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Shocks, frocks and missing reprises: a wrap-up of Amsterdam 2012

Bonjour! Here we are, approximately a million days after Junior Eurovision, and I’m finally ready to recap the show. You know how you have nothing on for weeks and then suddenly, BAM – your calendar for the next few days is packed? Well, that was my weekend and week-beginning. And that’s my excuse for not producing a post-show dissection until now.

I hope you’re up for a challenge, because this may be the longest post I’ve ever written. Seriously, you might want to call in sick for work/school, and get some food and water for the journey. This is my epic recap of the 10th (but hopefully not final) JESC. May it not bore you to tears, and help cure any Post-Eurovision Depression you may have.

 2012

The performances

Here are my thoughts on the twelve acts who took to the architecturally magnificent stage:

Belarus got things going, but with less of a ‘bang’ and more of a ‘pfft’ if you know what I mean. No? Well, I mean they fell a bit flat. Egor sounded pretty good but not the best I’ve heard him, the costumes were good but not spectacular, and the song was a slower version than I’d heard before (which meant he didn’t have to race his way through) but the repetitiveness seemed more obvious than ever. It definitely didn’t end on a high, what with that voice-breaker of a note, unless you count the glass-shattering scream that came after it. I still like the song, but after that performance it was clear Egor wouldn’t be following in Lidiya Zablotskaya’s top 5 footsteps.

– Sweden sang second, with Lova making a better impression. She looked stunning (I assume she borrowed the hair crimper from Igzidora Gjeta) and her voice, unlike Egor’s, sounded the best I’ve heard it. She gave me goosebumps with her rendition of a song that nobody thought would go anywhere, but that I love (and actually did go somewhere in the end).

Azerbaijan brought Azeri to a Eurovision stage for the first time, not including Ell and co’s ubiquitous multilingual greetings in Baku. Girls and Boys is so much better in Azeri than English, so that was an entry that made me super glad about the 75% rule. Omar and Suada aren’t the best live singers, but they managed to cover up each other’s weaknesses pretty well, and the performance was energetic. I can’t deny or confirm if any tinfoil was harmed in the making of their outfits.

Omar waits for Suada to come out of the oven

Omar waits for Suada to come out of the oven

– Next up was Belgium, and they did pretty much what I expected – a decent, inoffensive performance of decent, inoffensive Abracadabra (I love it, but even I know it’s vanilla). I liked the magic tricks which made Fabian’s musos appear, but they were distracting. I’m wondering now if his top 5 finish was mostly due to the tricks, not the song.

– Big favourite Russia was fifth, and the only reason Lerika didn’t knock my socks off was because she was always going to be awesome. Next to the performances that had come before she looked extra polished, and her prior JESC experience showed. I do really dislike the English bits that were thrown in to the song and would much preferred the whole thing in Russian.

– I loved Israel’s performance. They were the debutants I was most excited to see on stage, and I wasn’t disappointed. I loved their costumes, choreography and vocals (if the boy doesn’t appear in an Israeli stage adaptation of Phantom of the Opera in the future, I’ll be very surprised). Following Russia was never going to be easy, but they did a great job.

Albania’s Igzidora did win something on Saturday: the award for Most Improved From NF To Now (as I predicted). The revised arrangement of her song and her stronger vocals – as well as the lack of hideous gray stockings – made for a much better performance than we saw at the Albanian selection. I do think it was a mistake to give her a Madonna mike and no backup activity, but this entry was destined for last place anyway. Fingers crossed they still give it another go, if there is a JESC to have another go at.

Igzidora attempting to put a curse on the people who made her change her dress

Igzidora attempting to put a curse on the people who made her change her dress

– Armenia’s Compass Band did exactly what they did at their national final, minus Teeny McScaryson (my nickname for the littlest member who was apparently too young to come to Amsterdam, but did appear without warning to announce the Armenian votes). The song really stood out, something you can’t deny even if you’re president of the I Hate Sweetie Baby fan club. I was pleased to see them looking dapper in suits as opposed to sloppy in unironed shirts, which I suppose is more rock ‘n’ roll but comes off so apathetic.

Ukraine was the first (and last) act to blow me away, both in terms of Anastasiya’s talent and the intensity of the wind machine. Everything came together for her: the vocals (which I now deem to be impressive not just for a ten-year-old, but for anyone), the costume, the backdrop, the slow-mo Loreen close-ups, and the fountains of dry ice which probably asphyxiated everyone in the front row. Having heard people predict her as a dark horse, I could see why by the time she bolted off stage.  

Anastasiya summoning up the gods of dry ice with her almighty powers

Anastasiya summoning up the gods of dry ice with her almighty powers

– I was pumped to watch Georgia’s Funkids in action. Their vocals could have been slicker, but all in all they met the standard we’re accustomed to in Georgian entries. The energy, costuming and choreography were all top-notch.  

– Moldova came next, and I quite enjoyed them. Like Azerbaijan’s song, Toate Vor Fi is a million times better when it isn’t in English, so it was nice to hear the bilingual version. The flag-waving reminded me of Carola in Athens, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

– Last but not least was the Netherlands. Femke was the only act who managed to get a half-decent cheer from the crowd which at least meant they weren’t asleep (they may as well have been up to that point). It was all very similar to the Dutch final, staging-wise, but she put in a performance she should be proud of. If the Netherlands sent Femke senior to the ESC with that song, it would probably do better than the 3js and Joan Frankas of late.

 

The before, after and in-between

– The opener of the show was Rachel, runner-up of Yerevan 2011 and the Netherland’s sweetheart (I totally made that up) singing Euphoria. She may have been a disappointment to all the press who heard the song being rehearsed and assumed it was Loreen, but I think she was amazing! I’m not 100% sure if she was miming or not (we’ll get to those who clearly were and were not in a minute) but if not props to her, because she sounded spot on.

