This is it! I’ve finally finished reviewing all 41 Eurovision 2019 entries, just in time for Sunday’s opening party to signal the start of ESC week…as opposed to ESC rehearsal week, which we’ve been living and breathing since last weekend.
I don’t know about you, but I’m damn ready for this contest while also not being ready at all. Maybe because it came around quicker than Kseniya Simonova can mime Moldova’s “snow art” at double speed. Still, all that’s left for me to do is hang up my flags, buy my snacks and plan my SF1 voting strategy. Oh, and publish this round of reviews, obviously.
Keep reading to find out what I think of Bilal, S!sters, Kobi, Mahmood, Miki and Michael’s songs for next Saturday night. And keep in mind that I wrote these reviews before France et cetera had hit the Expo Tel Aviv stage, so any comments I made about staging were speculative. Speculative and arguably better than what some countries actually came up with.
PS – If you want to catch up on any of my other 2019 reviews, you can find them all here.
France + Eurovision = c’est magnifique these days. It all started with Amir back in 2016, and the run of absolute quality continued with Alma and Madame Monsieur. Not only have their eventual entries been amazing, but the standard of songs in their NF Destination Eurovision – held during the past two selection seasons – has been sky high. Voice Kids alumnus, social media star and Conchita worshipper Bilal Hassani emerged victorious from the 2019 show, having battled some tough competition and a lot of haters. The haters didn’t disappear after his win, but his fans will give him all the support he needs as he takes on Tel Aviv in style. I’m definitely a fan, but not just of Bilal. Roi is also doing all the right things for me.
Co-written by Madame Monsieur, this song is nothing like Mercy but it does have a message. It’s all about self-empowerment, standing up for yourself, owning your individuality and wearing huge blinged-up shoulderpads. I can personally relate to all of that (don’t underestimate the power of giving shape to your shoulders, people). Anyway, those themes are wrapped up in a pop-ballad package that manages to be quintessentially French without being stereotypically French. Maybe it’s the language mix, with the lyrics flitting between Française and Anglaise faster than you can say baguette. That technique has been used a few times by France at Eurovision events, including ESC 2007 and JESC 2018 – and they know how to do it well. Madame Monsieur know how to pen a current-sounding pop song well too, and though Roi isn’t as contemporary or powerful as Mercy, it still has a lot to offer. Every bit of it is catchy and consistent in its Frenglish; it has plenty of different segments that stop it sounding repetitive or becoming boring; the chorus is strong and easy to sing along to; and the lyrics make the message clear if you speak English and/or French (and if you speak neither, Bilal’s hand-crown helps get the meaning across). I really liked this track the first time I heard it, and it’s continued to grow on me like a sophisticated French fungus ever since.
In all honesty, however, the song pales in comparison to Bilal himself. He has to be my favourite personality of the 2019 contest – he’s fun, flamboyant and friendly, with star power but the kind of down-to-earth nature that makes me want him as my celebrity BFF. And of course, he can sing, dress to impress and rock flowing blonde wigs better than anyone. What’s wrong with this picture I’ve painted? Well, not much. But sadly I can’t see France going too far with Roi. Though plenty of people will be seeing and hearing this entry for the first time during the final (or when it’s previewed during the semis), with so many other standouts bound to catch their eyes and ears, I don’t like its chances. France’s fate might depend on how the Roi staging has evolved, but I can’t imagine they’ll be a televote or jury favourite. From that 6th place in 2016 to 12th and then 13th place last year, they’ve been drifting downwards, and I suspect that will continue to be the case with Bilal…but I’m hoping to be so wrong everybody will laugh at me later.
In a line A powerful, appealing piece of multilingual pop fronted by an awesome human 2018 VS 2019 2019 by one of Bilal’s wig hairs Predicted result 14th-18th My score 10 points
Okay, Germany: take a seat, because it’s time we had a serious talk. But first, some context. Michael Schulte did a top job of making our jaws drop last year when he finished 4th (don’t pretend you saw that coming). As always, when a country does randomly well after years of doing the opposite, I hoped his result would be the start of another successful streak for Germany. The contents of their 2019 national final seemed to promise the same thing. Then, last-minute wildcard addition Sister won it. How that happened is still a mystery to me, though I know we’re about to enter Eurovision week and I should move on from NF drama. But I just don’t get it. What did this entry have to offer that the other German songs didn’t? It wasn’t performed better or staged better than the rest, and the song was weak by comparison. Now it’s lost the one thing that made it memorable (the giant lazy Susan, which presumably goes on the table that belongs with Leonora’s giant chair). And I suspect that’s not the only thing Germany is going to lose.
There are a few bones to pick here without even mentioning the quality of the song: the ‘!’ in S!sters (that kind of stylisation was last considered cool circa 2002); the fact that the song title is virtually the same as the group name; Carlotta and Laura not actually being related (making my last point even more irritating); and the knowledge that Sister was rejected by Switzerland before being picked up, dusted off and dropped on Germany’s doorstep. As for the song itself…well, after my first listen I pegged it as this year’s 26th placer. That’s not because it’s terrible – I wouldn’t say it was. But it is a big pile of nothingness. It’s not instant, it has no call to action, it’s not dramatic enough to be a musical theatre number but too overblown to be an appealing pop ballad…there’s just nothing to grab on to. The verses sound like they’re still in the workshopping process, with a stilted structure and questionable lyrics. The chorus isn’t bad until the girls start shouting ‘SISTER!’ repeatedly at each other. And the whole thing is too slow and plodding, with not enough going on throughout the three minutes to make it feel like three minutes instead of ten. Carlotta and Laura are lovely, I’m sure, and they do the best they can with the material they’ve been given. But that material is not up to scratch.
I think Germany’s recent last places at Eurovision have been undeserved. But this year, there is no other entry already in the final or likely to qualify from the semis that deserves to finish lower than this. Not having seen S!sters’ new and (probably not) improved staging as I type this, I can’t imagine they’ve miraculously given themselves a chance of finishing above 26th. What else can I say about this? Switzerland made the right move rejecting it. And if Germany wanted to build on their 2018 triumph, they would have been better off sending Makeda or my preferred pick Linus Bruhn (whose performance needed polishing, but who had potential) to Israel. Or you know, LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE. I’m sorry for all the negativity, and I know the same amount of time and effort has been invested in this entry as in the other 40. But I’m disappointed. And as S!sters keep saying ad nauseum, if you feel something, ‘don’t you try to hide it, SISTERRRRR.’
In a line A non-event with a good message but few other redeeming features 2018 VS 2019 2018, in news that will shock no one Predicted result 26th My score 4 points
It’s host country time! The aptly-titled Home is Israel’s first post-win entry since 1999, and I don’t think Kobi can hold a candle to Eden and Yom Huledet. But who could? The correct answer is ‘no one’. Kobi has nothing in common with the boy band anyway, though there were enough Kobis in his music video to create one (nobody show it to Simon Cowell, for god’s sake). 20 years later, Israel is sending a solo singer down the road to the arena with a dramatic operatic ballad. It’s safe to say they haven’t attempted to repeat their 2018 winning formula here. RIP chicken clucks, Pokémon references and plagiarism lawsuits from the White Stripes.
My first experience with Home was not a good one. Having been drawn in by those ethnic wails at the beginning, I was feeling it. Then the wails turned out to be false advertising for a haunting Israeli masterpiece that never materialised, and I felt cheated. What did materialise was pompous and over-pronounced and self-indulgent. But two things happened after that. One, I got to know Kobi and discovered that he’s next-level likeable, which automatically forced me to be kindlier about his song. Two, I listened to said song a few more times, and in shocking news (because this never happens *insert sarcasm here*) I came around. I realise grower songs aren’t great for a contest relying heavily on instant appeal. But regardless, Home has made progress with me. I’m not turned off by the dramatics any more, I appreciate the melody and slow burn, and I feel like Kobi can do it all justice with a voice that understandably won him The Next Star. If I compare Home to other recent (ish) male operatic entries, it comes out on top of My Heart Is Yours – Norway’s 2010 host entry – and Sognu from France in 2011. It still sits way below Grande Amore from Il Volo, but that’s the pinnacle of the genre and cannot be beaten. For me, Home is average with a tendency to be slightly above. If I had to give it a grade on a report card I’d go with a B minus, but I would have given it a D a few weeks ago.
I may not be a Home hater any more, yet the song still isn’t what I wanted from Israel this year. I was hoping for something more like their 2018 Junior Eurovision entry or The Fire In Your Eyes: something spellbinding and ethnic. Even a song feat. some Hebrew would have been nice, but they opted for a full English breakfast instead. With Madonna being shipped in as an interval act, Home seems like another missed opportunity for Israel to show off some culture. Host entries have set up camp in Struggletown lately, and while I think Kobi can do more for Israel than The Makemakes did for Austria and Cláudia Pascoal did for Portugal (not that they deserved to hit rock bottom) I would be surprised to see him on the left side of the scoreboard. But since 26th place is pretty much reserved for Germany, he’s sure to avoid the ultimate embarrassment. And with a song that’s quite powerful and a voice to match, he has the chance to nip at the heels of the top half. Even so, Israel should come to terms with a mid-table downgrade from 2018’s clucking awesome 1st place.
In a line A majestic number fit for musical theatre that won’t thrill Europe or embarrass Israel 2018 VS 2019 2018 – fun and inventive wins out for me Predicted result 15th-20th My score 6 points
Ah, Italy. A true Eurovision love of mine, second only to Sweden (I have my reasons). A country that cannot help but be classy and ultra-Italian, no matter which genre they’re dipping their leather-clad toes into. And a country that really should have won at least once since their 2011 comeback. Could 2019 finally be the year they go all the way? If it is, you’ll hear my hysterical screams all the way from deepest, darkest Siberia or wherever else you are in the world. I am head-over-heels for Soldi (I love Mahmood too, but there’s no point being head-over-heels for him when you’re a straight woman). Just when I thought Italy couldn’t impress me more than they already have during the 2010s, along comes a song so effortlessly cool, I can barely believe it’s a Eurovision entry.
Not because I don’t think Eurovision is the coolest thing ever. Clearly I do, having devoted ten years of my life to talking about it here on EBJ. It’s just that songs like Soldi don’t often pop up in the contest. Actually, we’ve never had one quite like it competing, and I never imagined that if we did it would be a contender for the win. This song is edgy, gritty and tells a tale of woe – Mahmood’s relationship with his father isn’t very Brady Bunch – but it also manages to be fun (it’s the irresistible claps), inventive and catchy. It combines the classic Italian musical traits we know and love, like lyrical wordiness and rich (from all that Soldi) instrumentals, with hypnotic urban beats, hip-hop influences and an Arabic undercurrent. Mahmood’s cultural makeup is represented by the ethnic and language fusion, while his family story is represented in the lyrics. This is deep. It has fireworks AND feelings (take that, Salvador). It’s also a very cleverly-composed song, with those wordy verses being broken up by a minimalist chorus everyone can latch on to in seconds. My absolute highlight of Soldi is the Arabic-infused bridge, which adds an extra element of interest and significance to a modern masterpiece. I also like the nonchalance of Mahmood’s performance style: his distinctive vocals are always A+, but when he’s singing this song he gives off a ‘whatever’ vibe. It’s like he’s channelling the indifference he now feels towards his father, who he’s learnt is all about the money. That’s my interpretation, anyway.
Italy is hardly trying too hard this year, and apparently that’s what it takes to be a dangerous competitor. It’s like barely bothering with an assignment only to score 95%, purely because you didn’t overthink or overwork it. That makes me wonder if Italy actually wants a Eurovision victory, or if they’re happy to carry on with strong top 10 placements. After all, they won JESC by accident in 2014 and turned down the chance to host it the following year. They might get what (I think) they’re wishing for in Tel Aviv, because the path to victory isn’t as clear for Mahmood as it is for the other big favourites. He did win the 2019 OGAE Poll, but it was a tight race and those points all came from hardcore fans. I don’t know if the general public will take to Soldi like we have. Juries should at least reward its originality, but it’s not traditionally jury-friendly on other counts. And I’m unsure if Italy can stage this in a way that gets the message across and matches the cool, contemporary feel of the song. I would love all of the above to become irrelevant and have Italy as our winner this year – they’re my personal second favourites – but I’m sensing that’s too much to ask.
In a line Flawless and meaningful modern Italian music with an exotic twist 2018 VS 2019 2019, but Italy always impresses me Predicted result 4th-6th My score 12 points
What happens when arguably the best song in a national final is performed by someone with no desire to go to Eurovision? Well, occasionally it still wins and we’re treated to an unenthusiastic performance that drags a great song down. Fortunately for Spain, they had a solid backup to María’s Muérdeme in the form of Miki’s La Venda. His song might not be as current and slick as hers, but he performs it with so much enthusiasm he makes it better than it would have been with a less lively artist attached to it. This guy has tough competition when it comes to being Mr. Congeniality, ESC 2019 Edition – especially from his fellow auto-finalists Bilal, Kobi and Michael. He blows them all away when it comes to charisma and personality during a performance though. And La Venda is the perfect song for him in terms of letting his fun flag fly.
