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ANYONE I WANT TO BE = A JESC WINNER? Reviewing and wrapping up Junior Eurovision 2018

Just like that (a whole week ago now), Minsk’s second Junior Eurovision is done and dusted. I still have some residual Resting Sadface, even though we in the Eurovision world have already moved on to the momentous Melodifestivalen artist announcement and unveiling of Tel Aviv’s first act via Armenia (my thoughts on those things are still to come…be patient).

I say ‘we’, but I love JESC so much I’m not ready to move on yet. Hence why I’m here to look back at Sunday’s comp way after everyone else. Me being miles behind the rest of humanity is one of my many charms. Right?

Honestly, my highlight of JESC 2018 was Polina Bogusevich standing on the stage in a gorgeous gown, looking more sophisticated and glamorous than I ever will and belting out an impeccable reprise of Wings. But there were a lot of other high points too, plus a typically tense voting sequence that produced some interesting results. I’m going to go through it all right here, right now.

If you need a refresher or just want to watch the whole thing again (I’ve watched it three times and might need to go in for a fourth ASAP) here’s the show in full:


And now, let’s get into reviewing the performances – from Ukraine to Poland and every country in-between – and all of the results.



The performances

Ukraine Darina kicked the show off with intensity, attitude, and a performance artists three times her age would be proud of. The quick camera cuts at the beginning were totally in keeping with the edginess of the song. Styling on point, vocals impeccable. I feel too uncool to even listen to the song, let alone watch the performance, but I’m going to keep doing it anyway.

Portugal This was cute, but looked and sounded pretty unpolished after Ukraine. I liked the phone screen/social media concept, but I couldn’t take the “boomerang” effect seriously – it just looked like a mistake. All in all it was three minutes of second gear, but Rita is full of personality and that shone through. Any moments she was in the armchair were the best ones.

Kazakhstan The music video was epic, but Daneliya’s performance was underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, she’s amazing, but her vocals were patchier than usual and I didn’t feel much fight coming from her. When she was on her game, it was stunning. Sadly though, I think a tweaked version of the NF staging would have been better.


Albania Efi is a tiny pink and glittery ball of energy, and I adore her. Her enthusiasm and sass at age 10 eclipses mine at age 27, and she had the crowd in her command from the second the music started. She’s not the strongest vocalist but was definitely in tune and giving Barbie her all. My only complaint is how short the performance seemed, because I wanted it go on forever.

Russia I always thought Unbreakable sounded like a JESC winner (maybe too much) and it did come across that way. With Anna front and centre surrounded by her band, it was all very Polina Gagarina, which is a compliment. She sounded solid. I’m torn on the double denim – María Isabel 2004 vibes, anyone? – but the pink extensions were a nice choice.

The Netherlands Like a takeaway pizza, this was covered in cheese and I enjoyed it immensely. Max and Anne are so cute together and have great chemistry. Vocally they were slicker than at their NF. Okay, so the giant versions of the duo on the rear stage screens had a super-high cringe factor, but somehow I found the whole package as endearing as ever.

Azerbaijan The JESC version of this song was nowhere near as good as the original – I wish Fidan had stuck with the full ballad. My other negative was her outfit (half disco, half bridesmaid). The best part of her performance was undoubtedly her vocals, which were angelic and as crystal clear as the Kosta Boda trophy she did not win. She’s precious. And a teenager now, apparently?!?

Belarus You guys know I’m biased on this one, but I honestly felt Daniel lived up to my (very high) expectations. This was impressive, and the staging was so Sweden-like that I’m sure Christer Björkman would have given it a douze if we’d had him as a guest judge again. Daniel is a star in the making and I hope to see him representing Belarus at the ESC in a few years.


Ireland Taylor is such a nice kid, and everything about his presence on stage made me want to wave an Irish flag in time with I.O.U (but I don’t own one so I didn’t). This was so much fun and didn’t try to be more sophisticated than it is. I’m convinced that if this entry had competed in the early to mid 2000s, it would have made the top 5.

Serbia If you read my reviews, you’ll know Svet is not a song I like much. But Bojana turned out a spectacular, faultless performance, and I was impressed big time. Great costuming? Check. Gorgeous LED graphics? Check. Vocal perfection? Check. It still felt like a looooong three minutes – the song just drags – but I was happier to watch than I had been just to listen.

Italy Melissa and Marco put on a show that was so cute, my cold, cynical heart defrosted like I’d stuck it in a microwave, and I felt the urge to run through a flowery meadow and blow bubbles and stuff. There was nothing that I didn’t love about this. They sang beautifully and their rapport is something to ‘Aww’ over. So I did.

Australia Jael is my homegirl, and she did me proud! The lighting at the start was top-notch and I wish that Sanna Nielsen vibe had been used more throughout, but I’m not too bothered. I have a conspiracy theory that her dress was sewn from offcuts of Dami Im’s, and we know there’s magic in that. Best armography of the night right here, folks.


Georgia If you were questioning how Tamar stood up to older and more experienced singers on The X Factor, I bet you aren’t any more. She was phenomenal, and her staging/styling couldn’t have been better. This was a more grown-up Georgia than we’re used to, and it worked wonders. Was it just me or was there a Japanese influence here? LOVE.

Israel This is how you make a performance interesting without making your singer move a muscle. Children Like These is a stunning (cover) song and Noam was pitch-perfect. All he had to do was stand there and sing, and let the camera, graphics and lighting do the rest of the work. I was spellbound, just as I knew I would be.

France If this is what France produces after a fourteen-year hiatus, maybe they shouldn’t come back to JESC until 2032 (I’m kidding of course, they’ve got to be there in 2019). Angélina’s vocals weren’t the strongest of the night, but the mise en scène was perfect and she was the cutest little leading lady ever. Great props and choreography. C’est magnifique!

Macedonia Like Kazakhstan, I wanted Macedonia to deliver a flawless performance but it didn’t quite happen. Still, this was staged beautifully by Macedonian standards (sorry, but it’s true) with the highlights being the costume change, the LED snowfall and the moment Marija held up her snowflake and the lights went down. When her vocals were at their best, they were spine-tingling.


Armenia It was 17 songs’ time before I could no longer resist the temptation to dance (sitting in bed, in my pajamas…it was super late at night okay?). Armenia used Levon’s NF performance as a template but made it bigger and better – and he was on fire. No fading energy or running out of breath like before. Tell me what was wrong with this and I’ll tell you why YOU’RE wrong.

Wales This was such a nice debut for Wales. Think back to how boring Perta was at the selection stage then fast forward to last Sunday, and I think you’ll agree that Wales made the most of it. I’m not 100% on the costume choice, but the choreography was A+. Manw is a really engaging performer and I would have watched two hours of just her on the stage.

Malta This was pretty much what I expected, only with more questionable fashion (party tracksuit alert) and to compensate, more sensational vocals than I was prepared for. Like every other kid who’s represented Malta at JESC since Gaia Cauchi, Ela is insanely talented at this singing business. Her dancers added interest when I was worried they’d look out of place.

Poland Last but not least (quite the opposite, as it turned out) Roksana hit the stage with what was definitely a confusing performance to watch. If there was a cohesive concept in there, I couldn’t pick it out. Still, the bomb song that is Anyone I Want To Be and Roxie’s beyond solid performing arts skills outshone the OTT surrounding her. A random but excellent closer.



My top 5 performances  

Armenia Nobody had more sass, swag and charisma all rolled into one than Levon. There wasn’t a second where he looked lost on the massive stage, and not a second when I wasn’t loving – or should I say ‘L.O.V.I.N.G’? – his performance.

Australia What can I say…I’m patriotic. I was worried that keeping Jael on a podium leaving just her voice and arms to do the talking would be a mistake, but she didn’t need to move to absolutely nail it. The glittery dress was the cherry on top.

Belarus What can I say…I’m biased. I loved Time from the first listen, think Daniel’s a superstar and consider this three minutes the coolest of the night. If this exact performance was slotted into the ESC, the only surprise would come from people going ‘Is this really BELARUS?’.

France So much cute. This was like a group of friends having the best time ever, coincidentally in front of a huge crowd and millions of online/TV viewers. It couldn’t have been more in keeping with the song’s subject matter. Trés bien.

Georgia Georgia and Tamar slayed every single aspect of this performance, and it’s another one that could have competed at adult Eurovision without any changes. The styling in particular was amazing. Bravo.



The results

I’m not going to dive too deep into facts and figures, since I’m days late getting this wrap-up done and you’ll have had your fill of that stuff by now (why won’t someone pay me to talk about Eurovision already so I don’t have to waste time at my actual job to make money?). We know our top 10 looked like this:

  1. Poland
  2. France
  3. Australia
  4. Ukraine
  5. Malta
  6. Kazakhstan
  7. Italy
  8. Georgia
  9. Armenia
  10. Russia

I wasn’t expecting Poland to quite get there with the win, but I obviously underestimated the power of Roksana’s fans (all 200 000+ on Instagram alone at the time…she’s now on 300 000+). Anyone I Want To Be was arguably the best song of the contest (though not my favourite) but was it performed better than everything else? I don’t think so. I’m going to say that the current JESC voting system needs work, but I’m excited for Poland to have won something, and I think it would be wrong to drag Roxie for having too much support.

France in 2nd is fabulous and totally deserved. If that’s not motivation enough to come back next year and attempt to go one better, I don’t know what is. Australia rounding out the podium places obviously makes me a very, very happy Jaz – I was expecting lower top 10 at most. Yes, juries love us, but those people out there taking that out on Jael need to just NOT.

After Melissa and Marco’s performance, a decent top 10 result was what I was hoping for and it’s what I got (I even ended up voting for Italy spur of the moment). Georgia and Armenia should have been higher in my opinion. L.E.V.O.N finishing lower than Boomerang and actually scoring Armenia’s worst ever result is ridiculous. Then again, the fact that 9th out of 20 is their poorest showing says great things about Armenia.

Other results outside of the top 10 that “surprised” me (because I don’t want to say ‘pissed me off’ when we’re discussing a children’s contest) include Belarus in 11th – you guys know they were my favourite, and I really think they earned a place in the 6th-9th range at least. Macedonia finishing 12th for the third year running and the 8th time in total is…well, pretty hilarious, but I would have loved Marija to squeeze into the top 10 too. Albania was underrated as far as I’m concerned, but that doesn’t take away from Efi being a teeny queen who we should all be bowing down to. Finally, Wales scoring zero from the juries and coming last overall is an injustice. HOW?!?!?

Okay, I think that’s enough complaining from me. I’m going to wrap things up by celebrating our winner Roksana, who Pole-vaulted into first place at the end of a seriously intense points presentation. I hope ‘Junior Eurovision winner’ qualifies as anyone she wants to be. Congrats to her and to Poland for finally winning a musical Eurovision event. I’m already looking forward to a show (hopefully) hosted in a place we’ve never had a JESC before next November.



Let me know what you thought of JESC 2018 in the comments!





THE EBJ JUNIOR JURY REVIEWS | Australia, Israel, Macedonia, The Netherlands + Serbia

This is (almost) it – we’re just about to arrive at JESC weekend, people! With all of the 2016 acts in Valletta and rehearsing like mad, it’s still impossible to predict who will win the contest in two days’ time. But that’s what makes the countdown that much more exciting.

As there aren’t many digits left in that countdown, I need to move right along with the Typically Jaz™ pre-show ramblings. On the schedule today? The fourth and final round of the EBJ Junior Jury’s reviews, feat. Australia (can I be impartial? You’re about to find out), Israel, Macedonia, The Netherlands, and Serbia.




