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JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands + Poland

Hello again, and welcome to another episode of me putting the Eurovision 2017 entries I adore up on a pedestal, and tearing the ones I hate to shreds. Fun times (unless you love the songs I can’t stand)!

Another six songs are up for some serious judging today, via me and – once again – my mum. Being the crazy lady that she is (it’s hereditary), she has voluntarily come back to have her say on The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland. So are you ready, Martina, Koit & Laura, Levina, Fusedmarc, O’G3NE and Kasia? Too bad if you’re not, because it’s time for you to be reviewed in 3, 2, 1….now.

 

 

My thoughts I’d never complain about a contest that has a lot of musical variety – after all, forty-plus ballads/dance tracks/Hard Rock Hallelujah rip-offs wouldn’t be fun to watch or listen to (or  be much fun for the producers trying to create an entertaining running order). So in terms of that, a nice little jazzy number from the Czech Republic helps with the whole ‘celebrating diversity’ motto of the 2017 comp. But that doesn’t stop My Turn from being the most boring song in the line-up by a mile. I just don’t think it has a lot to offer – the melody isn’t very catchy or exciting, there’s nothing about it that stands out and makes it memorable (I’m actually struggling to recall how the verses go right now) and I’m not a massive fan of Martina’s voice either – though I expect she’ll sound pretty much studio-perfect on the Kyiv stage. Speaking of the stage…not even an Azerbaijan 2013 level of staging genius would pimp out this entry enough to push it into the qualification zone, IMO. Dead last in the semi isn’t a dead cert, but it’s hard to imagine the juries or televoters lavishing attention on My Turn when there’s the likes of Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois (for the former) and I Can’t Go On and City Lights (for the latter) surrounding it. Then again, I didn’t think the Czech Republic would qualify last year, so I’ll prepare to stand corrected just in case. 4 points.

My mum says… This is a bit naff. It’s got a nice chorus and seems simple to sing along to, but I get the feeling two or three run-throughs would be enough for me to get bored of hearing it! Martina has an unusual voice – I wasn’t sure if it was a female or male voice at first, and I guess that makes things interesting. But the bottom line is that I won’t be too bothered if don’t hear her song again anytime soon. 4 points.

The Czech Republic’s score 4.00

 

 

My thoughts I’ll get right to the point on this one: if Koit and Laura’s duet accurately depicts what being lost in Verona is like, then drop me off there without access to Google Maps! I LOVE this song, just as much as Koit’s 1998 entry Mere Lapsed and a million times more than the weak-as-water Let’s Get Loud by Laura’s Suntribe in 2005. Verona seems to borrow sounds from three or four different decades – mostly the 1990s and the 2000s – which doesn’t leave it feeling super fresh, but the infectiousness of all of its elements, the instant hook and the fact that it wasn’t written in the traditional A-B-A-B-C-B song structure (the song is as lost as Koit and Laura, but in a good way that keeps you wondering where it’ll end up) wins me over anyway. It’s a little dated, but in a way that works – more nostalgic than stale. The singers themselves sound great together and when they’re doing their solo duties, but their chemistry leaves a bit to be desired. It might have been the Eesti Laul staging that was a little off, but I hope there’s not a Chanée and N’evergreen situation happening behind the scenes…or a reverse scenario in which Koit and Laura are great mates IRL, but can’t channel the necessary emotions to give an authentic, appropriately-tortured performance. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, because we haven’t (correct me if I’m wrong) seen a live version of Verona since it won the NF. It’s done well in the OGAE poll so far which makes me happy, but that’s not always a reliable indication of what will succeed in the actual show. Still, I think Estonia – after a shocking trip to Stockholm that saw Jüri Pootsmann finish last in the first semi – has the power to propel themselves into the final, and onto that sought-after left side of the scoreboard with this pairing. 10 points.