It’s also a perfect party anthem. Is there a better motivator to get up and dance in this upcoming contest? I don’t think so! If you can listen to this without moving, congratulations on living Les Misérables. The song is a piñata made of music that’s been busted open and proceeds to rain happiness and effervescence over all of us for all three minutes. That’s because it starts as it means to go on – in top gear with trumpets and an insanely joyful melody. The fact that it doesn’t change much throughout means it lacks a little dynamism, but it also means the energy is constant and keeps you (literally) on your toes. The pace is almost frantic, but I for one am willing to try and keep up with it as I shout ‘LA VENDA YA CAYÓÓÓÓÓÓ!!!’ repeatedly until my neighbours beg me for mercy. Something else I really like about this is the message that lies underneath the façade of fun and frivolity, proving that you don’t need to be dead serious to make a statement. According to Miki (or his lyricist), we should all take off our metaphorical blindfolds and see all that we have and all that life has to offer us instead of looking away, Finland-style. And to that I say amen. It’s a relief to have a break from anything remotely lovey-dovey after Amaia and Alfred’s PDA display. Spain is giving us a fiesta instead of a love-fest this year, and ironically I love them for it.
I don’t know if enough Europeans or my fellow Australians will be feeling the same level of love for this. It has been popular with fans and done pretty well in pre-polls, but it’s not unusual for Spanish entries to be hyped to the point of, in hindsight, overhype. I get a kick out of the Spanish fans’ enthusiasm re: their ESC entries, and I’m on their side this time…but even so I’m thinking Miki might struggle to live up to his hype. He’s a Hulk-strong performer, but La Venda has weaknesses: it’s repetitive, it stays in the same gear all the way through (a pro and a con, as I mentioned before) and it tends to disappear like fairy floss when followed by more eventful entries. Unless Spain scores a late second-half slot in the final, I can easily see them being forgotten in the middle of a 26-song stack. Having said that, La Venda is so enjoyable, and it has the power to get an audience going like nothing else it’s up against. If the ecstatic crowd gets a starring role in the performance alongside Miki, this entry will be elevated.
In a line The ultimate Latin party in a three-minute package 2018 VS 2019 2019 Predicted result 16th-21st My score 8 points
If you thought Germany was the only country with a song rejected by someone else, you thought wrong. The UK is bringing to Tel Aviv what could have been the Swedish entry sung by John Lundvik (but probably would have drifted down to mid-table in the Melfest final while Bishara packed his bags instead). John, who co-wrote Bigger Than Us and will compete against his own composition this week, originally wanted to enter Melfest with the ballad instead of Too Late For Love. He was convinced to change his tune, and that’s how Michael ended up with (this version) of the song. I don’t know why I wasted time telling that story when you all know it already. Anyway, Michael’s certainly made Bigger Than Us his own with his big voice – and his endless repertoire of arm flourishes. It’s hard to imagine anyone else singing it now…but would I prefer it if the song hadn’t been recycled by Mr. Rice?
No I wouldn’t. Call me crazy (it’s true) but I LOVE this song, in all its repetitive, key-changing, memetastic glory. It’s a TV talent show winner song for sure, but it’s the kind that brings tears to your eyes because you’ve voted for the singer for weeks and they actually won and you’re so invested it doesn’t matter how clichéd their inspirational power ballad is. That’s a hypothetical scenario, but Michael is a TV talent show winner. And with good reason: the boy can sing. He’s the best vocalist the UK have sent to Eurovision in a long time, and his vocals make more of Bigger Than Us than a less skilled singer would have. The song follows a predictable ballad structure: verse, chorus, (alarmingly short) verse, chorus, subdued chorus, money note + key change, lots of emotional warbling, and SCENE. There are no surprises. ‘Bigger’ is repeated 50-something times throughout, and it seems like more because the second chorus comes around so soon, Occidentali’s Karma-style. The last quarter of the song is padded out with extra biggers in place of quality content. And you can pick, down to the split second, when the fire curtain switch will be flicked. I know all of this, yet I still adore this song. The melody is beautiful, the explosive moments are mighty explosive, the gospel backings are rousing and Michael is amazing. Is it a little cheesy? Sure, but I like cheese. And this is uplifting, powerful cheese. If John Lundvik’s life was a musical, Bigger Than Us would be the song signalling his newfound determination to stand tall and fight for what he believes in (which I think would come after he figures out that it isn’t too late for love). Also, if John Lundvik’s life was a musical I would buy front-row tickets. But I digress.
Back to Michael. He’s a top bloke, as we’d say here in Australia. The kind of funny, grounded guy you’d hang out with in a heartbeat. That makes him voteable, at least to people who’ve been following his pre-ESC journey, and those spectacular vocals make him attractive to jurors judging singing ability. Where he might trip up is with the song itself and his performance. Bigger Than Us is probably too passé and predictable to stand out. And if he hasn’t upped his live game since You Decide – in terms of camera connection and toning down those arm movements – I’ll be worried. I’m also concerned the UK is going to leave Bigger Than Us to its own devices staging-wise, and it really isn’t strong enough to survive bare-bones (unlike, for example, The Netherlands’ Arcade). There is a lot that can go wrong here. But at worst it will still be competent and showcase high-class vocals, and that’s not a bad position to be in. I have faith that if everything goes right with this entry, it can improve on the UK’s recent results. After all, it’s SO MUCH BIGGER.
In a line A by-the-numbers power ballad that’s worked its magic on me 2018 VS 2019 2019 Predicted result 15th-19th My score 12 points
If you made it through all that, thanks for sticking around. The UK was lucky last and concludes the EBJ judgments for 2019. I’m not-so-secretly relieved, and I’m guessing you feel the same! Here’s today’s mini-ranking:
- Italy (12)
- United Kingdom (12)
- France (10)
- Spain (8)
- Israel (6)
- Germany (4)
And here’s the maxi-ranking feat. the full class of 2019 (apart from that one student who didn’t make it to graduation):
- Sweden (12)
- Italy (12)
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- Slovenia (12)
- United Kingdom (12)
- The Netherlands (12)
- Greece (12)
- Estonia (10)
- France (10)
- Azerbaijan (10)
- Portugal (10)
- Norway (10)
- Cyprus (10)
- Malta (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Belarus (10)
- Spain (8)
- Russia (8)
- Romania (8)
- Belgium (8)
- Armenia (8)
- Iceland (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Denmark (7)
- Ireland (7)
- Lithuania (7)
- Finland (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- Austria (7)
- San Marino (7)
- Moldova (6)
- Israel (6)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- Poland (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Germany (4)
- Georgia (4)
Sweden on top is no surprise if you know me. Have I changed my mind since the first round of reviews? Not where my favourites are concerned, but if I did a full ranking again there would be some shifts in the 15th-35th range. Might be time to pay another visit to the ESC Sorter…
Be sure to let me know how you rate the Big 5 + Israel – or any country you like – in the comments, as we continue to watch and wait out the rehearsals. And follow me @EurovisionByJaz on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (links are in the sidebar —>) because that’s where you’ll find my predictions for Tel Aviv’s three hopefully fantastic shows. We’re so close, guys. Enjoy what’s left of the lead-up to Eurovision 2019!
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!
Hi there, and welcome to the second episode of my Junior Eurovision reviews for 2017! A few days ago, Round 1 saw Cyprus, Georgia, The Netherlands and Poland get COMPLETELY CRUCIFIED by yours truly (JK, I was actually very nice). With the Tbilisi contest creeping closer and closer, there’s no time to waste – so I’m back with Round 2 today feat. Albania, Italy, Macedonia and Portugal. If you want to be a tree-hugging, choice-making Youtuber who dances through life (and let’s face it, who doesn’t), this post is perfect for you.
Keep reading if you want to know what I think of Ana Kodra’s Don’t Touch My Tree, Maria Iside Fiore’s Scelgo, Mina Blažev’s Dancing Through Life and Mariana Venâncio’s Youtuber. If you don’t, then I have to wonder why you’re here in the first place.
Cue reviews in 3, 2, 1…
Watch it here
Last year…Albania sent a belter of a ballad called Besoj to Malta – but as adorably shouty as Klesta Qehaja was, she couldn’t sing her way higher than 13th.
The 2017 verdict Some people love it, some people hate it…the slightly weird music Albania often sends to ESC and JESC, that is. Music that isn’t particularly ethnic but is somehow stamped PROPERTY OF ALBANIA – think One Night’s Anger by Hersi. Unusual melodies and a mighty fine atmosphere (which mostly disappears if the lyrics are switched to English) are the key ingredients, and miniscule vocalist with surprising grunt in her vocal Ana Kodra (potentially Albania’s version of Anastasiya Petryk) has a song packed with both. It’s a message song too – presumably about the environment and human mistreatment of it, but to be honest it comes off as Ana being totes possessive about a tree that she legally has no personal claim to whatsoever (it’s not ‘Please be careful around this particular tree ‘cause I like it a lot’, it’s ‘DON’T TOUCH MY TREE IF YOU WANT TO SEE 2018!!!’). Yeah, the aggression is a little off-putting – as are the English lyrics which are possibly the worst and most awkward in the entire contest this year. However…I quite like this anyway. Who else is in the minority with me? *fist bumps all three of you*. As with most Albanian Eurovision-related songs, I can’t really put into words why I like it, but I just do. The melody of the verses is as distinctive as the melody of the chorus, and there’s a tribal feel to the beat and the music that I’m always drawn to (JESC examples = Moldova 2013, and funnily enough, Albania 2015). Ana herself needs to be more in control of her live vocal and be more commanding on stage, especially if she’s stuck out there by herself as per Albanian Junior tradition – that would be a big improvement on the overall effect of Don’t Touch My Tree. But regardless of the negatives and the fact that I know this is going nowhere in the comp, I’m a fan. Call me crazy if you want – it’s probably true because I talk to myself constantly.
Song score 8
Artist score 6
Final score 7
Watch it here
Last year…Unexpectedly, Fiamma Boccia’s Cara Mamma charmed itself into 3rd place. Bravo!
The 2017 verdict Here’s a brief history of my reactions to Italian JESC entries, because one of them is the same as the reaction I’m having to Maria’s Scelgo. 2014 (Vincenzo Cantiello’s Tu Primo Grande Amore) – fell head-over-heels instantly and may have cried when it won; 2015 (Chiara & Martina’s Viva) – never made it out of ‘this is meh’ territory; 2016 (Fiamma’s Cara Mamma) – didn’t think much of it at first but began to hear the appeal after a second or third listen. Now, in 2017, things haven’t come full circle since I’m apparently having another Fiamma moment with Maria. Ranking (then 15) entries after listening to Scelgo once, I had it last – not because I hated it, but because I liked everything else more. Then I decided I needed to give it a fair go as I’d listened to the likes of Russia 50 times and the situation was becoming a bit unfair. So I did, and all of a sudden this song seemed…better. It’s got that typically Italian way about it of sounding like there are twice as many words to be sung than actually fit into the timeframe of the track, but that’s part of the charm. The melody is interesting but not too complicated, and the chorus does have an earworm-y quality to it. I’m not 100% sold on the way they’ve mixed languages, but I love how it’s done right at the end, with the line ‘I choose not to be afraid’ finishing things off in a sweet, cohesive way. As always, this is a classy effort from Italy, but I doubt it will pull in the points to score as well as Cara Mamma (surprisingly) did last year. I just don’t think it’s going to capture juries (or voters…YASSS WE GET TO HAVE OUR SAY AGAIN!) to the same extent. And I get the feeling it could be quite messy live, but I’ll be happy to stand corrected.
Song score 8
Artist score 8
Final score 8
Watch it here
Last year…With a brilliant song but maybe not a brilliant song for Junior Eurovision – Love Will Lead Our Way – Martija Stanojković made it to 12th place. I guess love couldn’t lead her all the way.
The 2017 verdict This is all too familiar. From JESC 2016àESC 2017àJESC 2017, Macedonia has sent a string of high-quality, current and catchy pop songs to Eurovision events – but the first two just didn’t work in a competition context. I think last year’s JESC entry was too mature for the contest, right down to the dance moves. Dance Alone suffered from a similar issue (but when you’re too adult for adult Eurovision, some serious reevaluation is required!). Now the same fate seems to be looming for Mina. Dancing Through Life (alone, Jana-style? Not alone, Aram Mp3-style? WE NEED ANSWERS!) is without a doubt – in my opinion, obvs – an epic EDM track with so many hooks crammed into it, you could hang up the coats of the Buranovskiye Babushkis AND all of their extended families. Verses? Catchy. Choruses? Catchy. Chant-along oh-oh-oh bits? CATCHY. The genre is also perfectly suited to Mina’s voice, and with the pounding pace and explosive money note, has all the energy you could want in a song without the ‘hyped up on red cordial’ feel that can crop up at JESC. Sadly, overall this entry belongs more at Eurovision than where it is competing – and unless Macedonia can find a way to make the performance super young and fresh (which would probably jar with the song) I’m worried it’s not going to perform very well on the scoreboard. Sophistication can and does succeed at Junior, but there’s a grey area where youthful stuff works and more mature stuff works. Outside of that, there are songs that are too childish and songs that are too grown-up. Russia, for example, has struck a balance between the two, but Macedonia hasn’t quite managed it. Dancing Through Life is a better prospect than LWLOW, but I will be shocked if it ends up in the top 5. Personally speaking, I love it.
