Dami can definitely sing (she’s vocally superb with an amazing range) and the song is lyrically interesting (it tells a great story) but for me, Sound Of Silence just lacks that winning spark.
Nick Dami Im! You have no idea how excited I was when she was confirmed as the entrant for Australia. I was so prepared for Super Love 2.0, and procuring an Aussie flag for Stockholm. Then the song came out, and ‘disappointed’ was an understatement. Mid-tempo synth-pop for such a colorful artist was a terrible match, and not even Dami’s charisma can save this dirge of a song. The only way I can think to describe it is by using the dominant color in the video: grey. Lyrically grey, musically grey, just… grey. And while last year’s Tonight Again annoyed the pants off me, at least it had some spunk.
Jaz I know it isn’t Thursday (not while I’m typing this, anyway) but I’d like to #throwback to this time last year when I gave Guy Sebastian’s Tonight Again a mediocre review. The purpose of this throwback? To point out that, as I didn’t get a kick of any kind out of that song until Eurovision was actually upon us, you should take what I’m about to say regarding Dami’s Sound of Silence with a whacking great grain of salt. This song – our sophomore effort, which was always going to be interesting in one way or another – is slightly above-average. That’s my not-at-all-glowing review, I’m afraid. I’m not a huge Dami fan, and the fact that she wasn’t Delta Goodrem made her entry unveiling even more tainted with my bitterness. There is no doubt that she can belt out a wannabe-powerhouse track like SOS, and it is a song that allows her to make the most of her vocal abilities. But it’s trying so hard to be on par with a Sia smash hit that it seems desperate, and falls short. Melodically, it’s lovely to listen to, and it certainly fulfils the brief of Contemporary Female Ballad That Is Not An Embarrassment To The Entire Continent of Australia. But the chorus, which should be the selling point, is weakened by unnecessary repetition. Are you telling me that the writers couldn’t have spared a few extra minutes to think up a few additional lines that rhymed with ‘silence’? Violence, defiance, appliance (an ode to a panini press would have been a first at Eurovision)…the list goes on. It smacks of laziness to me. Like a beautifully-crafted movie scene tossed onto the cutting room floor in favour of a crappy, purposeless one, the repetition of the initial chorus lines is a missed opportunity to have created something more masterful. Still, Dami will work with what she’s got, and her fashion sense (slash the fashion sense of her stylist) is so on fleek, I cannot wait to see what she’ll wear for an occasion like this (it’ll be more like a sculpture than actual clothing, I’m sure). And you can bet your behind that I’ll be cheering like crazy for her, and crossing my fingers that she slips through from semi to final. I just wish my driving force was a love for the song, rather than a love for my country and a will for us to qualify.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 10
- James 3
- Jaz 6
- Martin 8
- Nick 2
- Penny 8
- Rory 7
- Wolfgang 8
Australia’s EBJ Jury score is…6.44
Martin Nicky Byrne is getting the hang of singing Sunlight live, and I think that his self-belief will play a huge part in how well it does. If he nails the vocals on semi night, this will be an easy qualifier to the final and could revive Ireland’s interest in the ESC. ‘Sun <pause> light’ is earworm central in my opinion – a definite toe-tapper, hooking you in from the start and keeping you listening to the end. I think this up-tempo pop song will hit the spot with televoters, at least.
Nick This lot of songs is gonna make me sound like a grump, but actually, this is my dead last place for Stockholm. Everything about this screams desperate, from the wannabe 2013 Avicii composition to the recycling of 90s “heart-throb” Nicky Byrne to screech-er, I mean, sing it. And it’s not like Ireland hasn’t tried this approach before: just look at 2013’s Only Love Survives. Also, look where that finished – dead last after barely scraping into the final. Still, at least that was peppy and energetic. Sunlight makes me want to close the curtains and throw on a sleeping mask.
Jaz The boyband fangirl inside me (who is so dominant, a member of the Backstreet Boys flies out of my nose every time I sneeze) may have screamed internally when ex-Westlifer Nicky was announced as the Irish representative. You don’t want to know what I would have done if the whole band had reunited for Eurovision. As it stands, we got one fifth, and his song Sunlight is more or less everything you’d expect from a former boyband-mate’s solo singles (if they aren’t Justin Timberlake). It’s catchy and radio-friendly, and I do enjoy it – but it’s not lyrically or stylistically challenging at all. It’s not bad, by any means; but it’s so safe and friendly, like a perpetually happy Labrador who won’t leave you alone, that it irritates me. Ireland gave douze points to Latvia last year in the final, yet they didn’t take any musical inspiration from the edgy Love Injected – something that they clearly liked a lot. I expect everything about this entry to be vanilla in Stockholm, from the staging to the result it gets. Nicky is performing between the powerhouse ladies from Serbia and FYR Macedonia, who don’t necessarily have better songs (in my opinion) but who will almost definitely overshadow him. That’s bound to happen when you just don’t bring it.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 3
- Fraser 7
- James 3
- Jaz 7
- Martin 10
- Nick 1
- Penny 7
- Rory 6
- Wolfgang 3
Ireland’s EBJ Jury score is…5.22
Martin Yep, it was definitely the right decision to change songs for Malta! Walk On Water makes full use of Ira’s amazing vocal ability and range, combining it with a much more contemporary sound that is radio-friendly enough to stay in voter’s memories far past Eurovision. Her visual appeal won’t hurt Malta’s chances either. An upgrade to finalist and mid-table respectability at least for Ira.
Nick Oh, Ira…another artist who made me think Year Stockholm was going to be better than it turned out to be (although there are a lot of variables at play there). So much of her non-Eurovision related stuff is fantastic, but I was never a fan of her 2002 entry, nor her initial 2016 entry, Chameleon. Then they dragged in the Swedes to write her a new song, and I can’t say it’s a vast improvement. I almost feel like they were too inspired by the first song and wrote something that just blends in everywhere without standing out. It’s competent and will be well-performed, I’m sure. But it’s so uninspiring, it almost drives me to the point of madness. But even that is too strong an emotion to be associated with this.
Jaz Of all 2016’s returning artists, Ira Losco was the most successful in her initial attempt to take home the Eurovision trophy. The fact that it took her so many years to give it another go says to me that she felt like she could be in it to win it this year – after all, nobody wants to come back after a lengthy period and fall flat on their face. Those thoughts, if she had them, would have been in relation to Chameleon – a song that won’t be heard in Stockholm, unless someone spins it at the Euroclub. Walk On Water, the replacement, is a superior song on the whole (although I did think Chameleon’s chorus had something special). It’s more cohesive and less chaotic; considerably more contemporary; and packs more of a punch. The chorus is repetitive, but it builds rapidly and really hammers (or perhaps Molly Pettersson-Hammars) home the title and concept of the song. There’s nothing I don’t like about it, except for the fact that I can easily imagine co-writer Molly PH singing it better (and as she’s singing backup for Ira, we could have a vocal catfight on our hands). It’s great that Ira has a more powerful song than 7th Wonder this time, as that was a bit of a vocal wet blanket. Apparently her performance will be quite technologically advanced (will she actually walk on water? A.k.a. is Ira Losco actually Jesus?) but I hope she takes us back to ’02 by pulling another glitter pouch out of her pocket.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 4
- Fraser 10
- James 10
- Jaz 8
- Martin 10
- Nick 3
- Penny 7
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 10
Malta’s EBJ Jury score is…7.22
Martin A standard Euro Club-sounding dance track, Falling Stars would be the sort of song that a DJ might put on as filler before a killer tune is played. To be fair to Lidia, this was the best Moldovan entry on offer at the national final, and it’s not bad – but it’s not that memorable either, unless you want to remember her slightly weird vocal style and range being all over the place. Another non-qualification for Moldova beckons.