So, Alexa, Shir & Tim, Martija, Kisses and Dunja – if you happen to be reading – let’s see what the EBJJJ thinks of the songs you guys are competing with on Sunday…




My thoughts As an Australian, I try to be objective when reviewing our ESC or JESC entries, and I’m pretty sure I can do it this time. It might be unfair to assume this after only two attempts, but I don’t think Australia really ‘gets’ Junior Eurovision. Apparently we get the absolute crap out of the adult contest (and I reserve the right to brag about that at every opportunity). But our mediocre result with Bella Paige’s My Girls, and the fact that we’re sending something just as “uplifting” and pseudo-inspirational to Valletta – perhaps not learning from our mistakes – is evidence that JESC may not be our thing. Alexa’s We Are seems like the result of what a few ill-informed people considered to be the ultimate contest song for kids. I don’t know if that’s actually the case, but the cheesy and clichéd lyrics, and the been-there/heard-that pop ballad style (yes, it really is My Girls all over again) give that impression. The song coasts along, doing a semi-decent job for what it is – and Alexa definitely sings it beautifully – but it doesn’t stick, and it has pretty much zero x-factor. It isn’t terrible; I was just hoping for an improvement on 2015 rather than a carbon copy. As Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result…so unless Alexa can pull off a performance that ticks every box – feat. perfect graphics, costumes, props and vocals – I think Australia is destined to get bogged in the sand of the average result range. How can Tania Doko, the woman largely responsible for this 90s masterpiece, also be largely responsible for We Are? PS – Is anyone else put off by the lyric referencing driving? Alexa’s not even old enough to get her learner’s permit, let alone to use operating an automobile as a meaningful metaphor in her music.

My score 6

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 4
  • James, UK – 5
  • Joshua, Australia – 3
  • Matthew, Ireland – 6
  • Michael, Australia – 7
  • Penny, USA – 6
  • Rory, Ireland – 7




My thoughts In a move that has officially crowned them the Azerbaijan of JESC, Israel kept us waiting as long as possible before unveiling their second-ever Junior song, following on from 2012’s Let The Music Win. We could even call Shir & Tim mini Ell & Nikki, but that’d only be because they’re a female-male duo (not because Shir struggles to sing live, which I’m sure she doesn’t). Follow My Heart wasn’t exactly worth such a wait, but I’m a fan of it anyway. What it has working in its favour includes: a) a mystical, minimal beginning that builds into something packing a punch; b) excellent use of English that emphasises the title and makes the song more interesting; and c) two voices that work well both separately and together. I feel like this is the sort of song that will thrive on being performed live, with audience and artist interaction making it more of an audiovisual spectacle. There’s room for really interesting stuff to be done with the staging too, so I hope the Israeli delegation and the Maltese techies will do it justice. Look what atmospheric staging did for Made of Starsin Stockholm! I appreciate Israel trying a different tactic for this comeback, and I think it could pay off…but a lot needs to go right at the right time for that to happen. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Shir & Tim though, as their song has the potential to grow on me and become one of my favourites of the year.

My score 7

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 6
  • James, UK – 4
  • Joshua, Australia – 10
  • Matthew, Ireland – 3
  • Michael, Australia – 8
  • Penny, USA – 7
  • Rory, Ireland – 2




My thoughts More so than any other country that competed in JESC 2015 and is about to compete in JESC 2016, Macedonia has proven that a lot can change in a year. They’ve completely turned the tables on last year’s Pletenka – one of those ‘Junior of Yesteryear’ kid-pop songs that was enjoyable, but inevitably finished last – and recruited a girl with a more mature look and mature voice to sing a considerably more current tropical dance track. I really, really like Love Will Lead Our Way, and will probably drop the other L-bomb on it any day now. It takes the radio-friendly nature of Ireland’s entry and combines it with the youth and fresh feel of Armenia’s song to produce something infectious and fun, while still taking the contest seriously. Like Israel, Macedonia has used English cleverly for the title of the song – a title that goes on to be repeated throughout and becomes a memorable hook to reel us all in. The phrasing of both English and Macedonian in the chorus is simple but effective, making it feel like you’re listening to one language rather than two. The icing on the cake is that on-trend riff that makes me want to hit up a beach party in the Bahamas (the intended destination may have been the Balkans, but too bad). Oh, and did I mention that Martija is super-duper pretty, and that the camera loves her? Well, she is, and it does. I will admit that LWLOW probably plateaus too much to give it a winning edge, but if it doesn’t catapult Macedonia out of the bottom five and closer (or into) the top five, I will be 110% done with 2016. Love it! *drops the big L-bomb as promised earlier*

My score 10

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 1
  • James, UK – 8
  • Joshua, Australia – 10
  • Matthew, Ireland – 6
  • Michael, Australia – 12
  • Penny, USA – 7
  • Rory, Ireland – 8




My thoughts I’m not ashamed to admit that I LOVE how The Netherlands take on JESC. They don’t always finish at the top of the scoreboard (they actually haven’t had a top five finish since 2011), but their entries are consistently competent, polished and enjoyable. They’re also usually radio-friendly teen pop – think 2014/15 – or old-school Junior musical balls of energy, á la the unforgettable Double Me from 2013. This year, the Dutch have stayed true to type with the incredibly catchy Kisses and Dancin’ by Kisses (who clearly have something in common with Water of Life by The Water of Life Project). It’s the closest thing you’ll find to fairy floss in this year’s buffet, so if you have a sweet tooth, this is probably in your personal top five. I do, and it’s definitely in mine! It reminds me so much of Belgium’s Get Up!, sent to Junior all the way back in 2010, and that was a song I was obsessed with at the time (not so much these days since it’s not exactly a timeless classic, but temporary gratification is better than none at all, right?). Both songs have a similar subject matter and call to get up and/or dance that I find irresistible, but this one is even more infectious. The mix of Dutch and English is better here too. Throw in a carefree nature, positive vibes and instant memorability, and this becomes a serious competitor without taking the contest too seriously. What we’ll get as a result (keep in mind that I haven’t watched any of the rehearsals) is a feelgood, smile-provoking performance that may not have the legs to lead the pack, but should make Shalisa’s second-last place last year a distant memory. It was the televoters who led to her downfall, while the juries bumped her up – so with only juries to win over and a song that is much more childlike than Shalisa’s, it’s hard to say how high Kisses can go. But given that we are talking about Junior Eurovision, and that we have kids juries in play, I’d like to think they have an audience in the voting population who will clap-clap along with them and send some double-digit scores their way.

My score 8

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 7
  • James, UK – 6
  • Joshua, Australia – 5
  • Matthew, Ireland – 8
  • Michael, Australia – 8
  • Penny, USA – 6
  • Rory, Ireland – 4




My thoughts Serbia is another country that has pinballed in a different direction, after trying something dramatic (that could have passed as an adult Eurovision entry with an age-appropriate singer) at JESC last year. Flamboyant hand gestures and massive money notes are out; hoverboards and sassy summer sounds are in, via Dunja’s U La La La. Lightening things up was a move that’s likely to pay off – even I can see that, despite this song not being one of my favourites. Dunja is a girl with grunt in her voice and more attitude than most of the other artists combined, and the song is a perfect fit for her personality and vocal talents (in studio, at least). It’s youthful, catchy, and a good combo of contemporary pop and vintage JESC kid-pop (the kind I get a kick out of because it brings back memories of when I discovered mini –Eurovision). As I said, I’m not head-over-heels in love with it, although if I tried out Dunja’s hoverboard I would definitely end up head-over-heels. But I do think it holds its own as one of the ‘fun’ songs on offer, and that it stands out style-wise. Serbian really shines in an urban-sounding song, and I respect the fact that there’s no English awkwardly inserted at the start, in the middle or at the end – it’s that native tongue all the way through, making U La La La one of just three entries to stick with a language other than the most accessible one possible. I’m not saying that will benefit or disadvantage Dunja, but I admire it no matter how she scores. I don’t really have anything else to say about this, other than ‘I last listened to it five days ago and the chorus is STILL stuck in my head’, which has to count for something.

My score 7

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 8
  • James, UK – 7
  • Joshua, Australia – 10
  • Matthew, Ireland – 6
  • Michael, Australia – 12
  • Penny, USA – 12
  • Rory, Ireland – 5



Now, with those sentences about/scores for Serbia dealt with, I finally get to say this: seventeen down, zero to go! The ranking for this round is as follows:

  1. Serbia (8.37)
  2. Macedonia (7.75)
  3. The Netherlands (6.5)
  4. Israel (5.87)
  5. Australia (5.5)

Serbia takes out the top spot this time, with fellow ex-Yugo Macedonia snapping at their heels (or hoverboards – take your pick). The Netherlands didn’t kiss or dance their way beyond the halfway point, sadly, but they’ve got a good chance of doing so in the actual show (and the actual show, I’ll admit, matters a little bit more than the EBJJJ ranking). Israel and Australia *is outraged despite not loving the song* bring up the rear.

Stay tuned, because this weekend – just before the contest kicks off – I’ll be unveiling the Junior Jury’s complete 17-song ranking for you to feast your eyes on (and probably disagree with in a major way). I’ll also be posting my predictions for upper crust, bottom crust and filling of the scoreboard sandwich – i.e. which country will end up where once all of the esteemed jury members (and Jedward) have had their say. These predictions are going to be so hilariously inaccurate, you won’t want to miss them.

While you’re waiting, let me know which of today’s reviewed entries is your favourite – or which one makes you want to invest in a very high-quality pair of earplugs. Does one of these five have what it takes to win Junior Eurovision 2016? If so, say so – I need all the help I can get in finalising those pesky predictions…


Get ready to #embrace, everybody!





THE EBJ JUNIOR JURY REVIEWS | Albania, Belarus, Italy + Malta

I bet you didn’t see this coming. Regardless and right on schedule, round three of the EBJJJ judgments has arrived!

Today, it’s time for a few of last year’s JESC success stories; host country Malta; and Italy (who neither did brilliantly in 2015 or are hosting like they COULD HAVE in 2015) to be picked apart by me and my posse of Europop aficionados. Prepare for highs, lows and mixed emotions, people.




Without further ado, let’s jump in to judging Klesta, Alexander, Fiamma and Christina’s songs for Europe. And Australia. And any other country that happens to be broadcasting JESC this year.




My thoughts Last year, I staunchly supported Mishela Rapo and her dibi-dibi-Dambaje as they ventured forth into the bloody musical battle that is…not JESC (blood-drawing = not so child-friendly, and probably frowned upon by the EBU). The haters did hate, but she went on to finish 5th, equaling the best-ever ranking in a Eurovision event that Albania secured with Rona Nishliu in Baku. Funnily enough, their Junior entry for 2016 reminds me of Suus, for several reasons. But am I intending to sing its praises the way I did with Dambaje (and yes, Suus, once my ears became accustomed to Rona’s tuneful but still very loud wailing)? The answer is ‘kind of’. In my opinion, there’s more to like about Klesta’s Besoj than there is NOT to like about it, but it isn’t flawless. Let’s start with the good stuff, though. A mature, sophisticated and B-I-G ballad bursting out of a precious-looking little girl (in glasses, no less) has been a secret to JESC success lately – think Gaia Cauchi’s 2013 win or Slovenia’s song from Lina Kuduzović last year. So there’s that. Then there’s the fact that this ballad features multiple moments of melodic magnificence throughout, particularly between the choruses. The choruses do have their strengths, as they’re a dynamic contrast to the softness of what surrounds them, exploding out of nowhere and allowing Klesta to reach her full vocal potential (surprising unsuspecting viewers in the process). It’s a statement song, that’s for sure. But I have to point out its flaws if I want to get all of the cattiness out of my system before these reviews reach their conclusion, and these are the most obvious: firstly, the somewhat strange use of English in amongst the Albanian – ‘believe’ popping up in that first chorus instead of ‘besoj’ is too random for my tastes. Secondly, the second half of the chorus, where most of the power is packed, is OTT enough to give me the beginnings of a headache by time the song’s over. Still, my personal ratio of like to dislike here is about 85%:15%, which ain’t bad for Albania. It just means that the more people who feel the way I do, the more likely they’ll have to settle for a less impressive result than last year’s. I’m not sure if it would be a help or hindrance if Klesta took even more cues from Rona Nishliu and appeared on stage with her hair forming part of her costume…

My score 7

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 6
  • James, UK – 6
  • Joshua, Australia – 12
  • Matthew, Ireland – 7
  • Michael, Australia – 4
  • Penny, USA – 10
  • Rory, Ireland – 10




My thoughts This is old-school Junior Eurovision right here, folks! From 2003-2010 (ish), pre-teen pop was the core of the contest. Nowadays, we’re lucky to get two or three tracks per year that bring back those memories (the trio of 2016 being Belarus, The Netherlands and Serbia). Alex’s homeland came third in 2013 with something similar, and I’m guessing he’d like to do the same or better. Sadly, I’m about to burst his bubble, because Muzyka Moikh Pobed is only okay, and certainly no Poy So Mnoy (then again, what is? That was BOSS). It’s a mid-tempo, pretty well-sung and performed song with a reasonably catchy chorus, and I do get a kick out of it – just not  a hard one. More like a gentle poke with the toe, if you were after specifics. There’s nothing about it that’s memorable, even though comparing it to anything else in the competition would be like comparing Lordi and Boggie. It would make a great Sing It Away­-style opener for the show because it’s energetic and sets the mood switch to ‘Party Time!!!’, but can then promptly be forgotten about by everyone and eventually putt-putt to a halt in 13th place because it’s disposable. I don’t want it to fail – if an outcome like that would be considered a fail – but I don’t see it having the steam to climb much higher. That doesn’t mean Europe should stop sending kid pop: it can be done in a memorable way that still scores serious points. It just means that…well, you can’t take a top 5 spot every single year. Unless you’re Armenia.