Song score 10
Artist score 8
Final score 9
Watch it here
Last year…nada. 2017 will mark Portugal’s third appearance at Junior, and we last saw them compete in 2007 (when, for the record, Jorge Leiria came 16th with Só Quero É Cantar).
The 2017 verdict I can’t be the only one who was excited at the prospect of Portugal returning to JESC, after a Poland-esque hiatus. Their very first adult contest win clearly gave them the motivation to give Junior another go, and hopes were high in the Eurofam that they’d deliver something of comparative calibre to Amar Pelos Dois. What we got instead was a kids’ edition of The Social Network Song (if I even need to say ‘kids’ edition’). This time, Youtuber will go all the way with its title intact, which is as sketchy as the EBU allowing Dami Im to sing ‘FaceTime’ when we all know they meant the Apple kind. Potential double standards aside, I have a hard time believing that this song was not composed by Ralph Siegel – that’s how cheesy and passé it is in 2017. However, it was extra cheesy and passé when we heard the demo version performed (if I remember rightly) by the actual adult composer. Mariana, as a child, makes it more palatable and even slightly enjoyable. But the cringe-factor of the “funky” tune and barely-more-than-a-single-word chorus remains. The poor girl can only do so much to salvage the situation. It’s even more of a shame because her voice is strong and she has great control over it. If she can project some more confidence and sell Youtuber to the best of her ability in Tbilisi, she might avoid last place (she’s very precious and I don’t want her to end up there). Ultimately, though I don’t hate this with a passion and acknowledge that it has one or two decent moments, I have to call a spade a spade – this is one of the weakest entries of the year, and it will struggle. I just hope a bad result doesn’t put Portugal off trying again in 2018, because they are capable of great things. Learn from your mistakes, guys!
Song score 6
Artist score 7
Final score 6.5
Eight down, eight to go – someone high-five me, quick! I feel like I’ve been pretty generous so far with my critiques and scores (maybe it’s my inner Father Christmas). Then again, this is Round 2 of 4 and there are plenty more opportunities for me to be unnecessarily cruel to children. Yay!
Here’s the ranking for this round:
- Macedonia (9)
- Italy (8)
- Albania (7)
- Portugal (6.5)
Macedonia takes this one out, with Italy not far behind. Will that be at all reflected in reality next weekend? Considering the tendency of my favourites to drop just out of winning range, probably not.
Speaking of favourites, it’s time for you to choose yours:
And don’t forget to leave your own mini-ranking in the comments. Let’s see if we agree on anything or if you’re wrong 😉
NEXT TIME Keep your eyes peeled for Round 3 of the JESC 2017 reviews, feat. Australia (I’ll try to keep a lid on my bubbling bias), Belarus, Malta and Ukraine. Who’s done wonders and who’s disappointed? You’ll see my perspective very soon!
Until then, much love love and a whole lotta peace peace…
Portugal, proposals and some pretty terrible predictions: My post-semi + pre-final thoughts on Eurovision 2017!
Well, Eurovision week has flown by faster than Belgium’s betting ranking dropped after the first round of rehearsals (fortunately for Blanche, they’ve crept up again). The countdown to the grand final is on, and at the last minute, Kyiv 2017 has become a bit less ‘Where in Italy are we going next year?’ and a bit more ‘Where else could we be going next year?’. But more on that later.
First, I’m going to take a quick look back at the semi finals. They may not have lived up to Stockholm’s in terms of slick production, interval entertainment value and host awesomeness (Petra, Måns, and Edward af Sillen’s genius scripting skills left three sizeable pairs of shoes to fill) but they definitely delivered on great performances from 36 countries on a sensational stage, and on qualifier shocks.
Semi Final 1: Treadmills, twirling braids and bye bye Blackbird
The best of Ukraine was on show on Tuesday night, with rapper Monatik kicking things off; Verka Serduchka playing a part (I’m always happy to see the namesake of my car, Vercar Serduchcar); and reigning champ and all-around goddess Jamala nailing performances of 1944 and Zamanyly. That was all on either side of/in-between the 18 acts competing for the first ten final tickets, of course.
This was the weaker semi final as far as my personal favourites were concerned – and I do think there were more disposable songs on offer, which made parting with them less painful. That was before I knew what was to come when our non-green-room hosts Vova (I may have misheard that nickname for the majority of the show) and Oleksandr announced the qualifiers. But before I have a good old groan of ‘WHY, GOD, WHY?!?!?’ about that, here are my top 5 performance highlights of the night.
- Sweden Yeah, like you didn’t know this was coming. As a Swedeophile who saw Robin win Melodifestivalen in the flesh, I was never going to be anything less than psyched to see him at Eurovision. I Can’t Go On was a great show opener, and Mr. Bengtsson made all the right moves. We expect perfectly polished performances from Sverige, and that’s what we got.
- Finland Norma John are another act that made barely noticeable changes to their national final performance for ESC purposes. They didn’t need to overhaul Blackbird’s presentation, because it already had all the power it needed to be stunningly heartbreaking. At least, that’s what I thought.
- Moldova I’d single out the Sunstroke Project as my absolute evening highlight. Everything about Hey Mamma on the Eurovision stage was on point – energetic, irresistible and fun without being tacky, AND it had a costume reveal. I danced my butt off to this one, and burned a lot of calories in the process. Thanks, Moldova!
- Cyprus Theft of Loïc Nottet’s backdrop aside, Cyprus made a massively positive impression on me, which is just what I was hoping for as a Gravity Kudos to Hovig for finding the point of balance (pun totally intended) between singing in tune and working one’s way through complicated choreography. You can’t say the man’s not multitalented.
- Armenia The most impressive thing about this was Artsvik’s hair, which had obviously been braided by angels who then moved along to work their magic on O’G3NE’s vocal chords. That’s a compliment, because her costume, vocals and staging were all excellent. The whole package did justice to what’s one of the most unique songs in the 2017 contest.
Other performances to note include Georgia’s – Tamara blew me away even though I’m not a big fan of Keep The Faith ; Montenegro’s, during which Slavko’s sass level was off the charts, but his spinning braid stole the show; and Iceland’s, because Svala wore Baby Spice platform sneakers and actually looked good (something I aspired to back in 1998). Sadly, none of these three countries made the cut when it came to qualifier crunch time. So who did? And more importantly, how accurate were my pre-show predictions?*
*If I’m honest with myself, I know you probably don’t care how right I was…but I do, so let me be narcissistic for a second.
I pulled Poland out of my predicted ten at the last second, but in favour of Cyprus. Finland was already on my list as a certain qualifier, so it’s safe to say that I didn’t see their DNQ – Finland’s third in a row – coming. And when I watched Norma John’s performance again, looking for reasons as to why they didn’t make it, I couldn’t see any (partly because I was weeping over the emotional lyrics and my vision was blurred). This fail to advance will go down in history as one I will NEVER be able to figure out. I figure Finland must have finished 11th or 12th, which we’ll find out soon after the final, but even that doesn’t make sense to me. So if you have the answer, I’m begging you to tell me what it is so I can get some closure!
Finland excepted, I was happy with the results of this semi. Australia managed to make it through (possibly by the skin of our teeth) which was obviously a huge relief, and it gave me the warm fuzzies to see Moldova (who last made it to the final in 2013) and Portugal (they haven’t seen a Saturday night since 2010!) qualify.
How much pleasure, and how much pain – if any – did the semi final one blood puddle (it wasn’t a full-on bloodbath, after all) give you? How did your predictions pan out? Let me know in the comments.
Semi Final 2: A pregnancy, a marriage proposal and another early exit for Estonia
Three things happened during Thursday’s second semi final that I hadn’t expected, and none of them had anything to do with the eventual qualifiers. The first was that Vova and Oleks actually attempted to live up to Love Love Peace Peace, which was a bad idea (though I appreciate the effort and the Ukrainian feel their musical number brought to the proceedings). The second – and third – were the two Major Life Event Checklist boxes that Jana Burčeska managed to tick off in one night (as I sat on my couch in a very glamorous pair of pajamas with only a farting dog for company). As you know, she revealed her pregnancy via her video postcard, only to be proposed to about an hour later by her boyfriend in the green room. It’s lucky Macedonia DIDN’T qualify, because she might have exploded with happiness (and that’d be a lot harder to clean up than the confetti that’s apparently banned from this year’s show).
Jana’s performance didn’t do much for me, but there were plenty that did. Here are five of my second semi highlights:
- Hungary Origo is my favourite entry of the year, and Joci did everything I was hoping for on a stage much bigger than he had to work with at A Dal. Nerves didn’t affect him, the fire jets added more visual interest and the use of the satellite stage for the violinist worked like a dream. FLAWLESS.
- Denmark Umm, speaking of flawless…after Joci came blonde bombshell Anja, who may have done exactly what she did in DMGP (down to wearing the same red dress, which was a welcome change from the clown swimsuit she wore during rehearsals) but nailed every second of it. I love Where I Am too, a lot of that has to do with Anja’s powerful delivery.
- Croatia Yes, this was a personal highlight! I couldn’t help being amazed at Jacques’ ability to sing a solo duet live with ease, but the comic relief of his performance is what made it stock in my memory. The half-and-half costume, those turns from “pop” camera to “opera” camera…it was exactly what I was hoping to see (and laugh at continuously for three minutes).
- Norway This was very similar to what won JOWST the right to represent Norway, but it was SO much slicker. And after a success slump with Agnete in 2016, it was fantastic to see Norway present such a cohesive and current package. I also really like Aleksander’s hat, so that helped.
- Bulgaria Even though I’ve seen countless Junior Eurovision performers take to the stage with confidence and talent beyond their years, there’s something compelling about Kristian Kostov, who’s a little older but still the youngest artist in the adult contest this year. His voice is amazing, and his stage persona is ‘cool as a cucumber’, and packed with genuine (or well-faked) feeling.
This semi served up far more than five epic performances, and others I’d say fall into that category include Austria’s, because it was beautiful and adorable in equal measure; The Netherlands’, what with O’G3NE’s incredible sisterly harmonies; and San Marino’s. Yes, I said San Marino’s. What can I say? Valentina and Jimmie were having so much fun on stage, they almost made Spirit of the Night seem tolerable. It wasn’t a night of good spirits in the end, though, since they didn’t progress from the semi. Here’s who did (like you didn’t already know) compared to who I thought would go through.
Yet again, I had Norway in only to drop them out at the last minute, replacing them with Croatia. As I said, I’m super glad JOWST did qualify, but I feel super sorry for Estonia, who couldn’t shake off the Shock DNQ Syndrome they developed last year. But this time, I found it easier to figure out what went wrong. Verona didn’t work live in the way they’d opted to present it, and the dynamic between Laura and Koit was…well, weird. Koit’s über-dramatic facial expressions were up there with Croatia’s entire performance in the hilarity stakes, and have now become a meme, so that’s something.
I have to admit, although I do love Verona as a song, I didn’t bat an eyelid when it didn’t qualify because I was too busy doing a celebratory dance over Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark and Hungary.
Did any of the second semi’s winners get you on your feet (with excitement or shock value)?
And final-ly…some grand final opinions and predictions
The 2017 final has turned out to be a banger, musically-speaking. There are strings of songs in the running order that’ll barely give us time to take a breath.
Israel will be an ovary-bursting opener – so much so that we might still be fanning ourselves when Poland (in the dreaded second slot) takes their turn. Moldova through Denmark is a worrying stretch for me, since it involves three of my favourite entries mixed in with the two bookies’ favourites. Belgium-Sweden-Bulgaria is an interesting run too. France isn’t as strong a closer as we’ve gotten accustomed to: from what I’ve seen and heard, Alma’s too small on the big stage, and her voice has its wobbly moments.
I’m not going to analyse the running order, because plenty of other sites have already done it with way more finesse than I would, but let’s just say it’s raised some questions, and made the competition a little less predictable.
The biggest question is one I’ll have a go at answering…
Who’s going to win?
I’ve been back and forth on this one. A month ago, I had a gut feeling that Italy was going to finish second. Then I gave in and decided Francesco had it in the bag. Now I’m totally confused and unsure what to expect when the votes come in feat. dramatic music and the kind of tension that brings on heart palpitations (if it’s anything like the Stockholm voting sequence, which nearly killed me).
Realistically, we could be looking at a Fairytale-type landslide for Italy. But the real fairytale ending would be a Portuguese win. If they can do it, it will be their first in 49 attempts (48 if you don’t count 2006’s Coisas De Nada as an attempt to win Eurovision, which TBH you probably shouldn’t).
