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JESC Month | Today’s the day! Ranking and predicting before Kyiv kicks off

Can anyone believe Amsterdam 2012 happened a whole year ago?

ME NEITHER! It cannot possibly be JESC time again already, because the last show was only, like, a few months ago, right?

Nope. The last year has gone so fast I don’t even think Barbara Popović could’ve kept up with it, and lo and behold…it IS time for Eurovision’s first-born to entertain us once again.

JESC turns eleven this year, and it’s a miracle it’s even happening. Thanks to the EBU, who are obviously very persuasive, or have zero qualms about bribing people with large amounts of money and/or chocolate, 12 artists from 12 countries are about to battle it out for that all-important trophy in the shape of Puzzle Man (and also for two others that look exactly the same). In just a few hours, I’ll be dragging myself out of bed to watch them in action, and you better be there with me. Not literally, of course, unless you happen to be in my ‘hood, in which case come over and bring all the sugary consumables you can carry.

I’m super excited for tonight’s show, particularly because it’s a hard one to predict, which means the voting sequence will be a nailbiter. Then again, I have enough trouble predicting…well, anything, so that makes things difficult. Still, I’m going to have a shot at guessing how things will go down tonight, just for you (‘you’ meaning ‘anyone who happens to stumble across this post’) and I’ll throw in some final pre-contest rankings and expectations as well.

The hours and minutes are ticking down, so let’s get cracking!

 

PS – RANDOM ALERT! Thought this does have a JESC link…I just wanted to mention that Sweden’s 2011 Junior representative, Erik Rapp, finished 3rd in Swedish Idol last night. I’ve checked out some of his performances from the season, and some of the final two contestants, and I have to say, he was robbed of a place in next week’s final! Robbed, I tell you! Still, it’s great for him to have gotten so far, and with Sweden appreciating their finalists so much, he’s still got a chance to carve out a decent career for himself, á la Robin Stjernberg. I still have hope that a former JESC artist will win one of these talent shows one day.

PPS – This just in (sort of)! Malta’s 2008 Junior representative, Daniel Testa, has been confirmed as a semi-finalist in the Maltese NF for Eurovision 2014! Me so excited. Already I want him in Copenhagen, even over Fabrizio Faniello and the million other competitors who have tried to represent Malta more times than they’ve had hot dinners.

ANYWAY…

 

From reviews to rankings 

A couple of days ago I rounded off my 2013 reviews. If you haven’t checked them out yet, THERE’S STILL TIME! HURRY! I scored the whole class of Kyiv based on our beloved ESC point system, but I decided to keep you in suspense (ha ha) regarding a full, twelve-country ranking, until right now.

  1. Ukraine
hqdefault

Sofia nearly swallows her microphone at the shock of being my #1

  1. Belarus
  2. Moldova
  3. Russia
  4. The Netherlands
  5. Sweden
  6. Armenia
  7. San Marino
  8. Georgia
  9. Macedonia
  10. Azerbaijan
  11. Malta

Keep in mind that the only song I really dislike is Malta’s. I know it’s a fan favourite and everyone thinks it’s going to win, blah blah blah, but I’m entitled to stand apart from the crowd every now and then. Stand apart from them, all lonesome, weakly waving a mini Moldovan flag, it would seem.

Everybody wants their favourites to do well, but since Moldova is a lost cause and I have a bad feeling about Belarus, I’m relying on the host country to stop me from sinking into a deep depression (especially if Malta wins – then the depression would be brought on both by things not going my way and the generally moany vibe of The Start). But realistically, how do I think they’ll do?

 

Making (terrible) predictions

Okay, it’s crunch time, a.k.a. prediction o’clock. Before I begin, here’s a disclaimer: not only am I a notoriously inaccurate predictor, but since I never watch any Eurovision-related rehearsals (I’m not getting up at 2am to see something I’ve seen before) all of my guesses are based on feedback from those on the ground in Kyiv, as well as my own warped opinions.

With that said, this is how I think the scoreboard will look at the end of the evening:

  1. The Netherlands – I type this knowing it doesn’t feel right, but that is how hard the predicting shebang has been this year. I certainly think it’s a possibility, though. The Netherlands have a catchy song, a concept (the whole twin thing…you may not have noticed) and by all accounts, an eye-catching stage show. They are also late in the draw and sandwiched between two much slower songs (Georgia and Malta. And that happened RANDOMLY, EBU) so there’s nothing stopping them from sticking out. If they don’t win, they’ll do very well.
Instead of rehearsing, Mylene and Rosanne argue about who gets to keep the trophy

Instead of rehearsing, Mylene and Rosanne argue about who gets to keep the trophy

  1. Malta – going against the masses, I just don’t believe this has the power to reel in the most votes. It feels like a song that could easily come second or third to me. Plus, the closest thing to a ballad that’s ever won JESC is Nebo, and though there’s a first time for everything, I don’t reckon tonight will be the first time a traditional ballad snatches up the trophy (the first-place trophy, anyway).
  2. Russia – plum draw, great song, not Katya Ryabova who is cursed to share her placing with someone else…Russia has the potential to outdo their 2012 result. Of course, the clichéd nature of the song could result in an epic fail, but I suspect that’s not a big enough issue to stand in their way.
  3. Armenia – this one’s got more gimmicks than a gimmick store (man, I wish those existed) and a song that actually has Georgia written all over it. Unless Monika’s vocal is truly woeful, I can’t imagine a bad finish for her.
Monika trying to outshine the smuggest chef I ever did see