Nick Just FYI, this song sounds amazing as a nightcore. Sadly, the regular version can’t measure up, although it does top the segment of songs I dislike, so that’s nice. Lidia’s a good vocalist, but there’s just something missing here. Maybe just a key change or a money note, but there’s nothing that Falling Stars builds to, except perhaps the chorus? But if that was the intent, then the stars in question aren’t so much falling as they are being tossed. Other than that, the lyrics are surprisingly clean, which could really describe this entire entry: too polished for its own good.
Jaz Anything Moldova came out with this year would have seemed like the epitome of elegance compared to the sleazy display of law enforcement provided by Eduard Romanyuta. But you know what? I LOVED the sleazy display of law enforcement. It was trash-tastic and tackier than super-glue, but it took me back to the early 2000s and made an epic semi 1 starter while it was at it. But enough about Moldova 2015 – it’s Moldova 2016 I’m supposed to be reviewing. Falling Stars is one of the few straightforward dance tracks competing this year, which suggests that most other countries have moved on from the trend. And, for every compliment I can send its way, there’s a ‘but’ waiting in the wings. The song will stand out genre-wise, but it sounds a bit stale (circa 2011). The chorus is strong, but leads to Lidia resembling a wailing banshee (there’s no room for any deviation from the correct key there). Overall, it’s fun and fluffy while it’s playing, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Let’s just call it musical fairy floss, coloured blue and yellow in honour of it being another Swedish cast-off. If it wasn’t for the double-glazed donuts and hot buttered popcorn on offer from elsewhere in Europe, Moldova would come off a lot better.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 4
- Fraser 2
- James 8
- Jaz 7
- Martin 5
- Nick 3
- Penny 5
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 8
Moldova’s EBJ Jury score is…5.11
Martin Last year’s EMA was a perfect storm. This year, it was a car crash! What a plummeting drop from one of the best pop entries last year (Here For You), down to the mess that is Blue and Red, with ManuElla trying to be Taylor Swift but ending up being Phoebe from ‘Friends’. Why do I say that? The lyrics of the song, combined with her vocal ‘talents’, border on that almost-comedic sitcom level and the staging is amazingly clichéd, with erratic hand and body movements along with telegraphed facial expressions. Words also fail me regarding the dress reveal – she should have gone the whole hog and worn a blue and red halved dress to ‘put the cherry on the cake’. A probable last-placed semi finalist.
Nick What? A Taylor Swift renaissance piece? Out of Slovenia? What could’ve been a complete disaster (and IS a complete disaster, in the eyes of most) has actually turned out to be one of the year’s biggest charmers! Okay, so a lyric like ‘blue is blue, and red is red’ definitely isn’t winning any songwriting awards, but it fits the air of naïveté that the song so beautifully creates. The 2009-esque country/pop banjo instrumental and admiral outfit don’t go together at all, but it somehow works, like an eclectic fever dream of leftover high school theatre props. ManuElla herself is a surprisingly fitting performer and lends herself to the role demanded by the song. The slight retooling from the initial NF version has added an unnecessary starter, but other than that, it’s a nice strengthening of a song that’s comfortably in my top 10. I’d like to hope that Slovenia could pull out a stunning live and shock everyone by qualifying to the final, but I won’t hold my breath.
Jaz Nope. Just nope. I like Taylor Swift as much as the next person, and I actually miss her country bumpkin days. But even I know that neither the world nor Eurovision needs a poor imitation of Taylor ‘2007’ Swift. Everything about ManuElla’s performance is amateurish, including the costume reveal (and I normally can’t resist one of those), and don’t even get me started on how crazy I’m driven by the childish lyrics of Blue and Red. ‘Blue is blue and red is red’…yeah, thanks for the art lesson, lady. While some countries have really stepped up their game between 2015 and 2016, Slovenia has dropped the ball so violently that it is now lodged in the core of the Earth. Literally the only thing ManuElla has in common with Maraaya is the initial ‘M’. I will commend her for bringing variety to the contest, but seeing as the Netherlands have a country song up their sleeve too – and it’s an infinitely better one – even that’s difficult for me to do. Surely this cheese-fest isn’t making it to Saturday night?
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 10
- Fraser 10
- James 5
- Jaz 2
- Martin 3
- Nick 6
- Penny 7
- Rory 7
- Wolfgang 2
Slovenia’s EBJ Jury score is…5.78
With those six songs sliced, diced and served up on a silver platter, we have a winner – albeit a winner out of a very low-scoring round.
- Malta (7.22)
- Armenia/Australia (6.44)
- Slovenia (5.78)
- Ireland (5.22)
- Moldova (5.11)
Forget water – Ira Losco will be walking on air after taking this one out (well, she would be if a) she knew about it, and b) the EBJ judgments were of any actual importance). How high can she go in Stockholm? She has the potential to impress, but only time (or perhaps rehearsals) will tell how much. Slovenia, Ireland and Moldova, on the other hand, failed to impress the EBJ Jury. Are we psychic enough to have predicted a few non-qualifications here? In a few short weeks, we’ll find out!
Next time, the final round of reviews will see two Aussies and an Irishman walk into a bar, and…hang on. That’s the joke version. It will ACTUALLY see two Aussies and an Irishman free their thoughts on Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, FYR Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine. There is a good chance I’ll be posting that installment from Stockholm (or at least from my AU-SE transit location, Dubai) so it’ll be pretty exotic and awesome and you better check it out or I’ll spread unfortunate rumours about you at the Euroclub.
JESC 2015 Judgments feat. the EBJ Junior Jury | Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino
Hello again, and welcome to the final round of the EBJ Junior Jury’s JESC ’15 reviews!
Before I introduce today’s jurors and then actually allow you to check out their comments, there’s something I have to acknowledge. Something pretty sizeable that has made headlines on Planet Eurovision since the last lot of reviews went live. I cannot sweep it under the glitter-infused rug, not even until JESC is done and dusted. What could I possibly be referring to? Um, only AUSTRALIA BEING CONFIRMED AS NO. 41 FOR STOCKHOLM!!!
Yep, we’re back – but this time, we actually have to earn our place in the final by qualifying from the semis. Fair enough, too. I think most of us knew this news was coming, but it took official confirmation from Eurovision.tv yesterday for me to lose my mind completely and do the world’s greatest victory dance. Okay, so even I have reservations re: the decision – our participation was supposed to be a one-off, and I don’t particularly want the floodgates surrounding the ESC to open in light of possible Aussie permanency, taking the ‘Euro’ out of the equation to a ridiculous extent.
But…OH MY GOD! Basically, though I think this is a terrible idea, I also somehow think it’s a freaking fantastic one. I can’t help being peeing-in-my-pants-a-little thrilled about it, partly because I will get the chance to cheer on an act from my own country at Eurovision, in person. My plan had long been to attend the 60th ESC, so when that didn’t pan out, I thought I was missing my one and only shot at waving an Australian flag with a purpose. But in May, I’m heading to Stockholm for contest 61, and so is a Guy Sebastian successor. Will it be Delta Goodrem, causing all my dreams to come true at once which will in turn cause me to spontaneously combust with excitement (hopefully after Delta’s performance)? We’ll have to wait and see.
