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FRIDAY FAST FIVE | The JESC 2015 artists who should graduate to the ESC, ASAP!

Happy Friday, guys! Or, for all of you residing in the US of A and anywhere else where Black Friday is a thing (they try to make it a thing here in Australia, but it hasn’t really taken off), HAPPY BLACK FRIDAY! It’s definitely a Happy Friday for me, because yesterday, after several hours of heart palpitations, yelling expletives at my computer screen and sobbing into the Swedish flag I carry with me at all times, I managed to score some Eurovision tickets.

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OH MY LORDI. Honestly, I’m more relieved that the ordeal of attempting to get them is over than ecstatic that I managed to nab a ticket to both broadcast semis – as you’ll know by now, whether you were in the dreaded Waiting Room of Death or not, the ticket quest was very traumatic. But I have my tickets next to me as I type this, and every time I look at them (and stroke them lovingly from time to time), I feel a flash of excitement. Congratulations to all of you who also got your hands on a ticket or two (or three, damn you), and to those of you who didn’t, or who are planning to try again in the new year for the show you missed out on: I will see you there. Assuming I will have concluded the course of therapy I’ve enrolled in to get over yesterday, of course.

It’s also a good Friday for me and my fellow Aussies thanks to tomorrow being the day of the delayed JESC 2015 broadcast, with our brand new pair of commentators narrating the proceedings (and probably taking the piss a little too often for my liking, but I’ll try to ignore that). I’m in no mood to stop talking about JESC ’15 until the credits roll on that replay, hence the topic of today’s post. So, if you’re not a fan of Eurovision’s younger sibling, you’ll have to humour me a little longer.

Let’s get into this Fast Friday Five* before I’ve officially rambled on for so long that it’s no longer Friday (confession: it’s already Saturday over here anyway). Here are five Junior acts from this year who I’d love to see and hear at Eurovision in the future.

 

*I’m now thinking that this might be the first time I’ve posted an FFF, so in case that’s true, here’s a definition: A Fast Friday Five is a short, sweet and unranked version of a top 10 list, for which I’ll select five randomly ordered favourites from any given ESC (or JESC, in this instance) category and ask you for yours in return. Just so you know.

 

Albania’s Mishela Rapo

If Mishela allowed her already-mature voice to mature even more, ditched the adorable but very childlike Mullet Gown of Multilingual Greetings (© Jaz, 2015) and popped up in Festivali I Këngës with a tropical-pop song sans the repetitiveness of Dambaje, she’d have great shot at representing Albania in the big show. Even more so if Albania loosened their purse strings and gave her some backing dancers (she doesn’t need any backing singers…not visible ones, anyway).

The earliest we’ll see her in the ESC 2017

 

 

Belarus’ Ruslan Aslanov

You guys know this kid can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. What can I say? He’s the Vincenzo Cantiello of 2015 (only without a trophy to prove it). At age thirteen, he’s got the vocal chops, stage presence and effortless ability to emote of someone twice his age, and if we assume his voice will have broken by the time he’s sixteen (since it thankfully didn’t on the JESC stage), Belarus would be mad not to force him, at glitter cannon-point, to enter Eurofest.

The earliest we’ll see him in the ESC 2018

 

 

Malta’s Destiny Chukunyere

This little list wouldn’t be complete without our winner, who sang all of her competition under the (dinky, child-sized green room) table last weekend. She could also destroy many an adult vocalist despite being three years younger than one must be to participate in the ESC. If it wasn’t for that pesky age rule, Destiny would be the bookies’ top pick to represent her island home in Stockholm, I’m sure.

The earliest we’ll see her in the ESC 2018

 

 

Armenia’s Mika

I’ve said it once, and now I’ll say it again – Mika is a star in the making. He has more personality in his four-foot-something self than the entire cohort of Eurovision 2015 competitors (not that they were boring…he’s just that stocked up with the stuff). He’s said he’d be happy to represent Armenia in the adult contest, so all we have to do is sit back and wait three-and-a-half years for him to come of age and for that pink suit to be altered accordingly.

The earliest we’ll see him in the ESC 2019

 

 

Slovenia’s Lina Kuduzović

Last but not least, it’s Slovenia’s Got Talent winner Lina, whose voice is so studio perfect live, hearing it raises the same question asked when Federica Falzon launched into Diamonds at JESC 2014 – is this for real? Another thing I love about Lina is how much she seems to enjoy herself when she’s on stage. She’s not a show-off or a try-hard – she just gets up there, sings her heart out and smiles the entire time. We need her to spread some joy at Eurovision (and perhaps score Slovenia another top three placing!).

The earliest we’ll see her in the ESC 2019

 

 

So, now I’ve shown you mine, you’re pretty much obligated to show me yours. Count them on one hand, then let me know which JESC 2015 tweens and teens you’d like to see have a bash at Eurovision once they’ve hit the big 1-6!

Considering how insanely talented some of them are now, imagine how phenomenal they’ll be with a few more years of practice…*refuses to due to intense fear of feeling useless and unskilled in comparison to a bunch of teenagers*

 

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Malta fulfill their Destiny: Looking over the performances (and the leaderboard) of JESC 2015

Since Junior Eurovision 2015 came to a conclusion on Saturday night, I’m sure you’re already aware that we have our winner. Even if you’re repulsed by the mere mention of mini-Eurovij, you’d have heard that Malta’s Destiny Chukunyere destroyed her competition and clinched the tiny island’s second victory in three years with the party-starting Not My Soul. The thirteen-year-old triumphed over Armenia’s Mika by nine points – quite a massive margin by JESC standards – and in the process, nabbed the record for the highest-ever score in the contest. Mika has a record of his own to take home, too, scoring the highest amount of points for a non-winner in Junior history.

Although I did call Malta to win, it wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for (and even though Armenia wasn’t my ideal winner, I would have preferred them to take it out instead). But you can’t help being happy for a country that is fast becoming to JESC what Sweden is to ESC – i.e. a superpower. Plus, there’s no denying that Destiny is an incredible talent, and it’s likely we’ll see her pop up in Malta’s NF MESC the split second she’s sixteen. She’ll be shattering windows and Ming vases simultaneously with her voice by then, so there’s something to look forward to (unless you’re the owner of said windows/vases).

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I’ll get back to the results later on in this post. Right now, I’m going to answer the question nobody asked: what did I think of Bulgaria’s first-ever Eurovision event?

Well, there’s not much I could complain about. The stage was super-cool, and like last year’s, could easily accommodate the adult contest. Hostess Poli was confident and competent, and sported a hairstyle that only she – and maybe Gwen Stefani – could rock. The postcards showed off Bulgaria’s beauty to the fullest, and featured the contestants for the first time since 2013 (I was hoping that’d make a comeback). And the interval acts were actually reasonably entertaining (meaning I didn’t traipse outside to watch my lawn grow while waiting for the show to go on). Sweeping a bit of shoddy camera-work aside, I’d say that the exercise was a big success for Bulgaria – and hopefully a good practice run for hosting Eurovision sometime while I’m still around to see it (though as countries like Portugal have competed for 40+ years and never won, I won’t hold my breath…and as some countries continue to nail JESC and fail ESC, I ALSO won’t hold my breath. Basically, no breath of mine will be held over this).

Now, the biggest drawcard of any Eurovision event is the performances of the participants, right? *assumes you all agreed enthusiastically*. So let’s have a look back at the seventeen acts that battled it out for a place on the figurative podium (there should be an actual podium, I reckon), to see who shone, who needed more polishing, and who…well, the terminology I was going to use would be too cruel for children.

 

From Serbia to Montenegro and everyone in-between, here are my thoughts on the competing seventeen!

These are all my own opinions, of course, and you are free to agree or disagree in the comments. Let’s get cracking so you know just what you’re agreeing/disagreeing with!

Serbia A very red, and violent – what with all those arm movements (no wonder there were no backing dancers…at least one of them would have ended up with a black eye) – performance from Lena opened the show. She had amazing intensity for someone who ordinarily, I’d want to pinch the cheeks of because they’re SO CUTE, and vocally, she was almost entirely on point – that shaky final note the exception. Much ljubav for the lyrically-aligned hand tatts!

Vocals 9/10 Staging 8/10 Costumes 9/10 Overall 8.5/10

 

Georgia Speaking of intensity, The Virus’ front man Data was frighteningly intense during Georgia’s performance. The group’s choreography and vocals weren’t as slick as what we’re used to from Georgia, and I felt like a bit of energy was missing. The girls’ costumes were great though. I love me some houndstooth, and I suppose it’s more sophisticated than the pajamas and towel turbans I was expecting/hoping for.

Vocals 7/10 Staging 6/10 Costumes 8.5/10 Overall 7/10

 

Slovenia I could listen to Lina sing all day long, so I was really looking forward to song number three. Vocally, she did not disappoint – the clarity of her voice was unreal. Her cutesey dress and sparkly sneakers also got my tick of approval, but I wasn’t 100% sold on the Frozen-esque visuals Slovenia opted for. I feel like a cool lighting scheme (a spotlight and some of Serbia’s redness, perhaps) would have been more suitable.

Vocals 10/10 Staging 8/10 Costumes 9/10 Overall 9/10

 

Italy The reigning champions (in case the overwhelming Bulgarian-ness made you forget that Italy won last year) put on a pretty good show, better than I thought they would. It was fun and competent, though lacked a little charisma. I loved the graffiti-type backdrop, which made the somewhat dated Viva feel fresher. You could say it brought the song back to viva. Or you could not be annoying like I am, and leave puns out of it.