My mum says… Once I stopped wondering why ‘two silly boats in the sea’ had been considered a wise lyrical choice by Verona’s writers (after Jaz informed me that the lyric is ‘two SAILING boats’, which I must admit makes more sense) I started to enjoy Estonia’s entry. I wouldn’t say it’s fantastic, but I like the sound, the beat, and the way Koit and Laura’s voices complement each other. It’s definitely more than musical wallpaper, so I think it should do well in competition. 6 points.

Estonia’s score 8.00

 

 

My thoughts Let’s do the math: in the past two years, Germany has sent two absolute gems to Eurovision, only to f%*k up the staging of both (to different degrees) and fall utterly flat in the final. If that’s the way the universe is working, then by rights Levina’s Perfect Life should be staged flawlessly and be super-successful on the scoreboard…even though it’s a bit of a snoozefest. Of course, Deutschland could just as easily be heading for their third wooden spoon on the trot (undeserved in each case) which would mainly upset me because Levina seems like an awesome person whose (perfect) life should be filled with sunshine and rainbows and puppies. Plus, the girl can sing. It’s just too bad that the song she ended up winning Unser Song with is a non-event. It starts out as a Titanium homage – which teases you with the prospect of it turning into a proper dance banger – only to veer off into plod-along territory and stay there. It’s almost like Perfect Life doesn’t know what type of song it wants to be, so it’s ended up as a compromise between a ballad and a club track that’s too down-tempo to compete with other in-betweeners like Sweden and Macedonia. I can’t realistically see anyone picking up their phone and taking the time to vote for it, and I also don’t think it’s going to stand out as something spectacular that the juries would freak out about. That doesn’t bode well for Germany. They really need to find their groove again, or have a Belgium-style turnaround. Try it in 2018, okay? 6 points.

My mum says… This is more my style. I was mouthing the words of the chorus by the end, and when that happens without me even realising, I know I’ve found a favourite – or at least a song I wouldn’t change stations on if it came on the radio. Perfect Life is definitely radio-friendly. I like Levina’s voice and the lyrics, plus the fact that she’s obviously happy with her lot. I think many of  us could learn some lessons from her…or at least from whoever came up with the song’s concept. 7 points.

Germany’s score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts I think we know which country Georgia passed the bonkers baton on to after last year! Funnily enough, I’d probably be saying the same thing if Get Frighten had won in Lithuania. What we’ve got instead is less novelty but way more untamed, and it’s nothing like the Game of Thrones-inspired military march song I thought Fusedmarc would present me with, back before I heard Rain of Revolution for the first time (it just goes to show that you can’t judge a song by its title). I’m not even sure how to categorise this entry, which is almost a positive attribute when you consider how ‘different’ that makes it. Part electropop, part funk with a rocky edge, it’s not as offensive to me as it seems to be to most other Eurofans – I really like the beat and melody of everything leading up to the choruses, and the chorus itself has a pretty high sing-along factor. I also dug the staging of the song at Eurovizijos, and if they’ve decided to keep those visual effects for Eurovision, they’re sure to look epic on that LED-laden stage. But vocalist Viktorija lets a little too loose with her big notes, and that equals a messy listen (those screechy ‘YEAH YEAH’ bits being the main culprit). And it has to be said – by me, apparently – that she gives off some crazy vibes (in a psychotic, escaped mental patient sort of way, which ain’t ideal). The overall package is something that, once unwrapped, I wouldn’t try to return for store credit…but I can understand why other people would. So I’m safely predicting Rain of Revolution to go absolutely nowhere in its semi, which is a shame after Donny ‘Modern ESC Legend’ Montell did so well for Lithuania in 2016. 5 points.

My mum says… Lithuania’s taking us all back to the 80s whether we like it or not, by the (literal) sound of it. I’m not sure I do like it. Rain of Revolution is a song that seemed like it was going to become something better than what it began as, but it never did. I’ll give a few ticks of approval for the nostalgic feel and the energy of the beat, but that’s it. 5 points.