Something Australia-related we don’t have to wait long for (this is my segue back to JESC and I’m not ashamed of it) is Bella Paige’s Junior Eurovision performance on Saturday night, or ‘Sunday morning’ as we call it in my time zone. The contest is so close I can barely concentrate on anything else (seriously, don’t try and communicate with me about anything non-Eurovisiony until after the weekend) so before time runs out, here are the final five EBJJJ reviews. Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino: meet your judges!
TODAY’S EBJ JUNIOR JURY
Liam Clark Liam is a Eurovision journalist for escXtra, based in Melbourne, Australia. He first started writing about Eurovision back in 2009, and hasn’t looked back. He’s particularly fond of and has a large amount of expertise in the Baltics, especially Estonia. He first discovered Eurovision in 2003 – the same year as the first Junior contest, when he was still a kid himself. In 2011, he attended JESC in Yerevan (Jaz: IMO, he picked a great year to go!).
Rory Gannon ‘Well hello there, peoples of the internet variety! My name is Rory Gannon, and I am from the Isle of Emeraldness – otherwise known as Ireland. I also work on the website ESC Views, as you might remember from earlier in the year (Jaz: Rory joined me on the EBJ Jury back in May). I was the guy who hated Måns? Well, that really backfired on me, didn’t it! However, we’re here for Junior Eurovision, and hopefully Europe will make the right decision and side with me this time…although, what are the odds of that happening? I started watching this post-ESC 1989 attempt at child labour (I KID!!!) in 2010, and it has never failed to offer up some great songs, which would have to include…ehh…I have always been a fan of Odelia Ranuni (Georgia 2007), Miy Litaak (Ukraine 2010), Nebo (Ukraine 2012), People of the Sun (Armenia 2014), Choco Factory (Armenia 2013), We Are One (Ukraine 2013), Mari Dari (Georgia 2010)…really, there some CHOONS there! Does it make me a bad person that I want some Armenian “shocka” now?’
Jaz “For my last bio *praises the lord* I guess I’ll fill you in on my JESC story. I discovered the contest the same year I discovered the adult contest – 2006 – and that discovery was just as accidental as when I flicked the TV over to SBS one night and saw Lordi on stage with a hot Greek guy and Maria Menounos from Entertainment Tonight and thought ‘What exactly is happening here?’. In May and again in November, I fell in love, and I’ve never looked back either (nor have I gone a day without bringing Eurovision up in conversation since, much to the chagrin of my family and friends). I’m not sure if I can put into words why I love JESC when so many ESC fans don’t. It must be the same thing that draws me to all international competitions where flags are waved – the Olympics, Miss Universe…you name it, I’m glued to the broadcast. Global and pan-European contests just speak to me on a spiritual level. JESC, specifically, is so much fun to watch, and has indeed produced some epic entries over the years. It also allows certain countries (Armenia, Belarus, etc) to shine in a way that they just can’t manage to in the adult contest. All in all, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to see the competing kids having fun and supporting each other…and a little inadequate, given that I’m 24 and still sing more like Jemini than Gaia Cauchi.”
Now that we’ve relayed our JESC-related autobiographies to you (the abridged versions, anyway) it’s time for the EBJ Junior Jury to cast our eye and ear over the remaining entries for 2015. Mishela, Gabriela & Ivan, Ivana & Magdalena, Aimee and Kamilla – the stage is yours!
Liam I feel like I get what Mishela is going for here, but it just never really takes off. The first minute of Dambaje is cute, but then it just repeats itself. She looks like a lovely kid, but I fear that this is just going to bore all of the other kids. 2 points.
Rory There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Albania is my number one this year. When Dambaje became the first entry picked for Junior Eurovision back in the summer, I had a listen to the *incredibly grainy* NF performance and thought that if they revamped it, they’d have a good chance of making it to the top half of the leaderboard. They’ve done that tenfold with the new version! I love the way that it just grows and when I listen to it, I do feel like I’m on the plains of the Serengeti. That, coupled with Mishela’s flexible yet stunning vocal range, gives you a feeling of pure peace and contentment. If there’s one thing I think is a flaw, it’s the fact that the song’s not actually upbeat, and because it’s being performed second last on the night, it just might get lost in the crowd. But, in any case, I’m definitely supporting Mishela this year. #DambaToTheJe, and DOUZE points!!!
Jaz Simply put, Albania had me at ‘song that sounds remotely tribal and would make the soundtrack for an African safari adventure road trip, and/or wouldn’t be out of place playing over the credits of The Lion King’. Zlata Ognevich’s Gravity, Rafael Bobeica’s Cŭm Sa Fim (sent to JESC by Moldova in 2013) and Mishela’s Dambaje have formed a holy trinity of tracks that tickle my tribal fancies no end, and if you’re about to question why, I won’t hear you as I’ll be too busy dancing around a bonfire to the beats of all of the above. Like Rory, I’m transported right to the heart of Africa whenever Mishela utters any of the song’s adorably multi-lingual lyrics. When she’s doing so, she looks so happy that I can’t help being happy too, and that’s the kind of music I like to listen to (for the most part). I feel like this entry is tailor-made for JESC, with those seamless language switches that can grate at Eurovision, but are much more easily carried off by kids. I love the melody of the verses and chorus, the sound of Mishela’s voice…all in all, this blows Albania’s previous debut entry out of the water. But – yes, there is a ‘but’ – there is one thing that I strongly dislike about Dambaje – holy hairnets, it’s repetitive! I mean, if you’re going to write a song with a one-word chorus, you might want to feature those choruses as sporadically as possible so as not to drive listeners insane. That glaring negative aside, I’m a big fan of Albania 2015, and I hope they do a heck of a lot better than they did back in 2012. They definitely deserve to! 10 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 8.00
Liam I never thought I would see a more forced and awkward duet than that of Anita Simoncini and Michele Perniola, but I guess that’s why you never say never. As for the song – well, I’m still listening to it and I’ve already forgotten how it goes. 1 point.
Rory Bulgaria this year is in complete contrast to what I thought of Bulgaria last year. In Malta, Krisia was the odds-on favourite to win the whole show, and I had reason to believe that it would actually happen (although James from the previous round of reviews would disagree with me!) – what with a small girl with a powerful voice singing a power ballad, along with the twins who seemingly went unnoticed (a.k.a. Slovenia every year). Now, this year’s song is more ethnic than Planet of the Children, but it just doesn’t have the same impact on the audience that Krisia’s did. Colour of Hope is just…well, rather lacklustre, in my opinion. It’s missing something that would help it reach its full potential. That doesn’t mean that I hate it – I just wish that it had something more that would make it stand out! And while we’re on about Gabriela, where the hell did that Ivan guy come from? I thought she was singing on her own, and then this guy just pops up out of nowhere. If you ever wanted a Halloween jump scare, that’s where you’re gonna get it, peeps! 6 points.