In doubt about Salvador’s classic song and quirky performance style combining to produce a scoreboard topper? Well, in a last-minute shocker, he’s loosened Francesco Gabbani’s unwavering grip on the odds-on favourite title to become the current favourite to win – and his performance from Tuesday’s semi final has been viewed 1.5 million times, making nearest rival Blanche’s 980k view count look pretty paltry by comparison.
It’s clear Portugal has captured a lot of imaginations (and votes…DUH!) and as someone who didn’t totally get the hype until I suddenly found myself reaching for the tissues during Salvador’s semi performance, I can say that it’s not too late for the country to charm even more people with voting power.
Bulgaria has to be noted as a contender, but I don’t see Beautiful Mess as winning material. Top 3 or top 5, yes.
To throw in a few random, much less likely potential winners – how hilarious would you find it if I named the United Kingdom and Romania? Lucie Jones’ staging is literally gold standard, and she’s scored herself a great performance spot. I still think people are getting a little over-excited, and that a lower top 10 placing is more likely for the UK, but stranger things have happened. Romania would be the perfect package if they actually had something coming out of their cannons. You never know, though…the slogan of next year’s contest could be ‘Yodel It!’. Alex and Ilinca would need one hell of a televote score to make that a possibility, though.
When it comes to the crunch – meaning I’m about to stop fence-sitting – I still think Italy will win, but not by a massive margin. And if Eurovision doesn’t travel to Milan in 2018, then it’ll probably head to Lisbon. I’d be totally fine with that, having spent a half hour this morning Googling photos of the Portuguese capital and swooning at the sheer beauty of it.
But does Salvadorable outshine namaste, alé?
Predicting the top 10, and the bottom 5 😦
Without further ado, this is my best guess at the top 10 – a.k.a. the most sought-after bunch of positions. But I really have no idea what’s going to happen. What else is new?
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
Now let’s head down to the opposite end of the scoreboard. This is my predicted bottom 5:
- Ukraine (sorry!)
Seriously, though…douze points, fifty million dollars and a muffin basket for anyone who can nail either end of the scoreboard down before the final begins.
Speaking of which, the hours before said final are now in single digits, so I’m going to sign off and try to get a power nap in so I don’t fall asleep during the show (thank god Malta didn’t qualify, or I’d definitely be having a snooze). Whether you’re prepping for a fabulous Eurovision party or getting ready to go it alone tonight, I hope you enjoy what’s left of this year’s contest. Join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz if you want (which you totally should) – and if you don’t, then I’ll see you on the other side when we have the next 1944.
May the best song (according to the majority of televoters and/or jury members, obviously) win!
Bonjour! I’m back with another round of Eurovision 2017 song reviews (what else would I be doing at this time of year?). I hope you have a spare three to five hours to read through them all.
Just kidding. It’ll take two hours, max.
This is the halfway mark, so if you’d like to catch up on the countries covered by me and my mum (who’s still here delivering verdicts from a first-impression, non-obsessive fan perspective) so far, I’ve linked them below for your convenience. Hey there, people who are just as lazy as me!
- Round 1, feat. Azerbaijan, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Norway + Portugal
- Round 2, feat. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands + Poland
- Round 3, feat. Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta + Switzerland
Now it’s time to cross six more countries and their awesome/average/abysmal songs off the to-do list. Today’s role-call: Bulgaria’s Kristian, France’s Alma, Italy’s Francesco, Romania’s Ilinca & Alex, Serbia’s Tijana and Sweden’s Robin. It’s the ESC equivalent of the popular kids’ table in a high school cafeteria, basically (with a few of the kids absent or in detention).
Have your opinions at the ready so when you get to the end, having found at least twenty comments you disagree with, you can say what’s on your mind – we want to hear everything.
Let’s get going!
My thoughts Let’s face it, Poli Genova left Bulgaria’s 2017 artist with shoes to fill bigger than that gigantic clog every tourist makes a point of posing with in Amsterdam. Stepping up to the plate (or into the huge-ass shoe) as a 17–year-old boy and the first ESC competitor to have been born in this millennium (#ifeelold), you’d think Kristian Kostov should be scared. But not only is Bulgaria currently the second-favourite to win the whole contest, they’ve brought in the bets with an absolute stunner of a ballad. Beautiful Mess is all beautiful and no mess. It’s almost like a down-tempo, male version of If Love Was A Crime: ultra modern, melodically memorable and full of lyrical determination (and similarities, right down to ‘together we’re untouchable’ versus ‘our love is untouchable’). It’s even gone down the same route of including a strangely alluring sample as a hook. As a result, I love it for many of the same reasons that I loved – and still love – ILWAC. I wouldn’t say Bulgaria has tried to carbon copy Poli’s super-successful entry so much as build on it, since it did do so well for them. Oddly, though, despite them being higher in the betting odds than they were in 2016, I don’t think Kristian can nab them another 4th place. He’s a brilliant performer with an almost studio-perfect voice, and twice the charisma of some of his fellow teen acts (Blanche, I’m looking at you in particular) but there is something missing from Beautiful Mess that, in a year of Italys and Swedens, will stop it from climbing quite that high in my opinion. However, I’m happy to be proven wrong. Did you hear that, universe? 10 points.
My mum says… I have to agree that the only Bulgarian mess is the one mentioned in the lyrics. The song is…well, beautiful. It’s interestingly worded for a romantic ballad, and heavy on the emotion without being weepy. Kristian has a voice and an ability to convey that emotion way beyond his seventeen years! I’m impressed. 10 points.
Bulgaria’s score 10.00
My thoughts Ooh la la! Speaking of countries that have ridden a wave of 2016 musical awesomeness into 2017, here’s France. Armed with Alma instead of Amir this time (á la Italy’s move from Francesca to Francesco) they’re bringing some sexy, summery tropical pop to Eurovision in a year with nothing else like that competing. I adore this song. I did have the original, all-French version at an even more heavenly status, and I’m still a little miffed by the switch to a slightly lame English chorus; but the ESC version of Requiem still ticks most of my boxes. Like the French pop I tend to favour, it’s not too predictable, but the catchy chorus sticks and stops the song from becoming inaccessible. And, I must admit, the English makes it easier for moi to sing along as I flamenco haphazardly around the house. Alma is a gorgeous girl/woman (she’s a little older than me hence IDK what to call her) and a good performer, but I have doubts about France’s ability to stage Requiem in a way that doesn’t make us all say ‘Mon dieu!‘. They did a nice job on J’ai Cherche last year, but they can’t be trusted implicitly to NOT screw things up presentation-wise, unlike Sweden or Russia (RIP) for example. They’re dealing with a song that could come across trés terrible with the wrong choreography, dodgy dancers, unsuitable costume choices, etc. However…if they pleasantly surprise me, I will sit quietly and watch them collect just enough points for a non-embarrassing, possibly excellent result. 10 points.
My mum says… I’m not sure if I like this or not, which tells me it might not be the most instantaneous entry in Eurovision this year (of course, it could just be me not feeling the amour). I like the drama it brings in its own way, and I did visualise myself walking Parisian streets with armfuls of Chanel purchases (I don’t know who’d be paying for all of that) while it was playing. But I felt it was a little disjointed, almost like two similar but not similar enough songs stuck together. Maybe it’s an acquired taste? 5 points.
France’s score 7.5
My thoughts If, just a few short months ago, you’d told me that Italy would somehow manage to present us with a dancing gorilla as part of their Eurovision act and have it be classy in that typical Italian way, I would have tossed a bowl of al dente spaghetti into your lap (the obvious reaction for someone in a state of disbelief). But, almost 100 million YouTube views and a shedload of OGAE Poll points later, we have the delightful Francesco and Occidentali’s Karma heading off to Kyiv…and he’ll probably be leaving with a Kosta Boda mic trophy in his human (not ape) hands. I’ll come right out and say that his song isn’t one of my absolute, unconditionally-loved favourites for 2017 – it’s drifting around the 6th to 10th zone in my overall ranking. But I, like 99.99% of people with functioning ears who’ve listened to it and/or seen Gabbani + gorilla in action, have succumbed to the irresistible, joyful and majorly memorable nature of the track. It’s effortlessly effervescent and sugary fun without being overly sweet, like a pint glass of pink lemonade. Every part of it is a hook to hang on to in itself, and the audience involvement created by the ‘Namaste, ale!’ is genius (although I can no longer finish off a yoga session in a peaceful way because I feel compelled to shout that every damn time). Francesco himself is personable and walks the fine line between a serious and tongue-in-cheek performance whenever he’s on stage, which should secure the affections of juries and televoters. Unless the significance of the man in the monkey suit is lost on a massive amount of people, I don’t see any stumbling blocks in the way of Italy winning their first Eurovision since 1990. And it could be a ‘fairytale’ ending for them in more ways than one, if you know what I mean. So, can I see myself happily eating gelato in Milan next May? Si.. 10 points.
My mum says… So this is the big favourite? It’s not my favourite out of the songs I’ve heard so far, but I can understand why so many fans love it en masse. I think it’s instantly likeable, unlike France, and you don’t need to speak Italian to feel Francesco’s joy and energy. The music’s very funky and happy too. I would so dance to this after a few too many glasses of Prosecco. 7 points.
Italy’s score 8.5
My thoughts Just when I thought we were never going to get a Eurovision entry that combined inspirational hip-hop with interludes of yodeling, along comes Yodel It! – the one we’ve all been waiting for. Or was that just me? Okay, so I’m being a bit sarcastic. But that doesn’t mean I’m about to reduce yodeler Ilinca and sing-shouter of uplifting lyrics Alex Florea to sobbing heaps of depression. In theory, this song should be the biggest disaster in music history, and hands-down the worst song of the 2017 contest (even with Croatia and San Marino’s offerings considered). But in practice, by some miracle (proudly presented by Paula Seling & Ovi), it works. I feel like it would take a solid six months in a science lab to figure out how, but what Ilinca and Alex are bringing to the table individually is like chocolate mousse and pickled herring – yet the combo is as complementary as peanut butter and jelly. Maybe that’s because the yodeling kicks in almost immediately, so by the time the first chorus is over, the shock has subsided – there’s no minute-long wait for the OMG moment like there was with Norway’s 2-for-1 Icebreaker last year. The fact that there’s little bursts of yodeling in amongst Alex’s catchy and urban verses/chorus – rather than a yodel marathon at any point – has to be helping too. That technique has been used at Eurovision before with varying degrees of success: Austria couldn’t qualify with it in 2005 (in Kyiv…is that a bad omen?) but Belgium finished fourth at Junior Eurovision in 2009 doing the same (though when a kid with flowers in her hair does it, it’s harder to hate). So, especially given how split-down-the-middle Yodel It! has Eurofans, there’s no telling how much better Romania’s ESC will be in 2017 than it was in 2016 – but hey, at least there’ll make it to the host city this time. I personally think it’s so ridiculously fun that the Romanian go-to of 11th-14th place isn’t out of reach…and neither is the top 10 if enough people with point-giving power ‘get’ it. Get it, love it, and yodel it. 8 points.
My mum says… If this is the closest thing to a token comedy duet in this year’s contest then I guess that’s a good thing, but I’m not a fan. Yodeling in general tends to turn me off, and that apparently isn’t affected by pairing it with another style of singing and a less traditional type of music. The whole thing sounds like it would work okay on a kids’ TV show – and I can’t say it’s not unique – but I’ll pass anyway. 3 points.
Romania’s score 5.5
My thoughts Serbia may have shot themselves in the foot by making us wait as far into March as possible (without actually being the last country to present their entry) for Tijana’s In Too Deep. Although that technique does attract attention, it means that if the song in question is anything less than sensational, it will be branded ‘not worth the wait’. Having said that, though I don’t think this one IS sensational, I’m not disappointed by it either. It may be even less “Serbian” (in an ethnic/stereotypical way) than last year’s Goodbye (Shelter), but I’m actually really keen on everything else about it. The music has variety and depth, the lyrics are just on the right side of simple (about a millimetre away from Cliché Central), the chorus is crash-boom-bang powerful, and Tijana has the vocal prowess to handle it all. I’m intrigued by the mix of styles going on here – it’s not as polar-opposite obvious as Romania’s, but there’s electropop/symphonic power ballad/dubstep elements woven together into a tapestry that I’d be happy to hang on my wall. Sure, it’s not daring or challenging or particularly original – and Serbia should thank their lucky Eurovision stars that Nano’s Hold On won’t be in Kyiv – but it’s comfortably safe, not the boring sort of safe. If I were staging In Too Deep, there would be wind machines, a floaty-yet-fierce dress for Tijana that could be blown about by said wind machines like Anggun’s in 2012, an aerial hoop artist or two (maybe Tijana herself could be swinging in a hoop as she is in the music video…) and some cool lighting, and voila – that’d be a well-wrapped package. But I’m not staging it, sadly, so it’s up to Serbia’s IRL stage director to not screw up what should be a simple equation of good song + good singer = good result in the grand final. When I say ‘good result’, I’m thinking 9th-15th, and in the final, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. 8 points.