– Later on, all the contestants took to the stage to blatantly mime We Can Be Heroes, the 2012 group song. In the brief moments when I managed to ignore the inexplicable lip-syncing, I thought to myself ‘this sounds a lot like Abrabadabra’, but believe me, those were very brief moments. I will never understand the miming thing. Dima Bilan did it for his winner’s reprise in Moscow, Ani Lorak did it during JESC 2009, and now this. You’ve got twelve acts who can hold a tune, and you make them come out and mouth the words to a song that’s supposed to be meaningful. I don’t care if they all came down with golden staph immediately after their performances, I’d rather have heard them sing live.

– Ralf Mackenbach popped in to possibly mime a catchy number about partying and stuff. It’s been three years since he won Junior, and in that time he’s gone from the Dutch version of Justin Bieber to…well, a more mature Dutch version of Justin Bieber. I actually think he may be the Netherlands’ sweetheart (sorry Rachel).

Someone who definitely sung live was co-host Kim-Lian, whose hairdo could only have been caused by sticking a knife into a toaster and whose Katy Perry brand PVC dress was nothing short of hideous…but whose voice sounded fine. Considering what she came after, I have to applaud her for choosing not to mime. *insert applause here*

Nope, it's not a chimney sweeper - it's Kim-Lian!

Nope, it’s not a chimney sweeper – it’s Kim-Lian!

– A quick word about the postcards: it was a relief to have the kids involved again so we could learn, for example, that Anastasiya Petryk is ‘small Ukrainian girl’ (I never would have seen that coming) but overall they were a bit boring. There’s only so much ice-breaking imagery a girl can take at 3am on a Sunday morning.

– Another quick word re: the host chats with the contestants. These are always a little uncomfortable to watch, but this year they reached a whole new level of ‘MAKE IT STOP!’. First Ewout asked Lova if she’d eat ‘moos’, then he tried to force Fabian and Femke to confess their undying (nonexistent) love for each other, and then he attempted to have a discussion with the kids who speak little or no English and make them touch the trophy that they clearly would not be receiving, bar Ukraine. Oh dear.

 

The voting

– Ralf had the honour of announcing the kids jury points, which awarded 8 to Russia, 10 to Ukraine and the douze to Georgia. At this early point I got excited, having foolishly predicted that Georgia would win again (but not-so-foolishly guessed that Russia wouldn’t). I was surprised by Ukraine’s 10, but that was only the start of their haul.

– The most pathetic points received by Ukraine were 4 from Azerbaijan and 6 from Albania. 10s and 12s were the only other denominations to be sent their way. How sad.

Surprisingly, Russia didn’t receive any sets of douze. Ukraine nabbed eight, Armenia two and Georgia, Sweden and Albania one. Albania’s from Azerbaijan must have been more of a message to Armenia than anything else. As in ‘look, we’d prefer to give a ton of points to the worst song in the field than give a single one to you.’ Unless…they actually liked it that much?

– Both Belgium and the Netherlands neglected to exchange top points in favour of giving them to Ukraine. Belgium gave Femke 10 and the hosts gave Fabian 8.

– Albania’s 12 to Sweden was unexpected, but made me (and probably Lova) very happy.

– Anastasiya’s top scores from Belarus, Sweden, Belgium, Russia, Israel, Armenia, Moldova and the Netherlands make her the winner to have received the highest number of douze points in JESC history, alongside Marìa Isabel, winner of 2004.

– My internet stream reverted back to the pre-show loop as soon as Ukraine was announced as the winner and never returned. I don’t know if this was a universal occurrence, but it kind of sucked to have gotten up so early and for it not to be totally worth it. I caught the reprise on Youtube the next day, so it obviously took place. Any thoughts?

 

The results

For the second year in a row, I was blindsided by the winner, only this year I was happily blindsided. Nebo is the most atypical JESC winner we’ve ever had, and a very deserving one in my opinion. To all those lamenting that Russia or Georgia should have won, I’m afraid the fact is that Ukraine beat them fair and square, nabbing big points from Eastern and Western Europe and triumphing over the runner-up with the largest point margin ever. Anastasiya is a real talent and was clearly thrilled every time she got a top score. And she’s so adorable!

Here’s the full scoreboard:

  1. Ukraine – 138 
  2. Georgia – 103
  3. Armenia – 98
  4. Russia – 88
  5. Belgium – 72
  6. Sweden – 70
  7. Netherlands – 69
  8. Israel – 68
  9. Belarus – 56
  10. Moldova – 52
  11. Azerbaijan – 49
  12. Albania – 35

The top three is fine by me, although I was as shocked as you (if you were shocked) to see Armenia claw their way so high. I guess ‘give me smile’ is synonymous with ‘give me truckloads of points’.

Lerika did top her 6th place from Yerevan, but she failed to meet expectations in equaling Russia’s last result. I hope she moves on and appears in adult Eurovision one day. I think it would be a more likely forum for her to do well in.

I was hoping Sweden would get bumped up into the top 5, but 6th is a stellar result for a humble ballad, and anyway, Belgium making it was a pleasant surprise.

Israel deserved better, but they must be happier with the outcome than Azerbaijan and Albania. I have to admit, it was satisfying to see Azerbaijan tank for the first time in any Eurovision event. It proves they aren’t bulletproof.

 

Are you still awake? Because I have some good news for you. This recap is over! If by chance you want even more JESC, you can relive the whole EBJ Junior Month (including my reviews) by clicking on the ‘Junior Eurovision’ category at the bottom of the page. 

If you’re still feeling low, don’t worry, because the Malmö preselection season kicks off on Friday, with Belarus’ Eurofest. I’ll be back at the end of the week to review it, and look at the exciting NF news I missed during Junior month. If I promise you that post won’t be ridiculously long like this one, will I see you there?