Jaz Let’s face it – Planet of the Children was always going to be a hard act for hosts Bulgaria to follow (and as IF they were going to find another child who’s as precious as Krisia to sing for them *mimes pinching her cheeks like an overbearing grandmother*). What they have followed it up with is a duet between two singers who mesh about as well as the song as a whole – i.e. not very well. I actually rather like Colour of Hope. The verses are quite unusual and mysterious-sounding, and the guitar work is beautiful – very sophisticated, in fact. The chorus, while cheesy in a way that makes me wonder if Gabriela and Ivan are asking for monetary donations for a charity of some sort, is uplifting and catchy (and very reminiscent of Belarus’ 2010 host entry Muzyki Svet, which was a success in Minsk). The problem is, those verses and that chorus sound like they’ve been lifted from two very different songs, and cobbled together in a non-cohesive manner that just doesn’t feel 100% right. And our two singers – boy, NF winner Gabriela must be peeved at having to share her spotlight – as I said before, aren’t exactly a vocal match made in heaven. Still, there is a lot about their song that intrigues me, and they’ll naturally receive the biggest, loudest round of applause of the evening as the home act. I suspect that’s all they’ll receive though, if you know what I mean (and if you don’t know what I mean, I mean they won’t be walking away with a trophy). 7 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 4.67
Liam There is something wonderfully 1996 about Pletenka. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s there. There isn’t a lot to the song, and it gets repetitive pretty quickly; however, it’s more memorable than some of the other songs on offer. 3 points.
Rory Oh my god, this just SCREAMS nationality, doesn’t it? And in all seriousness, who would sing about a braid? Like, do they mean a braid as in a plait you do in your hair? Or is there something called a “braid” that’s only sold on the streets of Skopje that I’m not aware of? FYR Macedonia, I know you adore your nationalist ways, but you really don’t help your case here. As catchy as this song is and as much “charisma” as Ivana and Magdalena have, I think it would be a fair bet to say that FYR Macedonia will be finishing towards the bottom of the leaderboard. Sorry guys – once you put Comic Sans in your music video, there’s no going back! 5 points.
Jaz Alongside Montenegro, FYR Macedonia are taking me right back to the Junior Eurovisions of yore…or more specifically, JESC 2005. And, as I said when I reviewed Jana’s Oluja, I don’t mind that at all. Back in those days, JESC was ultra childlike; today, it’s more like a mini-Eurovision than anything else. We need slightly amateurish, youthful, artist-penned songs to compete, or else Junior will lose all of its identity as a contest for children. So in that sense, I’m grateful that FYR Macedonia is back and urging us to MAKE A BRAID! This song isn’t musical genius, and it’s not technically put together or particularly well-sung (which means the juries will blank it completely). But it epitomises Junior Eurovision in my opinion, possessing the childlike spirit that dominated the contest ten years ago in truckloads. It’s like a midday movie – complete with second-rate acting and a lack of energy – so bad, it’s good. It won’t go anywhere, but it’s catchy and cute, so I’ll look forward to seeing it on stage rather than being scarred by the dreadful video clip. Plus, I really like the word ‘pletenka’, and plan to use it as often as possible in everyday conversations from now on. Don’t believe me? Well, I’m off to pletenka my hair right this second. But before I go, I’ll give FYR Macedonia 7 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.00
Liam While Destiny from Malta takes us to church in a fun, soul, ‘Sister Act’ kind of way, Aimee is taking us to church in more of an ‘I’ve been dragged here by my parents’ kind of way. Her voice is exquisite, and Réalta na Mara is a beautifully sung song. But it’s not fun, and I think that will really work against it. 7 points.
Rory I always seem to be assigned the group of countries featuring my own…is this rigged?!? (Jaz: Yes, it is!). Right, where do I start on this? For anyone who doesn’t know, I followed the Irish national final on ESC Views’ Twitter, and my favourite song in the entire competition (along with the already selected song for JESC) was Gan Tú by Amy Meehan. When she got knocked out of the competition, I relied on Zena Donnelly to be the beautiful second choice. What happened? She lost to Aimee Banks. I’m afraid to say this, but I don’t like Aimee’s song at all. Although Réalta na Mara is a great piece of music on its own, we’re not really getting the most of what Ireland could possibly send to a music event out of it. I do feel like I can’t understand anything that she’s singing, despite being able to speak Irish almost fluently. I’m sure she’ll do great though, if my luck in the adult contest is anything to go by. But in my opinion, opera is just not the way to go – Federica Falzon was a one-off! 4 points.
Jaz First things first: how great is it to have Ireland – and Irish – represented at JESC for the first time? Pretty darn great, if you ask me. With no history to draw on for comparison, though, it was difficult to predict what the Emerald Isle would send to Sofia. Aimee’s Réalta na Mara is, for the most part, an Irish stereotype tied up with string, but not in a tacky way (thankfully, at the NF, no cardboard four-leaf clovers were strung from the ceiling) and though it is what I expected from Ireland – perhaps hoping for something else – I’m quite drawn to it. There’s something about the chorus, and how gorgeous the Irish sounds in it, that almost gives me goosebumps. It’s not a straight-up spine-tingler, possibly because it doesn’t have a true ‘moment’ to speak of (or vote for, which worries me) but there’s some magic there nonetheless. And you can practically hear the dry ice circulating the stage, which will have the crowd choked up with emotion and smoke inhalation. The biggest draw card here isn’t the song (or the smoke) however – it’s Aimee’s voice, which is nothing short of angelic. Crystal clear and precisely controlled, her vocal will be a stunning sorbet sandwiched between Bella Paige’s belting of My Girls and Mikhail Smirnov’s nice-and-nothing-more rendition of Mechta. Though the juries will likely reward her for her efforts (or effortlessness, in this case), I don’t expect the televoters will warm to an entry that could have won Eurovision 1996 for Ireland if Eimear Quinn had gone AWOL at the last minute and taken The Voice with her. But this package is still class personified, and I think Ireland should be proud to have sent it (did you hear that, Rory?!?). 8 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.33
Liam Mirror features one of the most forced key changes I have ever heard, but I appreciate the effort. This is fun and catchy, and it’s got a good hook. I don’t think it will be at the top of the scoreboard, but it’s fun and should do better than the most serene republic is used to. 6 points.
Rory Finishing off it all is Malala Yousafsai from….San Marino? Okay, there is no denying the fact that Kamilla bears a striking resemblance to Malala – go on, Google the two of them and comment on how similar you think they look! As for the song, I’m left feeling quite….unnerved after listening to it. Mirror is something that you would definitely hear from the likes of Belarus in the adult competition, and in my opinion, it could do a lot better there. And if there’s one thing I could change about this song, it would be Kamilla’s dreadful Italian accent. I mean, I know learning another language is complicated and arduous for some, but you learn the accent of the people! During the song, I just hear what sounds like Russian, but is Italian…like, it’s okay to listen to, but I don’t think we’re gonna see the competition go the top of Mount Titano. They’ll have to import another singer then! Maybe try Monaco next time? 6 points.
Jaz I was fully prepared for a member of The Peppermints to take the reins for San Marino this year…and I still think that would have been a better move than nabbing someone who has allegedly visited the country they’re representing, and nothing more. That’s not to say I’m completely against inter-country artist loans for JESC/ESC purposes, but I’m with Rory – Kamilla’s obviously-non-Italian accent (and non-Italian fluency) is a major distraction from what is a decent and dramatic ballad. And I don’t want to upset anybody, but her vocal on the studio cut of Mirror is very weak. I can’t imagine a voice so sub-par in studio being impressive live. That’s a pain in the behind in my book, because San Marino does have a strong song here, and based on the video for it, they’ll have slick staging too – so the performer is where they’re likely to be let down. Is there definitely no Peppermint still under the age of sixteen who could be drafted in at the final hour? Non? Damn it. I guess I’ll wrap this up then, by saying that song-wise, I give San Marino 7 points for something that’s well-written and makes the most of Italian-English switches; artist-wise, I give them 1 point, because I just can’t stand the sound of Kamilla’s voice (I’m sorry!). Average it out, and that’s 4 points from me.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.33
That’s it! In the (super slow-mo) blink of an eye, all seventeen of Sofia’s hopefuls have been judged and scored by the EBJ Junior Jury. This final round was a pretty interesting one – particularly when you consider that Ireland received its lowest score from the sole Irish member of the jury.