My mum says… I’d definitely hit repeat on this one! I really like it. It’s not flawless, but the music and lyrics are both high-standard, and together they make a catchy couple. Tijana’s voice is great too. There’s something about the sound of it that reminds me ever-so-slightly of Jamala’s, though it’s not quite in the same league. Neither is the song – it’s a bit hard to follow in 1944’s footsteps, I imagine – but it gets a thumbs up from me. Oh, and 8 points.
Serbia’s score 8.00
My thoughts I was going to flick through ‘Not Being Biased For Dummies’ before reviewing Sweden, but I was too busy practicing Robin’s foot shuffle on my treadmill, and then I had to go to the emergency room and stuff…so I just didn’t get the chance. So, as I’m someone who not only supports Sverige unconditionally every year (they were my adopted country to cheer for before Australia was competing, and TBH I still prioritise them over Australia) but also traveled to Stockholm for the Melodifestivalen final and watched I Can’t Go On win it, you should prepare for a rose-coloured review. Here goes: I LOVE THIS. It wasn’t even my favourite song in the Melfest final (the aforementioned Hold On was) but as I always end up loving at least 75% of the Swedish hopefuls, that’s irrelevant. Co-written by Robin Stjernberg – his stamp is all over this track – it’s three minutes of slick, sexually implicit (as opposed to Montenegro’s sexually explicit song) funk-pop with a Justin Timberlake vibe (only way less fluffy than Can’t Stop The Feeling) and it is everything I expect from a Swedish Eurovision entry. Is it insanely catchy from go to whoa? Yes. Was it perfectly polished and contest-ready from the very beginning? Ja. Is the performer incredibly attractive? Obviously *swoons*. And to top it all off, it comes equipped with staging that will be a talking point from when it opens the first semi final (!) to whenever Sweden next manages to outdo themselves. It’s clear that one year of stripped-back production was all they could put up with. It’s also clear that The Land of Cardamom Buns (how I miss them) hasn’t lost their touch when it comes to conquering the ESC without any effort whatsoever – it just comes naturally. Conquering in a year feat. Occidentali’s Karma is a tough task, though, and I suspect Sweden will find themselves on the podium – 4th or 5th at the lowest – but not number one. Robin finishing second at Eurovision on his second attempt to get there has a nice ring to it, and I think that would be a result gladly accepted by a country hungry to take their six wins to seven, but maybe not this soon after hosting. As for me, I’m unsurprisingly giving I Can’t Go On a freaking beautiful set of DOUZE POINTS!
My mum says… Even I’m biased when it comes to this one, since I was sitting right next to Jaz in Friends Arena when Robin won Melfest. Wiktoria was my personal pick to represent Sweden, so I’ve had to come to terms with I Can’t Go On going on (will jokes like that ever get old?) instead. Still, I can’t fault Robin or his act too much. His voice isn’t the strongest, especially at the start when he’s backstage – maybe waiting in the wings keeps the nerves higher than normal. But who’s going to be thinking about that when he’s dancing with four other handsome men on travelators, while performing such a catchy, hit-material song? It’s not a song of substance, but it isn’t meant to be and I don’t think every song should be. Sometimes you just want to listen to some fun music that makes you want to move (in my case, on solid flooring) and Sweden has given Eurovision 2017 an excellent example of that. I’ll be singing along to ICGO for months in my mind, and I reckon plenty of other people will be too. 8 points.
Sweden’s score 10.00
And just like that, another six songs bite the dust. Here’s today’s overall ranking (with a tie broken by yours truly because MY BLOG, MY RULES!!!):
- Sweden (10.00)
- Bulgaria (10.00)
- Italy (8.5)
- Serbia (8.00)
- France (7.5)
- Romania (5.5)
For once, it actually seems shocking that Sweden’s sitting on top of a Eurovision-related scoreboard, since Italy had the chance to push them out of the way. But Francesco’s topped so many polls and rankings already, he’s probably getting bored. You’re welcome for the change, Mr. Gabbani (and gorilla).
There are still 18 songs left to review here on EBJ, with just a few days until delegations arrive and rehearsals start in Kyiv. I’M SO EXCITED SLASH STRESSED! Next time, the spotlight will be on Armenia, Austria, Finland, Moldova, San Marino and Slovenia. Whether you love or hate what Artsvik, Nathan Trent, Norma John, Sunstroke Project, Valentina & Jimmie and Omar Naber are packing in their suitcases (song-wise, as their respective choices of underwear are another matter entirely) you won’t want to miss it!
Seriously. I’m guessing my mother’s reaction to Spirit of the Night will be priceless.
WARNING: Things are about to get very honest.
Just like that, Junior Eurovision is done and dusted for another year – but none of us who tuned in are likely to forget about it that easily.
Sadly, that’s not because Malta outdid their spectacular show from 2014, but because Sunday’s contest was a bit of a shambles from start to finish (on the part of the adults in charge, not the kids competing). With the most rushed artist parade in history; painfully scripted host dialogue that Ben Camille and Valerie Vella stumbled over like they were running through a booby-trapped trail in the dark; camera operators spending more time in full view than out of it, á la Eurovision 2015; a venue that was far too intimate and therefore lacked atmosphere; AND the cherry on top, when Valerie single-handedly destroyed the tension buildup of the voting by blurting out the remaining amount of points, this was the most amateur JESC of all time. The fact that Malta has handled it with ease before makes it that much worse that things went so downhill this year.
Let’s cross our fingers for Tbilisi to take on the challenge with more finesse (which, TBH, wouldn’t be hard) if we happen to head there in 2017. Because, moving on from my endless list of complaints, my congratulations must go out to this year’s winner Georgia: the Ireland of Junior, only Georgia’s on top of their game now, and they don’t dwell on ancient victories which will soon be outnumbered by Sweden’s.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it was JESC 2013 all over again, as a pint-sized brunette in a poofy white dress belted her way to the win with a powerful ballad. But we subbed in Mariam Mamadashvili for Gaia Cauchi this time, and watched her take the first-place trophy out by creating a truly magical moment on the Mediterranean Conference Centre stage. Hers wasn’t a triumph that everybody saw coming – particularly those of us who refrained from viewing the rehearsals – but, much like Italy’s the last time JESC met Malta, it became inevitable and was very much deserved.
Sixteen other stars shone pretty bright on Sunday, too – but not all of them could end the night on a note as in-tune as every single one that came out of Mariam’s mouth. So let’s hit rewind and review what went down from the start of the performances to THE MOST PRECIOUS REPRISE IN EUROVISION HISTORY (as seen above). I promise I’ll try to stay positive about all of it.
FYI…this is a long one, so you might want to grab a cup of tea and/or call in sick to work for the next three days. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Ireland Zena’s start to the show was a nice one, but I found everything about it to be a bit messy (and not in a deliberate, that-totally-works kind of way, like her hair). I didn’t like the addition of an English chorus (clichéd lyrics never win me over). As for her dress…well, now we know what would happen if Yohanna’s Eurovision gown got together with a piñata and had a really ugly baby. So much for staying upbeat, Jaz.
Armenia The bad bits were average, but the good bits were great! Tarber is one of my personal favourites of the year, and it was just as entertaining to watch as it is to listen to. Anahit & Mary’s harmonies weren’t exactly on fleek (as Kisses would say) and I wish they’d been styled more in line with the music video (Mary’s hair in particular). If we’re talking fashion, I also think the costume-reveal outfits would have been more effective as dresses made up of both fabrics the girls started out wearing. But that’s just me being picky. Correct, but picky.
Albania Klesta is so sweet, and she can definitely sing (with more power than one would expect from such a small person). But this fell a little flat, and I think it’s because she couldn’t fill the stage with a presence like Mariam did. Besoj is a beautiful song, but it would work better at adult Eurovision, being sung by someone older and more experienced like Elhaida Dani.
Russia I was having heart palpitations in the lead-up to Sofia’s performance – Water of Life floats my boat like nobody’s business. Overall, it wasn’t as slick and powerful as I was hoping (since I wanted it to win) but I loved the girls’ outfits and choreography. Sofia was a stellar lead vocalist, too.
Malta This song, on the other hand, makes me want to rip my ears off. But I can’t deny that Christina (like everyone else residing in Malta) is one heck of a singer. She nailed every note, and unlike Klesta, had all the charisma she needed to fill the stage despite having no one else up there with her. Expect to see her at MESC the minute she’s old enough.
Bulgaria I’ve made it pretty clear already that I think Lidia is absolutely adorable, and that I plan on adopting her ASAP. Apart from one vocal slip-up, she charmed her way through her performance of Valsheben Den. The last thirty seconds really would have benefited from some backup vocalists supporting her visually instead of just aurally. On her own, she ended up looking very tiny and lonely.
Macedonia I applaud Macedonia for their top-notch vocals, cool choreography, and gorgeous rose gold costumes (I would quite like a catsuit like Martija’s to wear on Christmas Day, but it’s probably not that flattering after excessive amounts of turkey and pudding). Unfortunately, the whole thing would have been more at home in Kyiv next year than it was in Valletta for JESC. Still, an A+ for effort.
Poland I have one word for this: FLAWLESS. ‘Perfection’ also comes to mind. We got a stunning dress, graphics and vocals from Olivia, and in her case, I didn’t mind the last-minute addition of English. My only complaint? Why did the audience not cheer louder and longer for her?
Belarus And the Award for Most Improved Since Initial Selection goes to…Belarus, without a doubt! Alex’s breathless, shouty vocals from back then had clearly been whipped into shape. The whole three minutes was slick, entertaining, and the most Junior an entry can be without going too far. Extra kudos is deserved here for extreme multitasking – I’m not even sure I could get on a hoverboard without breaking something (on my body or someone else’s), let alone sing pitch-perfectly while riding one.
Ukraine A gigantic upside-down umbrella would have been OTT enough…but this was a Ukrainian performance, so why stop there? Throw in a couple of mimes as well. What either of these gimmicks had to do with Sofia’s song I don’t know, so they just left me very confused and distracted. Pretty dress though. She can reuse it for her future wedding.
Italy I’d say that Fiamma’s delivery of Cara Mamma was a cute overload, but it was actually just the right level of cuteness – if it were a bowl of porridge, it would be the one Golidlocks would opt for. Her costume (if you can call it that) was too casual for my liking, but even so, she had me melting into a puddle on the floor because AWWWWW. The simplicity of this after the OTT of Ukraine made it come across even better.
Serbia Whoever hit the hoverboard second was going to be unfavourably compared to the one who hit it first – too bad for Dunja. There wasn’t anything terribly wrong with her performance, though like Lidia, she could have used some backup. She also had the glitteriest case of dandruff I’d ever seen, and I’m still unsure whether I liked that look or not. All in all, Serbia didn’t get the party pumping like they should have.
Israel This was another performance in which some parts were great and others were messy, which didn’t give the best overall impression. Shir & Tim’s vocals were okay. They had decent chemistry and nice costumes (as you may be able to tell, I put a lot of stock in what people are wearing). I was hoping this would be presented in a more atmospheric way, which would have made it more memorable.
Australia We Are is weak, and there wasn’t much Alexa could do to elevate it. She sang reasonably well if not perfectly, and her engagement with the camera and the audience proved the worth of her time on The Voice Kids. But, as I expected, I wasn’t left feeling strongly about this in a positive or negative way. It was just…there.
The Netherlands I think I’ll be spelling ‘fun’ k-i-s-s-e-s from now on, because these three were the life of the party! The costumes they eventually chose were atrocious (had they just been renovating and repainting a Barbie Dream House? And why was one of the outfits beige?) but apart from that, this was Junior Eurovision in a psychedelically-patterned nutshell.. The energy was unrelenting, and the vividness of the 80s flashback was extreme (and I wasn’t even born until 1991). I loved every second.
Cyprus I’m still not convinced that George isn’t Sakis Rouvas after seven years of plastic surgery (has anyone seem him since Moscow?), but I am convinced that his performance kicked butt. There was no other pure ethno-pop – with drums! – competing in 2016, so this really stood out.
Georgia Last but not least (literally), was another heart-melter. Mariam had the dress that Fiamma didn’t, and elegantly powered her way through the classically beautiful Mzeo without missing a single note. She made serious magic on that stage, and she didn’t even have to saw someone in half to do it. At this point, the doorway to victory was wide open, and she strolled right through it.
If I had to filter those seventeen down to my top five, I’d go with (in random order) Russia, Macedonia, Poland, Belarus and Georgia. But all of the competing kids did themselves proud.
Speaking of the kids…I have to draw attention to the level of cute on display at this year’s contest. I’ve never wanted to adopt so many children at once in my life, so watch out, Angelina Jolie – your record may be about to be broken.
Now, before we move on from the performances to the voting and results, let’s take a look back at the entertainment between them.
The interval acts
Poli Genova Good golly, Miss Poli! Fiercer than ever and just as adept at doing the chicken dance without looking like a loser, she had the few people who could actually fit into the MCC on their feet.
Destiny Chukunyere Why, oh why wouldn’t they let her sing? Sing live, I mean. She was put to better use as a mime than the kids accompanying Sofia Rol on stage. Pre-recorded vocals aside, Destiny’s reprise of Not My Soul was pretty enjoyable. The other song she performed was…different. And slightly inappropriate at times.