 

What were your personal highlights and lowlights of Amsterdam 2012?

 

Counting down to JESC: Yerevan 2011 + some 2012 predictions!

One post. Two topics. No time for a rambling intro!

 

  2011

The stats

Edition: 9th

When: 3rd December 2011

Where: Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex, Yerevan, Armenia

Motto: ‘Reach for the top!’

Hosts: Gohar Gasparyan & Avet Barseghyan

Broadcaster: ARMTV

Entries: 13

Debutants: 0

Returnees: 1 – Bulgaria

Withdrawals: 2 – Malta and Serbia

Interval acts: Vladimir Arzumanyan with Mama, Sirusho with Qele Qele and Molly Sandén with Spread A Little Light

First place: Georgia

Last place: Latvia

Most douze points: 3 – Georgia and Belarus

 

The entries

Russia/ Romeo and Juliet by Katya Ryabova

Latvia/ Mēness Suns by Amanda Bašmakova

Moldova/ No No by Lerika

Armenia/ Welcome to Armenia by Dalita

Bulgaria/ Supergeroy by Ivan Ivanov

Lithuania/ Debesys by Paulina Skrabytė

Ukraine/ Evropa by Kristall

Macedonia/ Zhimi Ovoj Frak by Dorijan Dlaka

Netherlands/ Teenager by Rachel

Belarus/ Angely Dobra by Lidiya Zablotskaya

Sweden/ Faller by Erik Rapp

Georgia/ Candy Music by Candy

Belgium/ Een Kusje Meer by Femke

 

The scoreboard

  1. Georgia – 108

 CANDY

  1. Netherlands – 103
  2. Belarus – 99
  3. Russia – 99
  4. Armenia – 85
  5. Moldova – 78
  6. Belgium – 64
  7. Bulgaria – 60
  8. Sweden – 57
  9. Lithuania – 53
  10. Ukraine – 42
  11. Macedonia – 31
  12. Latvia – 31

 

My top 5…

…songs

Netherlands – I really wish this had won. I certainly thought it was going to right up until the last of the points came in and I realised it wasn’t possible, at which point I started punching the wall and screaming ‘why, God, WHY?!?’ like any sensible person would.

Russia – I was never that sold on Malenkiy Prints, but Ekaterina-turned-Katya suited me better. This song is so damn catchy from start to finish, and fortunately does not end with a re-enactment of what happened to the “real” Romeo and Juliet.

Bulgaria – underrated, that’s all I can say…apart from a few more things. I love the electronic, Lady Gaga vibe of this one, and I think it was really well performed by Ivan, who looking back was the Anastasiya Petryk of 2011 (the teeny, intense-looking child who can belt out a song with the best of them).

Sweden – ever since the Year of Molly Sandén I have loved Sweden in JESC, and that didn’t change last year when they decided to shake things up by sending a boy (gasp!). Faller is danceable without being in-your-face, and I think it was mature enough to pass in the adult contest.

Latvia – I did not like this initially, thinking it sounded like a suicidal Christmas carol. It still reminds me of Christmas, but I no longer feel like crying when I hear it. It’s quite haunting at the beginning, and I may have gotten goosebumps once or twice as a result.

…voices

Georgia – sure, all the Candy girls sound good, but I’m sure you’ll know which one I’m referring to when I say WOW. I’m pretty sure her Christina Aguilera impression sealed Georgia’s victory (and pushed Rachel into second place *shakes fist threateningly*).

Moldova – it’s no wonder Lerika was recruited to sing again this year with a voice like that at her disposal. She sounds a lot better when she’s not singing in English, but even in Pig Latin she’d sound great.

Belarus – I really hope to see Lidiya trying out for the ESC in the future. She knew what she was doing with her voice, and with a song that strikes me as being hard to sing (it’s definitely been hard when I’ve tried it in the shower).

Bulgaria – as I said, his vocal is surprisingly powerful for someone of his age/size.

Sweden – unlike Dorijan Dlaka, it seems Erik’s voice had broken prior to his arriving in Yerevan. It’s a voice well suited to his teen idol, check-out-all-my-fangirls looks.

…costumes

Georgia – anything would have been better than the gold lamé and afro wigs Candy were sporting in the rehearsals, but they did take a big sugar-coated step up with their pink-and-white confections. I MUST have an outfit like this before I die.

Armenia – everything about this entry made Scooch look just as cheap and tacky as they were, including the awesome hostess and pilot costumes. Great use of colour and asymmetry.

Ukraine – I’m kind of obsessed with flags, so Kristall making me realise that you can wear them and still look relatively normal was an epic moment. Plus, her backing group’s tracksuits were so cool! Again, I want.

Belgium – cute overload. Red and white, polka dots, skater skirts and matching bangs…it doesn’t get much more adorable than that. I like how they made Femke stand out as the lead and match at the same time.

Netherlands – I am 110% sure there is a Dutch factory that exists only to mass-produce amazing jackets for their JESC contestants.

gc11

Clockwise, from left: Candy, Dalita, Kristall, Femke and Rachel

 

My bottom 5…

…songs

Macedonia – I actually don’t mind this, Macedonia being one of my favourite JESC countries (as you’d know if you read my recent list, hint hint). But there is a sleazy quality to it that seems inappropriate for a competition between 10-15 year olds.

Lithuania – again, I do like this and I loved it at the time…but a year later I am bored of it. Once something loses its magic it’s hard to get it back.

…voices

Ukraine – before I heard her perform live, I thought Kristall had a good chance of propelling Ukraine to the top of the scoreboard. And really, if you watch her performance back with the mute button on you can still see why. Un-mute, and it all becomes clear.

Armenia – Dalita pulled off a much better vocal on the night than she did at the Armenian final, but it was touch-and-go all the way.