Here’s a distraction from said awkwardness in the form of today’s top five:
- Albania (8.00)
- Ireland (6.33)
- San Marino (5.33)
- FYR Macedonia (5.00)
- Bulgaria (4.67)
Surprisingly, I must say, Albania wins the day thanks to Rory’s douze and my almost-as-strong score, trailed distantly by debutants Ireland. You have to feel for the host country, finishing with the lowest average score of them all. But hey, it’s not like these numbers mean anything in reality. We’re not psychic, and we don’t know how Saturday’s scoreboard will look (although I will be taking a shot at predicting just that prior to the show).
Until that momentous day comes, let us know how you rate the entries from Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino down below. Which country would your douze be doled out to?
COMING UP All of the verdicts are in, and the EBJ Junior Jury has its Top 17 for 2015! So, alongside a bunch of hopes and predictions for JESC ‘15, I’ll be unveiling the collaborative ranking this weekend. Who’ll finish where? Will the leaderboard in any way resemble the actual results? Is anybody even reading this bit right now? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions yet, but I hope you’ll drop by for ze rankings and ze predictions anyway.
IT’S TIME!!! With Eurovision so close I could almost touch it (if I had ridiculously long arms) it’s beyond appropriate for me to kick off my 2015 reviews right here, right now. But wait – there’s more!
For the first time this year, I decided I wasn’t going to review song after song (after song) all on my lonesome. Not when, thanks to modern technology, I knew I had army of Eurovision fanatics from all over the globe at my disposal. Granted, the recruitment ended with the EBJ Jury mostly being made up of Australians, but…what can I say? Together, we’re large and in charge. Kind of.
The EBJ Jury, in case you were wondering, is the highly imaginative name I came up with to describe the
slaves hard-working fans I duped into helping me out. Each week, a different pair of ESC obsessives (though some faces will appear on a few occasions) will join me to judge five of the songs that will take to the Wiener Stadthalle stage next month. We’ll each award these songs ESC-style points (what else?) and I’ll calculate an average figure that will become that country’s ranking score. It’s all pretty straightforward, though I know I’ve made it seem the opposite.
So, are you up for meeting today’s jurors? I hope so, because here they are!
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Rory Gannon: “HELL-OHHHHH guys! My name is Rory and I am the beautiful (ish) age of 16. I currently co-run a little blog called ESC Views (where your Eurovision views are brought to you..or are they?!) and…well, I suppose I’m pretty much the definition of a non-conforming Eurovision fan; in other words, if there’s a fanwank *ahem* Sweden *ahem*, I’m sure to hate it! I’ve been to two magnificent Eurovisions – Düsseldorf in 2011 and Malmö in 2013 – I know, jealous much? *wink* Oh, and just so you know, I didn’t cheer for my homeland of Ireland – that really just ain’t my thing! My favourite songs from Eurovision would have to include the AMAYYYYZIN My Słowianie (I know, weird right?!), Ein Lied Kann Eine Brücke Sein aaaaaand……hmm., Birds too. It is quite an odd range, but, myeh, each to their own!”
Matt Kelly: “I’m Matt from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as the locals like to refer to it), Australia. I “star” in a Eurovision show on YouTube called escTMI (I know, I need to get a life). In 2013 I was lucky enough to do the pilgrimage to Malmö to attend my first Eurovision. What a dream it was. This year I’ll be doing that loong flight to Europe again to attend the contest in Vienna.”
Jasmin Bear: “My name is Jasmin, but I’m known in Eurovision circles as ‘Jaz’. I’m guessing you’re somewhat familiar with me as you’re currently reading my blog. Eurovision is my life passion, even if my family and (some of) my friends can’t comprehend that, and I think about it on average six times a minute. I’ve never attended a contest, but you can bet your plagiarized stick-figure man that if Sweden wins in Vienna – and, to be honest, even if they don’t – I’m going in 2016, gosh darn it! My all-time favourite ESC entry is Lane Moje by Željko Joksimovic, as I’m a sucker for a big Balkan ballad, and I truly believe that Sanna Nielsen is angel sent from Eurovision and/or Melodifestivalen heaven…a place I’m very keen to visit in the distant future.”
Now we’re all acquainted, let’s get cracking on EBJ’s 2015 reviews – reviews that are being conducted collaboratively for the first time in my five-and-a-half-year history. Y’all must be so relieved to be getting a break from my solo Eurovisual ramblings.
Ahem. We’ll begin with Russia, and continue with Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia.
A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina
Rory: Ooohh….okay, I’m going to try not to offend anyone if I can, but that might a bit of a mammoth task! So yeah, I’m pretty much neutral on Russia’s song this year. I mean, the song is okay, a tad mediocre if I’m to say something negative about it, but Polina is a great singer. And also, I really don’t agree with the whole booing Russian artists thing – don’t blame Polina, Masha, Nastya or Dima – they didn’t do anything. Join in with Stephane & 3G and blame Putin! Getting back to the actual song here, I’m sure it’ll do well and I hope Polina does do well, but it’s just not the sort of song I would find myself listening to post-Eurovision. 4 points.
Matt: I love an anthem – a song that you can sing along to in the car at the top of your lungs. A Million Voices is an anthem with a beautiful message of peace and acceptance. The video is gorgeous, filled with beautiful, happy children dancing around with Polina. It almost has me believing that everything in the world is hunky-dory. This song would be one my favourites if it was from any country other than Russia. Why does Russia keep sending these anthems of world peace? It’s such a joke and it’s nothing more than propaganda. I know Eurovision is a song contest, and politics shouldn’t come into it, but Polina is representing her country, and the song’s message is totally contradictory to Russian politics. Russia, next year, please think about sending a simple song about love, and maybe people won’t be so upset. Cue the booing. 7 points.
Jaz: Another year, another “inspirational” ballad from Russia about peace, love and understanding, and all that nausea-inducing schmaltz. There’s very little authenticity to this entry, from the cliché lyrics to the fact that few – if any – Russians were involved in writing them (I know a ton of countries search internationally for songs, but that kind of shopping around always rubs me up the wrong way). And yet, the package is partially saved by a) a decent melody; b) a big, instant chorus; and c) Polina’s mesmerising looks and powerful (at least within the walls of a recording studio) voice. So I’m torn. It’s 2015, and this isn’t a song you’d hear outside of Eurovision, unless Celine Dion was performing it during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. That aspect, I dislike. But A Million Voices is the less cheesy cousin of 2013’s What If, which I did end up falling for and which gave Russia a very good result. I’m giving it a conflicted 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 5.66
I Am Yours by The Makemakes
Rory: Hmm..I really am quite indifferent to Austria this year. Okay, the song as a standalone would fare very well in terms of being on the radio and trying to promote an album of some sort, but this is a competition we’re talking about here – you either have to make a mark on people’s minds or get out, and Austria aren’t managing to make that happen this year. I hope they do well, purely for the fact that they’re gonna put on a great show, but that’s pretty much it for me. 5 points.