The common song This was more of a cheesefest than a quattro formaggio pizza party for the entire population of Europe. I must be getting old and bitter, because I did not enjoy it at all. The reappearance of extreme miming didn’t help matters.
Jedward Let’s just say that, while their hair may have gotten even higher since their ESC days, the twins’ musical talents haven’t improved much. I never thought I’d say this, but stick to the expert judging, boys!
The voting + the results
The end of a Eurovision event is usually the most exciting part – and with the JESC 2016 voting echoing that of ESC 2016 (which nearly killed me), it was bound to be worth waiting for.
It was, but it also turned out to be confusing in the way it was presented. For starters, we had the child spokespersons reading out the adult jury votes. Then we had the expert jurors announce their scores one by one. Then came the combined points from the kids’ jury, read out by the adult hosts. Given that all of this took place at 2am my time, you can understand how it seemed to be less than straightforward. But it certainly delivered on tension, until Valerie made the slip-up that brought one heck of a crescendo to a screeching halt. After that, this is what we were left with:
- Georgia 239
- Armenia 232
- Italy 209
- Russia 202
- Australia 202
- Malta 191
- Belarus 177
- The Netherlands 174
- Bulgaria 161
- Ireland 122
- Poland 60
- Macedonia 41
- Albania 38
- Ukraine 30
- Israel 27
- Cyprus 27
- Serbia 14
The scoreboard wasn’t a carbon copy of this after the adult jury points had been presented: though many countries stayed put throughout the final two voting segments, the adults ranked The Netherlands 3rd and Belarus 4th, while Italy and Russia would eventually rise up to 3rd from 6th and 4th from 9th respectively.
The adult jury gave their top points to Georgia; the kids’ jury gave theirs to Armenia; and the expert jury gave theirs to Russia. All three ranked Australia 5th, which was the only across-the-board agreement. Some of the most drastic differences of opinion? Russia (top three with the KJ and EJ, 9th with the AJ); Georgia (1st with the AJ, 8th with the EJ); and Malta (2nd with the KJ, 10th with the EJ).
Opinions also differed among the three expert jurors (a.k.a. the two expert jurors and Jedward) – Mads handed his douze to Italy, Christer gave his to Belarus, and Jedward rewarded Russia with their top score.
If we combine the twelve points from both the AJ and the KJ, it leaves us with Georgia scoring 11 sets – the same number of countries that received at least one top score.
Three countries finished in the same position they performed in. Armenia performed second and came second, Russia performed fourth and came fourth, and Cyprus performed 16th and came…you guessed it, 16th! The same thing happened twice last year. Fortunately for Georgia, Mariam bucked the trend by finishing first after performing last. This is the fourth time that has happened in JESC history – the final songs to be performed also won in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The countries that improved on their last results were Georgia, Italy, The Netherlands, Australia, Ireland, Russia, Macedonia and Poland. The countries that did NOT improve were Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine, Malta, Albania, Israel and Cyprus. As for Armenia and Bulgaria…well, they ended up in the exact same positions as last year.
Another “interesting” fact…there were only two songs that were performed without any English lyrics. One won, and the other came last.
If you were wondering what I thought of the final results, then I’ll tell you – there were some shocks and surprises, and a few injustices, but the right entry won…even if it wasn’t my favourite. I always believe that the eventual winner is the true winner, simply because they won according to the rules of the contest. But Mariam’s Mzeo is definitely more of a Waterloo than an I Wanna – i.e. it’s a song I can get on board with, rather than a song I’ll quietly resent for years.
I can also live with my far-and-away favourite Russia finishing fourth – the same position my #1 entry reached in 2015. And as I predicted Armenia would come second, I’m not going to complain about that. Underrated IMO were Poland, Macedonia and Cyprus. Overrated was Australia (so if you hear news of me being deported to Greenland, you’ll know why). Then again, the bulk of the points were based on the performances at the jury show on Saturday – and unless you were there in the MCC at the time, you’ll never know how they differed from the televised versions.
So, was this the greatest Junior Eurovision ever? Umm, no. Was it up there (or down there) with the worst? Production-wise and host-wise, yes (in my honest opinion. You’re welcome to disagree). Can Malta do better? Of course, we know that. But what we did get out of the show was seventeen enjoyable performances from seventeen talented acts that must have had Jedward feeling insanely inferior; a voting sequence that had us on the edge of our seats almost until the very last second (DAMMIT, VALERIE!); and an insight into how uncomfortable Christer Björkman is when he’s not in total control of such proceedings.
Oh, and I also got my Tweet read out loud (albeit attributed to a boy named Yaz) so that was a personal highlight.
What were your overall impressions of JESC 2016? Do you think Malta nailed or failed their second attempt at hosting? And how did your favourite songs end up faring in the competition? If there’s something you want to say, I’m listening…a.k.a. monitoring the comments section below.
I’ll be back soon with a few more Junior-themed posts (sorry to those who can’t stand it, but I’m not willing to let go just yet) before launching into some Stockholm flashbacks – after all, it has been SIX MONTHS since the final. Then, it’s on to NF season we go, and this time, I really mean that (in case you hadn’t heard, I’m off to Melodifestivalen in March!).
Basically, I have all the Eurovision you need to get you through the next few months. And then the rest of your life, probably.
Until next time…
I bet you didn’t see this coming. Regardless and right on schedule, round three of the EBJJJ judgments has arrived!
Today, it’s time for a few of last year’s JESC success stories; host country Malta; and Italy (who neither did brilliantly in 2015 or are hosting like they COULD HAVE in 2015) to be picked apart by me and my posse of Europop aficionados. Prepare for highs, lows and mixed emotions, people.
Without further ado, let’s jump in to judging Klesta, Alexander, Fiamma and Christina’s songs for Europe. And Australia. And any other country that happens to be broadcasting JESC this year.
My thoughts Last year, I staunchly supported Mishela Rapo and her dibi-dibi-Dambaje as they ventured forth into the bloody musical battle that is…not JESC (blood-drawing = not so child-friendly, and probably frowned upon by the EBU). The haters did hate, but she went on to finish 5th, equaling the best-ever ranking in a Eurovision event that Albania secured with Rona Nishliu in Baku. Funnily enough, their Junior entry for 2016 reminds me of Suus, for several reasons. But am I intending to sing its praises the way I did with Dambaje (and yes, Suus, once my ears became accustomed to Rona’s tuneful but still very loud wailing)? The answer is ‘kind of’. In my opinion, there’s more to like about Klesta’s Besoj than there is NOT to like about it, but it isn’t flawless. Let’s start with the good stuff, though. A mature, sophisticated and B-I-G ballad bursting out of a precious-looking little girl (in glasses, no less) has been a secret to JESC success lately – think Gaia Cauchi’s 2013 win or Slovenia’s song from Lina Kuduzović last year. So there’s that. Then there’s the fact that this ballad features multiple moments of melodic magnificence throughout, particularly between the choruses. The choruses do have their strengths, as they’re a dynamic contrast to the softness of what surrounds them, exploding out of nowhere and allowing Klesta to reach her full vocal potential (surprising unsuspecting viewers in the process). It’s a statement song, that’s for sure. But I have to point out its flaws if I want to get all of the cattiness out of my system before these reviews reach their conclusion, and these are the most obvious: firstly, the somewhat strange use of English in amongst the Albanian – ‘believe’ popping up in that first chorus instead of ‘besoj’ is too random for my tastes. Secondly, the second half of the chorus, where most of the power is packed, is OTT enough to give me the beginnings of a headache by time the song’s over. Still, my personal ratio of like to dislike here is about 85%:15%, which ain’t bad for Albania. It just means that the more people who feel the way I do, the more likely they’ll have to settle for a less impressive result than last year’s. I’m not sure if it would be a help or hindrance if Klesta took even more cues from Rona Nishliu and appeared on stage with her hair forming part of her costume…
My score 7
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 6
- James, UK – 6
- Joshua, Australia – 12
- Matthew, Ireland – 7
- Michael, Australia – 4
- Penny, USA – 10
- Rory, Ireland – 10
My thoughts This is old-school Junior Eurovision right here, folks! From 2003-2010 (ish), pre-teen pop was the core of the contest. Nowadays, we’re lucky to get two or three tracks per year that bring back those memories (the trio of 2016 being Belarus, The Netherlands and Serbia). Alex’s homeland came third in 2013 with something similar, and I’m guessing he’d like to do the same or better. Sadly, I’m about to burst his bubble, because Muzyka Moikh Pobed is only okay, and certainly no Poy So Mnoy (then again, what is? That was BOSS). It’s a mid-tempo, pretty well-sung and performed song with a reasonably catchy chorus, and I do get a kick out of it – just not a hard one. More like a gentle poke with the toe, if you were after specifics. There’s nothing about it that’s memorable, even though comparing it to anything else in the competition would be like comparing Lordi and Boggie. It would make a great Sing It Away-style opener for the show because it’s energetic and sets the mood switch to ‘Party Time!!!’, but can then promptly be forgotten about by everyone and eventually putt-putt to a halt in 13th place because it’s disposable. I don’t want it to fail – if an outcome like that would be considered a fail – but I don’t see it having the steam to climb much higher. That doesn’t mean Europe should stop sending kid pop: it can be done in a memorable way that still scores serious points. It just means that…well, you can’t take a top 5 spot every single year. Unless you’re Armenia.
My score 6
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 5
- James, UK – 7
- Joshua, Australia – 10
- Matthew, Ireland – 5
- Michael, Australia – 8
- Penny, USA – 7
- Rory, Ireland – 5
My thoughts Nobody does class like Italy. It consistently ensures they get great adult Eurovision results (when they don’t, those are the exceptions, not the rule) and even won them the Junior Eurovision title on their very first try in 2014. Fiamma Boccia’s ballad, which is an ode to her mother (see, Axel Hirsoux…it CAN be done in a non-creepy way!), is nothing if not classy. Yet it still manages to be age-appropriate for the twelve-year-old, who actually looks younger than her years (she may be asked for ID upon entering the Mediterranean Conference Centre for the first time). To be honest, I thought Cara Mamma was an unfortunate sweet-and-savoury combo of sugar and cheese back when it was presented, and if it was entirely in English (against JESC rules, I know, but I’m talking hypothetically here) I probably still would. But further listens have somehow changed my mind, and I’m really digging it now. It is sweet, but the Italian, as always, adds an aspect of beauty that’s very appealing. The chorus is soaring and melodic without being overblown or melodramatic. And the softness of the verses that is echoed when the song winds down gives me a satisfying feeling that the entry has come full circle, returning to its roots and making it more meaningful. Italy also makes excellent use of the little English they’ve opted for, as it doesn’t feel like it was crammed in just to increase the song’s accessibility. Fiamma is pretty darn cute, and has an emotional presence – at least in her music video – that reminds me of Alisa Kozhikina, who represented Russia the year Italy won JESC (albeit with a ballad that was too mature and melodramatic for my liking, but still finished 5th). I think she has one of the best ballads of the year up her sleeve, but with tough competition coming from Albania, Bulgaria and Poland, she needs to pull off a top-notch performance to give herself the best shot of outdoing the others. I’d like to see her do well, and I bet her mother would too (her father, who’s probably feeling a little left out, may be less supportive).
My score 8
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 5
- James, UK – 12
- Joshua, Australia – 7
- Matthew, Ireland – 10
- Michael, Australia – 8
- Penny, USA – 8
- Rory, Ireland – 4
My thoughts Malta has been hyped a heap at Junior Eurovision recently, and usually they live up to that hype by winning or doing very well indeed. Destiny’s Not My Soul wasn’t my favourite entry last year (far from it, in fact), but she certainly fulfilled expectations, and did deserve to win as far as I’m concerned. But if Christina Magrin does the double on home soil with the frequently-fangirled-over Parachute, I will be FURIOUS. To cut what could be a long story short, I hate this song. So much so that I’ve taken to calling it Parashite (hoping that Christina never finds out, because I’m not a monster who wants to hurt a child’s feelings). I seem to be in the minority, but to me the song is annoying, vacuous, derivative crap. And what the heck is up with that ‘Ew ew ewhew ewwwww’ part of the chorus? I mean, yes, it accurately describes my attitude towards the whole thing, but what does it add to the track? It’s like the writers couldn’t for the life of them think of any more lyrics for that section, so they decided to string out the last syllable sung instead in the most irritating manner known to man. All in all, this is bubblegum pop that should stay stuck to the underside of a school desk somewhere. Maybe this rant makes me a distant relative of Satan himself, but I have to tell the truth! I will admit that Christina is a great singer, as is everyone under the age of sixteen who calls Malta home. But her vocal gymnastics can’t somersault the song into my good graces. Worryingly, the last time I felt this strongly about a Maltese JESC entry in a negative way, it was 2013 and Gaia Cauchi’s The Start went on to win with ease. So if Parachute does the same¸ y’all can go off and celebrate and I’ll just be crying in a corner, cursing the juries under my breath.