Lithuania – I think Paulina has the potential to be a great singer when she and her voice have matured more.

Macedonia – ah, the notorious voice-breaking incident of 2011. I know it wasn’t Dorijan’s fault (and under the circumstances he did well) but his is an uncomfortable few minutes to listen to.

…costumes

Latvia – Amanda did look pretty, but the dress was miles too big for her. Also, I was expecting her to wear a dog suit in lieu of the fact that real animals are not allowed on stage, so to see her in this was so disappointing.

bc11

A few chicken wings were in order for Amanda.

 

Amsterdam 2012: My predictions

250px-Junior_Eurovision_Song_Contest_2012_logo

I’m sorry to tack this on to the end of a random post, but there has been so much Junior material to cover the past month and only…well, a month, to do it in. With only twelve countries competing, there are only so many predictions one can make anyway. Here are a few of mine.

Who will win?

If you put a party popper to my head and demanded that I name the most likely winners, these are the countries I’d pick: Georgia, Israel and Russia.

As usual, Georgia has come to Junior armed with a unique and catchy number to be performed by charismatic kids with great voices, and probably great outfits. Add that to their previous two wins and good performance position, and we could be looking at a repeat of last year – i.e. the song that everyone thinks will win is pipped by polished Georgia, Masters of JESC. Don’t count it out.

I’d love debutants Israel to win, but if the music does win it all then anyone could win (yes, I do classify Albania’s song as ‘music’). Like Georgia, they’ve sent a group of very talented singers along to represent them, and if the voters respond as I suspect the juries would have, it could well pay off. LTMW is high-energy and infectious, and the multilingual lyrics work well.

Last but not least, it’s the favourite – Russia/Moldova’s Lerika. This girl knows what she’s doing on stage, yellow moped or no yellow moped, and despite her early slot, she’s sure to leave an impression. Her song is very current and only needs one listen to be remembered, unlike quite a few others. She wants the win, and she has a high chance of getting it.

Who will lose?

This time last year, I said ‘it’s GOT to be Latvia or Macedonia’, and I was right (for what felt like the first time ever) and now I’m saying it’s GOT to be Albania. I don’t want Igzidora to fail, but the fact is somebody will be at the bottom when the night is over…and for me, it’ll be her. Challengers should come in the form of Belarus and Armenia.

What will the scoreboard look like?

  1. Georgia – I feel like I should put Russia here, but my instincts are telling me not to. Feel free to laugh if I turn out to be spectacularly wrong.
  2. Russia
  3. Israel – 3rd would be more than respectable for a first shot.
  4. Netherlands – home country advantage and performing 12th of 12 should bump Femke up.
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Belgium
  7. Ukraine – she’s nothing if not memorable.
  8. Sweden
  9. Moldova
  10. Armenia – unique enough to miss out on last, IMO.
  11. Belarus
  12. Albania

The underrated act that will surprise us all

I do think Albania’s performance could be a lot better than those of us who dislike the entry are expecting. Sweden, in all its humble beauty, could provide us with a real moment and Ukraine’s Li’l Demon Child may pull an Alyosha and make the intensity appealing.

The hyped-up act who will fail to succeed

Azerbaijan may be riding on their Eurovision success (after success, after success) coming into JESC for the first time, but I don’t think they have what it takes to win this time.

The vocalist/s who will blow us away

We already know Lerika is an über-singer, so she won’t shock us with her talent. JESC newbies Funkids, Kids.il, Anastasiya Petryk and Egor Zheshko are likely to put in the most impressive vocals.

The act likely to have the best costume/s

Georgia, as always, Russia, the Netherlands and Moldova should be looking stylish. I may be basing that partly on the dress rehearsal photos I accidentally saw yesterday (that dress from Albania…yowser!).

The act most improved from NF to now

Albania, in look and sound. It won’t be enough to save her from tailing the group, but it will be commendable.

 

Well, Junior Eurovision 2012 is less than twelve hours away, so I’ll leave you to organise yourselves. If you’re lucky enough to live in a country that is broadcasting the show on TV at a reasonable hour, I hate you and please don’t ever speak to me again. Just kidding (but I am jealous). If you’re watching online like me, I hope you enjoy the show and that your stream runs smoothly. It would be awful listening to Lerika belt out ‘sensa-a-a-a-tsi-i-i-ya-a’. And don’t even get me started on ‘tik-tik, ta-a-ak, tik taktaktaktaktak…’

 

What did you think of last year’s show in Yerevan? How do your predictions for Amsterdam stack up against mine?

 

Junior Eurovision 2012: The Reviews (Part 2)

Unbelievably, it’s nearly JESC time again. The 12 delegations have arrived in Amsterdam (it took Fabian nearly two hours on a bus to get there!), the opening party has been had (where all the kids would have been sizing each other up on the pretense of making friends), the postcards have been shot (the contestants are back in!) and rehearsals have begun (I have nothing to put in these brackets!) and it all comes down to this weekend. You’ll be pleased to learn that I have purchased my show snacks and brought my flags out of retirement, and those items are now crossed off my list. To get to the point of this intro, also crossed off is part II of my 2012 reviews, featuring Israel, Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine…because you’re reading it right now.

 

ISRAEL

Kids.il | Let The Music Win  

Sounds like: Diva by Dana International, if you’re hard of hearing.

The good: In the competition entitled ‘Best of the Newbies’ that’s currently running in my head, Israel is kicking Albania to the curb and firmly elbowing Azerbaijan out of the way. Basically, they’re winning, so I guess the music really does win it all (although whether it wins JESC remains to be seen). It’s so good to have Israel in the mix, not only with a bunch of rather talented kids but with a rousing, anthemic song that seems to take inspiration from the current and the retro. With decent staging and a great vocal performance – which I’m expecting – this could be a dark horse (keeping in mind that any country that isn’t Russia is a dark horse).