Vocals 8.5/10 Staging 8/10 Costumes 7/10 Overall 8/10

 

The Netherlands Shalisa is so gorgeous, and would have lit up the camera even without her shiny jacket on and those candles burning. I love Million Lights, but it’s not particularly cohesive, and neither were the accompanying dancers – I didn’t really get how some of their moves related to the song. ‘Disjointed’ is how I’d describe the sound and staging, as much as I want to say otherwise.

Vocals 8.5/10 Staging 6/10 Costumes 8/10 Overall 7/10

 

Australia My eyes were moist during Bella’s turn, so I hate to imagine what state her mother was in. Another Australian debut was always going to be a big moment for me, and I applaud our well-choreographed and attractively metallic stage show. Bella’s Christina Aguilera impression was bang-on, too (#shegotthegrowl), and I adored her pants as much as I moon over Måns Zelmerlow’s leather pair…though for different reasons.

Vocals 9.5/10 Staging 9.5/10 Costumes 9.5/10 Overall 9.5/10

 

Ireland Following directly on from an excellent debut performance was another excellent debut performance – albeit one that lost its ability to spine-tingle thanks to some distracting graphics. That dodgy, badly-animated floating ship behind Aimee made me seasick. Dry ice was used to its maximum potential here, however, and it looked like Aimee was floating on the ocean herself. Fortunately it didn’t invade her lungs and ruin her vocals.

Vocals 9/10 Staging 6.5/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 8/10

 

Russia Wow. Unexpected wow. This really impressed me! As much as I like Mechta, I was convinced Mikhail’s live rendition would be flat and boring (like it was at the Russian NF). But Russia seemed to have cut a mix of the song that had far greater impact in the arena. I loved the mood set by the moon prop and the dry ice (boy, that machine got a workout on Saturday), the dancer, the appropriately dreamy feel created by the blue and white colour scheme…it was all lovely. Well done, Russia.

Vocals 8.5/10 Staging 10/10 Costumes 9/10 Overall 9/10

 

FYR Macedonia Okay, bad bits: the vocals were in tune but a bit wobbly, and the costumes looked like they’d been fished out of a charity shop bargain bin after Britney Spears had dropped off a load of stuff circa 1999. The good bits? Well, Ivana and Magdalena avoided creating car-crash TV (that came later) and seemed to have fun on stage. Energetic choreography and good stage presence all round helped elevate this from amateur to enjoyable.

Vocals 7/10 Staging 8.5/10 Costumes 6/10 Overall 7/10

 

Belarus This was everything I was hoping it would be, Volshebstvo being my favourite entry of the year (in case you weren’t around when I mentioned that the other 500 times). Belarus used the backdrop to perfection, and Ruslan’s vocals were insanely good, as always. His camera and crowd engagement was top-notch until he finished off with that ultra cheesy wink (WHY, RUSLAN, WHY?). Pretending that never happened, I’d call this the total package.

Vocals 10/10 Staging 9.5/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 9.5/10

 

Armenia Mika also had a (bright pink) package, signed, sealed and delivered to the door of victory…or something like that. Armenia’s stage show would have been drooled over by Georgia, who didn’t carry off the boy/girl/girl/girl dynamic half as well (plus, effortless, quirky fun used to be their forte). Mika is such a little star, and I think he’s going to have a bright future – perhaps as an Armenian representative in adult Eurovision one day (he said he’d be happy to do it when he answered my question during the winners’ press conference!).

Vocals 9.5/10 Staging 10/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 9.5/10

 

Ukraine Waterfalls, sharks, forests, mechanical human-sized flowers…a list of what Ukraine didn’t incorporate into Anna’s stage show would be shorter than a list of what they did. This was OTT, even by Eurovision standards, with too many colours and too many vistas on the backdrop making things messy. Anna’s Pochny z Sebe is like a vanilla cupcake, not a ten-tiered marzipan-enrobed masterpiece fit for a royal wedding – it only needed minimal decoration.

Vocals 8.5/10 Staging 6/10 Costumes 7/10 Overall 7/10

 

Bulgaria Not bad, Bulgaria. There was possibly a bit too much going on here as well (rainbows! Ribbons! Unflattering cummerbunds!) but in comparison to Ukraine, Gabriela and Ivan’s performance was simplicity personified. Both kids’ vocals were strong individually, and together…well, it could have been much worse.

Vocals 9/10 Staging 7/10 Costumes 8.5/10 Overall 8.5/10

 

San Marino Epic staging and brilliant costumes couldn’t disguise the weaknesses in Kamilla’s voice, and she looked very uncomfortable on stage (whether that was due to nerves or her Aliona Moon-esque height off the ground, I don’t know). With a more competent vocalist, this could have been a contender for the top five.

Vocals 5/10 Staging 10/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 7/10

 

Malta Destiny can sing – we all know that. She certainly didn’t emit a single off-key note on the night, and did her best to full up a big stage without the aid of backing singers, dancers, or trumpet players. Her personality and stage presence are larger than life, but I still wish she’d had some (or all) of the above with her. Company is what her performance was missing for me, because it certainly wasn’t missing soul (obvs, since THEY CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY HER SOUUUUUUL) or spark.

Vocals 10/10 Staging 7.5/10 Costumes 7/10 Overall 7.5/10

 

Albania Mishela is another soloist who could have used some backup to bring her song to life, but again, I really liked her performance anyway. Her voice is amazing, and so was that dress (though I know I’m in the minority, I wouldn’t give her a Junior Barbara Dex Award). If I could have given her some advice beforehand, I would have said ‘Smile! This is JESC, not a funeral’. It definitely wasn’t the death of Albania’s JESC journey, if her eventual result is anything to go by.

Vocals 10/10 Staging 7/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 8.5/10

 

Montenegro Oh dear. What WASN’T wrong with this? Unsuitable colour scheme and costumes, half-hearted attempts to create a fun, tropical atmosphere on stage, and woeful vocals were all present and accounted for. Judging by the way Jana fiddled with her earpiece, then hissed at her backing dancers as soon as she struck her final pose, I’d say some technical problems may have been afoot. Hell hath no fury like a woman with a malfunctioning in-ear monitor.

Vocals 5/10 Staging 6/10 Costumes 5/10 Overall 5/10

 

That was the show from my point of view, and based on the marks I’ve awarded as if I’m a musical theatre teacher examining my protégées, here’s my ranking of the performances:

  1. Armenia
  2. Belarus
  3. Australia
  4. Slovenia
  5. Russia
  6. Albania
  7. Serbia
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Italy
  10. Ireland
  11. Malta
  12. FYR Macedonia
  13. San Marino
  14. Ukraine
  15. Georgia
  16. The Netherlands
  17. Montenegro

Hmm…that doesn’t quite match up with the actual results, does it?

 

Taking a look at the leaderboard

Speaking of which, here are the actual results, for anyone who needs a refresher (which I would totally understand given that I’m so late in posting this wrap-up…as usual):

  1. Malta (185)
  2. Armenia (176)
  3. Slovenia (112)
  4. Belarus (105)
  5. Albania (93)
  6. Russia (80)
  7. Serbia (79)
  8. Australia (64)
  9. Bulgaria (61)
  10. Georgia (51)
  11. Ukraine (38)
  12. Ireland (36)
  13. Montenegro (36)
  14. San Marino (36)
  15. The Netherlands (35)
  16. Italy (34)
  17. FYR Macedonia (26)

There’s only so much you can say without knowing the split results (even though they might not prove to be that interesting). I’ll save a more in-depth scoreboard analysis for when they’re released, but here’s a few observations for the meantime.

  • Malta’s win marks their third top five result in a row – not bad for a country that only squeezed in to that section of the scoreboard once during their first eight years of participation.
Malta-Champion-Destiny-Chukunyere-Credit-EBU-Elena-Volotova-Vladimir-Dudakliev-604x272

How could you NOT be happy for that face? (Photo: EBU, Elena Volotova/Vladimir Dudakliev)

  • Armenia’s second place takes their total of runner-up trophies to three. They have also won once and come third twice, and are yet to finish outside of the top ten.
  • Five countries achieved their best placements ever in 2015: Slovenia, Albania, Australia, Ireland and Montenegro. For Australia and Ireland, that was always going to be the case; but two-time competitor Slovenia reached the top three for the first time in any Eurovision event, and Albania equaled their best-ever ESC result from 2012. DambaYAY!
  • Italy, on the other hand, experienced a fall from grace that could only have been more unfortunate if they’d come last. From winning last year on their debut to just sidestepping last place, it’s hard to predict how they’ll fare if they decide to return in 2016.
  • Belarus added to their collection of commendable results with Ruslan’s fourth place. They have now won twice, come third twice, and appeared in the top five eight times out of thirteen participations. The same can’t be said about their record in the adult contest…
  • Bulgaria might have done better than many of us expected, but they actually performed pretty poorly for a host entry. The past five home representatives have finished 4th (Malta in Malta, 2014), 2nd (Ukraine in Kyiv, 2013), 7th (the Netherlands in Amsterdam, 2012), 5th (Armenia in Yerevan, 2011) and 5th again (Belarus in Minsk, 2010).
  • FYR Macedonia (a.k.a. the Norway of JESC) came last for the third time in Sofia. IMO, there was a different country starting with ‘M’ that should have taken out the wooden spoon this year.
  • If you’re wondering how my pre-show predictions panned out, then prepare to laugh at my ineptitude! Yes, I did peg Malta as a possible winner, but I only guessed three of the top five correctly – Malta, Armenia and Belarus – and unlike last year, only predicted one country in the exact right place (FYR Macedonia in 17th). I massively underestimated Albania (though can you blame me?) and massively OVERestimated Australia (I blame bias for that one). How did you do?