My score 2
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 5
- James, UK – 10
- Joshua, Australia – 6
- Matthew, Ireland – 12
- Michael, Australia – 6
- Penny, USA – 8
- Rory, Ireland – 3
And with that controversial ending to today’s round of reviews (direct all hate mail to me and expect a falsely polite reply within six to eight months), there’s now twelve down, five to go for the EBJ Junior Jury.
Our ranking after scoring this group of four looks like this:
- Albania (7.75)
- Italy (7.75)
- Belarus (6.62)
- Malta (6.5)
It’s the ballads that have reigned supreme, with Albania and Italy equaling each other’s scores. Albania gets the top spot on countback, but the gap between the two is barely there. Belarus and Malta keep each other company in the lower half, with very little separating them as well.
How do they all fit in to the full EBJJJ ranking for 2016? Well, you’ll have to wait and see – but don’t worry, there’s not long now until I reveal all. The final five left to be reviewed are Australia, Israel, Macedonia, The Netherlands and Serbia. Maybe we’ve saved the best until last….maybe we haven’t. Either way, you won’t want to miss it.
Did Albania deserve to take out today’s top honours, or should Malta have been the cream of the crop á la Destiny? Perhaps Italy or Belarus have won you over instead. Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments!
Yes/ja/oui, et cetera – it’s already time for another round of reviews here on EBJ! And since this second installment isn’t much less epic (a fancy way of saying ‘ridiculously long’) than the first one, I’ll make this intro fast…by stopping it right here. You guys know how these posts go.
Remember, you can reacquaint yourself with the 2016 EBJ Jury at any time via the meet and greet page up there *points in the appropriate direction*. Today’s reviewers = my mum (she’s back!), Fraser from ESC TMI, and yours truly – meaning it’s an all-Aussie, all-awesome affair. We’ve had our say on the Eurovision entries from Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. Our excessive compliments and/or abusive tirades are in, as are the scores from all of my other slaves…er, I mean helpers. So now I present to you the entire EBJ Jury’s assessments of IVAN, Minus One, Nika Kocharov & The Young Georgian Lolitaz, Francesca, Frans* and Rykka. Which act will emerge victorious? And will they knock France off the top of our leaderboard? If you want the answers to those questions, plus a whole heap more, then read on!
*Am I the only one who thinks Francesca and Frans should hook up purely because their couple name writes itself? I’m dying to use #Franscesca in a tweet or two (hundred).
Mrs. Jaz The beginning of this song caught me off guard (even though I didn’t know what would follow it). As interesting as it is, that intro sounded strange to me, and not in a good way. As Help You Fly continued, I was also unsettled by the high note-filled choruses that IVAN is so fond of – choruses that could be his downfall if he doesn’t nail them at Eurovision (if he’s even a millimetre out of tune, it could be painful for everyone with functioning ears). However, on the whole, I quite enjoyed Belarus’ entry. It’s catchy and radio-friendly, and would be easy to sing along to, if I knew any of the lyrics! I’m told that IVAN’s slightly disturbing wish to perform starkers with wolves will not be granted by the ESC powers that be, and that’s definitely the best part of this package…so to speak.
Fraser Howling, wolves…ooh, this is Eurotastic! I do love how projections can make any song look super professional. IVAN has a fabulously expected, deep Eastern European pop voice – one that, in most other countries, would not be used for this style of song. Somehow it all seems to work. The song is easy to sing along to, and not bad as a bit of background music. I’m struggling to see how Help You Fly has anything to do with wolves…but hey, this is Eurovision, so who cares! Belarus have not made it through to the final for a few years, but if IVAN presents this naked on the Eurovision stage surrounded by wolves, maybe they will. That’s their best chance.
Jaz It seems that taste in music doesn’t totally run in my family, given that I do like the intro of Help You Fly – a song that I named the one I’d least like to win the Belarusian final a while back. Clearly, I’ve come around since then. If you’re wondering what’s up with IVAN’s wolf obsession (especially when an eagle obsession would make more sense), then that intro at least incorporates a howl into HYF, and sets an intense, mysterious and minutely-ethnic tone for the rest of the song, which sits on the right side of the rock genre. Initially, I found the chorus irritating, and couldn’t even remember how the verses went. But after listening to it a time or two recently, I’ve found myself appreciating it for what it is – a solid Eastern European rock effort, with lyrics that manage to be inspirational without inducing any gagging (which is always good). It’s a little too lethargic to trouble its semi’s top 10, so I’m not sure it’ll qualify. But if IVAN gets to grips with the knowledge that the naked + animal thing ain’t going to happen, and intensifies his NF staging (the background graphics there were edgy and complementary), you never know. Failing that, he might burst (not naked) out of a giant disco ball, and subsequently straight into Saturday night. It worked for Alyona Lanskaya, didn’t it?
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 4
- James 5
- Jaz 7
- Martin 5
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 1
- Penny 7
- Rory 5
- Wolfgang 1
Belarus’ EBJ Jury score is…4.8
Mrs. Jaz ‘Coz this is thrillerrrrr….thriller night!’ Oh wait – it isn’t? Well, it sure sounded like it at the start. Though that is where any resemblance to Michael Jackson’s music ended, because this track is only okay, in my opinion. I preferred Belarus to Cyprus. Alter Ego is pretty catchy too, and it has a good beat, but it’s rather repetitive and not as instant. I think I’d need further listens to appreciate it, but as I got bored halfway through this one (I zoned out and did some online shopping during those last 90 seconds) I’m not too keen to hear it again. If Jaz wants me to give it another go, she might have to use some force.
Fraser Well, this is a bit of a surprise. Everything about Minus One’s Alter Ego is against my normal style of music, but there is something that’s a bit ‘easy-listening soft rock’ that I like about this. Wolves are big this year – maybe Minus One and IVAN can do a naked mashup with wolves, or re-enact ‘Dances With Wolves’ on the stage. Naked. Please? Actually, looking at the video, it’s probably best if they all keep their clothes on. Honestly, I think Cyprus may have a chance of getting through to the final with this song. It’s catchy enough to sing along to, and that may just get them somewhere.
Jaz Thomas G:son strikes again! Though it must be said, Alter Ego isn’t his best-ever Eurovision effort. Then again, neither an uplifting power ballad nor a club banger (the kind of songs he does best) would have suited Minus One, who’ve bounced back from a defeat in the 2015 Cypriot NF to represent the island in Stockholm. What the band and G:son have created is a song that ticks a lot of boxes, but still seems to be missing something – something that says ‘Vote for this!’. It’s all just a bit…flat. Having said that, it does have a great driving beat, and a two-part chorus that adds variety. The Killers-slash-Nickelback vibe also has appeal (no, I don’t mind Nickelback. You got a problem with that?) and I particularly enjoy the ‘Howlin’ for youuuuuuuuu’ part (SVT should just change the ESC slogan to ‘Come together…with wolves’ already). In summary, I suppose I’m in two minds (or perhaps I’m thinking one thing, and my Alter Ego is thinking another). This track is more than halfway up on the good-quality song scale, but I also believe it doesn’t pack enough punch to reach the highest heights. Ultimately, I’m happy that it doesn’t send me to sleep like Cyprus’ entry did last year, but I’m not exactly impressed by it.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 2
- James 7
- Jaz 6
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 5
- Nick 4
- Penny 7
- Rory 7
- Wolfgang 5
Cyprus’ EBJ Jury score is…5.7
Mrs. Jaz Wow – what a throwback! You’d never guess this was the Georgian entry based on how Brit-pop it sounds. Oasis would be proud to have Midnight Gold as one of their own hits if the Gallagher brothers weren’t such…well, you can insert your own insult here. The song’s clearly not cutting-edge, but I like that Georgia have taken a deliberately retro route rather than an accidentally stale one. The result is something that stands out (though maybe not for the better in the eyes and to the ears of many Eurovision fans). If I may channel Austin Powers for a moment, I’d say it’s pretty groovy, baby!
Fraser Immediately this sounds like some average 90s Brit-pop band is making a comeback. There is nothing that sounds remotely Eurovision about it. I’m bored already. I think Noel Gallagher is on bass guitar, and his talents are better used elsewhere. Did I mention I’m bored? Sorry Georgia, this is not your year.
Jaz I try not to feel guilty about fangirling over ANY song – why should you feel bad about liking what you like? But…if I could call anything a guilty pleasure this year where Eurovision’s concerned, it would have to be Georgia’s Midnight Gold. As it’s far from being a fan favourite, I have a strong feeling that I’m not “supposed” to enjoy it. And I’d be lying if I said I expected it to succeed, or even get out of its semi. But I really, really like this song! What’s even weirder about that is the fact that alt-rock is a genre I hardly ever choose to listen to any other time. Apparently, though, it can be slotted into the ESC line-up and I’ll fawn over it like it’s Måns Zelmerlöw attending a nude party thrown by Sir Ivan of Belarus. Everything about the song is close to bizarre and certainly edging towards bonkers territory – and I love it. The catchy guitar riff, ambiguous zero-cliché lyrics, and general freshness of the genre in the Eurovision context have well and truly won me over, folks. And I refuse to be ashamed about it! I’m letting my freak flag fly, and quite possibly a Georgian one too.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 10
- Fraser 1
- James 2
- Jaz 8
- Martin 4
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 6
- Penny 7
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 1
Georgia’s EBJ Jury score is…5.3
Mrs. Jaz I’M IN LOVE. This is gorgeous, and makes me want to get married again just so I can use it as my wedding song. Obviously I had no idea what Francesca was on about until the English chorus kicked in, but I figured it was something romantic, and I guess I was right (although the Italian language can make any subject matter sound romantic…this could have been an ode to conjunctivitis and I’d still be swooning). The melody, plus her combination of crystal-clear and raspy notes (she’s got a great range) made me feel the emotion of her words without even trying. I’d willingly listen to this one again, at my fantasy second nuptials or not.
Fraser Italy can do no wrong. This is fabulous. Maybe it’s just that anything sung in Italian sounds hot! Francesca’s voice is youthful, modern, and soothing. I fell in love with this song after San Remo, and it has grown on me more and more ever since. I’m not sure there was a need to add in the English lyrics halfway through the song, as it was good regardless – but it is competing in Eurovision, and you need to make sure you get votes from as many people as possible. I expect that this will finish within the top five songs this year.
Jaz Oh, Italy. What would Eurovision these days be without you? A lot less classy, that’s for sure, and in the case of 2016, that lack of class would be accompanied by a lack of spine-tingles, and a lack of exclamations such as ‘Oh no, I’ve got something stuck in my eye *sniff*’. No Degree of Separation is, put simply, stunning. My only criticism – which I’d like to get out of the way so I can carry on gushing – is that it wasn’t an instantaneous goosebump-producer for me, like Grande Amore was. It took a few plays of the 100%-Italian version for me to fall in love, but the song did pique my interest straight away, as elegant Italian piano-pop always does. And now, with the (barely) bilingual version off to Stockholm, I have high hopes for Italy once again. Francesca’s choice to insert an English chorus and make it known by its English title for ESC purposes will pay off, I reckon. That second chorus adds an element of understanding to a song that was already seeping with sentimentality. The fragility of Francesca’s voice is perfectly paired up with the themes and style of the song. The structure of it is dynamic without shoving itself down anyone’s throat. I’m besotted, basically (in case you couldn’t tell). With an entry that reminds me of Gabrielle Aplin’s version of The Power of Love, and suitably ethereal/off-beat staging, I think Italy could and should do very well with this. But I am a teensy bit biased.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 10
- James 12
- Jaz 12
- Martin 5
- Mrs. Jaz 10
- Nick 5
- Penny 6
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 10
Italy’s EBJ Jury score is…9
Mrs. Jaz I get the feeling I’m not supposed to find that ‘no’ at the end of Sweden’s song amusing, but I did anyway. And, after all, I spent most of the three minutes thinking ‘Clearly, he’s not sorry!’, so it’s a relief that he admitted it. I did quite like this one. It’s interesting, and that made me pay attention rather than drift off daydreaming (or online shopping). If I Were Sorry is a bit repetitive – let’s just say I had no issues with working out its title before I was told what it was. But lyrically, it grabbed my attention, and I think Frans’ unique accent is an asset.
Fraser Well, well, well…what happened to schlager? It appears that Sweden has grown up and moved on. Maybe I should too? From the first time I heard this song in the field of Melodifestivalen entries, I knew it was going to be the Swedish representative. It wasn’t my favourite song in the field, but it’s a song of today. With a pared-back, youthful and emotional song, Frans will have a huge following of teenage girls which will automatically get him some votes. But I hope the rest of Europe get IIWS too. It didn’t do as well as some others with the international juries in Melodifestivalen, which was surprising. I guess we will have to wait and see how Frans goes on the huge Eurovision stage. My fingers and toes are crossed for him!