My score 6

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 5
  • James, UK – 7
  • Joshua, Australia – 10
  • Matthew, Ireland – 5
  • Michael, Australia – 8
  • Penny, USA – 7
  • Rory, Ireland – 5




My thoughts Nobody does class like Italy. It consistently ensures they get great adult Eurovision results (when they don’t, those are the exceptions, not the rule) and even won them the Junior Eurovision title on their very first try in 2014. Fiamma Boccia’s ballad, which is an ode to her mother (see, Axel Hirsoux…it CAN be done in a non-creepy way!), is nothing if not classy. Yet it still manages to be age-appropriate for the twelve-year-old, who actually looks younger than her years (she may be asked for ID upon entering the Mediterranean Conference Centre for the first time). To be honest, I thought Cara Mamma was an unfortunate sweet-and-savoury combo of sugar and cheese back when it was presented, and if it was entirely in English (against JESC rules, I know, but I’m talking hypothetically here) I probably still would. But further listens have somehow changed my mind, and I’m really digging it now. It is sweet, but the Italian, as always, adds an aspect of beauty that’s very appealing. The chorus is soaring and melodic without being overblown or melodramatic. And the softness of the verses that is echoed when the song winds down gives me a satisfying feeling that the entry has come full circle, returning to its roots and making it more meaningful. Italy also makes excellent use of the little English they’ve opted for, as it doesn’t feel like it was crammed in just to increase the song’s accessibility. Fiamma is pretty darn cute, and has an emotional presence – at least in her music video – that reminds me of Alisa Kozhikina, who represented Russia the year Italy won JESC (albeit with a ballad that was too mature and melodramatic for my liking, but still finished 5th). I think she has one of the best ballads of the year up her sleeve, but with tough competition coming from Albania, Bulgaria and Poland, she needs to pull off a top-notch performance to give herself the best shot of outdoing the others. I’d like to see her do well, and I bet her mother would too (her father, who’s probably feeling a little left out, may be less supportive).

My score 8

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 5
  • James, UK – 12
  • Joshua, Australia – 7
  • Matthew, Ireland – 10
  • Michael, Australia – 8
  • Penny, USA – 8
  • Rory, Ireland – 4




My thoughts Malta has been hyped a heap at Junior Eurovision recently, and usually they live up to that hype by winning or doing very well indeed. Destiny’s Not My Soul wasn’t my favourite entry last year (far from it, in fact), but she certainly fulfilled expectations, and did deserve to win as far as I’m concerned. But if Christina Magrin does the double on home soil with the frequently-fangirled-over Parachute, I will be FURIOUS. To cut what could be a long story short, I hate this song. So much so that I’ve taken to calling it Parashite (hoping that Christina never finds out, because I’m not a monster who wants to hurt a child’s feelings). I seem to be in the minority, but to me the song is annoying, vacuous, derivative crap. And what the heck is up with that ‘Ew ew ewhew ewwwww’ part of the chorus? I mean, yes, it accurately describes my attitude towards the whole thing, but what does it add to the track? It’s like the writers couldn’t for the life of them think of any more lyrics for that section, so they decided to string out the last syllable sung instead in the most irritating manner known to man. All in all, this is bubblegum pop that should stay stuck to the underside of a school desk somewhere. Maybe this rant makes me a distant relative of Satan himself, but I have to tell the truth! I will admit that Christina is a great singer, as is everyone under the age of sixteen who calls Malta home. But her vocal gymnastics can’t somersault the song into my good graces. Worryingly, the last time I felt this strongly about a Maltese JESC entry in a negative way, it was 2013 and Gaia Cauchi’s The Start went on to win with ease. So if Parachute does the same¸ y’all can go off and celebrate and I’ll just be crying in a corner, cursing the juries under my breath.

My score 2

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 5
  • James, UK – 10
  • Joshua, Australia – 6
  • Matthew, Ireland – 12
  • Michael, Australia – 6
  • Penny, USA – 8
  • Rory, Ireland – 3



And with that controversial ending to today’s round of reviews (direct all hate mail to me and expect a falsely polite reply within six to eight months), there’s now twelve down, five to go for the EBJ Junior Jury.

Our ranking after scoring this group of four looks like this:

  1. Albania (7.75)
  2. Italy (7.75)
  3. Belarus (6.62)
  4. Malta (6.5)

It’s the ballads that have reigned supreme, with Albania and Italy equaling each other’s scores. Albania gets the top spot on countback, but the gap between the two is barely there. Belarus and Malta keep each other company in the lower half, with very little separating them as well.

How do they all fit in to the full EBJJJ ranking for 2016? Well, you’ll have to wait and see – but don’t worry, there’s not long now until I reveal all. The final five left to be reviewed are Australia, Israel, Macedonia, The Netherlands and Serbia. Maybe we’ve saved the best until last….maybe we haven’t. Either way, you won’t want to miss it.


Did Albania deserve to take out today’s top honours, or should Malta have been the cream of the crop á la Destiny? Perhaps Italy or Belarus have won you over instead. Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments!





THE EBJ JUNIOR JURY REVIEWS | Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland + Russia

Bonjour, people who don’t hate song contests for kids aged 10-14! I’m back, and so is the EBJ Junior Jury. We’re just over a week away from setting foot on Maltese soil (metaphorically…most of the people actually attending who I hate with a passion will be touching down well before then) and finding the fourteenth winner of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Will it be one of the countries the EBJJJ and I are reviewing and ranking today?




The countries in question are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Russia. That’s a mixed bag of competitors who’ve often dominated the contest, have recently proved to be worth watching, or who’ve just joined the party and are still finding their feet. Read on to find out what me and my slaves – I mean, scoring buddies – think of what’s on offer from Lidia, George, Zena and Sofia, and whether any of them have a chance of taking the most precious trophy on the planet back home to their parents’ display cabinet.




My thoughts I’m not sure how Bulgaria stumbled across the formula for JESC success, but they’ve definitely done it. I actually reckon they’ve always had it up their sleeve, despite that not being reflected in their results 100% of the time. Since their second comeback in 2014, they’ve put extra effort into their entries, and it’s easy to forget that they didn’t actually win with Krisia, Hasan & Ibrahim last time Junior traveled to Malta. So can they replicate Planet of the Children’s stellar second place with the more upbeat – and in a lot of ways, just as impressive – Magical Day? Let’s just say I wouldn’t complain if they did. And then say more stuff, because that hardly constitutes a comprehensive song review. This song is absolutely adorable, and so is Lidia (so say dobŭr den to a cuteness overload). It’s so happy and heartwarming, nobody could hate it (unfeeling, soulless psychopaths aside), and with that Gravity-like tribal beat helping it strike a balance between youthful and mature, it never feels too sugary even though it is very sweet. As with Armenia’s song, the English lyrics that finish this off are thematically predictable, but well-written enough to make them a benefit rather than a detriment to the entry. The verses are pretty and the chorus is catchier than a beach ball covered in super glue. Basically, Bulgaria has kicked butt once again, and I hope the juries reward them for it (assuming that all of the other elements of the entry are up to par when it counts). Surely even Christer Björkman will defrost during Lidia’s performance?

My score 10

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 6
  • James, UK – 8
  • Joshua, Australia – 5
  • Matthew, Ireland – 7
  • Michael, Australia – 8
  • Penny, USA – 8
  • Rory, Ireland – 12




My thoughts Cyprus has been doing the hokey-pokey with JESC lately: one year they’re in, the next they’re out. They made a cracking comeback in 2014 only to be robbed of the top five placing they undoubtedly deserved (don’t try to argue with me on this. I have claws and I’m not afraid to use them!). Then they opted to stay home rather than send someone to Sofia in 2015. Now, in 2016, they’re back again, and I’d like to say it’s with a bang…but I just can’t. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot to like about George’s Dance Floor. The title certainly vouches for its unflagging energy, which is a welcome relief from all of the ballads in the comp. It even helps the song stand out next to the likes of Armenia, The Netherlands and Malta, thanks to the intensity of the beat and an ethnopop aura that Sakis Rouvas would be proud of. The verses are also a strong point, with their melody promising good things. Unfortunately, those promises are swiftly snapped in half by a chorus that can best be described as a non-event. It is cool to hear something so minimalist in JESC, but there’s probably a reason why that kind of approach is rarely taken in this context. Plus, this particular bare-bones, mostly musical chorus is the weakest, least memorable part of the song when it should be the opposite. Based on how catchy and unique the verses are, it’s disappointing to have the rest not measure up to the same standard. I won’t write Cyprus off as total failures yet, since a sensational live performance – feat. the difficult combo of excellent vocals and dance moves from George – could secure them a better result than the song alone would. But, prior to seeing how Mr. Michaelides will tackle his JESC trip and discovering where he’s sandwiched in the running order, I’m thinking they’re in trouble.

My score 6

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 3
  • James, UK – 4
  • Joshua, Australia – 1
  • Matthew, Ireland – 4
  • Michael, Australia – 3
  • Penny, USA – 6
  • Rory, Ireland – 3




My thoughts It’s fantastic to have Ireland – a country I never thought we’d see in JESC once upon a time – back for attempt number two at finding a kid who can outshine a bunch of other kids from across the continent (and Australia). As they did for their debut, Ireland put actual, televised effort into choosing their entry this year, via a national final of Melodifestivalen proportions (at least in terms of its length). The fruit of their labour was Zena Donnelly and Bríce Ar Bhrice, and together, singer and song have potential…to not finish last. In a departure from Aimee Banks’ classical stylings, this song is pure and simple pop (feat. a tinge of folksiness), and it’s nice enough to listen to. But it never explodes into something spectacular. There’s always a song or two like this participating in JESC (not to mention the handful that appear at adult Eurovision) but they don’t tend to compete very well – they don’t have the spark required to really fight for a good finish. I think Zena’s song is lacking that x factor. Remember The Netherlands’ entry from last year, Shalisa’s Million Lights? That was the same sort of radio-friendly, inoffensive, contemporary-but-not-cutting-edge pop song that is enjoyable, but wasn’t expected to set the scoreboard alight. As such, I could easily make a case for Ireland slotting into the 14th-16th results range next weekend. Personally, I do like this track, but I don’t love it – and if the jury members feel the same way, then Ireland will miss out on hearing their country’s name and ‘twelve points!’ called out in the same sentence. Unless that sentence is ‘Our twelve points go to…someone other than Ireland’.  But good luck to the Emerald Isle anyway. I invite them to prove me wrong!

My score 6

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 7
  • James, UK – 8
  • Joshua, Australia – 7
  • Matthew, Ireland – 7
  • Michael, Australia – 10
  • Penny, USA – 8
  • Rory, Ireland – 6




My thoughts I could harp on about Russia’s JESC history, and how they came to be sending Sofia and Team Water of Life (that’s #teamwateroflife on social media, because if it can’t be hashtagged, does it even exist?) to Malta, et cetera, all in order to maintain a sense of mystery before I actually unveil my verdict on Water of Life. But I won’t. Not when I can get straight to the point by saying that I am completely, utterly, 110% head-over-heels in love with this song. It’s my favourite this year by a mile, and I’ll be cheering Russia on to win the whole contest without doubt. The package of this entry is the most well-wrapped, delightfully-decorated one in the pile, and it contains everything I’m looking for in a competition song. It’s exotic without being inaccessible, as a pop-power ballad punctuated by that ethnic riff; it’s melodic, with the verses melting into the pre-chorus and then into the chorus itself effortlessly; it’s powerful and dynamic, especially now Sofia’s being vocally and visually supported by other singers; it’s memorable, with a chorus that sticks in your mind even in Russian….I mean, I need to be forcibly restrained from complimenting it any further! But since nobody’s here to do that, I’ll carry on. The revamp that added the other girls to the line-up, mixed up the language and switched the title from Zhivaya Voda to Water of Life improved on perfection, retaining the essence of what led the song to win the Russian selection in the first place. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to look great on the JESC stage: it’s a song big enough to fill the space, and would have been even if Sofia had gone solo. I’m only worried about what it might sound like live, as four voices are harder to whip into shape than one, and we’re yet to hear Sofia AND The Water of Life Project in action outside of a recording studio. But I’m so biased at this point, I’m going to pretend that a dodgy vocal performance isn’t even a possibility. Water of Life is Belarus’ Sokal from 2014 – a song I also loved – but even better, with a greater chance of winning. As you’ll have figured out by now (both because I implied it and actually said so), I hope it does. At the very least, a repeat result from one Eurovision event to the next should be in store for Russia. But their bronze from Stockholm really deserves to become gold in Valletta.