Lithuania’s score 5.00

 

 

My thoughts O-M-G3NE, I was excited when these ladies were announced as the Dutch reps for the year (as they’re JESC alums, I followed their Voice journey and have watched their audition for the show about 500 times). They’d been rumored before and their selection was bound to happen sooner or later, but I was happy to have it sooner. That, of course, was prior to Lights and Shadows being chosen and then released. So did I change my mind when it came out? Well, no…although I do think the trio have been saddled with a song that’s far too focused on being a vehicle for their voices rather than a current, competitive contest song. There’s a lot of emotion attached to O’G3NE’s entry because a) it was co-written by their father, and b) it was co-written by their father about their seriously ill mother. That should allow them to really feel what they’re singing rather than just parrot the lyrics pitch-perfectly, which they can do without trying anyway – their harmonies are incredible. However, heartstring-tugging aside, the song is a throwback with Wilson Phillips comparisons that won’t stop cropping up. IMO that’s not totally terrible, since I get a kick out of the rousing 90s feel of it. And even though it’s a very wordy song, I find it pretty easy to sing along to, and very catchy. It definitely stands out, and last but not least, we can bet on the performance being flawless, with the vocals being the shining beacon of jury bait. I just don’t know if it’s going to be a big success, a flop, or finish somewhere in between the two. I wanted O’G3NE to come strutting in to the contest with a surefire hit – i.e. a killer pop song circa 2017 (not 1997) that highlighted their vocal abilities without sacrificing musical fabulousness. I can’t say they’ve done that (DAMNIT!), but there’s a lot I do like about Lights and Shadows. And I’m still excited to have this girl band back in the Eurovision family. 7 points.

My mum says… Sigh. I could happily listen to these girls harmonising all day long. When they’re harmonising to Lights and Shadows, I instantly get the Wilson Phillips feelings that I’ve been told loads of others have too. There’s also a bit of B*Witched in here, making the song/singer combination very 90s indeed. That girl group style is one I usually enjoy, and this is no exception. Though I’d be surprised to hear something like it on the radio, I’d willingly play it again for my own listening pleasure. 10 points.

The Netherlands’ score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts Poland has been pretty hit-and-miss with me since they came back from their Eurovision vacation in 2014 (with a bang). There actually seems to be a pattern forming with my attitude towards their entries: My Słowianie, yes; In The Name of Love, not so much; Color of Your Life, yes. Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, let me cut to the chase: I’m not a huge fan of Flashlight. I had a favourite in the Polish NF that I thought had a better chance of winning (Isabell’s Swedish-written, Kygo-esque Voiceless, FYI) so Kasia took me by surprise when she won instead, with what’s a perfectly okay, gothic and melodramatic ballad. It’s just not the sort of ballad that rubs me up the right way. I feel like it would have fit in better at Kyiv in 2005, though it also reminds me of Lithuania’s Nomads in the Night which popped up three years later in Belgrade. I wish it reminded me more of Poland’s entry that year from Isis Gee, which IS the sort of ballad I prefer. Flashlight has a reasonable chorus – I wouldn’t call it catchy, however it does have some staying power – but I honestly can’t remember how any other part of it goes, and I’ve listened to it just as often as I’ve listened to the likes of Cyprus and Montenegro – two far more instant songs. It’s not memorable or modern enough for me, and I suspect for the contest in 2017 either. I wouldn’t give it zero chance of qualifying, because it might well go through…but if so, I expect it will die in the final. On the plus side, I’m guaranteed to love whatever Poland sends to Milan the as-yet-unidentified host city of Eurovision 2018. 5 points.

My mum says… It’s funny how something so dramatic can fall so flat! This didn’t do anything much for me, and I’m having trouble thinking of the melody too. It sounds like it’s trying to be something spectacular, but it never hits the heights to make that happen. Kasia’s voice is another great one that I’d say deserves a better song to show it off. 5 points.

Poland’s score 5.00

 

 

Aaaaand we’re done for the day! The ranking for this round of reviews looks like this:

  1. The Netherlands (8.5)
  2. Estonia (8.00)
  3. Germany (6.5)
  4. Poland (5.00)
  5. Lithuania (5.00)
  6. Czech Republic (4.00)

Forget two heads being better than one – three is obviously better than two, if O’G3NE’s win over Koit and Laura is any indication (though that was mainly my mum’s influence). You’ll have to hang around until all 42/43 (will I review Russia? I’m not sure at this point) songs have been crossed off the to-do list to find out which country will top our full ranking…and which one will bring up the rear. After that, Eurovision itself will decide whether terrible taste runs in my family or not.