 

I’m going to take my leave now in order to wallow in the murky waves of PJED (Post-Junior Eurovision Depression) – although the prospect of the upcoming delayed Aussie broadcast of the show, complete with our own commentary team and whatnot, is easing the pain. I’ll be back with a fun-sized amount of further JESC coverage before looking ahead to Stockholm 2016 – a party that we’ve just discovered will be attended by a) Bosnia and Herzegovina (where did they end up getting funding from? I hope to hell it wasn’t Ralph Siegel) and b) Kaliopi, Miss Congeniality of the world. I will be there too, but how much ‘there’ might depend on tomorrow’s ticket sales working in my favour. Wish me luck as I attempt to snap up the same thing that everybody else wants!

 

Until next time,

 

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

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

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

3, 2, 1, predictions!

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

 

*I can’t REALLY promise that.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

The bottom five

Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Italy, Montenegro

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

 

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

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

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

 

The top five

Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Malta, Serbia

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

I don’t think this segment requires an intro.

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

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

 

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

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

Merry JESC!

 

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JESC 2015 Judgments feat. the EBJ Junior Jury | Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino

Hello again, and welcome to the final round of the EBJ Junior Jury’s JESC ’15 reviews!

Before I introduce today’s jurors and then actually allow you to check out their comments, there’s something I have to acknowledge. Something pretty sizeable that has made headlines on Planet Eurovision since the last lot of reviews went live. I cannot sweep it under the glitter-infused rug, not even until JESC is done and dusted. What could I possibly be referring to? Um, only AUSTRALIA BEING CONFIRMED AS NO. 41 FOR STOCKHOLM!!!

Yep, we’re back – but this time, we actually have to earn our place in the final by qualifying from the semis. Fair enough, too. I think most of us knew this news was coming, but it took official confirmation from Eurovision.tv yesterday for me to lose my mind completely and do the world’s greatest victory dance. Okay, so even I have reservations re: the decision – our participation was supposed to be a one-off, and I don’t particularly want the floodgates surrounding the ESC to open in light of possible Aussie permanency, taking the ‘Euro’ out of the equation to a ridiculous extent.

But…OH MY GOD! Basically, though I think this is a terrible idea, I also somehow think it’s a freaking fantastic one. I can’t help being peeing-in-my-pants-a-little thrilled about it, partly because I will get the chance to cheer on an act from my own country at Eurovision, in person. My plan had long been to attend the 60th ESC, so when that didn’t pan out, I thought I was missing my one and only shot at waving an Australian flag with a purpose. But in May, I’m heading to Stockholm for contest 61, and so is a Guy Sebastian successor. Will it be Delta Goodrem, causing all my dreams to come true at once which will in turn cause me to spontaneously combust with excitement (hopefully after Delta’s performance)? We’ll have to wait and see.

Something Australia-related we don’t have to wait long for (this is my segue back to JESC and I’m not ashamed of it) is Bella Paige’s Junior Eurovision performance on Saturday night, or ‘Sunday morning’ as we call it in my time zone. The contest is so close I can barely concentrate on anything else (seriously, don’t try and communicate with me about anything non-Eurovisiony until after the weekend) so before time runs out, here are the final five EBJJJ reviews. Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino: meet your judges!

 

 TODAY’S EBJ JUNIOR JURY

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Liam Clark Liam is a Eurovision journalist for escXtra, based in Melbourne, Australia. He first started writing about Eurovision back in 2009, and hasn’t looked back. He’s particularly fond of and has a large amount of expertise in the Baltics, especially Estonia. He first discovered Eurovision in 2003 – the same year as the first Junior contest, when he was still a kid himself. In 2011, he attended JESC in Yerevan (Jaz: IMO, he picked a great year to go!).

Rory Gannon ‘Well hello there, peoples of the internet variety! My name is Rory Gannon, and I am from the Isle of Emeraldness – otherwise known as Ireland. I also work on the website ESC Views, as you might remember from earlier in the year (Jaz: Rory joined me on the EBJ Jury back in May). I was the guy who hated Måns? Well, that really backfired on me, didn’t it! However, we’re here for Junior Eurovision, and hopefully Europe will make the right decision and side with me this time…although, what are the odds of that happening? I started watching this post-ESC 1989 attempt at child labour (I KID!!!) in 2010, and it has never failed to offer up some great songs, which would have to include…ehh…I have always been a fan of Odelia Ranuni (Georgia 2007), Miy Litaak (Ukraine 2010), Nebo (Ukraine 2012), People of the Sun (Armenia 2014), Choco Factory (Armenia 2013), We Are One (Ukraine 2013), Mari Dari (Georgia 2010)…really, there some CHOONS there! Does it make me a bad person that I want some Armenian “shocka” now?’

Jaz “For my last bio *praises the lord* I guess I’ll fill you in on my JESC story. I discovered the contest the same year I discovered the adult contest – 2006 – and that discovery was just as accidental as when I flicked the TV over to SBS one night and saw Lordi on stage with a hot Greek guy and Maria Menounos from Entertainment Tonight and thought ‘What exactly is happening here?’. In May and again in November, I fell in love, and I’ve never looked back either (nor have I gone a day without bringing Eurovision up in conversation since, much to the chagrin of my family and friends). I’m not sure if I can put into words why I love JESC when so many ESC fans don’t. It must be the same thing that draws me to all international competitions where flags are waved – the Olympics, Miss Universe…you name it, I’m glued to the broadcast. Global and pan-European contests just speak to me on a spiritual level. JESC, specifically, is so much fun to watch, and has indeed produced some epic entries over the years. It also allows certain countries (Armenia, Belarus, etc) to shine in a way that they just can’t manage to in the adult contest. All in all, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to see the competing kids having fun and supporting each other…and a little inadequate, given that I’m 24 and still sing more like Jemini than Gaia Cauchi.”

 

Now that we’ve relayed our JESC-related autobiographies to you (the abridged versions, anyway) it’s time for the EBJ Junior Jury to cast our eye and ear over the remaining entries for 2015. Mishela, Gabriela & Ivan, Ivana & Magdalena, Aimee and Kamilla – the stage is yours!

 

 

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Liam I feel like I get what Mishela is going for here, but it just never really takes off. The first minute of Dambaje is cute, but then it just repeats itself. She looks like a lovely kid, but I fear that this is just going to bore all of the other kids. 2 points.

Rory There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Albania is my number one this year. When Dambaje became the first entry picked for Junior Eurovision back in the summer, I had a listen to the *incredibly grainy* NF performance and thought that if they revamped it, they’d have a good chance of making it to the top half of the leaderboard. They’ve done that tenfold with the new version! I love the way that it just grows and when I listen to it, I do feel like I’m on the plains of the Serengeti. That, coupled with Mishela’s flexible yet stunning vocal range, gives you a feeling of pure peace and contentment. If there’s one thing I think is a flaw, it’s the fact that the song’s not actually upbeat, and because it’s being performed second last on the night, it just might get lost in the crowd. But, in any case, I’m definitely supporting Mishela this year. #DambaToTheJe, and DOUZE points!!!

Jaz Simply put, Albania had me at ‘song that sounds remotely tribal and would make the soundtrack for an African safari adventure road trip, and/or wouldn’t be out of place playing over the credits of The Lion King’. Zlata Ognevich’s Gravity, Rafael Bobeica’s Cŭm Sa Fim (sent to JESC by Moldova in 2013) and Mishela’s Dambaje have formed a holy trinity of tracks that tickle my tribal fancies no end, and if you’re about to question why, I won’t hear you as I’ll be too busy dancing around a bonfire to the beats of all of the above. Like Rory, I’m transported right to the heart of Africa whenever Mishela utters any of the song’s adorably multi-lingual lyrics. When she’s doing so, she looks so happy that I can’t help being happy too, and that’s the kind of music I like to listen to (for the most part). I feel like this entry is tailor-made for JESC, with those seamless language switches that can grate at Eurovision, but are much more easily carried off by kids. I love the melody of the verses and chorus, the sound of Mishela’s voice…all in all, this blows Albania’s previous debut entry out of the water. But – yes, there is a ‘but’ – there is one thing that I strongly dislike about Dambaje – holy hairnets, it’s repetitive! I mean, if you’re going to write a song with a one-word chorus, you might want to feature those choruses as sporadically as possible so as not to drive listeners insane. That glaring negative aside, I’m a big fan of Albania 2015, and I hope they do a heck of a lot better than they did back in 2012. They definitely deserve to! 10 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 8.00

 

 

Bulgaria15

Liam I never thought I would see a more forced and awkward duet than that of Anita Simoncini and Michele Perniola, but I guess that’s why you never say never. As for the song – well, I’m still listening to it and I’ve already forgotten how it goes. 1 point.

Rory Bulgaria this year is in complete contrast to what I thought of Bulgaria last year. In Malta, Krisia was the odds-on favourite to win the whole show, and I had reason to believe that it would actually happen (although James from the previous round of reviews would disagree with me!) – what with a small girl with a powerful voice singing a power ballad, along with the twins who seemingly went unnoticed (a.k.a. Slovenia every year). Now, this year’s song is more ethnic than Planet of the Children, but it just doesn’t have the same impact on the audience that Krisia’s did.  Colour of Hope is just…well, rather lacklustre, in my opinion. It’s missing something that would help it reach its full potential. That doesn’t mean that I hate it – I just wish that it had something more that would make it stand out! And while we’re on about Gabriela, where the hell did that Ivan guy come from? I thought she was singing on her own, and then this guy just pops up out of nowhere. If you ever wanted a Halloween jump scare, that’s where you’re gonna get it, peeps! 6 points.