My score 12

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 12
  • James, UK – 12
  • Joshua, Australia – 12
  • Matthew, Ireland – 12
  • Michael, Australia – 12
  • Penny, USA – 10
  • Rory, Ireland – 5



Eight down, nine to go! Time flies when you’re being too harsh on children and their musical talents (or lack thereof). Let’s have a look at the ranking for this round of reviews, shall we?

  1. Russia (10.87)
  2. Bulgaria (8)
  3. Ireland (7.37)  
  4. Cyprus (3.75)

Clearly the best was saved for last today, with Russia steamrolling straight into the top spot. Last year’s host country Bulgaria snap up second place, not too far ahead of second-timers Ireland. Poor Cyprus falls far behind in what could be an unfortunate foreshadowing of their actual result.

Stay tuned to find out how these figures fit in to the EBJJJ’s full ranking, which will be revealed alongside my predictions for the show next Sunday. Before that time comes, there’s more critiquing to be done – and next time, it’s Albania, Belarus, Italy and Malta’s turn to be judged. You won’t want to miss it, because it’s obviously going to be an irresistible hybrid of hilarious witticisms and high-class journalism.


*cricket chirps/throat-clearing/clusters of tumbleweed a’ tumbling*





THE EBJ JUNIOR JURY REVIEWS | Armenia, Georgia, Poland + Ukraine

Hi there, whoever you are and whichever hemisphere you’re in. Welcome to the first episode of four to feature complimentary and catty critiques targeted at children who may cry if they catch sight of the latter (I’m sorry, but I appear to have misplaced my maternal instincts).

Yes, it’s Junior Eurovision pre-party time again! For those of us who love JESC and cannot keep our opinions about it to ourselves, that means reviewing and ranking the competing entries – a solid seventeen, in 2016’s case – possibly in an attempt to figure out what will go down on judgment day. This year, that’s November 20th in Malta (take two for the tiny island), and funnily enough, that date is creeping closer rather than disappearing into the distance. So I’ve got to get reviewing and ranking, like, right this second.

Just before I do, an FYI: to help me out here, I’ve assembled a globe-spanning (a.k.a. mostly Australian with a few other nationalities thrown in ‘cause that’s just how things panned out) JESC jury to score each and every entry alongside me. Together, we’ll award an average rating that will go on to determine where each country sits in the prestigious *cough* EBJ Junior Jury Ranking. I’d like to thank all of my jurors for taking the time to do some Molly Sterling-esque playing with numbers as a favour to yours truly. Props bigger than Ukrainian hamster wheels and Montenegrin Trojan horses go to all of you!

Now, before it’s literally too late, let’s get started.




It’s all about girl power today as Armenia, Georgia, Poland and Ukraine face the music. Read on to find out what me and my crew think of the songs Anahit & Mary, Mariam, Olivia and Sofia are set to perform in Valletta in ten days’ time.

If you need a musical reminder so you can deliver your own verdict, then check out the official JESC Youtube channel’s playlist here.



My thoughts Armenia is one of a handful of countries that just “get” JESC. Year after year, whether they’ve nailed or failed adult Eurovision, they serve up something fun and infectious at Junior that always ends up being in the mix to win the whole contest. So have they done the same in 2016, according to moi? You bet they have! Tarber is a song with the distinction of being both upbeat pop fluff (I use the word ‘fluff’ here positively) and a song that’s likely to tick multiple boxes on the jury’s criteria list – critical for the win considering there’s no televoting this year. The latter is obvious from the second it starts, with Anahit and Mary belting out an intro worthy of a Christina Aguilera/Mariah Carey duet (which they will need to pull off live, or Armenia could suffer a serious scoreboard slump for the first time in forever). That soon gives way to a funk-inspired main event, complete with an incredibly catchy chorus and enough repetition to make the three minutes cohesive, but not boring. The fairly well-written English lyrics squeezed in towards the end (a tactic also used by the likes of Bulgaria, Italy and Russia) are the cherry on top of a cake that I suspect the jury will find pretty appetising – if not the most appetising of the competing seventeen. Overall, I’m a big fan of this song, having enjoyed it more on my first listen than I did last year’s runner-up Love. If the girls have staging up to usual Armenian standards to present in Valletta – and if they can sing close to studio-perfect live – then I think they’re on track to get Armenia inside the top five for the eighth time out of ten participations. That’s what I’ll have my fingers crossed for, anyway!

My score 10

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 6
  • James, UK – 4
  • Joshua, Australia – 6
  • Matthew, Ireland – 12
  • Michael, Australia – 12
  • Penny, USA – 10
  • Rory, Ireland – 12



My thoughts Here’s another country that could do Junior Eurovision blindfolded, and do it well (they have had unimpressive results for the past few years, but Georgia still has a stellar record to look back on). Only this time, I’m not so sold on their contribution to the potluck dinner of JESC 2016. I don’t hate Mariam’s Mzeo so much as I have extra-mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I think it has a nice melody and builds beautifully. Then there’s the lushly layered orchestration, which gives it a depth that you don’t find in stuff like the Netherlands’ Kisses and Dancin’ (more on that in another post). Really, it’s an IRL Disney ballad, and Mariam’s the princess with a heap of pent-up emotions to purge on stage. However, there are aspects of this song that turn me off in a big way. It’s almost too dramatic, and gets very shouty towards the end (which, seems to take a looooong time to arrive). It doesn’t capture my attention enough to keep my mind from wandering/wondering (what’s next, song-wise). I also think it’s verging on being too mature for JESC thanks to the old-fashioned, Hollywood musical sound. I know the last three or four winners haven’t exactly put the ‘Junior’ into Junior Eurovision, but they’ve all retained a sense of youth somehow. I’m not sure this song does, Mariam’s slightly squeaky voice aside (something else that stops me from enjoying Mzeo too much). To tell the truth, I prefer the weird, off-the-wall JESC Georgia. The Georgia that has won the comp twice thanks to kids in wasp costumes and kids who really, really like candy. Can we please have that Georgia back next year?

My score 6

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 1
  • James, UK – 2
  • Joshua, Australia – 3
  • Matthew, Ireland – 5
  • Michael, Australia – 1
  • Penny, USA – 8
  • Rory, Ireland – 5



My thoughts First things first: POLAND IS BACK IN JESC, AND I AM JUMPING FOR JOY! It’s always great to have somebody rejoin the party, but Poland’s comeback is particularly noteworthy due to the mahusive gap between their last participation (2004, in case you were unsure) and this one. Their entries in ’03 and ’04 scored six points between them, so it would be mighty fine if Poland could improve on that unfortunate record enough to make them want to embrace (HAHAHA, see what I did there?!?!?) Junior Eurovision in 2017 too. Although it’s not the tallest of orders, I think Olivia + Nie Zapomnij = a good chance. The song is a pretty, hopeful ballad, but it’s got some guts courtesy of the beat that kicks in, driving it home; and thanks to Olivia’s powerful, dynamic vocal, which is in keeping with the power and dynamism present in most other aspects of the package. The fact that it’s totally in Polish may make it a little inaccessible to those of us whose brain-boxes can’t comprehend a word of the language (TBH, I have no idea how born-and-bred Poles can wrap their head around it) but it also gives it a mysterious allure – kind of like the one Festivali I Këngës winners have prior to the inevitable unveiling of their mediocre English versions. The thing I like most about this song is that you’re not always sure where it’s going. It almost seems like a couple of songs rolled into one, without being messy. Having said that, I don’t think Nie Zapomnij is the most memorable ballad competing in Valletta, and I worry that it will pale in comparison to much of what follows it if it’s placed early on in the running order. Then again, I could be wrong and it could walk the whole thing (I have been known to make a “few” mistakes when making Eurovisual predictions). I guess we’ll have to sit tight and see what happens…

My score 8

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 5
  • James, UK – 7
  • Joshua, Australia – 8
  • Matthew, Ireland – 7
  • Michael, Australia – 7
  • Penny, USA – 7
  • Rory, Ireland – 7



My thoughts Next year’s adult Eurovision hosts are also one of my favourite JESC countries. It’s been a long time since I haven’t fangirled over the song they’ve sent to Junior, so I was pretty keen to find out what they’d choose in the wake of Jamala’s victory. Planet Craves For Love (AWKWARD ENGLISH TITLE ALERT!!!) was their pick, and – even sweeping any potential biases under the shagpile rug for the sake of objectiveness – I absolutely adore it (imagine me saying that in a very posh British accent, if you don’t mind). To me, it’s Anna Trincher’s Pochny z Sebe with the rock elements removed and the traditional Ukrainian sounds ramped up. The two songs are even thematically similar (though Anna’s was more intense in lyrical content as well as in the number of guitars being thrashed in the background). It remains to be seen whether Sofia will emerge from a giant lotus flower á la Anna, but even if the comparison stops when she steps on stage, it’ll still have a lot to do with the way I feel about her song. Excluding the title, there’s nothing I don’t like about it. Melodically, the verses, bridges and chorus are stunning; there’s multiple money moments throughout that make it memorable; the music is as organic and sweet as the fruit at a farmer’s market (if that makes any sense); and the tempo ensures it’s a sleepy ballad that won’t actually send you to sleep. Quietly powerful, it’s a song I intend to support via ultra-enthusiastic flag-waving on the day. I do have some reservations about Sofia’s live vocal abilities, but if she and her peeps have spent the last few months shaping and tightening up both sound and staging, well…I, for one, will be happy about it. I’m not sure how Ukraine will score in 2016 given Anna’s middling result in Sofia (that’s Sofia the city), but I’d love the jury to respond to them like they did in Stockholm.

My score 12

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 0
  • James, UK – 10
  • Joshua, Australia – 2
  • Matthew, Ireland – 4
  • Michael, Australia – 12
  • Penny, USA – 10
  • Rory, Ireland – 6


Four down, thirteen to go! And with that, we arrive at the exciting part of this post – if the reviews themselves weren’t exciting enough in your opinion (in which case, whatever. I don’t even care. *weeps silently*). It’s the EBJ Junior Jury ranking for this round, and it looks a little something like this: 

  1. Armenia (9)
  2. Ukraine (7)
  3. Poland (7)
  4. Georgia (3.87)

Georgia hasn’t offered up the level of quirky fun this year that we’re used to, and the EBJJJ didn’t reward them for it. Ukraine and Poland end this episode neck and neck, but I’ve broken the tie on countback (ESC-style, of course) and ranked Sofia above Olivia. That leaves Armenia as today’s champ. I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to pull a Barei and say ‘YAY YAY YAY!’.

Next time, the EBJ Junior Jury and I will cast our eyes and ears over Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Russia. Does one of those countries have the power to eject Armenia from the top spot? Drop by in a few days to find out!

In the meantime, let me know which is your favourite entry of today’s four. And while you’re at it, which of the juror’s scores do you agree with, and whose have you questioning their sanity? Naming and shaming (in a nice, respectful way) is totally cool in my comments section.


Until next time…





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

Hello, and Happy Weekend, guys! You’ve just made the excellent decision to read the third installment of the JESC 2015 Judgments, and for that, you’re back on my Christmas card list (I’m not sure why you were taken off it, but let’s not focus on that).