Matt: Austria has sent another attractive bearded singer with flowing locks. The MakeMakes’ song I Am Yours is everything a host country wants: it’s a nice, easy-listening, inoffensive song that won’t come last and definitely won’t win. The song starts off promisingly, evoking thoughts of Coldplay, but you soon realise it’s going nowhere. It’s repetitive and just plain dull. Not even setting the piano on fire can manage to inject interest into the performance. 6 points.
Jaz: Host entries usually fall into one of two categories – either they’re lacklustre as heck because the host country has bigger fish to fry and/or doesn’t want to win again; or they’re epic, presumably by accident when the host country stopped trying too hard to pick a winner because they didn’t have to. I Am Yours, however, is a mixture of the two for me. While I accept that it’s low-key and unlikely to trouble the top of the scoreboard (which for some people, would make it lacklustre) I really enjoy listening to it, and I think it’s an entry Austria should be proud to present to Europe (and Australia) on home soil. The resemblances the chorus bears to Coldplay’s The Scientist might give it a flicker of familiarity that works in its favour come May. The Makemakes make (#hadto) for a very nice, if not ground-breaking, choice to succeed Conchita. 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
N’oubliez Pas by Lisa Angell
Rory: When I heard this song for the first time, I didn’t quite get it. For me, N’oubliez Pas was just another ballad flower in the meadow. But after listening to it for a few months, I do feel like it has grown on me. It’s a little bit like Riverdance: it starts off really timid and quiet and it grows and grows until you get the dramatic climax at the end of the song. Lisa can deliver the song well live, but I just hope she can manage to repeat it onstage in Vienna – let’s face it, the French need it! 7 points.
Matt: The French entries always seem to cop a lot of flack and I’m not sure why. The good thing is it doesn’t seem to deter them. If something doesn’t work one year, they send something totally different the next. Lisa Angell is a million miles away from 2014’s Twin Twin. Her song is a haunting ballad that’s totally old-school Eurovision. It builds in all the right places and ends with a bang right on the three-minute mark. In a year full of ladies singing ballads, N’oubliez Pas is the most sophisticated – the Chanel of ballads. 7 points.
Jaz: I don’t know how much I have to say about France this year, aside from BRING BACK THE MOUSTACHE! How many adjectives can you employ to describe a rather anonymous, bordering-on-pretty ballad? A ballad that’s competing in a field overgrowing with similar, arguably better songs? This is perfectly acceptable. It plods along nicely, and Lisa performs it like the seasoned professional she is, giving those of us non-fluent in French just enough emotion to realise there’s a story behind the song…even if we’re not 100% on what it is until we Google it. But does it excite me like Twin Twin’s quirky mod-pop did? Nope. Will N’oubliez Pas fare better than last place with two points? Oui, but that means little to me. I’d rather support an entry that floats my boat and watch it fail than see one that makes me feel nothing succeed. 5 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.33
Playing With Numbers by Molly Sterling
Rory: I’m trying not to sound like a patriotic twat, but I swear to god, this normally doesn’t happen! I – for once – love my country’s song! Well, I’d have much preferred Erika instead, but Playing With Numbers was always going to be a close second place. I will admit, the song is a bit of a grower, but with all the recaps that ORF will be showing, surely that little segment will stick in people’s minds! No? Plus, I MET the one and only Molly backstage after she won (that’s right, we’re going up in the world!!) and OMG, guys, she is such a modest person for a 17-year-old. Don’t deny her the chance of showcasing her work to the world! 10 points.
Matt: Molly was my favourite from this year’s Irish selection. She was the most original and talented participant, but I’m not sure Ireland’s best will be good enough, which is a shame as Ireland has had really bad luck in the last couple of years of the contest. The song is nice – think Missy Higgins – but it isn’t interesting enough to stand out from the other, bigger ballads. I think people will listen to this for a minute, then take the opportunity to head to the loo. 5 points.
Jaz: No need to call the doctor, folks – I can tell you right here, right now that what Ireland is suffering from is a classic case of Grower Syndrome. My prescription: repeated listens that, if you’re anything like me, will have you head over heels for Playing With Numbers in no time. The first time I heard this, my brain went ‘meh’, although I was relieved Ireland had selected one of the most decent songs possible. But the more ear-time I gave to Molly’s three minutes, the more I found myself appreciating the sentiment of the song – and thinking ‘Dayum gurl, that chorus is catchy!’. Compare Playing With Numbers to Russia’s song, and it’s clear that Ireland has the authenticity and believable sentiment that Russia lacks. No doubt Molly will struggle to hit Polina’s heights, but if nothing else, I can happily say this: all is forgiven, Ireland, for that aesthetically-displeasing car crash of Copenhagen. 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.66
Beauty Never Lies by Bojana Stamenov
Rory: I really do like Serbia this year. It was always a sure thing that Bojana was going to represent them – she obviously had the most sass up on that stage! It did seem a bit better in its original Serbian version, but it still has that captivating and empowering message behind it and for that, I’d like to applaud Miss Stabmyknife for her ability to draw us into her performance. I just hope first-time listeners can understand the same feeling on the night! 7 points.
Matt: Oh, a diva singing a huge anthem! Yes please, and thank you Serbia – you rarely disappoint. Bojana Stamenov just blows me away. Her voice is huge. Sure, the English version of the song is a little clichéd and I do prefer the original Serbian version, but it’s brilliantly crafted. It starts out slowly and quietly, then slowly builds, and at the 1:45 mark, the disco beat kicks in and Bojana grabs you by the hand and drags you onto the dance floor. It takes me to Eurovision heaven. Amazing. 10 points.
Jaz: Oh, Serbia. What has become of you? You were once a country who could be relied upon to provide beautiful, mystical and always classy Balkan ballads. Now, after a costume-related disaster and a year of Eurovision vacation (minus JESC) you’ve come back not so much with a bang as with a fart noise. Beauty Never Lies definitely stinks, IMO – not because of Bojana, whose voice, like the Wizard of Oz, is great and powerful. It’s not even due to the song itself, since music-and-melody-wise, it’s fine. But once Ceo Svet Je Moj became Beauty Never Lies, it dropped from the halfway range of my Top 40 ranking to the very bottom. The English rewrite of this song is dreadful, packed with lame lyrics that take power away from the song rather than boosting it. I don’t think a Eurovision song has ever come this close to actually making me vomit before. Shame on you, Serbia. 1 point for the melody + 2 points for Bojana = 3 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.66
That’s it for the first episode of Viennese Verdicts, folks. After five catty and complimentary reviews, the EBJ Jury standings are as follows:
1. Ireland (7.66)
2. Serbia (6.66)
3. France (6.33)
4. Austria (6.00)
5. Russia (5.66)
I’ll be revealing the EBJ Jury Top 40 in the final episode, mid-May. For now, 35 songs remain for us to comment on, and any one of them has the potential to sweep Miss Sterling off the top of the list, or bump Polina from the bottom. You’ve already witnessed how different fan opinions can be (Serbia certainly divided us!) so anything could happen.
For Part 2 of the Viennese Verdicts, I’m bringing you my thoughts on the entries from the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland – with the added perspectives of an American Eurovision aficionado, and my mum. Yes, you read that right – Mrs. Jaz was roped into reviewing some of the 2015 competitors. And let me tell you, getting her to be honest was not a problem.