Everything else: If this song were a sandwich, not only would Junior Eurovision be less entertaining, but it would be a sandwich with a layer of cheese (albeit very finely sliced). Don’t get me wrong; it’s not in the same league of cheesiness as, say, If We All Give A Little by Six4One, which it keeps getting compared to – but after super-now Lerika (why does her name come up in all my reviews?) Kids.il may look a bit behind the times. Then again, the similarities between the two songs – e.g. the high energy and language switching – may lead to them canceling each other out.

The verdict: I’d say douze points but it’s just under, which in Eurovision-land equates to 10.

How it will do: 2nd-4th

 

MOLDOVA

Denis Midone | Toate Vor Fi

Sounds like: Moldova’s sent yet another 1980s sitcom theme song

The good: There’s something endearing about this that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s kind of cutesy and grown-up at the same time, or that Denis tries so so hard in the video to get those kids in the classroom aiming for the stars and believing in themselves. I don’t know, but that mysterious charm makes it impossible to be mean about this entry in any way. It’s harmless more than anything – not too sweet, quite catchy, and performed pretty well. That won’t get him the Plexiglas trophy, but it should save him from the dreaded 12th position.

Everything else: The English translation of this makes me very glad of the JESC language stipulations. For all I know, the lyrics are just as cliché in Romanian, but ignorance is bliss (ironic cliché intended), so I can deal with a quick burst of questionable English in the last twenty seconds. Also, I know I said Denis was pretty much guaranteed 11th place or higher, but if he’s gone and brought the backing singer from his original video to Amsterdam, that may change. I’m sorry, but that girl is the worst vocal supporter I’ve ever heard.

The verdict: It couldn’t be less than 6 points from me.

How it will do: 9th-11th

 

NETHERLANDS

Femke Meines | Tik Tak Tik

Sounds like: 1 Dag by Marissa

The good: The Netherlands, like Belgium, rarely fail to impress me in Junior Eurovision. This latest effort isn’t the best they’ve ever sent, but they should be proud to have it represent them on home soil. For the second year in a row there’s a Femke performing last, and like Een Kusje Meer, Tik Tak Tik is in the retro mould favoured by Dutch and Belgian JESC entrants. What I like about it is that none of it is a letdown, the verses being as punchy as the choruses. I also really like Femke’s NF jacket and hope she’ll be wearing it on Saturday night/posting it to me to wear on Saturday night.

Everything else: This girl as a singer = one who tends to yell more than actually produce notes if she’s not careful. So I’ll be crossing my fingers for her to rein that in, because nobody likes to be yelled at for three minutes straight. There’s no doubt the Netherlands will end the show with a bang (the home crowd will be in a frenzy by song 12, so they’ll go off) but I do think this song lacks that extra something which would put it into winning contention – that ‘oomph’ that’s hard to label but was seen in entries like the similar Click Clack.

The verdict: Not amazing, but a solid effort from the reliable host country. 7 points.

How it will do: 3rd-5th

 

RUSSIA

Lerika | Sensatsiya

Sounds like: the musical love child of Be My Guest by Gaitana and When Love Takes Over by David Guetta

The good: Lerika’s back with a new sound and a new country backing her, and it’s safe to say she really wants the win this time. She was one of the best live performers in Yerevan – her voice and stage presence were faultless – and now she’s got the bookies’ favourite song to her name, she could be unstoppable. Sensatsiya isn’t groundbreaking, and it’s oh-so-repetitive, but let’s be honest: it’s a dancefloor anthem, and the only requirements a song needs to fulfill to make that grade is to be supremely catchy and high-energy. Tick and tick. And thank you, Russia, for pilfering this girl back from Moldova. If you hadn’t, we may not have seen her this year.

Everything else: I say Lerika ‘could’ be unstoppable because she ‘could’ also be to this year’s contest what the Netherlands’ Rachel was to last year’s. 12 months ago I was bopping along to Ik Ben Een Teenager, confident in Rachel’s ability to wipe the floor with the competition because her song was SOOOOO awesome. And what happened? She lost by a mere handful of points to a country I hadn’t even factored in as a winning possibility (d’oh!). Will we see an Armenian or Albanian victory with runner-up Lerika sobbing into her skater skirt?  

The verdict: Douze points, by a glitter-coated whisker.  

How it will do: 1st-3rd

 

SWEDEN

Lova Sönnerbo | Mitt Mod

Sounds like: Look What You’ve Done by Jet

The good: I feel about this song how I felt about Finland’s entry for Baku – it’s a really beautiful, humble song with real meaning that’s unfortunately destined to go nowhere. I’ll admit, I didn’t love it this much the first time I heard it (and I may or may not have left a disparaging comment on Youtube about the ‘elusive chorus’) but it was the Grower of the Year. Lova’s voice is almost haunting – in a non-Halloween kind of way – and her falsetto in the last bit of the song gives it much–needed variety. The whole subdued, emotional feel of Sweden should contrast well against Belarus before and Azerbaijan after.

Everything else: The fact that Mitt Mod is a grower is bad for its chances at JESC. All of the people hearing it for the first or even second time on the night aren’t likely to vote for it, and who’s to say the kids’ jury will go for Lova? That, coupled with her performance position (both in terms of being early on and being tainted by the Curse of Number Two) means she could well follow in the footsteps of last year’s second performer, Amanda from Latvia. That would be a shame (especially if Sweden were beaten by Albania) but it could easily happen.

The verdict: I’ll give Lova 10 points, even if no one else does!  