I feel a little guilty for being peppy/excited in the wake of the horrifying things that took place in Paris on Friday. However, though my thoughts are with everybody affected, I don’t believe that hiding away all happiness – or putting a tricolour filter over my Facebook profile picture – is going to make anything better. What I do believe is that when something terrible has happened, it can be beneficial to think about something else for a while. Not to belittle or ignore the tragedy in question, but simply to remind yourself that the world has not been turned completely upside down, and to take shelter in some normality in the face of terrifying abnormality.

On that note, let’s remind ourselves that there’s a display of international unity and young talent taking place in Sofia in less than a week’s time. Junior Eurovision is so close that the competing acts have set foot on Bulgarian soil and are swapping email addresses (or, to be more ‘down with the kids’, Twitter handles and Snapchat names) as we speak. I still have nine reviews and a prediction post to cram in before the show starts, so I’d better cut this intro short (well, short by my standards) and get cracking!




Lukman Andi Uleng Lukman’s back for another round of reviews, having had his say on Armenia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Serbia in the first installment. The highest number of points he parted with last time was seven, so will he ramp things up today by giving Australia, Belarus, Georgia or Ukraine the big douze…or even an eight or ten? Spoiler alert: yes, he will!

Penny K ‘Hi, I’m Penny *waves from other side of laptop*, a uni student from Michigan in the USA (the land where the ESC only shows up on the last page of the paper every 5-10 years, and never on the radio). I’m kind of late to the club since I started watching Eurovision in 2010, and Junior three years later since there wasn’t anything to do during off-season and I had nothing to blog-rant about. As of so far, my favorite JESC entries are Sokal (Belarus 2014), Mama (Armenia 2010), and Det Är Dit Vi Ska (Sweden 2013).’

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

Jaz ‘Hello, yet again. This time on Jaz Tries To Write An Original Bio Instead of Repeating Herself and Boring You All To Tears, I’m going to rank all editions of JESC by overall strength of the entries, from best to worst (though at it’s worst, Junior remains awesome, in my opinion. So here goes: 2014, 2011, 2005, 2013, 2009, 2010, 2003, 2006, 2012, 2007, 2004 and 2008. Got it? Because I’m going to test you on the precise order later. Not. There’s too much reviewing to be done!’


The Junior Jury is ready to rumble – and Bella, Ruslan, The Virus and Anna are presumably waiting to hear our verdict (even though they’re on the ground in Bulgaria and have far more exciting things to do and think about). So let’s put them out of their misery in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…now, basically.




Lukman It’s wonderful to see Australia represented at this year’s event – especially by a girl as talented as Bella Paige. My Girls is a really high-quality song, and even beats many adult Eurovision songs in terms of quality. As much as I appreciate the song and recognise the positives, at the end of the day, it isn’t the type of music I normally listen to. But it does have some amazing hooks in there that make it interesting. All the best to Australia! 8 points.

Penny If no one told me that this was a Junior Eurovision song performed by a 14-year-old, then I would have thought it was your standard hit ballad on the radio. It’s definitely well-sung, well-produced, and a good Ohrwurm. Judging by her performances, I’ve no doubt that Bella’s able to pull this off live. It’s uplifting, which is really nice when trying to get through a meltdown. At the same time, it sounds like a hit because it also sounds super generic, like I’ve heard the tune somewhere else before. Part of me is also thinking that a major reason it’s so catchy is simply because it’s in English, so the words are predictable and flow easily, like a Swedish schlager entry. Either way, it’s definitely a solid entry to wave the Australian flag. 8 points.

Jaz I can’t believe I’m about to review an Australian JESC entry. The fact that I said something similar six months ago when reviewing Guy Sebastian’s Tonight Again makes me wonder what could possibly happen in the next chapter of the Aussie Eurovision story (which European event will we wangle an invitation to next?). But those wonderings can wait for another time and another post. Onto My Girls! This track is perfectly suited to JESC, which is odd given that it wasn’t written with the contest in mind – but a big belter of a ballad feat. empowering (though rather cliché) lyrics, performed by a small child with a massive voice, is the kind of thing Junior dreams are made of. I’d describe it as Ell & Nikki’s Running Scared with more oomph (it’s the oh-oh-oh bits that give me that vibe), or as a less annoying version of Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys. ‘Less annoying’ is not a description that extends to the lyrics, though…the cheesy predictability of lines like ‘I know she has wings to soar’ is nauseating *gags*. Still, I’d consider myself a member of Team Bella – albeit partly because I have to. My country is being represented in a Eurovision event again, and what kind of Aussie would I be if I refused to support that? I don’t like Vegemite or cricket, so there’s already a few strikes against me. Sitting on my patriotism and squashing it for a second, I’ll confess that My Girls is far from being my favourite entry of the year – but neither was Tonight Again, and look how that went down in Vienna. Bella’s song is strong and has a catchy chorus, and she is a vocal force to be reckoned with. Both song and singer prove that once again, Australia is taking participation seriously, and that’s something I’m proud of. If we were to win in Sofia (though I suspect we won’t) rest assured you’ll be able to hear my hysterical screams wherever you’re watching from. 8 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 8.00




Lukman Why is it that Belarus seem to send stronger songs to Junior Eurovision compared to their adult counterparts? Ruslan’s dramatic ballad is one such masterpiece that has everything going for it to be the winner. Maybe I’m declaring that a bit too soon, but I just love this song! First of all, Ruslan is pretty charismatic, has awesome stage presence, and has been gifted with a strong voice. I reckon he got a few tips studying the ESC, as he definitely seems ready for the adult contest. I quite like the tune of his song, which slowly builds in an emotional and interesting way, and the music is dramatic, suitable, and easy on the ears. The special effects at the national final weren’t essential (especially the getting “rained” on…I initially thought Ruslan was so nervous he’d sweated!) even though they were cool. I don’t think Belarus needs them, as they have a strong song in the first place. I really can’t fault their act – it’s one of the saving graces of this contest. Good luck, Ruslan! 10 points.

Penny Is it just me, or does Belarus put a lot more effort into choosing their Junior entries than their senior entries? They send a song that’s going to work on the radio, yet they also manage to say through the song, ‘Hey, this is a kid singing!’. Anyways, they’re going with ‘person stands on a platform singing while the magic happens around them’. It took me a few listens to pay attention to the entire song, and another listen to get the tune down, but once that happened, the spell was complete. While I haven’t paid much attention to the on-screen special effects during Ruslan’s national final performance, the song itself is already snowfooting-in-the-woods magical if I close my eyes, and it would be really cool if it ended up playing at the planetarium with all the images of galaxies swirling around the screen. Now just add on the performance where the screen and real world collide with vocal drama…douze points, anyone?

Jaz I don’t know why Belarus nails JESC and (so often) fails ESC, but it’s certainly a truth. Nor do I know if they actually put more effort in to choosing what to send to Junior, or if it’s by accident that they continually select stunners. Either way, a stunner is once again what they’ve got to offer us. I’m not going to beat around the bush with Ruslan and Volshebstvo/Magic: this is my favourite entry of 2015. From my very first listen, I was spellbound by the mysterious and dramatic atmosphere it conjures up, the incredible melody that brings a tear to my eye every time (I’m very pathetic, I know) and Ruslan’s spectacular vocal performance. I was also struck by how much Belarus 2015 echoes a certain other country’s very successful debut last year: Italy’s. Volshebstvo and Ruslan give me the same feeling that Tu Il Primo Grande Amore and Vincenzo did twelve months ago – not necessarily the feeling that it’s a winner, but the feeling that it’s something special that’s going to make an impression on the night. I just love it. The whole package is powerful, classy, and perhaps more contemporary than Italy’s winning one, and if the Belarusian delegation has taken those NF effects and polished them, then it’s not out of the question for Minsk to be the host city of JESC 2016. With a young male version of Zlata Ognevich singing the s%!t out of a brilliant ballad whilst elevated on a pedestal (without having been dumped there by a giant Game of Thrones extra), anything is possible. There’s nothing left for me to say except DOUZE POINTS!

EBJ Junior Jury Score 11.33




Lukman I admire Georgia, as they always send something really crazy, suitable for Junior audiences, and highly original. Alongside Armenia, I reckon Georgia will give us one of the most highly-entertaining routines in Sofia. I have no doubt that The Virus will perform excellently live, as have all previous Georgian singers. Now, back to the song: the first verse is the best-sounding to my ears, while the chorus would probably appeal more to younger listeners. I think the group is going for funny, fun and cheeky! Good luck to The Virus! 7 points.

Penny ‘Ets’ade gaaaaabedo! Sanam gadaaaaagedo…’. I’m pretty sure The Virus has infected me with a 15-second Ohrwurm, because I can’t get Gabede out of my head. It’s not my favourite song in the mix, but considering how many times it has appeared in last place in YouTube rankings, I don’t think it deserves that much hate. I like this entry more than some of Georgia’s recent entries, and it looks like the group’s genuinely having fun. They’ll probably be comfy on stage with instruments in hand, rocking out in their pajamas The only major issue I can see is that there’s no warning that the song (and music video) are approximately twice as loud as the other sixteen music videos. Otherwise (as everyone’s probably asking), WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PARENTS ARRIVE?!? 6 points.

Jaz Will the not-at-all disgustingly named The Virus (seriously, WTF is with that?) really wear their PJs and towel turbans on stage? Georgia has lost the JESC plot a bit lately, so I wouldn’t put it past them. Of course, when I say that, I mainly mean results-wise – their costumes are always on course, but Lizi Pop’s 11th place in 2014 was their worst result ever. Happy Day didn’t float my boat in a big way, and while I do think Gabede more closely resembles the quirky, carefree Georgia we know and love within the Junior community, it’s still not right up there in the realms of top five-worthy stuff like Odelia Ranuni, Candy Music and Funky Lemonade (from 2007, 2011 and 2012 respectively). It’s rocky, for starters, which is unusual for the retro-pop enthusiasts, and it’s a tad too repetitive for my taste. Previous Georgian entries have made the most of their allotted minutes, but it’s a more a case of a little in a lot here – like the ‘why-ay-ay-ay’ bits in Trijntje Oosterhuis’ Walk Along, the ‘gabedo’ bits in this song’s chorus come around all too quickly, again and again (and again). However, repetitiveness isn’t a cardinal sin for a song to commit, and if we all thought it was inexcusable, there’s no way we’d be ESC or JESC fans! My point is, I’ll forgive Georgia for all their gabedos, because as they always do, they have selected a cute and charismatic act fielding a fun song. It may not be their best ever, but it does tick a bunch of boxes – meaning it won’t finish first, but definitely won’t finish last either. 7 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.67




Lukman Ukraine is one of the powerhouses in both the Eurovision Song Contest and Junior Eurovision Song Contest, and they never fail to deliver a high-quality song. Anna’s Pochny z Sebe has a strong Slavic melancholic feel to it, but at the same time, it’s uplifting. She’s a great singer, she just needs a little work on her stage presence and routine. Hopefully she gets an even more epic outfit than the one worn at the national final for JESC. I really can’t fault the song. I really like it – it has a unique and awesome verse, and the chorus is pretty uplifting. 8 points.

Penny If you watch Anna’s performance with the sound off, it looks like the (not toilet paper) dress and wind machine are controlling her, rather than the other way around. Considering how similar Ukraine’s national final performances are to those on the JESC stage, I’m going to guess that it’ll be the same situation in Sofia, except the cameras won’t zoom in on the machines as much. With the sound on, the verses of Pochny z Sebe remind me a lot of Portugal’s ESC entry this year, as if the song’s cruising down a smooth, non-Michigan highway. And then it picks up with the refrain to a road more hilly, where you can hear the emotions. However, I think the audience is going to remember the dress more than the song, which is somewhat forgettable. 5 points.

Jaz Ukraine is one country you should never ignore in the JESC – or ESC – race. They have a knack for taking the song they select, revamping it (tossing any dodgy bits in the trash as they go), and devising a stellar stage performance to accompany it – one that at least ensures they’re fierce competition. It remains to be seen and heard whether they’ve done the same with Anna’s Pochny z Sebe…but does it need polishing at all? Back in the day of ye olde Ukrainian NF, it was already a) a well-produced song with no cheese and quite a bit of grit (á la Ukraine’s Junior winner of 2012), and was b) performed by a competent, attention-commanding vocalist in a dress made expressly to be worn in conjunction with extreme wind machine use (woohoo!). There’s no doubt it was a strong package from the start. But…I do think Pochny z Sebe is too much of a plodder to place Anna in winning contention (though I reserve the right to change my mind about that ten times before I make my official predictions). Personally, I really like it – like Penny, I’m going to use Portugal’s Eurovision entry from earlier in the year as a sound-alike (with good intentions, as I liked that too). The fact that it’s mature shouldn’t be a hindrance, as JESC is far less focused on the childlike than it once was. And I love the melody of the choruses (the verses are more forgettable, and at times sound like they’re in a different key to the music). I’m just not convinced that the song is instant enough, given that I’m still having trouble humming it to myself, to do much damage to, say, six to ten of the other competing countries. Then again, this is Ukraine we’re talking about. Let’s get the wind machine going and see how Anna performs, both on the stage and on the scoreboard. 8 points.