While you’re waiting (on the edge of your seats, I’m sure) for that, answer me this in the comments: how do your rankings of Ireland, Serbia, France, Austria and Russia stack up against the EBJ Jury’s? Who read your mind with their reviews, and who had you concerned for the state of their mental health? Sharing is caring, so let us know below!
Until next time…
The best thing about the selection season being over (well, the only thing, really…sob!) is that we get to bask in the wonderfulness of the music that didn’t make the final cut. Every year brings with it a truckload of great songs from all over Europe that will eventually be added to NF-themed playlists of people all over the world.
Of course, the end of the season ain’t all fun and games and compiling playlists when you should be doing more important things. There are also those hours spent mourning the fact that certain preselection entries came so close to securing that ticket to Eurovision, only to be pipped by something clearly inferior. But hey, that’s a first world problem that we ESC fans just have to deal with.
2013 brought us a lot of excellent stuff that almost made it. In case you couldn’t keep up with it all, or just want a reminder of what’s what on the wonderfulness front, I present to you my guide to the best of those near misses – the songs that placed either 2nd or 3rd in their NFs, whether deservedly (because they were just as good or not quite as good as the winners) or not (because they were OBVIOUSLY BETTER). And just for good measure, I’ve thrown in some random favourites. I hope you find something here to go crazy for.
The ones that got away
First and foremost, here are the almosts that I feel would have been better choices to send to Malmö. I suspect there’ll be regret from a few countries, when their chosen ones crash and burn…
Reste Toi by Roberto Bellarosa (Belgium, unplaced) – Don’t get me wrong; I am a Love Kills fan (there’s about three of us worldwide). But this bouncy, French-language number suited Roberto more than Love Kills, mainly because his grasp of singing in English leaves a lot to be desired. Belgium’s chances of qualifying would have increased a little too, I think, had this been picked.
Dzupai, Libe Boso by Elitsa & Stoyan (Bulgaria, 3rd) – Of the three songs included in the Bulgarian selection, this is the one I know I’m not supposed to like. But I do, darn it. Bulgaria are going to be pushed to qualify as usual, so it wouldn’t have made much difference which song they picked. But when it’s between this and Samo Shampioni (excluding the superior Kismet which was never going to happen thanks to those “copyright issues”) I vote this.
Päästke Noored Hinged by Grete Paia (Estonia, 2nd) – This may well be the most painful loss of the whole season for me. I think Estonia went down the safe path with Birgit and her nice, well performed but wholly unmemorable ballad that has no chance of measuring up to Ott and Kuula. The Estonia that chose Malcolm Lincoln would have gone for Grete’s dynamic electro-pop, and would have improved their chances by doing so.
Angel by Alex Leon feat. Giorgina (Greece, 2nd) – Alcohol Is Free wasn’t a terrible winner from Greece by any means. It’s fun, catchy and much less contrived than Aphrodisiac, but the fact of the matter is that I personally prefer Angel. This is a complex song with a lot going on in the three minutes, and that’s what I like about it. The key words? Sophisticated and current.PS – don’t expect to like it if you didn’t like Cyprus’ wailing banshee of 2011.
Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir (Iceland, 2nd) – Again, what we’re actually getting here is a decent track. But Unnur’s song (and Unnur herself) is so adorable, and so entertaining. It’s got this irresistibly happy vibe to it that reminds me of Regina Osk’s entry in the Icelandic final last year, which was also relegated in favour of something more serious. I want to see fun Iceland again.
Emilia by Electric Fence (Romania, 2nd) – I’m thoroughly weirded out by Romania this year, so even though you could say Electric Fence are weird too, I wish they’d gotten their Eurovision chance in 2013. I hate to keep using the word ‘fun’, but how much fun is this song? Too much, that’s how much. It’s a quirky circus and a half.
The ones I would have enjoyed at Eurovision
Now for the songs I’m not exactly weeping into my keyboard over losing, but that I would have been excited to see grace the stage in Sweden. Maybe some of these artists will get their turn in the near future.
Kush Ta Dha Këtë Emër? by Hersi Matmuja (Albania, 3rd) – An unusual ballad, well sung like everything is from Albania. Try to ignore Hersi’s dreadful Wendy-from-Peter-Pan nightgown.
Nackert by LaBrassBanda (Germany, 2nd) – I didn’t expect this to do as well as it did in Unser Song Für Malmö, but that’s no surprise considering my shocking prediction skills. Douze points for the trumpets!
Crashing Down by Aimée Fitzpatrick (Ireland, 2nd) – This ballad and Only Love Survives were easily the best of the otherwise tragic Irish finalists. It would have made a lovely alternative choice for them. Aimée’s inexperience gave her an appealing vulnerability that really worked for the song.
Toda La Noche by Meital De Razon & Asi Tal (Israel, 3rd) – After last year’s fail, it would have been excellent to see Israel come back with a bang. This would have been that bang, with more of those trumpets that I apparently love so much.
War In The Wardrobe by Gerai Gerai and Miss Sheep (Lithuania, 3rd) – Lithuania always manage to qualify when I least expect it. I wonder if that would have happened had they chosen this, some would say, un-Eurovision-like slice of electronica?
Betrayed by Davinia Pace (Malta, 3rd) – You may call her Pace…Davinia Pace. Because this Bond, James Bond-inspired number is full of drama, unlike Tomorrow. Here’s hoping the next blockbuster in the Bond franchise is named after it.
Bombo by Adelén (Norway, 2nd) – This has arguably been the biggest success of the whole selection season, and I completely understand why. 16-year-old Adelén needs some time to develop her vocal, but with a song this infectious I can cut her some slack.
Tell The World I’m Here by Ulrik Munther (Sweden, 3rd) – I’ll admit, it’s Ulrik I want to see at Eurovision more than any song. It just wasn’t meant to be this year, with the line of thinking being that he tried too hard to best his 3rd place in Melodifestivalen 2012.
The rest of the best
Get Out of My Way by Satsura (Belarus, 3rd) – This is fierce, y’all. Like, bordering on aggressive. But coming from a shirtless muscle man like Satsura, I find that perfectly acceptable. I’d get out of his way anytime.
Unbreakable by Mohamed (Denmark, 2nd)
Stay Awake by Simone (Denmark, 3rd)
We Should Be Through by Mikael Saari (Finland, 2nd)
Colliding Into You by Diandra (Finland, 3rd)
Úgy Fáj by Gigi Radics (Hungary, 2nd) – I wouldn’t willingly trade ByeAlex’s Kedvesem for anything, but if I was forced, this up-tempo ballad performed brilliantly by Gigi would take its place.
I Need A Hero by Samanta Tina (Latvia, 2nd)
I Am Who I Am by Marta Ritova (Latvia, 3rd)
Time To Shine by Girmantė Vaitkutė (Lithuania, 2nd)
Needing You by Kevin Borg (Malta, 2nd)
Runaways by Boris Covali (Moldova, 2nd)
I Love You Te Quiero by Sirkus Eliassen (Norway, 3rd)
Spas by Dušan Svilar (Serbia, 2nd) – This is the type of big, Balkan ballad more like what we’re used to hearing from Serbia (as opposed to Ljubav Je Svuda).