How it will do: 9th-12th

 

UKRAINE

Anastasiya Petryk | Nebo

Sounds like: the aliens have landed 

The good: I reckon if you played this to a Eurovision dunce and told them it was Ukraine’s entry for Junior, they wouldn’t believe you. I enjoy it when one of these out-there songs (e.g. Belarus 2009) makes it to the mini contest and shakes up the happy-clappy numbers that usually dominate. Strangely enough, Anastasiya ‘It’s My Turn To Bring The Crazy’ Petryk is the little sister of Victoria Petryk, who took a happy-clappy number to second place in 2008. This girl is so teeny but has the vocal chops of Christina Aguilera, so she doesn’t so much sing the song as attack it and throttle it to death, which suits the gritty intensity of the dubstep arrangement. This is by far the most original song of the Class of 2012, and for that I salute it.

Everything else: Going back to the miniscule, cutesy girl belting out an intense dubstep song thing, who knew kids could be so scary? I can say that because I haven’t seen Children of the Corn. I get the impression that one look from Anastasiya could turn you into a granite sculpture if you got on her bad side (so watch out if you out-score her, boys and girls) which perhaps is not what people want to pick up the phone for. Then again, she may also have Carrie-like telepathic powers which enable her to sense the foolish souls who fail to dial her number and enact long-distance revenge on them…oh God, save yourselves, my European friends! VOTE FOR YOUR LIVES! Whew, looks like I’m the intense one at the moment.

The verdict: 10 points, and not because I’m scared to give her any less.

How it will do: 6th-8th

 

Well, that’s that! With all 12 songs reviewed, my final pre-show ranking looks like this:  

  1. Russia
  2. Israel
  3. Sweden
  4. Belgium
  5. Ukraine
  6. Armenia
  7. Georgia
  8. Azerbaijan
  9. Netherlands
  10. Moldova
  11. Belarus
  12. Albania

How does yours stack up? Will Russia storm to victory, or should Lerika start practicing her gracious loser face in the mirror? Let me know your thoughts below.

By the way, thanks for reading my reviews. Maybe I’ll see you in a few days for my 2011 recap and prediction special?

 

 

 

News Roundup | JESC, ESC and a bit of MF

There comes a time when one must gather up all the news-making developments from the glittery worlds of junior and senior song contests and collate them into one big, fat bulletin. That is, if one wishes to stay on top of things in any way, shape or form, as I do. Therefore, I have done exactly that for what will hopefully be your reading pleasure. I promise what’s ahead isn’t half as pompous as this introduction.  

 

JESC – it’s (probably) happening!

It appears that Junior is no longer in jeopardy thanks to three more countries – including two debutants – stepping up and saving the day (as well as many of us from plummeting down to the depths of despair. Phew!

After a short period of uncertainty – i.e. musings of ‘will they, won’t they?’ usually reserved for Slovakia in big Eurovision and/or the sexual tension-filled relationships of soapie characters – Moldova have confirmed their participation. I can’t help wondering if they waited just to get back at Russia for stealing Lerika, and as we speak are planning on kidnapping Katya Ryabova and forcing her to represent them as further revenge. Stranger things have happened.

‘I’m coming for you Katya!! No stupid 6th place for me this time…’

Whatever the situation, Moldova’s confirmation took the total of competitors up to 9, which was promising but not quite enough to ensure the contest would go ahead. Thankfully, and in a surprising turn of events, Albania and Israel both decided that they too will be shoving gussied-up children on to the stage in Amsterdam, which is very exciting news for two reasons. First,  because there are now enough countries to make putting on the show worthwhile, and to use the current point allocation system. Second, because I just love the thought of a mini Rona Nishliu or Dana International, even though I know that’s not how the selection process works. Can you imagine Russia trying to find pint-sized Babushkis?

 

Yes, no, maybe

As a result of the above, Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Belgium, Georgia, Israel, Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine will be at Junior, with several countries still fence-sitting. Serbia are still pondering over whether a year’s vacation was long enough (FYI, it was, so come back!) whilst Azerbaijan and Italy have expressed interest in making their debuts – coincidentally the same kind of interest they expressed last year, which obviously amounted to nothing. But at least there’s hope for one or two more confirmations.

On the ‘no hope whatsoever’ front, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania are still out, gosh darn them, as is Macedonia. It was evidently decided that the risk of their artist’s voice breaking during JESC week was not one they were willing to take again. I say they should forget about that and just send a song that includes yodeling, and that way nobody will be able to tell. Besides, yodeling is an ancient Macedonian tradition, is it not? I swear I remember learning that at school.

 

Picking a winner

Decision time is imminent for Albania, Belarus and Georgia (who have already selected their artist – the group Shesanishnavi Otkheuli. All I know about them is that they are hard to type and even harder to pronounce) who will all pick entries in September. The national finals for Belgium and the host country – I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who that is – are set for October 6th, with all the songs (allegedly) available to listen to/trash online. From what I’ve heard so far I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to carry on and listen to them all, since there’s only so much squeaky bubblegum pop a girl can take. Sometimes you just want to hear something more original.

Speaking of which, since my last news roundup Ukraine have chosen something very strange original – at least by JESC standards. We all know there are two types of music dominating global charts at the moment: dance and dubstep. Russia have gone for dance with Lerika’s Junior entry, perhaps hoping that the Euphoria euphoria won’t have worn off by December and the voters will lap up another club anthem, even though Lerika won’t be crab-dancing during her performance (I’m guessing). But Ukraine…well, they weren’t satisfied with any old up-tempo fluff. Instead, they went for a slightly scary dubstep number called Nebo, to be performed by the teeny-weeny Anastasiya Petryk, the younger sister of Victoria Petryk (Ukraine 2008). I don’t want to say much about this entry, what with wanting to have something left for my proper reviews later, but I will say don’t get me wrong. It may sound like I hate this, but that’s not the case.