Jaz Let’s face it – Planet of the Children was always going to be a hard act for hosts Bulgaria to follow (and as IF they were going to find another child who’s as precious as Krisia to sing for them *mimes pinching her cheeks like an overbearing grandmother*). What they have followed it up with is a duet between two singers who mesh about as well as the song as a whole – i.e. not very well. I actually rather like Colour of Hope. The verses are quite unusual and mysterious-sounding, and the guitar work is beautiful – very sophisticated, in fact. The chorus, while cheesy in a way that makes me wonder if Gabriela and Ivan are asking for monetary donations for a charity of some sort, is uplifting and catchy (and very reminiscent of Belarus’ 2010 host entry Muzyki Svet, which was a success in Minsk). The problem is, those verses and that chorus sound like they’ve been lifted from two very different songs, and cobbled together in a non-cohesive manner that just doesn’t feel 100% right. And our two singers – boy, NF winner Gabriela must be peeved at having to share her spotlight – as I said before, aren’t exactly a vocal match made in heaven. Still, there is a lot about their song that intrigues me, and they’ll naturally receive the biggest, loudest round of applause of the evening as the home act. I suspect that’s all they’ll receive though, if you know what I mean (and if you don’t know what I mean, I mean they won’t be walking away with a trophy). 7 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 4.67

 

 

Macedo15

Liam There is something wonderfully 1996 about Pletenka. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s there. There isn’t a lot to the song, and it gets repetitive pretty quickly; however, it’s more memorable than some of the other songs on offer. 3 points.

Rory Oh my god, this just SCREAMS nationality, doesn’t it? And in all seriousness, who would sing about a braid? Like, do they mean a braid as in a plait you do in your hair? Or is there something called a “braid” that’s only sold on the streets of Skopje that I’m not aware of? FYR Macedonia, I know you adore your nationalist ways, but you really don’t help your case here. As catchy as this song is and as much “charisma” as Ivana and Magdalena have, I think it would be a fair bet to say that FYR Macedonia will be finishing towards the bottom of the leaderboard. Sorry guys – once you put Comic Sans in your music video, there’s no going back! 5 points.

Jaz Alongside Montenegro, FYR Macedonia are taking me right back to the Junior Eurovisions of yore…or more specifically, JESC 2005. And, as I said when I reviewed Jana’s Oluja, I don’t mind that at all. Back in those days, JESC was ultra childlike; today, it’s more like a mini-Eurovision than anything else. We need slightly amateurish, youthful, artist-penned songs to compete, or else Junior will lose all of its identity as a contest for children. So in that sense, I’m grateful that FYR Macedonia is back and urging us to MAKE A BRAID! This song isn’t musical genius, and it’s not technically put together or particularly well-sung (which means the juries will blank it completely). But it epitomises Junior Eurovision in my opinion, possessing the childlike spirit that dominated the contest ten years ago in truckloads. It’s like a midday movie – complete with second-rate acting and a lack of energy – so bad, it’s good. It won’t go anywhere, but it’s catchy and cute, so I’ll look forward to seeing it on stage rather than being scarred by the dreadful video clip. Plus, I really like the word ‘pletenka’, and plan to use it as often as possible in everyday conversations from now on. Don’t believe me? Well, I’m off to pletenka my hair right this second. But before I go, I’ll give FYR Macedonia 7 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.00

 

 

Ireland15

Liam While Destiny from Malta takes us to church in a fun, soul, ‘Sister Act’ kind of way, Aimee is taking us to church in more of an ‘I’ve been dragged here by my parents’ kind of way. Her voice is exquisite, and Réalta na Mara is a beautifully sung song. But it’s not fun, and I think that will really work against it. 7 points.

Rory I always seem to be assigned the group of countries featuring my own…is this rigged?!? (Jaz: Yes, it is!). Right, where do I start on this? For anyone who doesn’t know, I followed the Irish national final on ESC Views’ Twitter, and my favourite song in the entire competition (along with the already selected song for JESC) was Gan Tú by Amy Meehan. When she got knocked out of the competition, I relied on Zena Donnelly to be the beautiful second choice. What happened? She lost to Aimee Banks. I’m afraid to say this, but I don’t like Aimee’s song at all. Although Réalta na Mara is a great piece of music on its own, we’re not really getting the most of what Ireland could possibly send to a music event out of it. I do feel like I can’t understand anything that she’s singing, despite being able to speak Irish almost fluently. I’m sure she’ll do great though, if my luck in the adult contest is anything to go by. But in my opinion, opera is just not the way to go – Federica Falzon was a one-off! 4 points.

Jaz First things first: how great is it to have Ireland – and Irish – represented at JESC for the first time? Pretty darn great, if you ask me. With no history to draw on for comparison, though, it was difficult to predict what the Emerald Isle would send to Sofia. Aimee’s Réalta na Mara is, for the most part, an Irish stereotype tied up with string, but not in a tacky way (thankfully, at the NF, no cardboard four-leaf clovers were strung from the ceiling) and though it is what I expected from Ireland – perhaps hoping for something else – I’m quite drawn to it. There’s something about the chorus, and how gorgeous the Irish sounds in it, that almost gives me goosebumps. It’s not a straight-up spine-tingler, possibly because it doesn’t have a true ‘moment’ to speak of (or vote for, which worries me) but there’s some magic there nonetheless. And you can practically hear the dry ice circulating the stage, which will have the crowd choked up with emotion and smoke inhalation. The biggest draw card here isn’t the song (or the smoke) however – it’s Aimee’s voice, which is nothing short of angelic. Crystal clear and precisely controlled, her vocal will be a stunning sorbet sandwiched between Bella Paige’s belting of My Girls and Mikhail Smirnov’s nice-and-nothing-more rendition of Mechta. Though the juries will likely reward her for her efforts (or effortlessness, in this case), I don’t expect the televoters will warm to an entry that could have won Eurovision 1996 for Ireland if Eimear Quinn had gone AWOL at the last minute and taken The Voice with her. But this package is still class personified, and I think Ireland should be proud to have sent it (did you hear that, Rory?!?). 8 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.33

 

 

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Liam Mirror features one of the most forced key changes I have ever heard, but I appreciate the effort. This is fun and catchy, and it’s got a good hook. I don’t think it will be at the top of the scoreboard, but it’s fun and should do better than the most serene republic is used to. 6 points.

Rory Finishing off it all is Malala Yousafsai from….San Marino? Okay, there is no denying the fact that Kamilla bears a striking resemblance to Malala – go on, Google the two of them and comment on how similar you think they look! As for the song, I’m left feeling quite….unnerved after listening to it. Mirror is something that you would definitely hear from the likes of Belarus in the adult competition, and in my opinion, it could do a lot better there. And if there’s one thing I could change about this song, it would be Kamilla’s dreadful Italian accent. I mean, I know learning another language is complicated and arduous for some, but you learn the accent of the people! During the song, I just hear what sounds like Russian, but is Italian…like, it’s okay to listen to, but I don’t think we’re gonna see the competition go the top of Mount Titano. They’ll have to import another singer then! Maybe try Monaco next time? 6 points.

Jaz I was fully prepared for a member of The Peppermints to take the reins for San Marino this year…and I still think that would have been a better move than nabbing someone who has allegedly visited the country they’re representing, and nothing more. That’s not to say I’m completely against inter-country artist loans for JESC/ESC purposes, but I’m with Rory – Kamilla’s obviously-non-Italian accent (and non-Italian fluency) is a major distraction from what is a decent and dramatic ballad. And I don’t want to upset anybody, but her vocal on the studio cut of Mirror is very weak. I can’t imagine a voice so sub-par in studio being impressive live. That’s a pain in the behind in my book, because San Marino does have a strong song here, and based on the video for it, they’ll have slick staging too – so the performer is where they’re likely to be let down. Is there definitely no Peppermint still under the age of sixteen who could be drafted in at the final hour? Non? Damn it. I guess I’ll wrap this up then, by saying that song-wise, I give San Marino 7 points for something that’s well-written and makes the most of Italian-English switches; artist-wise, I give them 1 point, because I just can’t stand the sound of Kamilla’s voice (I’m sorry!). Average it out, and that’s 4 points from me.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.33

 

 

That’s it! In the (super slow-mo) blink of an eye, all seventeen of Sofia’s hopefuls have been judged and scored by the EBJ Junior Jury. This final round was a pretty interesting one – particularly when you consider that Ireland received its lowest score from the sole Irish member of the jury.

Awkward.

Here’s a distraction from said awkwardness in the form of today’s top five:

  1. Albania (8.00)
  2. Ireland (6.33)
  3. San Marino (5.33)
  4. FYR Macedonia (5.00)
  5. Bulgaria (4.67)

Surprisingly, I must say, Albania wins the day thanks to Rory’s douze and my almost-as-strong score, trailed distantly by debutants Ireland. You have to feel for the host country, finishing with the lowest average score of them all. But hey, it’s not like these numbers mean anything in reality. We’re not psychic, and we don’t know how Saturday’s scoreboard will look (although I will be taking a shot at predicting just that prior to the show).

Until that momentous day comes, let us know how you rate the entries from Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino down below. Which country would your douze be doled out to?

 

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COMING UP All of the verdicts are in, and the EBJ Junior Jury has its Top 17 for 2015! So, alongside a bunch of hopes and predictions for JESC ‘15, I’ll be unveiling the collaborative ranking this weekend. Who’ll finish where? Will the leaderboard in any way resemble the actual results? Is anybody even reading this bit right now? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions yet, but I hope you’ll drop by for ze rankings and ze predictions anyway.

 

JESC 2015 Judgments feat. the EBJ Junior Jury | Italy, Malta, Russia and Slovenia

Greetings, guys! It’s another day (obviously) and here’s another episode of the JESC 2015 Judgments for you to enjoy…or not. If you’re a fan of the Junior Eurovision offerings from Italy, Malta, Russia and/or Slovenia, you’re bound to feel some enjoyment, though perhaps not when one of this round’s jury members tears your fave to shreds. Just remember: honesty is the best policy, and one fan’s trash is another’s treasure, and a rolling stone gathers no moss, and a stitch in time saves nine, and…I’ve forgotten what I was talking about.