EBJ Junior Jury Score 7.00


There’s another four JESC 2015 hopefuls taken care of! Now, there are just five countries left for the EBJ Junior Jury to review. Let’s take a quick look at today’s leaderboard, before I remind you of just who’s left.

  1. Belarus (11.33)
  2. Australia (8.00)
  3. Ukraine (7.00)
  4. Georgia (6.67)

That’s an impressive score for Belarus – my numero uno. I promise I didn’t rig it in any way; I just happened to assign two like-minded jurors to the post featuring Volshebstvo. Honest.

Georgia, on the other hand, came off worst in this round, but they aren’t the lowest-scoring country to date. You’ll have to hang around for the complete EBJJJ ranking to find out who does finish in spot seventeen.

Clamouring for the precious douze points next time will be Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino. If finding out what two Aussies and an Irishman think of their entries is your idea of fun (which it totally should be), you won’t want to miss it!

In the meantime, hit me up with your comments on Australia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. How would you rank this fab (or not-so-fab) four? And, on a scale of one to Roberto Bellarosa when he qualified to the final of Eurovision 2013, how excited are you for next weekend’s show?

I’m 110% Roberto Bellarosa-level excited, in case you were wondering.





All #together now…some quick predictions for JESC 2014!

O, JESC, why art thou so hard to predict? Every November I find myself tearing my hair out with indecision over who’s going to end up where on the scoreboard, and I’m finding it more and more difficult to disguise the resulting bald patches.

This prediction dilemma isn’t something that tends to happen with adult Eurovision, despite the fact that there are a bajillion more entries to contend with. Anyone with an explanation for this phenomenon, please call me ASAP on 1800-NO-CLUE. Then sit back, relax and read through the following extra-quick (I’m a little time-poor at the moment) and extra-questionable predictions for Malta 2014 – due to begin in a matter of hours! Hashtag unbelievablebecauseKyivseemslikeyesterday.

Not even a real crystal ball would help me now...

Not even a real crystal ball would help me now…

Let’s start with a few guesses as to which countries will have the…

…best staging – Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine (Armenia and Ukraine are never to be underestimated when it comes to putting on a show, and with all the fantasy/falcon imagery Belarus has to work with, they wouldn’t want to disappoint.)
…best vocals – Georgia, Italy, Malta, Russia, Serbia (This is THE year for epic vocalists – not to say there aren’t any weak links. I expect the best of the best to come from Georgia as usual; Italy, Malta and Russia, all of whom have big ballads that will bomb without top-notch vocals to set them off; and Serbia, because Emilija’s been down the talent show route relying on her voice alone, and I don’t reckon she’s got the ability to sing bum notes.)
…best costumes – Armenia, Belarus, Sweden (Armenia’s are guaranteed to be bright and fun, and I’ve seen snapshots of the Belarusian feather-fest and Sweden’s glitter extravaganza, and I liked what I saw.)
…total package – Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria (So long as Bulgaria’s Krisia is no longer suffering from the world’s most inconvenient throat infection, I expect everything you can hear and see with these three entries to be on point.)


Now, who’s going to be…

…a positive surprise – Ukraine (I know not everyone’s anti-Sympho-Nick, but plenty of people aren’t getting it. Just wait and see, though, haters…I think these girls might impress you and do a lot better than you’re giving them credit for. Remember the three magic words: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE UKRAINE!)
…a negative surprise – Georgia (In terms of a normally well-performing country failing for the first time, I think Georgia could be The One. I just don’t see Happy Day having enough to offer to get it raking in the points.)
…the winner – Armenia, Cyprus, Malta, Ukraine (This is the part I was dreading most. Apart from the insistence of press on the ground in Malta who believe JESC’s the host country’s for the taking, I’ve got nothing. This competition is still wide open, folks! Nevertheless, I’ll have a stab and say: Armenia, who have an irresistible ethno-pop entry that gives me those triumphant vibes; Cyprus, who need a lot to go right for Sophia to win but who aren’t out of contention by any means; Malta, based on those insistent claims from the peeps who’ve seen rehearsals; and Ukraine, as somewhat of a dark horse prediction…albeit a dark horse dressed in a blinged-up blue nightgown.)
…the loser – Croatia, Montenegro, San Marino (It’s GOT to be one of these three, right? None of them are my personal losers, but I can see any of them, particularly Croatia and San Marino, just doing nothing.)


Finally, here’s my guess at what the scoreboard will look like at the end of the evening:

1. Malta
2. Ukraine
3. Armenia
4. Bulgaria
5. Cyprus
6. Russia
7. Belarus
8. Netherlands
9. Georgia
10. Serbia
11. Slovenia
12. Sweden
13. Italy
14. Montenegro
15. San Marino
16. Croatia

Anyone who’s made a full scoreboard prediction and gets it at least 50% right, deserves a medal in my opinion. Psychics not included.

Well, that’s all I have time for. I’m sorry if this post seems rushed, but that’s because it was rushed. I’ve got a super busy weekend ahead of me – so much so, I won’t be watching JESC live tonight *insert sadface here*. Instead, I’ll be watching on actual television tomorrow night when we in Australia get the (slightly, by past standards) delayed broadcast, complete with our own commentators. That’s after I’ve been gallivanting around all day, which in turn is after I’ve spent tonight dancing up a storm at my very first Euroclub (more on that to come next week, fingers crossed). So, as I head off to cover myself in PVA glue and dive into a swimming pool full of glitter in preparation, I wish you fun times watching Junior Eurovision 2014. May the show be epic, may the voting be nail-biting, and may the best song win!

EBJ Signature


JESC 2014, Ranked AND Reviewed! | My Top 5

Hello there! Welcome to this third, final, and long-awaited (in my head, anyway) installment of Jaz’s JESC 2014 ranked reviews. Yes, it’s time. After some very dramatic bouts of indecision, I’ve finalised my pre-contest top five, and I’m ready to reveal why they made the cut and how they stack up against each other, in my opinion.

As you know, rehearsals are underway in Malta, where a bunch of people I know are currently having the time of their lives taking selfies with the contestants and whatnot. I’m not jealous at all. Who would actually want to BE there, experiencing Junior Eurovision first-hand? No thanks…said NO ONE EVER. Anyway, while those people are doing that, I’m stuck on the other side of the world avoiding the temptation of watching said rehearsals, which isn’t too hard for me as I love a good surprise. But just as a disclaimer: if somewhere in the following reviews, I’ve praised someone on their singing abilities who’s turned out to be rubbish, give me a break!

In turn, I’ll give you a break from my ramblings by letting you check out my top five. Stick around ‘til the end if you want to see my full rankings, #1-#16.


People of the Sun by Betty

2Sounds like: the earworm of the year…people of the suuun, we’re always having fuuun…

What I think: Not many people would disagree that Armenia is a constant JESC contender. Their enthusiasm for the contest is reflected in the quality of their entries year after year, with the roll call of their results being über impressive. Obviously, I believe that trend of terrifc-ness is continuing into 2014 – only this time, the song’s great AND the artist can hold a tune (sorry Monika of Choco-Fabric fame, but my ears are still recovering from your off-key yelling session). I’d describe People of the Sun as simple but effective, and the kind of irresistible ethno-pop that won JESC for Armenia three years ago. Yep, I’m getting the vibes from this one (as did Kiddo the predicting rabbit, if you have any clue what I’m talking about) for a variety of reasons: e.g. because I’m a huge fan of it; and because it’s going to stand out as the only straightforward ethno-pop song in the lineup, particularly when sandwiched between Italy and Russia. It might be missing that last little spark that would make it a winner, but that depends on the visuals in the staging. No doubt it will revive anyone in the audience who’s not a ballad fan and falls asleep while Vincenzo’s doing his thing, ‘cause this is one heck of a happy anthem. I don’t even mind the questionable English lyrics in the chorus, since they make the song easier to sing along to for those of us still working on our Armenian (“still working” = “the only Armenian words I know are from Eurovision songs”) and stop the three minutes from being too repetitive. Pardon me for cussing with regards to Junior Eurovision, but this is bloody good.

The verdict: Armenia, you’ve done it again – and that gets you douze points!

JESC chances: I did say this about the Netherlands last year, and that didn’t pan out…but I’m having trouble seeing this outside of the top five. It’s definitely a potential winner IMO.


Planet of the Children by Krisia, Hasan & Ibrahim

1Sounds like: Bulgaria wouldn’t mind winning JESC on this first attempt in a while…and I wouldn’t mind them winning it either

What I think: In a competition full of ballads, there’s a good chance one will win on Saturday night (though I think we’re due an up-tempo winner at this point). Of the ballads most likely to top the scoreboard, Bulgaria’s is the one that would make me do a victory dance. There’s something special about this song, and not just because most songs titled along the lines of Planet of the Children are cutesy message songs that make you want to puke. While this is a message song in a sense, it delivers its message in such a classy and powerful way that I’m willing to receive it and accept it with thanks. Such a big song handled so effortlessly by a tiny, adorable human like Krisia (I’m not one to fawn over kids as a rule, but she is SO SWEET!) is captivating, as is the simple but beautiful melody, and the soaring choruses, and the sophisticated instrumental breakdown courtesy of Hasan and Ibrahim…the list goes on. I’m sorry if I’m gushing, but a song so magic deserves praise. From what I hear of Bulgaria’s first rehearsals, they’re going with the black/white piano gimmick from the preview video (insert a big tick of approval here), Krisia’s sounding excellent and the boys are supporting her perfectly. Could all of that add up to Bulgaria’s first ever victory in a Eurovision event? I’m terrible at maths, but I reckon it could.

The verdict: Staged suitably, this will be a stunner. I love it to douze points and back.

JESC chances: It has an early draw, so later ballads could push it out of contention. I still think it shouldn’t be lower than the halfway mark.


Pryyde Vesna by Sympho-Nick

3Sounds like: Gravity: Musical Theatre Edition!

What I think: Once upon a time, three Ukrainian girls in blue nightgowns won a national final with a song that made me go ‘OH DEAR GOD, UKRAINE! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!?’. Yes, I’m referring to Sympho-Nick (what a subtle reference it was…) and yes, the first time I heard Pryyde Vesna, I thought Ukraine had royally screwed up their chances of repeating last year’s JESC success. Judging by the hate this entry is still getting, that may be true, but I have fallen head-over-heels for it since that initial listen – and I want this trio to kick butt in Malta and prove the haters wrong. If their vocals have been whipped into shape since the NF, there’s a chance for that to happen. I think it was the lack of harmonisation, in a song that needs it badly, that repelled me at first, because the studio version kinda takes my breath away. There’s so much beauty/drama in it, it’s like the Miss Universe pageant in song form. Somehow, the verses and pre-choruses are stronger than the chorus itself, which is a slight letdown after all of that build, but I like the chorus nonetheless. Each section of this song is unique and I appreciate that. The whole thing’s got this fantastical air to it that does hark back to Zlata’s Gravity (and basically her entire interval performance in Kyiv) but at the same time, is unlike anything I’ve heard before, and definitely unlike any of Ukraine’s fifteen rivals. I do not want to see this near the bottom of the scoreboard.

The verdict: Perfection…with any luck. Douze points.

JESC chances: This is a tough one. I don’t think they’ll do as well as Sofia did, but I’m foreseeing a solid 5th-9th finish.