Anastasiya: big voice, even bigger hair

 

A very Malmö Eurovision

Moving on to the ESC now, I admit it. I was wrong. After Germany won in 2010 I was all for Berlin 2011, but in the end Düsseldorf won the bid. Two years later I went and made the same mistake re: 2013. The lesson here is ‘never bank on a capital’ and believe me, I’ve learnt it. Anyone up for Transylvania 2014? I can see the slogan now: ‘Vampires really ARE alive!’ 

Anyway, the host city may be old news, but I’m only just beginning to see it as part of the EBU’s evil/sensible plan to downsize Eurovision. Malmö is a city of just over 300 000 people – according to Wikipedia, so give or take a few hundred thousand – and the Malmö Arena can seat about 15 500, which is perfectly adequate until you compare it to the stats of this year’s contest in Baku. There the population is a smidge over 2 million, and the brand spanking new Crystal Hall seats 23 000.

I don’t honestly have a problem with curbing the contest – I mean, 15 500 is still a lot of people, and still requires plentiful toilet facilities – as long as countries are still being encouraged to debut or return to increase the show size in terms of competitors.

 

The numbers so far

Speaking of competitors, there are currently 25 lined up for next year’s contest: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. That means we can relax knowing there’ll be at least one semi final, even if all twenty or so still-TBC countries decide to boycott.

For Andorra it’s a definite no, but still on tentative ground at the moment are the Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Poland, Cyprus and Turkey. Turkey are apparently fed up with bloc voting, which I think is a bit rich coming from a country that often benefits from it. According to TRT’s head honcho, Sweden had won before this year’s delegations even bought their tickets to Baku, which means the contest wasn’t actually a contest, and I have to agree. I mean, it’s not like Loreen had a brilliant song and a groundbreaking stage show prepared or anything. And she did only win because she got a ton of points from such friendly neighbours as Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

Oh wait…

The proof’s not in the pudding. It’s in the points.

 

Because it’s never too early to talk Melodifestivalen

You’ve probably never heard of Vapenbröder, Clara Klingenström, Adam Sagström, Tezza Ericsson, Calle Nilsson, Therese Fredenwall, Elvira Fisk or Chris Michols, but today one of them will be announced as both the Svensktoppen Nästa (Swedish Chart’s Next) competition winner AND the first known contestant for Melodifestivalen 2013. They’re all competing in the radio contest, which began in 2008, with original songs that you can listen to here: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=3147&artikel=5226407. I was majorly excited to hear them until I remembered the golden ESC rule – only songs aired from September 1st are eligible, meaning whoever wins Nästa will have a different song for Melodifestivalen. Still, the current songs are worth a listen because they could be an indication of what will end up at Sweden’s epic national final. Based on them, my personal favourite is Therese, but ultimately, as long as nobody likely to bring clichéd soft-rock or depressing ballads to MF (i.e. Calle or Chris) wins I’ll be looking forward to what they’ll offer us come February.

 

That’s about all for today, folks. I hope you didn’t experience a news overload. I’d like to think if you did, you’d have stopped reading it a long time ago and wouldn’t be reading this, but one never knows.

I seem to have slipped back into my pompous ways. That’s a cue to leave if ever there was one.

 

COMING UP: another Time-Warp Tuesday and a rather random top 10.

 

A tale of two cities, and JESC in jeopardy – what’s making news in the world of Eurovision

I don’t do breaking news – there are way too many ESC sites out there that do it already, and I am both too unwilling and too lazy to compete with them. However I do occasionally do collective news, and that is what’s on the agenda today. Here’s an overview of the JESC12/ESC13 story so far.

 

Junior Eurovision twenty twelve – the stats

This year’s JESC will be the 10th edition, and is scheduled to take place on December the 1st in the Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam (there’s no sponsor for a children’s song contest quite like an alcoholic one). The Netherlands will be the first country to have hosted it twice, after the 2007 edition in Rotterdam. I hope they make the most of it, because they aren’t likely to be hosting big Eurovision any time soon…#harshbuttrue.

Similarly, Kim-Lian van der Meij will become the first person to co-compere the show twice. Let’s hope she can refrain from telling us that she’s so excited she could wet herself this time. Either that, or that she and Eric Saade get together. Apparently they both enjoy making mention of their full bladders on live television.

8 countries have confirmed participation so far – Armenia, Belarus, Belgium, Georgia, the Netherlands (I should hope so), Russia, Sweden and Ukraine. Italy, Moldova, San Marino, Serbia and Spain are still mulling it over. Unfortunately, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia have withdrawn, which means no superheroes, no clouds and no moondogs for Amsterdam (and possibly no Amsterdam either, but I’ll get to that in a minute).

2 songs have been selected, with Russia recruiting last year’s Moldovan entrant Lerika to sing Sensatsiya, which roughly translates as ‘I’m still pissed that I didn’t wipe the floor with everyone else in Yerevan so I’m back for revenge’. Sweden, upgrading to Lilla Melodifestivalen from last year’s non-event national final (a la Greece’s shopping centre showcase for Baku) will be sending a less familiar face in Lova Sönnerbo, and a humble ballad in Mitt Mod. I will be reviewing all the songs in full when the time comes, but for now I will say that Russia has the edge, and not just because Lerika is hell-bent on getting her hands on the trophy and will probably run over all of the competition with her scooter. Lova doesn’t stand a chance.

‘Hey you!! No looking anywhere except at me during my performance!’

Ukraine, who always bring it to JESC and ESC but have flailed over the last few years in the former, will pick their entry this Sunday from a selection of approximately a gazillion. I personally could not muster up the strength to listen to them all, so the winner will be news to me; but Annika (www.sternenstaub-esc.blogspot.com) did (impressive) and has also reviewed them (double impressive!) so head here to check out what’s on offer from the 2009 host country in 2012: http://www.sternenstaub-esc.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/jesc-2012-ukraine-2012-reviews.html.

 

What will be, will be…but will there be JESC?