Dame Tu Voz by ESDM (Spain, 3rd)
Heartbreak Hotel by YOHIO (Sweden, 2nd)
Forever & A Day by Jesse Ritch (Switzerland, 3rd)
Some less successful favourites from the season
Give Me A Sign by Elija (Austria, 4th)
Secret by Uzari (Belarus, 8th)
Human by Brinck (Denmark, unplaced)
Jeg Har Hele Tiden Vidst Det by Frederikke (Denmark, unplaced)
Enough by Elina Born (Estonia, 8th)
The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory (Germany, 7th)
Lalala by Betty Dittrich (Germany, 8th)
One by Niko (Latvia, 6th)
Fantasy by Danica Muscat (Malta, unplaced in semi)
Det Vakje Mi Tid by Martin Blomvik (Norway, unplaced in semi)
Dumb by Amanda Fondell (Sweden, 7th in semi)
Point Of No Return by Melissa (Switzerland, 4th)
Overwhelmed? Let me help…
To summarise the blah blah blah above, here are my top 10 picks of the entire NF season. If you haven’t already and you’re keen to listen to a bunch, these are the ones I’d recommend.
#1 Päästke Noored Hinged by Grete Paia
#2 Úgy Fáj by Gigi Radics
#3 Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir
#4 Bombo by Adelén
#5 The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory
#6 Toda La Noche by Meital De Razon & Asi Tal
#7 Emilia by Electric Fence
#8 Human by Brinck
#9 Secret by Uzari
#10 Betrayed by Davinia Pace
I didn’t follow every single NF in detail (who does?) but I hope what I managed to cover and highlight today was comprehensive enough to live up to the word ‘guide’. Now comes the part where I ask you a bunch of questions that may or may not be irritating depending on your mood…a.k.a. the end.
So, what did you think of my favourite national finalists? Which ones (included here or not) will be going onto your iPod ASAP?
Aphrodisiac/ Eleftheria Eleftheriou
The good stuff: After three years of sending middle-aged men, giant staplers and a university lecturer in a baseball cap to Eurovision (though not at the same time) Greece has reverted back to the tried-and-tested formula of a (most-likely) scantily clad young woman singing a generic but infuriatingly catchy pop song with a bit of bouzouki thrown in for adequate measure. This decision is fine by me! I’ve really missed the Helena Paparizou/Sarbel/Kalomira-esque entries that Aphrodisiac is clearly modeled after, even though in 2012 they may sound passé. Every time I hear this song, I can picture an awesome stage show that features traditional line dancing and slick choreography, and maybe a costume reveal. Then again, with the Greek economy in such a shocking state, Eleftheria may be forced to run around the stage in a hessian sack whilst her lone backing singer makes shadow puppets.
Everything else: My one major bone to pick with this has to do with the lyrics. It is three minutes of cliché after cliché about minds and times and dancing and falling and all that tired old jazz. Don’t get me wrong, I’d never expect a song like this to be all poetic and deep. I just think another half-hour or so at the writing desk could have produced some slightly more original lyrics for us all to sing along to.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
Sound of Our Hearts/ Compact Disco
[You’ll have to imagine a photo of Compact Disco being here, because my PC has another case of Irefusetouploadthispictureitis]
Best lyric: ‘Harmony can be achieved, just find some way to get connected…’
The good stuff: Firstly, claps for Hungary for coming back after failing to meet expectations last year (although Kati Wolf’s hairdo defied all expectations, and the laws of gravity). This year, they’ve made an interesting choice which could get them a decent result or go absolutely nowhere. Personally, I’m a fan, and I hope it at least gets them out of their semi. It’s a nice, solid pop-rock number with a well-executed chorus which screams “SING ALONG TO ME!”
Everything else: There’s not a lot to do to it – I mean, you can’t really dance to it, and waving a flag/glowstick/pair of underpants would get tedious with that tempo. Because of that, I don’t know how well it will go down in the arena.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
Never Forget/ Greta Salomé & Jónsi
The good stuff: I feel like Iceland want to win bad this year, and I’m wishing them the best of luck (how amazing would a Reykjavik Eurovsion be?) Greta and Jónsi – a.k.a. His Royal Hotness, who has already stepped on the ESC stage, back in 2004 – could well make it happen with this epic effort that makes the best use of violins since Rybak’s Fairytale. Plus, it has one of the best videos of this year’s contest. If they don’t bring the aurora borealis with them to Baku I’ll be crushed.
Everything else: I knew it was coming. After the Icelandic final, the winning song is always put back into English (if that was the original language) or is translated into it for whatever reason. But that doesn’t stop me from missing Mundu Eftir Mér, which had a little extra magic, just like Aftur Heim (which became Coming Home) in 2011, and many previous Icelandic entries. The English version in this case is at the better end of the scale, but I just don’t feel quite as strongly about it.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.
The good stuff: This isn’t that bad considering it has been passed over more than once, allegedly, by other artists, including Eric Saade (if he’d gone to Düsseldorf with it, he wouldn’t have proved quite as Popular. Get me?). Can Jedward improve on last year’s 8th place with it, though? I’m not so sure. It’s an inoffensive poppy number that the twosome will undoubtedly throw all their energy (which is about 100x the amount that us regular folk possess) into performing, while their hard-working backing singers throw all their energy into making John and Edward sound like their vocals are up to scratch. I like the whole watery metaphor going on in this too, although I don’t think any woman would like to go down as ‘the big one’.
Everything else: It’s both tiring and tired to have the twins back in Eurovision with no respite. At least Zdob şi Zdub gave us a break! Since they’re back with an entry that’s more album-filler than contest winner (especially in comparison to Lipstick) I think they’ll struggle to make the top 10. Europe might be over seeing double.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.
The good stuff: This is such a charming little ditty. I realise that using the word ‘ditty’ ages me about fifty years, but it fits Time so nicely. It’s a strange choice of song for Eurovision, but it definitely stands out from the rest in the way Malcolm Lincoln’s song did inOslo. First-time listeners will hang around to hear where it goes. The mix of Hebrew and English works well. All in all, the song wouldn’t be out of place on [Australian indie radio station] Triple J.
Everything else: With a preview video reminiscent of Daniel Diges’ for Algo Pequenito, let’s hope the Israeli Jimmy Jump doesn’t get any stage-invading ideas. Then again,Ukraine’s 2011 video was also set at the circus, so perhaps Izabo will hire a sand artist to accompany them.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.
Beautiful Song/ Anmary
The good stuff: Songs that tell you something usually tell you wrong – think We Are The Winners (yeah, not quite) or That Sounds Good To Me (which sounded good to nobody). But I’ve got to admit, lyrics aside, Anmary’s Beautiful Song doesn’t fall too short of being just that. It’s almost like a slower, more melodious version of Alejandro by Lady Gaga, only this songstress is too sensible to wear those ridiculous lobster claw shoes (which says a lot). I really like the way the song develops. If the lyrics were different and not acted out just so it’s clear how silly they are, I’d say Latvia made a great choice.
Everything else: Unfortunately, Anmary was born in distant 1980 when Irish Johnny Logan won, so the lyrics tell us. If only she’d been born in 1979, because ‘Milk & Honey with Gali Atari’ is much harder to fit into a song. Also, what is up with that wide-eyed look this women adopts when she’s singing (at least in the NF performance I saw)? I can only assume she was engaged in a staring contest with somebody in the audience. It’s safe to say you won, Anmary…you can blink again.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
NEXT TIME: Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro and the Netherlands – it’s your time to be criticised and/or praised!