Tu Primo Grande Amore by Vincenzo Cantiello

4Sounds like: more or less what I expected from Italy

What I think: What I expected, in case you were wondering, was pure class and elegance. No amount of gold underwear-flashing from Emma Marrone can change the level of sophistication Italy brings to anything associated with Eurovision (and pretty much everything else) and as surprised as I was to discover such a country putting their hand up for JESC, I wasn’t at all surprised by their sending a beautiful ballad like this. I know, I know, everyone else hates it, and you must think I’ve gone insane to feel so differently…but as far as I’m concerned, Italy can do no wrong. I just love this. After the subtlety of the first verse – which is spellbinding and just begs for a spotlight – things ramp up and it’s all about Vincenzo’s ridic vocals, and boy, does the rest of the song show them off! If his voice isn’t at breaking point and he can sing the pants off the song when it counts, Italy’s debut will be an impressive one. I for one am really looking forward to witnessing it. Tu Primo is a song that could easily stand up in the San Remo Song Festival, and there’s always something special about a San Remo ballad. But, there’s no way of knowing how something like that will be received in Junior Eurovision. Sadly, I suspect Italy won’t be able to translate their Eurovision success (up until Copenhagen) into Junior triumph – call it ‘pulling an Azerbaijan’. Still, I’m hoping if I wave my VINCENZO NUMERO UNO!!! banner enthusiastically enough, it’ll help a little bit.

The verdict: I have so much amore for this. Douze points’ worth, in fact.

JESC chances: He’s the only boy bar the Bulgarian twins, so in that respect, Vincenzo will be memorable. But there are ballads aplenty in the field, and this one’s not getting a whole lotta love (except from me). With a heavy heart and a wish to be wrong, I predict around 10th-13th.


Sokal by Nadezhda Misyakova

5Sounds like: nothing else on offer in this year’s comp, and that’s what makes it so amazing.

What I think: Opening the show on Saturday will be Belarus’ own Pocahontas (I’m clearing out my entire wardrobe and copying hers from now on) and all I can say about that is, so much for saving the best ‘til last! Belarus are like Azerbaijan/possibly Italy in reverse – not so deft at adult Eurovision, but awesome when it comes to Junior. They were one of my favourites last year, and now they’re my absolute favourite, despite the fact that on paper, r & b/folk/ethno-pop sounds ridiculous. In reality, it’s been nailed by Nadezhda, and Uzari, the man behind one of my most-loved NF entries from a few years ago, Secret. I reckon they should forge a lifetime songwriting partnership. Sokal has the same mystique and ‘Made in Narnia’ feel to it that Secret has, only in a more up-tempo, ethnic package that’s so interesting you can’t ignore it. I love that it’s an interpretation of a fairytale, not just a 180-second string of nonsensical lyrics about stuff that a kid couldn’t possibly understand (not that I’m totally averse to that when the song’s catchy enough). Nadezha owns the song in a way you’d expect from someone who had such a big hand in writing it, but her confidence onstage is still admirable. Belarus = the total, gift-wrapped, feather-garnished package of the year in my eyes. There’s nothing I don’t love about the entry; nothing that doesn’t draw me in. I can’t wait to see it kick off the proceedings on the weekend, and my fingers will be crossed for the mesmerising effect to last until the voting window closes.

The verdict: Absolute trash from Belarus, as usual…in no way. Douze points, duh!

JESC chances: I don’t think it’s going to win, as much as I’d like it to. But it’s so unique it deserves a top five placing, and I think it can get it.


Aaaaaaaaaand voila! Sixteen down, none to go. Now allow me to introduce, for the first time, my complete ranking for 2014…at this precise moment.

#1. Belarus
#2. Italy
#3. Ukraine
#4. Bulgaria
#5. Armenia
#6. Netherlands
#7. Cyprus
#8. Sweden
#9. San Marino
#10. Montenegro
#11. Malta
#12. Slovenia
#13. Georgia
#14. Serbia
#15. Croatia
#16. Russia

If you’re in the mood to do some commenting, I’d love to see your top 16. And, as always, if you’ve got something to say about the reviews above, let me know below.  Have you sworn to never grace EBJ with your presence again after I ranked Italy so high, or do you have some Vincenzo love in you too? Is it an injustice that Krisia and the twins aren’t sitting pretty at #1? Whatever you’re thinking, get it out in the open. Just think of me as a Eurovision therapist – only instead of being paid to listen to your problems, I listen to your conflicting opinions (and rare agreements) for free.

I’ll be back in a few days’ time with a prediction-packed special re: JESC 2014 (what else?). If you enjoy extremely inaccurate guessing, you won’t want to miss it!
Until then,

EBJ Signature


JESC 2014, Ranked AND Reviewed! | #11-#6

Hello again, peeps. Yes, this post was meant to be up on Friday, but here’s my two-word excuse: writer’s block. Sometimes I find it extra difficult to describe how I feel about a song, when ‘I LOVE it!’, ‘I HATE it!’, or ‘meh’ (for those entries that inspire indifference) won’t cut it. But I’ve tried, just for you, to battle through the blockage, and be supremely descriptive and hilarious for this second set of ranked reviews.

This time, it’s feat. my #11 through #6. Here are the standings so far:

#12. Slovenia – 6pts

#13. Georgia – 6pts

#14. Serbia – 6pts

#15. Croatia – 6pts

#16. Russia – 1pt

Now, as the delegations take their first steps on Maltese soil, let’s get on with numero eleven…o.

And what do you know – it’s Malta!




Diamonds by Federica Falzon

img.phpSounds like: Cezar. On Xanax. In a Federica suit.

What I think: For their first Eurovision entry on home soil, Malta has selected something that may seem out of place in JESC. But Federica isn’t giving seasoned Junior fans their first taste of operatics – if you recall Belarus ’09 and Moldova last year in Kyiv, you’ll know JESC’s seen mini Cezars in the past. Really, Federica’s more of a mini Malena Ernman, and with her flawless, way way WAY beyond-her-years vocal chops, she out-operas all who have come before her in this contest. But is that a good thing? For a start, all I’ve talked about so far is her voice, rather than her song which is what I’m supposed to be reviewing. It’s a voice that I find pretty darn distracting when watching her in action, as my brain struggles to comprehend that it’s coming out of a child. To be honest, it’s hard to take seriously, in an ‘Israel: Eurovision 2004’ kind of way. But maybe the juries and voters will find it impressive rather than unbelievable. I wish I did, because I actually like Diamonds. It’s sophisticated and atmospheric with a decent build, and if you can call something so slow ‘catchy’, then it’s that too. I just don’t know if I need more time to get used to the voice and the song as a double act, or if it’s just not gelling for me.

The verdict: I’m confused by my own opinions on this one, but I guess the bottom line is I do like the song. 6 points.

JESC chances: With the home advantage and all, I can see this in the top 5.





Budi Dijete Na Jedan Dan by Maša & Lejla

Masa-and-Lejla-MontenegroSounds like: an homage to the good ol’ days of JESC

What I think: Yep – this brings back memories alright! So many competitors in recent Junior history have taken a more mature approach to the contest, arriving armed with songs that could pass as adult entries after a tweak or two. So it’s nice to hear something that harks back to the days when the music was more kid-oriented. Maša and Lejla, Montenegro’s debut reps, are even demanding that we all be a kid for a day, which I’m more than happy to do (I’m not really a proper grown-up anyway). Their song is young, fun and infectious, not to mention (I say, as I’m about to mention it) totally sing-alongable. And, the fact that it’s reminiscent of JESC’s golden years is a definite plus. A negative which won’t matter on the night, but one that prevented me from enjoying my first listen of the song, is the ATROCIOUS music video in which both the girls look like they want to be literally anywhere else than in it. Granted, more JESC preview videos are bad/boring than brilliant, but sometimes one has to say to oneself, ‘Let’s leave it.’ I.e. ‘Let’s not inflict something so cringe-worthy upon the world’. Negatives more pertinent to how Montenegro will fare in their debut = that spoken English part (cheesy and unnecessary) and the question mark floating over Maša and Lejla’s live vocal abilities. So if I mute the speaking part, then turn the sound up and find the duo harmonising like angels, I’ll be happy and hoping for some success.

The verdict: This is a cute and catchy number made for JESC. 7 points.

JESC chances: And yet, I can’t see it pushing higher than the 9th-place mark.





Breaking My Heart by The Peppermints

San-Marino-Peppermints-Junior-Eurovision-2014-JESC-4-verticalSounds like: The High School Musical version of Tell It To My Heart by Taylor Dayne

What I think: Poor San Marino got a raw deal last year as far as I’m concerned. The magnificent Michael Jackson tribute act that was Michele Perniola missed out on a commendable result by quite a distance – and from time to time, I’m still compelled to sob into my own gold bolero jacket in an attempt to ease the pain. If Michele couldn’t crack JESC, I don’t see how The Peppermints – one of whom is his sister – could, but I’m fond of them all the same. I feel like a lonely advocate for Breaking My Heart, because the majority of fans seem to be praising the girls’ vocals but trashing the song, whereas I’m the other way round. I enjoy the eighties-meets-noughties sound of the song, and I think the title has been used well in the construction, so you quickly get used to the transitions between English and Italian. Sure, the song’s inoffensive, and it’ll have a hard time getting the crowd going…but I think it’s charming. My issue with it is something that may get the crowd going…going as fast as they can out of the Marsa shipyard, that is, and that’s the vocals. The harmonisation in the studio version is off, making it sound like a demo recorded in two seconds by a bunch of strangers who’ve never sung together before, just so it can be rushed off to the actual, seasoned group of performers. Strangely, the girls sounded better live when they sang a snippet at their presentation event, so maybe the studio did them an injustice. I hope so, because I like this entry and I don’t want to spend San Marino’s three minutes with my fingers in my ears (that’s what Russia’s three minutes are for).

The verdict: If you’re not loving this, I might be about to break your heart…7 points.

JESC chances: Not last, not last, not last…come on, get them to 12th or 13th, Europe!





Du Är Inte Ensam by Julia Kedhammar

Julia-Kedhammar-SwedenSounds like: more than one of the entries it’s up against

What I think: BIAS ALERT – I’ve long been obsessed with Sweden and anything that comes out of there (impossible-to-assemble Ikea furniture included) and if you’ve dropped by EBJ before, chances are you’ll know I always root for them in Eurovision events. It may surprise you, then, to see Julia 1.0 (with two Julias in JESC this year, a coding system had to be put in place) at the halfway point of my rankings. Don’t worry though – I will be waving a flag for her, as I do like this song a lot. It’s catchy dance-pop in one of my favourite languages. What’s not to like? However, there are two very similar songs competing, and I hate to admit that both of them are better than this. Du Är Inte Ensam is more repetitive and predictable than the others, and based on the available evidence, Julia 1.0 is the weakest vocalist out of herself, Julia 2.0 and Sophia Patsalides. To succeed, she’ll need to outshine both of them, and I’m not confident she can do it. But a round of applause is in order for Sweden, who have once again delivered a competent entry to Junior that may not have the magic, winning formula, but is a worthy competitor nonetheless. *insert smattering of applause here*

The verdict: Thomas G:son’s originality level ain’t so high with this one, but it appeals to me anyway. 8 points.

JESC chances: It’ll struggle to bypass Cyprus and the Netherlands, methinks. 9th-12th.





I Pio Omorfi Mera by Sophia Patsalides

Sophia-Patsalides-Cyprus-4Sounds like: a serious summer hit

What I think: Cyprus is one of a handful of countries we’re welcoming back to JESC this year, and based on a) their previous attempts in the competition and b) the quality of Sophia’s entry, I am very happy they made the decision to rejoin the competition. Back when the title of this entry was released, I assumed a sickly-sweet ballad was coming our way, so when the song premiered I found myself pleasantly surprised – even though it is run-of-the-mill dance pop á la the Swedish and Dutch entries. The thing with dance pop is that it doesn’t have to be original to appeal. I Pio Omorfi Mera has all the qualities of the genre that make it work time and time again: an infectious melody, a big anthemic chorus, a thumping beat that makes you want to go totes cray in the club, a…uh…well, that’s about it. But that’s enough! What I also like about it is that while Cyprus has gone down the ‘let’s chuck in some English at the end because we can’ route, they’ve eased the English into the song so it doesn’t seem random and unnatural. The Greek and English lyrics suit the style of the song equally well. Can Sophia sing said lyrics in tune with the energy and enthusiasm required to bring the house down, though? The evidence of her vocal prowess is all over Youtube, but her Junior entry is a challenge. I find it hard to nail in the shower, and I usually sound awesome in there (you’ll have to take my word for that). If S.Patz can do it though, Cyprus could be to the scoreboard this year what Ukraine was to the scoreboard last year. Perhaps being called Sofia/Sophia is a good luck charm?