I feel a little strange talking about Junior like it’s definitely going ahead, because the reality is that Yerevan may have hosted the last one, for a while or even for good. The reason for this is a general lack of interest that’s so far resulted in too few countries confirming participation. This is a real shame, especially because it is the 10th anniversary, and you’d think that would make it bigger than ever. But while big Eurovision continues to expand (I expect there’ll be about eighteen semi finals by the year 2283), Junior, it seems, is shrinking. Well, maybe not consistently, but certainly over the last couple of years. See for yourself:

Copenhagen 2003 – 16 entries

Lillehammer 2004 – 18

Hasselt 2005 – 16

Bucharest 2006 – 15

Rotterdam 2007 – 17                                                        

Limassol 2008 – 15

Kiev 2009 – 13

Minsk 2010 – 14

Yerevan 2011 – 13

Amsterdam 2012 – 8?

At this point, the number of confirmed countries is half the number that competed in the inaugural contest in Denmark, and positively paltry in comparison to the record number of 2004. Even worse is the fact that eight is not enough (no matter what that old TV sitcom said) to keep the traditional Eurovision point system of 12, 10 and 8 to 1 in use. Sure, the system could be altered to fit, but I get the feeling the organizers wouldn’t view the show as worth putting on at all if that had to be done. I think it’s up to at least three of Italy, Moldova, San Marino, Serbia – who last entered in 2010 – and Spain – who last entered in 2006 – to confirm in order for the show to go on. There really needs to be eleven participants, so come on! It can’t be that hard to find some precocious singing child to send to the Netherlands for a few days in December, can it? If you’re short on cash, drive them there yourself and make them a costume out of takeaway food containers. Just MAKE IT HAPPEN, so Lerika and Lova and whoever gets selected to represent Ukraine this weekend don’t have their fragile hopes and dreams destroyed. And so that I have an excuse to buy a truckload of sugary crap to consume at 3am whilst watching the contest on my laptop.

Moving on…

 

The who’s who of Eurovision 2013

This is more like it: 21 countries have already confirmed that they’ll be gracing Sweden with their presence next May, which means we’re guaranteed at least one semi final. They are Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Yes, Sweden will be there. What a relief! It’s also great to see Armenia back on the list after an understandable hiatus this year. I couldn’t help noticing how quickly they confirmed, which makes me think they want to remind Azerbaijan that they were the problem…but let’s not get too into that issue.

It’s also worth noting that many of the countries above had a bad time in Baku, results-wise, i.e. Austria, Belarus, Norway, France and the UK. Kudos to them for getting back on the horse, and better luck next year.

On the ‘possible’ front, it looks like Andorra won’t be making its first appearance since 2009, if the prime minister is to be believed – but since when could we believe the declarations of political figures? (That was a joke. Please don’t kill me.) Anyway, there is a chance that Liechtenstein will make a debut, so keep your eyes peeled for developments there. If only Poland and the Czech Republic would give it another go. Then we’d be on track to the biggest ESC of all time, which would make me feel a little better about the whole Junior debacle.

 

When and where?

The preliminary dates of the 58th ESC are May 14th, 16th and 18th, and that’s probably how things will stay. As for where – well, we’re going to Stockholm!

Or Malmö.

Yes, the battle is still raging between the two cities left standing, but apparently the decision is to be made within the next week. I suspect I know which one will be The One, but in the meantime, here’s a look at what each has to offer:

–  Stockholm hosted the contest the last time it was in Sweden, in 2000. If they nab it again, it’s goodbye Globen and hello Friends Arena. Formerly known as Swedbank Arena, this venue is currently under construction and will reopen in October with a measly 67 500-seat capacity for concerts to its new name.

I’m sure there’s a more glamorous angle of Friends than this…

–  When I say ‘measly’, I of course mean freaking massive. Even if that amount were slashed in half to accommodate the stage/green room/wind machine storage facility etc, it would still offer the largest ever amount of seating for an ESC. To give you some perspective, the largest offering to date was 25 000, shared between the Telenor Arena in Oslo, the Olympic Indoor Arena in Moscow, and the Belgrade Arena.

–  The Friends Arena has been pre-booked for the Melodifestivalen final in March, and is supposed to host the Svenska Cupen final a few days after Eurovision, but apparently that can be postponed to the end of May to make way for the contest. What a refreshing change to have Eurovision put before (yawn) a sporting event! I think it’s safe to say that Stockholm wants it bad.

–  More proof: in addition to renovating the Friends Arena, hotels, parking areas and only the largest shopping mall in the Nordic vicinity (swoon!) are being built nearby. Stockholm: can accommodate Eurovision much?

–  Malmö is humbler by comparison, but as they say, it’s quality, not quantity. The city has put forward Malmö Arena (I wonder why they called it that?) as their venue, which has a capacity of 15 500 for concerts. It may be smaller, but it works – the arena has played host to many a Melodifestivalen semi.

–  It’s also said to resemble Helsinki’s Hartwall Areena, the location of Eurovision 2007 which was a big success (and will always be my most-loved edition).

 

Whew! I don’t know about you, but I’m all newsed out, so I’ll end this post with something new, but not newsy. Does that make sense? Ahh, just geddon with it.

Basically, in a week or so I’m going to start posting a countdown of my top 50 Eurovision songs of all time. This is something I never thought I’d do because I figured it would be impossible – and believe me, it has not been easy. But I have finally completed my list, and I’m pretty excited to share it with you.

I thought it would be even more exciting if you guys did it with me, so if you’re interested, get listing! I’ll be going backwards from #50 all the way to #1, so with each installment, I’d love to see yours. This is a challenge I’m issuing to anyone reading this, but it’s ultimately a fun one, not a Hunger Games-type one where you may not make it out alive, so please join in. I can’t wait to see how diverse the rankings are. With 1000+ songs to pick from, they’re bound to be.

Until next time…

 

Jaz x