Why don’t we just get on with meeting today’s EBJ Junior Jury members? They’re a stellar bunch of folks!

 

 TODAY’S EBJ JUNIOR JURY

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Mrs. Jaz She’s back! Mrs. Jaz, a.k.a. my mother, has once again been forced at glitter-gunpoint to listen to and judge some Eurovision-related music, and I reckon she secretly loved it (her cries of ‘For the love of Lordi, make it stop!’ were all an act, I’m sure). Seriously though, she was happy to help out, and I’m happy to have the perspective of someone who can comment on each entry without knowing where it’s from or what the story is behind it – i.e. provide totally unbiased first impressions. A few of this round’s songs had her nodding in agreement with the rest of the EBJ Junior Jury, but the rest did not. Read on to find out which of the four floated her boat, and which had that boat capsizing faster than you can say ‘Where the heck are the life jackets?’

James Sayer ‘Hello! I’m James, a 20-year-old Creative Writing student at Edge Hill University, which is near Liverpool (nobody has ever heard of it, I’m aware. It’s lovely though, I promise). You might remember me from the EBJ Jury in May, when Jaz gave me Finland…need I say any more? I’m aiming to be a kinder judge this time! The first Junior contest in 2003 was actually my first-ever Eurovision experience: my sister and I stumbled across it and found ourselves captivated by all the exotic sounds on display. I think we took a particular shine to Like A Star from Malta. Junior Eurovision is basically the reason I’m a Eurovision fan, so no matter how immature some of it may seem now, it will always have a special place in my heart. My favourite-ever song from JESC changes between Sensatsiya (Russia 2012), Urok Hlamuru (Ukraine 2007), Svet U Mojim Očima (Serbia 2014) and Anders (Belgium 2007) quite regularly. I reckon 2014 was the strongest contest to date, and fingers crossed that it’s onwards and upwards from here!’

Jaz ‘You’re never getting rid of me, unless the ‘Jaz’ mysteriously drops from the title of this blog (so really, NEVER). Tasked with trying to write a different bio for myself each episode of the JESC Judgments, I figure I’ll follow James’ lead and list a few of my all-time favourite Junior entries from over the years. Just to name a few: Du by Mimmi Sandén (Sweden 2009); Te Traigo Flores by Antonio José (Spain 2005); Det Finaste Någon Kan Få by Molly Sandén (Sweden 2006); and Rodendeski Baknež by Denis Dimoski (FYR Macedonia 2005). That’s the tip of the iceberg, people. Will any of today’s tracks join that esteemed list in the future? Maybe. Just maybe…’

 

Now we’ve been introduced/introduced ourselves, we’re ready to unleash our opinions on the songs that Chiara & Martina, Destiny Chukunyere, Mikhail Smirmov and Lina Kuduzović are hoping will win them the JESC 2015 trophy. Do Mrs. Jaz, James or myself think that’s even a remote possibility for any of them? There’s only one way for you to find out.

 

 

Italy15

Mrs. Jaz Viva Italia! I liked this one straight away. It’s very catchy, and very happy. Even though I couldn’t understand anything these girls were singing, the positivity of their message was shining through in the sound of the song. They also harmonise really well, gelling and connecting in a way that makes me wonder if it’s purely a twin thing (instead of finishing each other’s sentences, they’re just so in sync that it’s hard to distinguish between them vocally). Yep, I’m pretty keen on this one…though I’m told that’s not a hugely popular opinion! 8 points.

James This one started promisingly for me: there were warm guitars and hints of synths, and I was thinking we were heading for something Tiziano Ferro-esque. You know – an epic stadium anthem, broody verses leading to a killer chorus…and then said chorus dropped. And IDK, it was like watching a basketball player charge up to the hoop, make an almighty leap, and then completely miss the hoop…and probably somehow manage to hit themselves in the face with the ball instead. The beat just plods, and the bassline is about as energetic and interesting as a salmon being slapped repeatedly off a table. My god, this is dated, and not in a good kind of retro way. It’s just cheap. And don’t even get me started on how thoroughly bored they both sound too – it’s as though the poor girls know just how bad their song is and are embarrassed to have to sing it, bless them. Italy really don’t want to accidentally win again, do they! Being nice, I’ll give them 3 points.

Jaz It’s easy to forget that Italy is the reigning champion of Junior Eurovision, given that we’re heading to Sofia, and not Rome or Milan, off the back of Vincenzo Cantiello’s triumph last November. Then you listen to their sophomore entry Viva, and it’s all too clear that Italy ain’t interested in doing a double. I don’t dislike this song, don’t get me wrong –  it’s a fun sing-along song, providing you can latch on to the Italian lyrics (which I can’t, so I just jump in whenever the twins shout ‘VIVA!’). Plus, Chiara and Martina have gelato tub-loads of personality, and as my mum said, harmonise as well as you’d expect singing twins to do. Still, this entry has nothing on Tu Il Primo Grande Amore. That was spine-tingling and timeless, and Viva is neither. The pop-rock sound is pretty 80s, so it’s far from fresh; it coasts along until the key-change arrives without going anyplace that exciting; and I definitely don’t have any hairs standing up on my body when I listen to it, unless I coincide that listening with sticking a knife in the toaster. But si, I still enjoy it, and it’s not like it’s the worst song on offer this year (Italy would NEVER send utter crap to a song contest!). I have a feeling Viva will be better live than in studio, mainly because it won’t be accompanied by a video that looks like something I could have put together in primary school… but I still can’t see it sidestepping 12th-15th place on the scoreboard. 6 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.67

 

 

Malta15
Mrs. Jaz Is this Junior Eurovision or Broadway? This sounds like a show tune the downtrodden star of a 70s-set musical would belt out at the point in the story where she’s decided that nobody’s going to bring her down any more (or in this case, take her soul). I don’t mind that about it, but I do think that sound is a detriment to the studio version. I’d expect this to be far more enjoyable live on stage, when Destiny can fulfill her namesake and get the crowd going (she sounds like she wouldn’t have any trouble doing so). The cons? Well, I didn’t love all of the vocal gymnastics at the beginning…I mean, yes, she’s got a great voice and a great range, but she doesn’t need to do a routine on the horizontal bars with her vocal chords to prove it. Apart from that, this entry is a likeable one, and I reckon it could do reasonably well for Malta. 6 points.

James Two words: CeeLo Green. Both the melody and the arrangement of Destiny’s song are more than just a little similar to the international smash hit Forget You from a few years back. It’s all been ‘kiddified’ though, and although it’s a little sickly at first, on repeated listens, I think it actually really works. I mean, the verses are a bit ‘meh’. But one undeniable positive is that Destiny’s sassy powerhouse vocals are 110% suited to this kind of song, and she really brings it to life. I think with a bit more money invested in updating the production (read: send it to Stockholm and see how it sounds when it comes back), this could be a genuine hit. That post-chorus hook is one of the strongest in the whole line-up this year. Not My Soul is a grower, and may be one to watch. 7 points.

Jaz We’ve known for a while that our girl Destiny can sing like Christina Aguilera on crack (sorry to make a drug reference when discussing the talents of a thirteen-year-old, but I’m really trying to emphasise the extent of said talents). Now she’s been matched with a song that lets her show it off to the fullest, without seeming like a vehicle for her voice and nothing else. Not My Soul is going to go OFF in the Arena Armeec, mark my words. It’s SHRN with those trumpets…well, trumpeting away in the background – and definitely Forget You gone female, youthful and Maltese. It’s made up of the cheesy-but-cute lyrical content we only get from Malta at JESC (and now, Australia, given many of us can’t understand the other countries’ song content without hotfooting it to Google Translate). Destiny crams more defiance into that ‘no, no, no, not my soul!’ post-chorus part than I have into my entire life – and not only do I believe that no-one will manage to take her soul, I also feel inspired to harness my lady power and be generally badass and stuff after hearing it. The whole thing just makes me feel good. It’s not my favourite entry of the year – far from it, in fact – but it’s an absolute match made in heaven between singer and song. And it’s so darn happy, I can’t resist having a moonwalk down the hallway during the chorus. I am more or less expecting Malta to nab another top five finish in 2015. 7 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.67

 


Russia15
Mrs. Jaz
This is…nice. Just nice. It didn’t grab me, so I can’t imagine it grabbing too many televoters or jurors either (but perhaps I’m just far off the average JESC watcher’s wavelength). I feel like you’d have to hear it more than once for any hope of being hooked in. Overall, it’s fairly forgettable and verging on (sorry, Mikhail!) mediocre. And I can’t think of anything else to say about it. 5 points.

James I’m gonna put it out there: I really like Russia’s song this year. The most striking thing about this one is how strong and professional the production is – it’s the polar opposite of Italy. It’s blatantly obvious that a lot of effort has been put into this song, and that makes me instinctively want to take it more seriously. And past that, it does have a really engaging melody too, which develops throughout and sounds very unique. I can see Russia doing really, really well with this one. Misha Smirnov has such a strong stage presence already – he’s a performer who has an effortless command of both his song and his audience, and has created an atmosphere every time he’s sung Mechta live. Another random observation: the chord progressions are very Russian too. They’ve managed to bring some national flavour by reflecting their domestic music scene rather than chucking in an accordion and a mini Cossack dancer in a bear costume (though I wouldn’t put it past them.) Pretty awesome, methinks. 8 points.