Next time on Jaz Judges Eurovision 2017, I’m rolling out the red carpet for Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta and Switzerland. Drop by if you don’t want me to dance alone! And before that, as always, leave your thoughts + feelings on today’s reviews in the comments. Do you think the Netherlands will do the best out of this bunch in Kyiv, or does OGAE poll darling Estonia have the edge? Perhaps we’ll find ourselves in Prague next year and you’ll be saying ‘I told you so’. Let us know below!

 

 

 

 

 

EBJ turns FIVE!! | My top 10 JESC entries of Era EBJ

Hello there. Welcome back to the most popular blog in the world that features ‘Eurovision’, ‘by’ and the name ‘Jaz’ in the title, and to today’s lucky last fifth birthday post. I am she who goes by Jaz, and I will be your captain on this flight through JESC past.

Now, if your reaction to the mere sight of a Junior Eurovision-related post was something like this…

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…I’m sorry, but I totally warned you at the end of my previous post that this was coming. For those of you who are Team JESC as well as ESC (high fives all round) it’s probably coming at a time when you’re pretty pumped for the 2014 edition. The show will be held in Malta in approximately two months, fourteen days and nine hours, not that I’m keeping track. Amazingly, it will be the biggest one we’ve experienced in a long time, with the likes of Serbia and Bulgaria returning, plus Italy (!), Montenegro (!!) and Slovenia (INFINITE EXCLAMATION MARKS!) making their respective debuts. Remember just a couple of years ago when JESC was on the brink of being cancelled? Not any more, folks. So, partly to wind up my overly-long blog birthday celebrations, and partly to kick off the warm-up to Junior season, I present to you my top 10 entries since EBJ began – which unlike in the case of adult Eurovision, includes the 2009 contest.

If you want to check out my top 10 of all time, you can do that here. If you’d rather just read on, I’ll stop rambling and let you get on with it.

 

#10 | Vumgerit marmeladebs, gemriel shokoladebs, vtsekvavt ertad candy party-ze…

Candy Music by CANDY (Georgia 2011)

You may (but probably won’t) recall that I seriously disliked this song the first time I heard it. It was my least favourite of Year Yerevan right up until the Candy girls ditched the gold lamé and afro wigs for those adorable pink and white confections, and had their mini Christina Aguilera warble her way into my heart. I mean, I still wasn’t thrilled when Georgia won that night, but looking back I think it was the right decision. Candy Music is freaking catchy, and encapsulates the effort and individuality we’ve come to expect from this country in JESC.

 

#9 | Du vet väl att jag faller, när du går förbi, när du tar min hand…

Faller by Erik Rapp (Sweden 2011)

Whenever I’m reminded that Erik didn’t win Swedish Idol last year (*insert the Swedish word for ‘travesty’ here*) I find that taking a bajillionth-or-so listen to his kick-ass Junior track makes me feel slightly less outraged. You guys know I have Sweden’s flag permanently glued to my hand every ESC/JESC season, so a little bias is creeping in here (and will do to all the Swedish songs I’m yet to mention) but Faller’s maturity, melody and slick production speaks for itself, and I genuinely love the sound of its voice.

 

#8 | För nu idag, nu känner jag, nu känner jag att har mitt mod…

Mitt Mod by Lova Sönnerbo (Sweden 2012)

Oh hai there, Swedish song number two. This one from Lova was an understated, heartfelt ballad with lyrics that I can really connect with. I’m not sure what that says about me considering I’m ten years older than Lova, but whatever. It’s just pretty, okay? Plus, it showed us that Sweden can pull off something pared-back with as much success as something OTT (perhaps involving exploding glass).