The verdict: I will be busting multiple moves to this next weekend. 10 points.

JESC chances: It could win, but I’m not 100% convinced it will. 2nd-5th is definitely within Sophia’s reach.





Around by Julia

yuliya-0bfc6a44-b2a1-4a2c-92c5-5f78c09d27f0Sounds like: there’s a bit of Euphoria in there somewhere

What I think: My first impressions of the Class of 2014 have changed drastically in a few cases – for instance, there’s a song now in my top five that I hated the first time I heard it. When I listened to the Junior Songfestival finalists for the first time, all I could think was ‘What a snoozefest!’, Around included. But I knew it was the favourite, and I knew it’d most likely win. And here we are. And now I LOVE THIS SONG! I’m not sure exactly when/how it happened, but I have become a little obsessed with it. I can’t really explain why I’ve ranked it above Cyprus – I suppose there’s something about it that seems a little less cliché and a little more cutting edge (even though the dubstep break is soooo 2012). It is one of the most repetitive songs in the competition, but that chorus is so easy to sing along to and so easily gets burned into your brain that I don’t think it’s going to be a bad thing. Julia seems to be a pretty confident, capable performer who should breeze through her performance – JESC’s just a (considerably) flashier JSF, after all. With such a slick, modern number up her sequined sleeve, her main rival when it comes to securing votes will be Cyprus. I’m not sure there’s room for both of them in the top five. Who, if either, will make it should come down to the running order and what happens on the night. But could we not have a repeat of the shockingly average Dutch result from last year, please?

The verdict: Pardon the pun, but I’ve done a complete turnAround on this one. 10 points.

JESC chances: I don’t want to jinx it, so I’m going to predict 6th-10th place.



Well, that’s eleven down! The standings now look like this:

#1. ?

#2. ?

#3. ?

#4. ?

#5. ?

#6. The Netherlands – 10pts

#7. Cyprus – 10pts

#8. Sweden – 8pts

#9. San Marino – 7pts

#10. Montenegro – 7pts

#11. Malta – 6pts

#12. Slovenia – 6pts

#13. Georgia – 6pts

#14. Serbia – 6pts

#15. Croatia – 6pts

#16. Russia – 1pt


You don’t have to be a genius to figure out which countries are missing (unless your definition of ‘genius’ is ‘someone who’s familiar with all sixteen countries competing in Junior Eurovision 2014’). But just in case you’re having a slow day, they are Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Italy and Ukraine. That’s my top five in alphabetical order, but you’ll have to wait another few days to find out how I’ve ranked them.

In the meantime, let me know what you where you stand on the songs above. Has Federica Falzon warbled her way into your heart, or will you be stuffing whatever you can find into your ears when she takes to the stage? Is Sophia Patsalides’ most wonderful day your worst nightmare, or have you got your Cypriot flag at the ready? Whatever your opinions, let me know below.


Until next time…

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PS – Only six days to go!


JESC 2014, Ranked AND Reviewed! | #16-#12

Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs. I’m hoping that by distracting you with an exotic French greeting, you’ll forget that this is the first post I’ve put up in over a month. Did it work? No? Ah well. I won’t bring it up next time, and maybe that will help.

Basically (pending one mahusive assignment yet to be marked and a graduation ceremony on the horizon) I finished uni FOREVER as of Friday, and the chaos leading up to that point and my horror at coming to terms with my future as a proper adult who has to like, find an actual job and stuff, are my excuses for being AWOL from EBJ up until now. But with a little more free time on my hand at the moment, and Junior Eurovision less than a fortnight away, I’m back to begin my condensed JESC coverage. I’m kicking it off today with the first instalment of my 2014 reviews, only this time, you’re getting two posts for the price of one (I expect your cheques to be in the mail this week). What I mean is, rather than reviewing the sixteen songs participating in Malta in plain old alphabetical order, or putting the countries in a hat and plucking them out randomly, what I’ve done is this: I’ve ranked them from ‘what in the name of Ruslana IS that?’ to ‘Woohoo, nailed it!’ and I’ll be reviewing them in three parts from #16 to #1. That’s my bottom five, top five, and everything in the middle, with the best saved ‘til last.

So, without further boring explanations that have probably put you all to sleep, let’s get started with #16 and finish with #12.


Dreamer by Alisa Kozhikina

img.phpSounds like: Russia took more than a leaf out of the book of a certain Maltese entry, when choosing their own this year…

What I think: Perhaps it’s a coincidence that so many parallels can be drawn between Gaia Cauchi’s JESC victor and this schmaltzy, totally-engineered-to-tug-at-people’s-heartstrings ballad. If not, it wouldn’t be the first time the winner of a Eurovision event has had an influence on what other countries choose to send the following year. The difference is that Gaia and The Start were unique in the 2013 field, whereas in 2014, nearly half the competitors are bringing ballads to the table (with varying degrees of success in my opinion). Russia’s is far and away my least favourite. Even sweeping the sickly sweetness of it under the rug, I remain utterly creeped out by this tiny child wailing that she wants someone to be her everything and love her until the end of “the” time (I wish she’d specified what time exactly she’s referring to). Speaking of crappy English lyrics, that last chorus is the clincher of cliché, thrown in with a key change just to ensure that no part of the canvas is left blank in this by-the-numbers painting. Precious and talented as Russia’s Voice Kids winner Alisa is, everything about her entry makes me go ‘yeuch!’. I’m praying it doesn’t work on Europe the way it hasn’t worked on me, because if this wins, I’m going to end up being banned from Twitter for my excess use of profanity when tweeting about a children’s competition.

The verdict: No. Just, no. That’s a ‘no’, in case you didn’t get it. 1 point.

JESC chances: Junior songs that make me gag have won in the past, but I’m predicting 4th-8th for this one.


Game Over by Josie

Josie-Croatia-Junior-Eurovision-Josephine-Ida-Zec-wiwibloggsSounds like: Croatia’s back, but not quite with a bang.

What I think: I was all set to trash this, only mildly less than I’ve just trashed Russia. Then I listened to it again, and realised that I can’t be quite so straightforward (i.e. bitchy) about it. It’s an interesting song that doesn’t seem to measure up to Croatia’s previous JESC standards. But for me personally, said standards weren’t actually that high. Sure, I love Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav, but – and prepare to gasp – Hej Mali never did that much for me, and the two entries that followed it were pretty substandard. So re-listening to Josie’s vaguely electronic, vaguely dubstep track with a catchy chorus that sticks, I found myself intrigued rather than horrified. There are a lot of variables which could affect how Croatia scores on their comeback – i.e. can Josie pull off a live vocal? Which entries will she be sandwiched between? Will she have a bunch of backing dancers who do the robot impeccably while dressed up as Tetris pieces (my suggestion to the delegation)? But if all goes according to plan, I have a sneaking feeling this won’t be left languishing in 16th position come the night, as y’all (and by ‘y’all’, I mean a sample of random individuals whose comments I read on Youtube) seem to be thinking it will.

The verdict: It’s a little disjointed/cheesy, sure, but it’s fun, and stands out from the ballad/dance-heavy crowd. 6 points.

JESC chances: Some might say it’s game over for Croatia, but I reckon this might do surprisingly well. Or at least, not shockingly badly – somewhere in the 11th-14th region.


Svet U Mojim Očima by Emilija Đonin

Serbia-JESC-2014-Emilija-Donin-4Sounds like: The theme song of a Serbian teen soap circa 2001

What I think: Point numero uno – if Emilija sounds anywhere near as good singing this live as she does in studio, her three minutes on stage will be a treat for the ears. Given her stint on Serbia’s version of Got Talent, it’s highly likely. As far as the song itself goes…well, it’s nice. It’s pretty. It’s age-appropriate. I do find it a little stale in sound with the guitars twanging away in the background, so I kind of wish it’d been composed with violins or vuvuzelas (for that touch of eardrum-bursting fun) instead. But it’s competent. It doesn’t make me want to pick up the phone to vote for it (which isn’t to Serbia’s disadvantage since I can’t vote anyway) nor does it make me want to run screaming out of the nearest door, tearing my hair out and screaming “WHY, EUROVISION GODS, WHY?”. And above all else, I’m happy to have Serbia back in JESC.

The verdict: I want to hear Emilija sing this song more than I want to hear the song itself, but I do think it’s pretty. 6 points.

JESC chances: I can’t see this making its way any further than mid-table – 8th-11th.


Happy Day by Lizi Pop

Lizi-Pop1Sounds like: I don’t need to say it. You already know.

What I think: Okay, so I WILL say it, but just this once – if people thought Sanna Nielsen’s Undo was Wrecking Ball 2.0, then they must be thinking Happy Day is a carbon copy with (mostly) Georgian lyrics. It’s not often you hear a song that doesn’t remind you of another these days, but in this case I’m a little disappointed, because Georgia can usually be relied upon to send something unique/endearingly bizarre to JESC. Like Moldova in the adult contest, they normally bring something special that helps them stand out; but in the sea of impressive voices and big ballads Malta-bound, Lizi will find it a challenge to carry on that trend. The impact of Wrecking Ball for me lies in both the vocal performance, and the soft, vulnerable verses interspersed with big, loud choruses. Those are also the main pros to Lizi and Happy Day, assuming she’s got the vocal combo of restraint/grunt to pull this off live. I like this song, cringey English bits and chorus chants aside, but it comes up short when compared to the ballads from the likes of Bulgaria and Italy, IMO. I’m hoping that the Georgian-ness we’ve all come to know and love (unless Bzikebi drove you crazy and CANDY gave you diabetes) will be injected into the stage presentation somehow, via outrageous costuming or some kind of massive, distracting prop. My money’s on a bubble-dispensing piñata.

The verdict: Derivative and repetitive, but still a good effort, with admirable emoting from Lizi. 6 points.

JESC chances: It’s hard to fathom a JESC fail for Georgia, but I just don’t see this stealing focus away from all of the other ballads. My prediction is 7th-11th.


Nisi Sam (Your Light) by Ula Ložar

Slovenia-Ula-Lorza-JESC-SloveniaSounds like: Ula’s one fake ID away from being ready for adult Eurovision!

What I think: First things first, I’m the realest. NO, IGGY AZALEA, YOU CANNOT TAKE OVER THIS POST! GET BACK TO TWERKING! Ahem. As I was saying, first things first, welcome to JESC, Slovenia. We’re very happy to have you. Much like Italy, they’ve put forward a sophisticated debut entry – though whilst we all knew that was how the Italians would play it, Slovenia could have veered off in any direction. I think they should be proud of themselves, even if they’re not likely to be topping the scoreboard come November 15. Ula is a phenom live vocalist (sorry to be rambling on about the voices so much, but this is THE year of the miniature powerhouse) and her song has a haunting, understated feel to it that sets it apart. I do feel like the whole package is maybe too mature for the Junior contest – or at least, to work well in this context. Then again, you could have said that about Ukraine 2012 or even Gaia last year, bar the poofy party dress. I find JESC incredibly hard to predict, and without rehearsals to base an opinion on or a running order to imagine the impact of, it’s hard to say just how Slovenia will fare. Though there are songs I like more, I would be happy to see this one get somewhere – even if that somewhere is just out of the danger zone of the automatic douze points.

The verdict: Pretty and classy, and Ula sings like a champ. A strong 6 points.

JESC chances: Like I said, I’m clueless (not in all aspects of life – just this one). Anywhere between 6th-14th would be my broad guess.

So that’s my bottom five, though as you can see, I’m only really anti-Russia. Musically speaking, in this instance. Here’s what my rankings look like so far, with question marks aplenty for added mysteriousness:

#1 | ?
#2 | ?
#3 | ?
#4 | ?
#5 | ?
#6 | ?
#7 | ?
#8 | ?
#9 | ?
#10 | ?
#11 | ?
#12 | Slovenia
#13 | Georgia
#14 | Serbia
#15 | Croatia
#16 | Russia


What do you think? Have I offended anyone with my abuse of Alisa’s Dreamer? Does the fact that I don’t hate Croatia make you want to strangle me with a feather boa? Or do you agree with my sentiments to a shocking extent? Let me know below.

I’ll be back on Friday with Part 2, feat. my #11-#6. Whoever could they be?


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