Jaz If you read my Junior reviews last year (which I’m sure you did!) you might recall that I detested the Russian song, Dreamer. Fast forward twelve months, and I’m still not mad about it in any way, shape or form, and by comparison, I much prefer Mikhail’s Mechta. It’s a weird track to try and describe, because I’m not sure whether it’s a ballad or a pop song, or both. I can say with certainty that the revamped version is a step up from the national final-winning version – it’s more upbeat and a lot less flat. I like the melody of the verses and choruses (though the latter are definitely stronger) and I think Mikhail is a nice, if not spectacular, singer. The entire entry is just nice, really, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. It’s easy listening and not too showy, which is actually unusual for Russia. Similarly unusual would be pared-back presentation, but as I can’t imagine them overdoing the staging for a song like this, hopefully sight and sound will be equally simple. I’d like this to earn Russia a better result than last year’s, but that’s very unlikely to happen. When I put my objective hat on (which I don’t do very often) I can see that it’s probably too understated and too forgettable to go anywhere. But in terms of what I think of it and what point score I’d give it – which is the purpose of these reviews – it gets a thumbs up and 7 points from me.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.67

 

 

Slov15

Mrs. Jaz Ooh, this is a good one! Once again, I have no clue what’s being sung about, but I found myself getting swept up in the atmosphere created by a ballad that isn’t too much of a ballad, if that makes sense. The music is lovely, and Lina’s voice is even more so – there are no unnecessary vocal gymnastics on display here. She sounds young, but she has a lot of power and clarity in her voice that gives me the impression she knows what she’s doing. It’s a promising package…but I have to say, I preferred the Italian song. 7 points.

James Okay, Maraaya really do know how to create hits, don’t they? I simply love the Slovenian entry this year. It might even be my favourite. It’s classy and captivating, and the melody is interesting enough to make it stand out from the (many) other mini-LLBs (Jaz: lame lady ballads) crowding the field in this contest. I personally thought their song last year was a screechy misstep, but with Prva Ljubezen, Slovenia has officially ARRIVED. To be honest, most of the Balkan nations are bringing it this year, but the advantage Slovenia has is the professionalism. Lina looks, sounds, and acts like a star, and she’s got the mentoring and experience of Eurovision entrants Maraaya to back her up (whereas FYR Macedonia is endearingly home-made, and Serbia have sent a strong song with a singer who looks the absolute double of Honey Boo Boo). If I was to pick one tiny fault with this song, it’s that I think it would work much better in 100% Slovene. They could keep the Italian lines if need be; I just really don’t like the JESC tendency to shoehorn clumsily-written English lyrics into everything, because nine times out of ten it ruins what would have been a great song in its national language. But everyone’s doing it, so I doubt this will really be a problem for Lina! I’m hovering between 10 and 12 points…but I’m gonna go with 10. It’s fab, but it’s no Svet U Mojim Očima.

Jaz Before each ESC and JESC, as the competing songs are being selected, I sit and wait to hear one that gives me THE FEELING. The one that makes me stop in my tracks, gives me goosebumps and has the word ‘WINNER!!!’ written all over it. There are two songs en route to Sofia that have that effect on me, and one of them is Slovenia’s. I’m not saying it’s a shoo-in to win, but it sure as heck gives me that impression. Ermahgerd, it’s good. Maraaya (and Lina, who co-wrote both the music and the lyrics with the duo), take a bow! A good old tinkly piano intro gives way to beautifully-constructed, dynamic verses and soaring choruses, and it’s all very current. It’s instant enough to latch on to without being derivative as well, which is a hard thing to achieve. And I haven’t even mentioned the cherry on top – Lina’s incredible vocal, which is practically studio-perfect live, as you’d expect from someone who won Slovenia’s Got Talent when they were SEVEN YEARS OLD (way to make all of us senior citizens feel inadequate, Lina). Basically, this is the bomb dot com, and if it doesn’t do extremely well for Slovenia, I’ll be boycotting all things JESC for at least five minutes. DOUZE POINTS!

EBJ Junior Jury Score 9.67

 

Well, that was interesting (I hope)! Reading each other’s minds re: some songs and completely disagreeing on others, the EBJJJ have proved that music has the power to unite and divide in a very short space of time. It also has the power to make me shake my fist bitterly in my mother’s direction for thinking Italy is superior to Slovenia this year…but I have to respect her views. Or at least, I have to appear to.

Here’s a look at the leaderboard for this round of reviews:

  1. Slovenia (9.67)
  2. Russia (6.67)
  3. Malta (6.67)
  4. Italy (5.67)

I won’t factor in the scores from Part 1 – I’m saving those for the EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 post. But I will remind you that Armenia topped the previous leaderboard with 8.00, meaning that Slovenia is now sitting pretty in the number one spot (Helena Paparizou would approve). With nine countries’ entries left for the EBJJJ to review, can Lina maintain her lead? Or will she be knocked unceremoniously off the top by one of the upcoming acts from Australia, Belarus, Georgia or Ukraine? Time will tell, ladies and gents.

Drop by EBJ at the end of the week if you want to see two Aussies and an American have their say on the aforementioned four. I promise the pair of us from Down Under will try not to be biased when it comes to commenting on Bella Paige. Try, but perhaps not succeed.

In the meantime, let me know below what you think of today’s entries. Which of the jurors was on your wavelength…if any?

 

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JESC 2015 Judgments feat. the EBJ Junior Jury | Armenia, Montenegro, The Netherlands and Serbia

Zdraveĭ, guys! That, for anyone wondering, is what Google Translate has informed me ‘hello’ is in Bulgarian (meaning there’s a good chance it actually translates to ‘I can see your underpants’ or something like that). But it’s the thought that counts, and I’m definitely thinking I’d rather say hi than say anything in reference to your underpants…unless Måns Zelmerlöw is reading this, of course.

Ahem. Moving right along now. Believe it or not, Bulgaria’s first Eurovision event – Junior Eurovision 2015, obviously – will take place in just over two weeks’ time. As such, I need to kick my pre-show coverage into high (or, really, any) gear. Today I’m doing just that by unveiling installment numero uno of my JESC reviews for the year.

But these aren’t just my reviews. As I did for EBJ’s ESC reviews earlier this year LINK, I’ve put together a globe-spanning jury who are ready to slide all seventeen songs competing in Sofia under their musical microscopes (I shipped one out to everybody, which got very expensive) in order to determine which ones deserve douze points, and which ones…well, don’t (let’s leave it at that. Someone has to think of the children!). Each of these JESC Judgment posts will see three ESC and/or JESC fanatics (including yours truly, as I wasn’t prepared to relinquish complete control) comment on and score each entry – revolutionary, I know. Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of said commenting and scoring, allow me to introduce the first trio of jury members.

 

TODAY’S EBJ JUNIOR JURY

EBJJJ 1Lukman Andi Uleng ‘What do you get when you mix sugar and spice and everything nice with a teaspoon of Eurovision? Well, it makes me, Lukman Andi Uleng! I’ve been following the most fantastic show on Earth since 2001, when my sister asked me to watch the show with her on SBS. Funnily enough, I became the Eurovision fan, while she despises it! I’ve also been watching the Junior version since it first started in 2003, and to this day, still follow it. I remember the early days when it used to have a strong focus on colours, cuteness and tackiness, and the children themselves would be the main composers of the songs. Junior Eurovision is about fun, letting the talented children of Europe show the world what they can do. I guess it’s a great platform for their future in the entertainment industry. My favourite Junior Eurovision songs ever include Te Traigo Flores by Antonio José, Te Doy Mi Voz by Dani Fernández, and Planet of the Children by Krisia, Hasan and Ibrahim. I’m so excited that Jaz invited me to review some of the Junior Eurovision songs selected for 2015!’

Jaimie Duncan Jaimie is a Eurovision tragic who longs to own a wind machine of her own (there are days when a pedestal fan is just not enough). She finds the idea of Junior Eurovision simultaneously appealing and unsettling, and tends to drink and yell at the television when watching it – and sometimes when reviewing the songs as well.

Jaz ‘Surprise, surprise – it’s ME! You’re probably aware that I devote almost as much brain-space to Junior Eurovision as to its older, wiser sibling, and have done since I stumbled upon them both in 2006. As someone who nearly had a breakdown when JESC went through its rough, could-be-cancelled-at-any-minute patch a few years back, I got ridiculously excited seeing it bounce back and become bigger and better than…well, maybe not ever, but it’s pretty awesome these days, right? If I could magic any non-competing country into the competition this year and for the future, it’d be Spain. They rocked at JESC from 2003-2006, and left on a high…meaning they could return on a high too. See you in 2016, amigos?’

 

 

So now you’ve seen our incredibly attractive faces and know our names, go ahead and check out what we think of the JESC 2015 efforts from Armenia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Serbia. Don’t worry, Mika, Jana, Shalisa and Lena – we haven’t been too hard on you…

 

 

 Armenia15

Lukman Armenia is one of the powerhouses of Junior Eurovision, and their entries are always catchy, fun and a bit out-of-the-box. Mika is such a big personality and a born star, and if the Armenians can stage a wonderful, exciting and suitable performance as they always do, he will finish on the first half of the scoreboard. I admire the entry as it is age-appropriate, compared to some younger singers singing songs more suitable for adults. The song itself is cute and cheeky, and more of a song to watch than to listen to. The verses and choruses are not the most memorable and not the most original; however, the song is about spreading love, fun and happiness. A serious contender for the win? Well, maybe not…but it will definitely be one to watch. Good luck Mika! 6 points.