 

#7 | Dar, cât nu e prea târziu, tu întreab-o, cum să fiu…

Cum Să Fim by Rafael (Moldova 2013)

I present to you now a prime example of a ‘love it or hate it’ entry. Rafael’s ear-piercing vocals had many fans running for their nearest earplug stockist, and I understand that. However, I fell in love with this song instantly, and no amount of pre-pubescent screeching or questionable English lyrics were going to change that. It has the same majestic, Lion King-esque vibe that had me hooked on the likes of Zlata’s Gravity from the beginning. So for future reference, if you want to write a song that will win me over, you know how to go about it.

 

#6 | Vsia zemlia, moi zori, moia simian…

We Are One by Sofia Tarasova (Ukraine 2013)

Ukraine came reasonably close to doing the double with this entry, which, based on style and performance, could stand up in the adult contest. We Are One is a stellar combo of dance and dubstep (with a smattering of ethnicity) that is repetitive enough to be infectious, but not so much – with the language and music variations – that it irritates. Of course, Sofia’s ability to sing the s%!t out of it makes the whole thing that much more appealing, as did those awesome laser light effects. BRB…installing a set in my bedroom to spice up the décor.

 

#5 | Nebo vidkryi nam ochi, syl nadai ity, ya…

Nebo by Anastasia Petryk (Ukraine 2012)

Ukraine couldn’t have attempted a back-to-back win without Anastasia winning for them in the first place (duh). She gave the fairly successful JESC competitor their first victory in the comp, performing her dubstep number with an intensity beyond her years (and giving us all nightmares in which deceptively adorable little girls with long blonde hair strangle us to death). She topped the scoreboard easily, which I didn’t see coming at the time, but which made me go YAAAAAAAAASSSSS because I loved (and still love, obviously) Nebo.

 

#4 | När vi går tillsammans framåt, för det är dit vi ska…

Det Är Dit Vi Ska by Eliias (Sweden 2013)

Opening last year’s show in Kiev was Eliias, whose top-notch track was unfortunately blighted by the Curse of Puberty (also suffered by Macedonia’s Dorijan in 2011). Untimely voice breakages aside, it made an excellent starter. It’s got competency and catchiness, and strikes the perfect balance between mature and youthful that always has me supporting Sweden in Junior. Bravo, DADVS (because ain’t nobody got time to type that title out more than once).

 

#3 | Ik kijk heel diep in zijn ogen, en zie duizend regenbogen…

Zo Verliefd (Yodelo) by Laura (Belgium 2009)

Once upon a time, this was my ALL-TIME FAVOURITE JESC ENTRY WOOHOO. Although Laura has fallen a little in my estimations over the years, I still find her yodel-fest irresistible. It’s the kind of song that can drag you out of even the most serious funk faster than anything else, according to my recent and extremely unscientific studies. So if you’re feeling a little yode-low, take my advice and pipe this down your ear canals, stat.

 

#2 | Inch anem, chgitem, vor na, indz barev ta ev imana…

Mama by Vladimir Arzumanyan (Armenia 2010)

Borrowing Kalomoira’s giant storybook paid off for the Armenian delegation in Minsk. Vlad snatched the trophy from the Russian duo’s overly-cheery jazz hands thanks to that prop. Oh, and his awesome song! Mama is like a fine wine, except rather than getting better with age, it stays as epic as it always was (my apologies for using alcohol to describe a song written by a 12-year-old). This is ethno-pop at its finest, people, and anyone who disagrees…well, is perfectly within their rights to do so. But the statuette that I assume takes pride of place on Vlad’s awards shelf suggests otherwise.

 

And now, the best entry to have graced JESC in my blogging life…

 

#1 | Är det någonting alla kan få, om jag ramlar tar du emot mig då…

Du by Mimmi Sandén (Sweden 2009)

Yeah, yeah, it’s another Swedish one. Get over it! You would have seen this coming anyway if you read my all-time top 10 list. All three Sandén sisters have been uh-mayzing on their Junior outings, but Mimmi is the only one eligible to make this list and despite my love for Molly’s Det Finaste, she usually comes out on top in any case. Du, again, is a song that could hold its own in adult Eurovision; and yet, the electro/r & b sound contrasted nicely with the younger-sounding entries from Russia and the Netherlands, for example. To sum up, Du = perfection in a sequined miniskirt.