Jaz A minute ago, I said I was biased about Italy. Well, now it’s time to talk about our hosts with the most – so hold on to your underpants, because a tsunami of bias is headed your way! There’s a reason I knew, the second Heroes won Eurovision 2015, that 2016 HAD to be the year I trekked across the globe to attend my first contest. I. LOVE. SWEDEN. In and outside of the ESC (though the outside mainly refers to Melodifestivalen). That’s not to say there haven’t been times when I’ve disliked their entries (La Voix, I hate with a passion), but for the most part, the country can do no wrong in my eyes. So, despite my earlier desires for Oscar Zia or Molly Sandén to represent Sweden, I am a fully-fledged Frans fan. If I Were Sorry is in the mould of Sweden’s recent host entries – i.e. just You – in that it’s more organic, less precise, and simplified in comparison to the stuff they send when they’re competing on foreign ground. But there’s no doubt Sweden are still in the race with this, as the Spotify streams and betting odds are testament to. I don’t think Frans will deliver his country the seventh win Christer Björkman is hoping for (I’m sure he can wait until 2017 or 2018) but what I’m hoping for is a strong top 10 finish with this very-2016 toe-tapper. I can’t see the IIWS staging changing much from ye olde Melodifestivalen times – so the song and its presentation are really going to need to capture the public and the juries when it counts, as they captured the Swedish public and (some of) the international juries back in March. The song is certainly endearingly sweet and quirky enough – not to mention unique enough in the 43 – to find that favour. Perhaps my plan to scream the roof off the Globe Arena whilst wearing a shirt with Frans’ face on it will have a positive effect on the outcome?
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 12
- James 6
- Jaz 10
- Martin 8
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 7
- Penny 8
- Rory 1
- Wolfgang 7
Sweden’s EBJ Jury score is…7.3
Mrs. Jaz Very nice, Switzerland. I like this a lot. I was lured in from the abrupt beginning all the way through to the end, and I loved the sound of Rykka’s voice throughout. Her diction is beautiful. I’m a ballad fan if said ballad fits my definition of ‘decent’, and Last of Our Kind definitely does. It sounds like it should be the theme to a romantic drama movie or something – as in, what Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do was to Fifty Shades of Grey (not that I’d know anything about that). Backing an intense scene between two extremely attractive leads, the song would shine.
Fraser Rykka is a surprise for me. Her song feels like a step back into the end credits of a movie from 1989 (I know she even says that, but it really does). It’s a really nice song that I find myself singing along to in the car. The only thing is, I don’t always understand all of the lyrics she’s singing – maybe it’s just her accent. The recorded version is a lot stronger than the live of course, but I really hope that Rykka has a lot of practice before May. If her performance is on point, she may just sneak through to the final. BTW, if she could do something about those eyebrows, it would be greatly appreciated.
Jaz Each and every year, the Swiss NF is made up of a handful of mediocre songs (and often one or two that start with ‘r’ and end with ‘ubbish’) plus one that is slightly less mediocre than the others (but is still crappier than the crappiest Melfest entry of that year). The latter always wins, but I don’t always dig it. Where am I going with this? Straight to the shed for a shovel, peeps, because I totally dig The Last of Our Kind. It’s one of several Sia-esque songs heading to Stockholm, and that gets it an automatic ‘YAAAASSSS!’ from me. The melody and lyrics we hear before that first chorus are stunning, and overall the song is like a particularly ethereal dream that I don’t want to wake up from. I do think that the verses are stronger than the choruses, perhaps because they’re less repetitive (you and whoever you’re singing to are the last of your kind, Rykka…we get it). But there’s nothing wrong with a little repetition – and nobody’s going to forget the song title fast, that’s for sure. I’d love Switzerland to succeed with this, but I’m not entirely confident they will. Still, I have total confidence that they made the right choice by selecting Rykka as their representative…and let’s not forget what happened the last time a Canadian stepped up to fly the Swiss flag (although a tense battle for the win between Switzerland and the UK is super unlikely in 2016). While Fraser has all of his digits crossed for Sweden, I’ll have mine crossed for Canada…slash Switzerland.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 10
- James 5
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 8
- Nick 4
- Penny 5
- Rory 1
- Wolfgang 12
Switzerland’s EBJ Jury score is…6.8
With a slightly above-average score for Switzerland locked in, that’s six more songs I can now file away under ‘Reviewed’. As you might have noticed, there wasn’t a massive difference of opinion between the three of us critiquing today – but survey those scores again, and you’ll see basically every number from 1-12 pop up at least once. That variety has left us with these results:
- Italy (9)
- Sweden (7.3)
- Switzerland (6.8)
- Cyprus (5.7)
- Georgia (5.3)
- Belarus (4.8)
Close, but not close enough! If you’ve forgotten the results of Part 1 (or have dropped by randomly and didn’t see them at all) then I can reveal that Francesca has failed to overtake France on the EBJ Top 43 table. But she’s topped this round of reviews, so that’s something – maybe I’ll send her a congratulatory card.
Next time, two British bloggers will join me to discuss Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and…San Marino (there’s SO much to say about San Marino). Feathers and curse words will (probably) fly, so you won’t want to miss that.
In the meantime, let us know what you think of our winner and of our losers. Do you agree that No Degree of Separation is a stunner, or are you anti-Italy this year? Is the Georgian entry just bonkers enough in your opinion, or way too cray-cray for your taste? If you’re thinking it, type it in the comments. My mother would really appreciate it.
The title of this post pretty much says it all – besides letting you know that I actually haven’t got the time to review and predict the Estonian or Polish finals. I do have time to pass judgment on the songs that have become Eurovision entries since last Saturday, however. And to unveil my first official ranking of the year. AND to put Melodifestivalen’s Andra Chansen round under the microscope to see if I can guess who’ll walk away with the four performance slots in next weekend’s final. So all of the above is what I will do – right here, right now.
Well…in a minute.
Just so you know I know what’s going on in the Eurovision bubble over the next few nights, here are my traditional bullet points.
- Estonia’s Eesti Laul – the final (will there be a Stig and Elina-style runaway winner? I suspect not)
- Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the semi final (believe it or not, the end is in sight)
- Poland’s Krajowe Eliminacje – the final (Edyta, Margaret, or neither to Stockholm?)
- Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the Andra Chansen round (eight must become four)
- Romania’s Selecția Națională – the final (Mihai Traistariu’s chance to redo Eurovision)
- Macedonia present their song for Kaliopi (and she’s got her own big shoes to fill)
Now, let’s talk about the select stuff I have the chance to cover.
The songs and artist selections of the week, summed up in a sentence
Because ain’t nobody got the freedom for a full-length analysis – not with the week we’ve had.
- LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan (Armenia) I don’t know if I’m impressed or disappointed by this unstructured, ethnically-tinged vehicle for Iveta’s raspy vocals.
- Dami Im (Australia) She’s no Delta Goodrem (sadface), but X Factor champ Dami has the talent and dress sense to stand out in Stockholm – the only missing piece is a spectacular song.
- Sing It Away by Sandhja (Finland) This reminds me of Belgium’s entry, but I prefer Laura to Sandhja (though I am glad Finland didn’t send Saara Aalto).
- J’ai Cherché by Amir Haddad (France) Oui, oui and OUI.
- Pioneer by Freddie (Hungary) Hot singer + hit song = something that could be powerful on the Eurovision stage, and very successful for Hungary on the scoreboard.
- Made of Stars by Hovi Star (Israel) If a song could be on the soundtrack of a West End musical, but a) isn’t, and b) isn’t Bohemian Rhapsody, then I’m not particularly interested.
- Nessun Grado Di Separazione by Francesca Michielin (Italy) Classy, effortless Italian pop is a grande amore of mine, and this song is no exception (but please, please sing in Italian, Francesca!).
- Heartbeat by Justs (Latvia) This is just/Justs brilliant, and features one of the most latch-able choruses of the year so far – Aminata, you’ve done it again.
- Falling Stars by Lidia Isac (Moldova) The studio version, I’m keen on; the live version…well, Lidia positions herself right in the heart of screechy territory.
- The Real Thing by Highway (Montenegro) This scares me and kind of appeals to me at the same time, but I expect it to perform terribly in its semi final.
- Slow Down by Douwe Bob (The Netherlands) Bob’s style isn’t my bottle of Heineken, but even I can hear that Slow Down is a good example of folk/country that will do a decent job of leaving the Walk Along incident in its dust.
- Icebreaker by Agnete (Norway) It’s incredible how Norway is managing to send two different songs to Eurovision 2016 without breaching any rules or regulations.
- You Are The Only One by Sergey Lazarev (Russia) Sky-high expectations not met by a song that could have been lifted straight out of Eurovision 2006.
- Blue and Red by ManuElla (Slovenia) You’ve got to do better than a Taylor Swift: 2008 Edition impersonator to impress me, Slovenia – what a step down from Here For You.
If you were wondering where the songs I’ve summed up here would factor in to a ranking including the rest, you’ll find that just below. If you weren’t, then feel free to skip to the Swedish section.
It’s here, and it’s uncertain! My first ranking of the 2016 season, revealed
I did put a ranking together a few days ago (not for publication’s sake but out of curiosity) and it was considerably different to the one below. What can I say? I’m fickle. This latest and first-to-be-publicised list includes all of the songs confirmed for Stockholm AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT – so Malta, who are still deciding whether Ira Losco should be a Chameleon or something else (I like to think they’ve got a backup track entitled Komodo Dragon waiting in the wings) is not included.
And so, for anyone who cares, this is my current top 28:
- United Kingdom
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
With fifteen songs still to be premiered or picked, there’s a lot of room for movement in all of our lists. But I want to know who’s topping yours at the moment…and who’s sitting un-pretty on the bottom. Let me know in the comments, and I (might) send you a gift basket.
Meanwhile, in Sweden: It’s time to give out the last remaining final tickets!
Andra Chansen, the stage of Melodifestivalen that’s as fun to pronounce as it is to watch, has arrived. And, like last year (but not the year before that), there are four places left in the Friends Arena final for tonight’s competitors to fight for.
SVT, as usual, have paired up the eight songs placed 3rd and 4th in the semi finals, ensuring that none of those who went to AC together will be up against each other again. In the process, they’ve come up with some duels that can only be described using the letters W, T and F. And that makes a few of them hard to predict. Let’s take a closer look.
Duel 1: Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz VS Hunger by Molly Pettersson Hammar
I’ll start with a confession: I would have bet my entire trip to Stockholm on Panetoz being pit against Boris René tonight (but I’m glad I didn’t). Don’t get me wrong – I’m relieved that both acts now have a shot at progressing from AC. But if SVT wanted to ensure the Melfest final was a variety show, they shouldn’t have given up an opportunity to eliminate one of two songs in a very similar vein. But ANYWAY, back to the duel that IS about to take place…this is a tough one. There are two very different artists and styles butting heads here. Panetoz are the masters of fun, energy, and transferring all of the above to the audience. Molly’s got a hunger, but I’m not sure it’s a hunger to win – there’s something lacking in her performance package (perhaps some of the Panetoz fun and energy). It isn’t vocal ability – she’s certainly got the monopoly on that in this duel. My personal winner is Panetoz, and I think they might have Molly cornered…but it’s not a given.
Who I want to win Panetoz
Who WILL win Panetoz
Duel 2: Rik by Albin & Mattias VS Put Your Love On Me by Boris René
Here we have two repetitive songs up against each other. As much as I adore Albin and Mattias as artists, I have to admit that Rik is repetitive in an annoying, couldn’t-they-think-of-anything-else-to-fill-three-minutes kind of way, whereas it’s purely the chorus of Put Your Love On Me that uses the five title words and basically nothing else. Boris’ song and performance have so much more to offer, and he’s the clear winner of the second duel in my opinion.
Who I want to win Boris René
Who WILL win Boris René
Duel 3: I Will Wait by Isa VS Kizunguzungu by SaRaha
This is perhaps the weirdest pairing of the evening (Molly PH versus Isa? No? Okay then). I’m a big fan of both songs, but I think Isa may be trying too hard to get somewhere. Vocally (and physically), she’s can’t measure up to the lofty standards I Will Wait sets for her. SaRaha, on the other hand, owns Kizunguzungu, and is clearly completely comfortable and in her zone with Afro-pop. It’s not too intense, and she’s not straining to belt it out – which is the opposite impression I get from Isa. I think SaRaha’s ease and confidence (plus her sensational Spotify stats) will see her through to the final tonight.
Who I want to win Isa…SaRaha…I DON’T KNOW!!!
Who WILL win SaRaha
Duel 4: Rollercoaster by Dolly Style VS Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor
Ah, finally! A duel that makes sense. Almost-novelty against almost-novelty. We need to get rid of one of these acts/songs, and I think Rollercoaster will be the one to get the silver platform boot. The force that is Samir & Viktor shouldn’t be underestimated, despite the fact that they didn’t manage to go direkt this time around. Their fans will be out to compensate for that “injustice” by systematically destroying Dolly Style via a tsunami of televotes. I can totally live with that.
Who I want to win Samir & Viktor
Who WILL win Samir & Viktor
Sadly (seriously, have some tissues at the ready) that’s all I’ve got time for, folks. After all, a good-quality pre-Melfest nap must take priority over not napping.
As always, leave your thoughts on any recent or imminent Eurovisual happenings down below. And – this is not optional – enjoy this second-last Saturday of national final season while it lasts!
Until next time…