Jaimie Has everyone seen 10-year-old George Dalton’s viral cover of Trap Queen yet? If you haven’t, watch it – it’s a weirdly mesmerising, Scott Bradlee-style reimagining. It’s also deeply disturbing when you consider that the original Fetty Wap song is about a girl who cooks meth, not apple pie. I have to admit that when I first heard Armenia’s JESC entry, my first thought was ‘Oh look, it’s the Armenian George Dalton. Except cooler. And with a love gun. Wait… what?’. The music video is hard to decode (where is the first location? Dr Love’s Evil Lair? Some sort of call centre? Santa’s Workshop? Why are they wearing 60s sci-fi costumes?. I feel I should learn this dance. At least the guy driving is grown up. OMG, THAT’S WHAT ARAM MP3 IS UP TO NOW? Should we be encouraging the shooting of love-nerf from a moving vehicle? Uh, you do know what happens when dogs “fall in love” right? Oh, he’s a motivational speaker. Or a supervillain. That makes so much more sense. God, this is weird.) What the video does offer is some clues about staging which could be a completely fabulous little retro revival as long as Mika leaves the love gun at home. Coming from a default position of finding JESC just a little creepy, I worry about how much I love this song…and what that says about me as a human. 10 points.

Jaz Armenia certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to JESC, and they’ve demonstrated that they mean business yet again by relegating Aram Mp3 to chauffeur status in Mika’s music video for the happy clappy Love. To put things simply, I like this song – I like it a lot. I wouldn’t say I feel the Love just yet, but this is the kind of effortless, retro-mod pop that a) puts me in a great mood, and b) tends to succeed at Junior Eurovision (see Russia 2006 or 2010 if you’re after a prime example). Mika is adorable and in possession of inordinate amounts of sass and swag for a kid his age. I have no doubt that he’ll have more than a pint-sized amount of stage presence to carry him through in Sofia. And, as Lukman said, Armenia never fail to put on an impressive performance, so expect top-notch costuming, props, lighting and choreography to accompany him. With all of that at their disposal – plus a catchy, fun track that is weaker than their previous, but is also competing in a far weaker field – Armenia could be dangerous to all sixteen of their rivals (though that’s partly due to the fact that they’re armed with those love guns). 8 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 8.00

 

 

Monte15

Lukman Let me start by stating that Oluja is a decent song and has a wonderful story in the video clip. I just feel that the song is a teeny bit outdated, and not particularly suited to Jana. The melody isn’t memorable, and there is just no hook. The chorus could be a bit stronger and a little more likeable. I really hope they have a strong and fun routine planned, which could help the song out. I would have loved to have heard some Balkan instruments in the song, or even stronger instrumentation. Sadly, as it is, Oluja has no ‘wow’ factor, but I’m sure Jana’s vocals will be awesome on the night! 4 points.

Jaimie So, the story of this song appears to be quite simple (I have to base this on the video clip as I am hampered by language here). Two kids, having run away from a folk festival of some kind, play a completely inept game of hide and seek which ends when the girl nicks the boy’s scarf and runs off with it, presumably to more fully embrace her new life of crime. Flash forward, and the boy, having grown a staggeringly majestic set of cheekbones, is still moping about the countryside missing his scarf. The girl, having grown into a Dolly magazine model and renounced her life as a criminal mastermind, runs into him in a field. He’s so pleased at having his scarf back, he hugs her, not realising she’s plucked his wallet out of his pocket. It’s a classic romance. It’s also boring and forgettable, and cannot possibly move into the top half of the board without this girl’s organised crime connections fixing the vote (possibly having been bribed with the scarf). 5 points.

Jaz Lucky it’s Throwback Thursday, because Jana’s Oluja is one heck of a #tbt to the JESC days of yore – not that I mind much. I had a feeling Montenegro were going to BRING IT on their second shot at Junior, so in that sense, I was disappointed when this cookie-cutter, half-hearted attempt at ethno-pop dropped. But it’s amazing what a second listen can do! I still think Jana is putting as much energy into her vocals as Maša & Lejla did into their performance in Malta (i.e. not much at all…is Montenegro suffering from a sugar shortage or something?) which detracts from the sunny vibrancy of the melody. Nor do I think her song makes the most of its almost-three minutes (is that extended instrumental break necessary?). However, I don’t mind having a dance to it at this point. Oluja really does reek of JESC circa 2005, and though that’s fine by me because I loved (and still love) those contests, it might not help Montenegro improve on last year’s mediocre result. I’m interested to see how this is presented, and how Jana comes across live (will she have to have a Loïc Nottet-style lie down halfway through because she’s so lethargic?). My fingers will be crossed that it’s at least competent on both of those counts. 7 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.33

 

 

Nether15

Lukman Shalisa is a very talented singer with great stage presence. I really like the verses, which sound really lovely to the ear. Unfortunately, I don’t find the chorus as strong. I appreciate it is beautiful, but it’s not catchy and not too memorable. Despite the chorus not being catchy enough I appreciate that the song is high quality, contemporary and filled with lots of emotions, feelings and passion. I hope she sticks to singing whilst playing the piano because it may give her the edge, and also shows off what she can do! 6 points.

Jaimie Eh. I don’t hate it. I don’t “love” it as much as the Armenian song. Shalisa looks like a young Natalie Portman which is intriguing, and I like her hat. Million Lights is pretty clinical. It provokes no feeling. It’s safe and pleasant. It’ll probably win. 6 points for the hat.

Jaz The Netherlands is another one of those countries that seem to ‘get’ JESC without always proving themselves to have the same understanding of the ESC. Year after year, they send something polished, well-produced and contemporary to mini-Eurovij, and 2015 is no exception. Million Lights is a pretty ballad with Rihanna-esque r & b influences, sung beautifully by Shalisa (who’s emanating Emilija Đjonin vibes)…but it’s not the total package. It’s a song that seems to get lost in itself, with awkward switches from Dutch to English and vice versa contributing to the choruses being hard to single out; and it doesn’t really build up to much – not enough to demand votes, anyway. I’m not sure it’s cohesive or memorable enough to squeeze onto the left-hand side of the scoreboard. It is melodically douze-worthy, though, and I enjoy all the different bits and pieces within. This is a genre that’s right up my street, and there’s something about this example of it that draws me in, in spite of some obvious flaws. 8 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.67

 

 

Serbia15

Lukman An absolutely beautiful song represents Serbia at this year’s Junior Eurovision – but saying that, I do lean towards Balkan songs. I really like the melody, and the chorus is very emotional and dramatic. I wish the instrumentation was a bit stronger as the song is missing a bit of oomph that it needs. My idea would be to throw in a few more instruments that would remedy that; however, I do like the inclusion of ethnic sounds in the song. I guess they could be going for simple instrumentation. The song does sound slightly outdated but I still love it. Lena is such a powerful singer and has been gifted with a really sweet voice. I am 100% sure she will sing well on the night! Good luck Lena! 7 points.

Jaimie Sigh. This is why I find the Junior contest so unsettling. I know kids. I’ve met some. I don’t know any of them who would get this passionate about things that aren’t Pokémon or pizza night at the roller rink or how their brother keeps stealing the Wii remote when it’s clearly not his turn. I do know an eight-year-old who stopped speaking for three days when Zayn left One Direction though, so I’m not saying that kids can’t harbour strong feelings about things. Perhaps Lena is super stoked about getting 10 out of 10 on a spelling test, but I rather think this song is about her self-empowerment instead (I’m guessing). This is no bad thing, really. I’m trying to be sympathetic. But here’s why I disconnect from JESC – I’m a grown-up. I’ve forgotten what the passions of childhood are like, whether they are about Pokémon or about realising you’re a complete person on your own, and I can’t help but wonder how many of the passionate words coming out of these child performers’ mouths have been put there by adult songwriters who have also forgotten. I want to take it seriously, because Lena’s obviously a good performer and I don’t want to do her a disservice, but I just can’t. I’m too cynical…and she’s no Mika. 6 points.

Jaz YES! A dramatic Balkan ballad! It’s almost like my main man Željko Joksimović will be with us in spirit in Sofia – although Lenina Pesma is even more drama-packed than the majority of his Eurovision compositions (which is really saying something). Unlike Million Lights, this is a song that builds up to something big, and doesn’t relent until the very end – or until Lena’s run out of oxygen and passes out on stage, one of the two. This girl might be miniature, but she has a massive voice that’s sure to impress on the night, assuming she can sustain it throughout the rehearsal period. She should sound strong, and Lenina Pesma won’t just be a showcase for her voice – it holds its own, and is sure to be a more memorable presence in the line-up than Serbia’s song was last year. It’s not exactly cutting-edge, but Balkan ballads don’t need to be – they’re timeless. This is on track to do rather well, as long as Serbia don’t overdo the staging (an atmospheric lighting scheme and a couple of dancers would do just fine). All in all, this is an excellent choice. 7 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.67

 

 

And just like that, there’s four songs done and dusted, leaving thirteen un-judged. Let’s have a look at the EBJJJ leaderboard at this early stage (which includes a tie I’ve broken on countback of individual scores):

  1. Armenia (8.00)
  2. The Netherlands (6.67)
  3. Serbia (6.67)
  4. Montenegro (5.33)

With no douze points doled out yet, will Armenia stay in prime position? Or will one of the next four countries to be placed in the spotlight take the title of Most Likely To Win According To The EBJ Junior Jury’s Totally Scientific Calculations? You can speculate on that as I let you know that Italy, Malta, Russia and Slovenia are up next. They’ll be reviewed by not one, but two returnees from my May ESC jury – James from the UK, and my mum (yep, Mrs. Jaz is back, and she didn’t even need to be bribed into it…much).

Join us then for more JESC-themed shenanigans, or be square!