 

EBJ extras: Allt Jag Vill Ha by Josefine Ridell (Sweden 2010); Supergeroy by Ivan Ivanov (Bulgaria 2011); Teenager by Rachel (Netherlands 2011); Kak Romeo I Dzhulyetta by Katya Ryabova (Russia 2011); Abracadabra by Fabian (Belgium 2012); Poy So Mnoy by Ilya Volkov (Belarus 2013).

 

That’s all for today, ladies and gents of the Junior persuasion. I hope you got some enjoyment out of this trip down memory lane (or flight, or whatever mode of transport I used to describe what is really just a list of words in the intro) and that you’re ready to share your own preferences below. If you’re also on Team Junior, what have been your favourite JESC entries from 2009 until now?

 

COMING UP

x  Spotlight on…Austria

x  Song Battles: ESC vs JESC

x  PLAYLISTING | My picks to turn non-Eurovision fans into ESC obsessives

x  A sexy new look for this here blog to celebrate the upcoming 60th contest, and ‘cause I felt like giving it a makeover!

 

EBJ’s top 10…JESC songs of all time

Welcome to a 100% frill-free post*. One list, ten songs, absolutely no justifications. Let’s go!

* Technically, if you count my decision to count this top 10 down backwards, there is one measly flourish. Don’t pretend you don’t love suspense.
 

#10. Prati Mi SMS by Bobi Andonov (FYR Macedonia 2008)

#9. Povestea Mea by New Star Music (Romania 2006)

#8. Arabiens Drøm by Anne Gadegaard (Denmark 2003)

#7. Det Finaste Någon Kan Få by Molly Sandén (Sweden 2006)

#6. Du by Mimmi Sandén (Sweden 2009)

#5. Učimo Strane Jezike by Neustrašivi Učitelji Stranih Jezika (Serbia 2006)

#4. Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav by Dino Jelusić (Croatia 2003)

#3. Pigen Er Min by Cool Kids (Denmark 2004)

#2. My Song For the World by Tom Morley (United Kingdom 2003)

 

And my numero uno favourite is (drum roll…or perhaps an anticipatory yodel?):

#1. Zo Verliefd (Yodelo) by Laura (Belgium 2009)

 

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. What are your favourite Junior entries?

 

JESC challenge: #13, #14 and #15

Day 13: Your favourite entry of all time

Almost there:

My Song for the World by Tom Morley (United Kingdom 2003)

Pigen Er Min by Cool Kids (Denmark 2004)

Učimo Strane Jezike by Neustrašivi Učitelji Stranih Jezika (Serbia 2006)

Det Finaste Någon Kan Få by Molly Sandèn (Sweden 2006)

But my favourite is:

Zo Verliefd (Yodelo) by Laura (Belgium 2009)

No words are necessary. Still, if you require some, see #4 of the challenge. That says it all!

 

Day 14: Your least favourite entry of all time

Kapou Mperdeftika by Made in Greece (Greece 2007)

I tried to avoid picking The One – that is, The Worst One – in a previous part of the challenge, but I have now been foiled. So I’m picking the girls in the wedding dresses, and saying ‘I don’t’!

 

Day 15: National final song that should have made it to JESC

Daijere by 3T (Georgia 2011) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pBwhU4lbxw

Gzavnili by Shotiko Shermadini (Georgia 2011) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZL9nL795gQ

I’ve decided to take my least favourite country of JESC-to-come for this one. I love both of these songs, especially Daijere, and can only dream that one of them was chosen instead of Candy. Sure, sure, one sounds very similar to Katy Perry’s Firework and the other is basically a Georgian version of Born This Way by Lady Gaga – but I’d rather listen to a Katy/Gaga copy any day than a song rather derivative of Georgia’s disqualified ESC entry from 2009 (which may not have been disqualified for being terrible, but let’s face it, it was).