 

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EBJ’s Top 10…incredible JESC singers even the haters have to hear

You may have heard the saying ‘A song is only as good as its singer’. Then again, you may not have, because I just made it up. If it were true, though, then the following ten songs would be the ten best in Junior Eurovision history, given that the 10-15 year-olds who performed them are so vocally talented I want to cry (but won’t *sniff*).

Yep, Eurovision’s younger, more effervescent sibling has seen its fair share of top-notch singing talents between 2003 and 2014 (as well as some kids who shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near a microphone…but that’s a topic for another post). Those of you who aren’t JESC fans might not be convinced of that, but can I give you some advice? At the very least, keep an eye and ear out for these ten tiny(ish) talents: five + five of the most jaw-dropping vocalists to have competed in JESC to date. If you are on Team JESC, then I hope you’ll agree with me re: their amazing-ness.

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#10 | Mariam Kakhelishvili, Georgia 2010

If you don’t like Lady Gaga, you probably won’t like the so-called Baby Gaga either. But since this whole list will be a drag for some of you, what’s one more thing to give the thumbs-down to? Mariam represented Georgia at JESC having previously placed third in Georgia’s Got Talent. She’d definitely fulfilled the brief of that show, so it didn’t come as a shock when Junior Eurovision no. 8 saw her blow the roof off the Minsk Arena with the sheer volume of her voice. I totally get that listening to a precocious tween shout in an imaginary language for three straight minutes is not everyone’s cup of tea (even I can’t watch back her rendition of Mari-Dari if I’m feeling remotely headache-y) but I do think Mariam’s yells were remarkably in-tune. She sang like she was in musical battle – which was more or less the case – and it was not a battle she was willing to lose. Of course, she didn’t win in the end…but fourth place is nothing to do any off-stage screaming about.

 

#9 | Mimmi Sandén, Sweden 2009

Mimmi’s sister Molly will be a more familiar face to non-fans of Junior Eurovision (what with two Melodifestivalen participations on her résumé, and fellow seasoned Melfester Danny Saucedo as her arm candy) but her own JESC performance in 2006 was far from flawless, vocally – and third Sandén sister Frida’s turn in 2007 was only just above average (which is woeful by Swedish standards). Youngest of the three Mimmi, however, compensated for her sisters’ sub-standard moments, putting in a stellar vocal performance of her electro-pop ballad Du in Kyiv. The song – one of my all-time Junior favourites – sounds like a tough one to tackle, but Mimmi did it with ease, effortlessly belting out the baby notes and the big ones. So talented back then at age thirteen, you can imagine how off-the-charts awesome she is in 2015.

 

#8 | Krisia Todorova, Bulgaria 2014

Teeny-tiny and absolutely adorable, Krisia is currently the darling of JESC – despite herself, Hasan and Ibrahim narrowly losing out to Vincenzo Cantiello (who may just feature later on in the countdown) in Malta last year. She’ll be performing the theme song of this year’s show. #discover, on home soil in three weeks’ time, and if she pulls off that performance anything like she pulled off Planet of the Children’s last year, those of us tuning in will be in for a treat. The power of the voice that came out of this girl was immense, and the fact that you practically needed a microscope to spot her on the stage gives that massive voice even more of a wow factor.

 

#7 | Noni Răzvan Ene, Romania 2004

The girls have dominated so far in this countdown – possibly because they aren’t prone to on-stage puberty-related problems (i.e. voice breakages). Romania’s Noni, fortunately, made the journey to JESC prior to his vocal chords taking a trip of their own to the Deep South. ‘Angelic’ is the word I’d use to describe his vocal performance of the powerful Îţi Mulţumesc. He looked as if he might burst a blood vessel before his final note, but his ability to channel that much emotion and effort into his song despite being so young was impressive. And, he trademarked tearing up post-performance at a Eurovision event well before Polina Gagarina (though his moist eyes may have just been due to relief that he DIDN’T explode into smithereens on live TV). It’s no wonder that he’s gone on to be pretty darn successful in his home country, releasing a string of singles and dabbling in television hosting and acting.

 

#6 | Sofia Tarasova, Ukraine 2013

Now, make way for the Ukrainian child version of Christina Aguilera! Sofia represented Ukraine when they hosted JESC for the second time, and she very nearly scored them a second consecutive win with We Are One. It was a cutting-edge, contemporary number that needed to be vocally nailed if it was going to have an impact, and Sofia did not disappoint. Being the home girl, she’d have received rapturous applause even if she’d trotted on stage and burped the alphabet, but her huge reception was well deserved. She’s a prime example of a small person who can fill a giant arena with their voice alone – no backup dancers or gimmicks (save for a laser light show, naturally…this IS a Eurovision event we’re talking about) required.

 

#5 | Gaia Cauchi, Malta 2013

Confession time: Gaia’s The Start was my least favourite competing entry of 2013. That may not be much of a confession if you read my scathing review of it back then, but I just thought I’d throw it out there. I wasn’t even in the mood for admiring her vocal prowess in those days, what with that nasal quality to her voice that Ann Sophie couldn’t even compare to. However, I have changed my tune (HA HA) on both song and singer, and I can no longer deny that Gaia is an amazing vocalist, with a seemingly unending supply of oxygen that she can use for show-stopping notes. The Start was full of them, and that impressed both the televoters and juries enough to claim Malta their first win in any competition featuring the letters E, S and C. A year later, Gaia proved her power hadn’t diminished as she returned to JESC as an interval act. You can pretty much expect her to enter Eurovision the second she’s sixteen.

 

#4 | Federica Falzon, Malta 2014

It’s always surprising when a voice like Céline Dion’s comes out of someone young enough to be Céline Dion’s grandchild – but when the pipes of an ageing opera diva have apparently inhabited that someone, ‘surprising’ no longer covers the feels one experiences. Federica represented the host country last year at the ripe old age of eleven, and her voice has to be heard – and seen – to be believed. Actually, it’s the only one on this list that can be seen, heard, and still not believed because it’s so incongruous with her appearance. If you’re yet to listen to what she has to offer, I recommend you do so right now…just be ready to pick your jaw up off the floor about twenty seconds in.

 

#3 | Sophia Patsalides, Cyprus 2014

JESC’s last few years have produced some ridiculously talented singers – of the seven I’ve mentioned so far, only three took part prior to 2013. Here’s another voice from the most recent contest (until November 21st has been and gone) who will knock your socks off, if she hasn’t already. Sophia, like Sofia (that’s not confusing at all) appeared all by herself on stage, but managed to get the crowd going while delivering a faultless vocal that would have floored any backing dancers she might have had. Her entry I Pio Omorfi Mera started and ended softly, but packed a punch in between, featuring a key change that seasoned singers thrice her age would have struggled to execute. That turned out to be the goosebump, this-could-win moment for Cyprus. Spoiler alert for the unaware: Cyprus got ripped off big time, finishing 9th…but that key change was still a win-worthy one as far as I’m concerned.

 

#2 | Ana Khanchalyan, Georgia 2011

If Sofia Tarasova is Ukraine’s answer to Aguilera, then Ana Khanchalyan is undoubtedly Georgia’s. And if you didn’t know her by name, you’d know her by voice once you’d watched her group Candy’s winning performance at JESC 2011. The fivesome blended well together, and all of their solo parts were strong. But Ana was unquestionably the standout, and Georgia used that knowledge to serious advantage when wrapping up the Candy package. Most aspects of this entry really put the ‘Junior’ into Junior Eurovision – Candy Music’s lyrics and sound, the girls’ costumes, etc – so the maturity of Ana’s vocals allowed Georgia to strike a memorable balance between childlike and competent-beyond-their-years. Three years after she took (one fifth of) the JESC trophy home, Ana successfully auditioned for a place on The Voice of Armenia, and went on to win the whole thing. Don’t be shocked if she ends up repping Georgia or Armenia at Eurovision sometime soon.

 

#1 | Vincenzo Cantiello, Italy 2014

He was number one in Malta last November, and now he’s numero uno again – on this insignificant list that he’ll never know exists and wouldn’t care about if he did! Woohoo! Vincenzo, our reigning Junior Eurovision champ, stood out as the only male main artist to participate last year (my apologies to Bulgaria’s Hasan & Ibrahim, but Krisia was the main attraction there). This kid also shops in the ‘Unbelievable’ section of the singing department, and that obviously struck a chord (pun intended) with the juries in particular, who placed Italy on top of their leaderboard. Vincenzo’s vocals are the kind that send a shiver down the spine of anyone who isn’t a heartless, soulless shell of a human being (in my opinion). Mark my words: he’s going to go far. Further than Sofia, where he’ll be announcing Italy’s JESC 2015 votes – and, hopefully, performing a reprise of Tu Il Primo Grande Amore, a song Il Volo would be proud to have in their back catalogue.

 

 

That’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to listing European kids who can sing better than I can even when I’m in the shower (which is really saying something, because I sound freaking awesome with those acoustics) but these ten are my personal favourites.

Let me know below which JESC participants have warbled their way into your heart over the years – or, if you normally recoil at the mere mention of Junior, what you thought of those who made my countdown, if you managed to sit through any of their three minutes (Halloween weekend has just gone, so I thought you wouldn’t mind doing something scary).

 

Until next time,

 

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PS – Speaking of which…

NEXT TIME JESC avoiders beware! With the Sofia show less than three weeks away, it’s time for me to kick off my Junior Eurovision 2015 reviews – but I’m not doing it alone. I’ve put together an expert EBJJJ (Eurovision By Jaz Junior Jury) and they’re ready to compliment, criticise and score all seventeen songs competing in Bulgaria. And don’t worry: just because there’s children involved doesn’t mean we’re going to hold back (although I do draw the line at swearing…it’s not f%*#ing appropriate)!

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Möt mig i Globen??

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Until then, stay suitably fabulous, peeps!

 

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