Monika trying to outshine the smuggest chef I ever did see

  1. Georgia – I think we can all agree Give Me Your Smile ain’t Georgia’s best effort; but they’re still Georgia, and Georgia know how JESC is done. What the entry lacks in punch, The Smile Shop will no doubt make up for in vocal ability, fabulous costumes and a slick dance routine.  
  2. Azerbaijan – a week ago, I’d have put this lower, but I’ve heard comments from those lucky people in Ukraine for the contest (who I’m totally not jealous of, BTW) that Rustam has the goods to make us all forget about the Omar & Suada incident. I still don’t think his song is that strong, but it’s gaining momentum.
  3. Ukraine – I want this to do better, as I said, but there is a lot of competition, and I wonder if the song is a little too alternative in its construction to win the masses over. Sofia has a great voice (I’d listen to her over Gaia any day) and I hear her performance has been top-notch at rehearsals, so my fingers are still crossed.
  4. San Marino – again, I’d love SM to make the top 5 in their first final. But Michele has an early draw, and there are stronger songs afterwards, so I’m inclined to place him just above the end of the pack.
  5. Macedonia – this could end up looking ridiculous if they’re not careful. It’s another one that could do really well under the right circumstances. If my prediction comes true (cue uproarious laughter) it may dissuade FYROM from signing up for 2014, which sucks.
  6. Belarus – it’s taken a lot to rank one of my favourites this low, but like I said earlier, I’ve had a bad feeling about Ilya’s chances over the last few days. This isn’t because I’ve heard bad things (in fact, I’ve heard very little about him, and isn’t a lack of news supposed to be good news?) but just because of what my gut is telling me. Apart from telling me I’m a little hungry, it’s saying Poy So Mnoy might get lost in the crowd.
I bet Ilya wishes he'd gotten hair extensions so he too could whip his hair back and forth

I bet Ilya wishes he’d gotten hair extensions so he too could whip his hair back and forth

  1. Sweden – now here’s someone I’ve heard about. Specifically, I’ve heard about his vocal woes, which may have something to do with every JESC teen boy’s greatest fear: puberty. I had my doubts about this song’s chances even when it was possible Elias was going to deliver a vocal on par with Amaury Vassili. But now that it seems he’s destined to butcher his own composition (and first up too) I am sad to say that I think he’ll be somewhere at the bottom.
  2. Moldova – one thing that is usually easy to predict in Junior is which country will come last. I mean, who didn’t see it happening to Albania last year from a mile away? Now, I adore Rafael’s song, but I’m under no illusions that he’s going to succeed, unless there’s some miracle, being that I am the only person I know who would throw the ‘L’ word at it.

Well, I’ve justified my choices, and there’s no going back now! What I will do now is make some smaller predictions about the performances (and maybe have another stab at picking the winner).

Best staging – visually, I’m expecting near-perfection from Armenia, Georgia and the Netherlands.

Best vocals – Sweden! Just kidding (poor Elias). Ukraine should be flawless, Moldova too if he can control himself. Georgia is always on point, and yes, I’ll admit that Malta will shine vocally. Shine and/or burst the eardrums of everybody sitting in the first few rows.

Best costumes – Armenia, Georgia and the Netherlands. Armenia’s will be elaborate and confectionary-themed, Georgia’s will be retro, and the Netherlands will most likely come to the party as cheerleaders.

The whole package – I’m talking vocals, costumes, charisma, dance moves, props AND lighting here. Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Georgia and Russia will be contenders for Package Deal of the Year.

Positive surprise – the country that will give a great performance that we’re not expecting? San Marino. And, if Elias’ voice has miraculously broken by tonight, maybe even Sweden.

Negative surprise – the country that won’t pull off as good a performance as we think? Armenia could be the one. Belarus too (noooooooo!) could crash and burn if Ilya can’t nail those high notes and choreography.

The winner…again – because I hate narrowing it down to one, I’m going to widen the scope. The Netherlands are definitely on my radar, but I also think we could see Armenia, Georgia, Malta or Russia take out the comp. That’s five potential winners, and now I’ve rattled them off you can expect to see Azerbaijan, Macedonia or any of the others that I didn’t mention win.

 

That’s about all I have to say before the show starts. There are so many reasons to look forward to it: the awesome stage; Zlata; the postcards; Emmelie, Anastasiya and Ruslana; the on-stage spokespersons; the exciting voting, and probably other stuff I’m forgetting. Well, there is also the knowledge that tonight’s winner will (allegedly) get the chance to appear at Eurovision 2014. Unlike myself. #pityparty

Odds are there’s at least one reason you should tune in, so do it, and enjoy it! I’ll be tweeting my pajama-clad butt off during the show @EurovisionByJaz, so maybe I’ll see you there.

Good luck to all of the kids, and may the best song win (so long as it’s not from Malta)! I’ll see you in a few days’ time for the annual JESC wrap-up.

 

Make your last-minute predictions, people! Who’s going to win Junior Eurovision 2013?

 

JESC Month | Reviewing the Class of Kyiv (Moldova-Ukraine)

Bonjour, and welcome to the second half of my JESC 2013 reviews! Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, San Marino, Sweden and hosts Ukraine have been judged like there’s no tomorrow by moi, and the verdicts are here for you to be outraged by. Trust me, you’re going to be fearing for my sanity by the time you’ve read Ukraine. As it turns out, there are two douze pointers in this group, and one is controversial. But what is Eurovision without controversy?

Let’s agree to disagree on these six songs…

 

MOLDOVA

Cum Ša Fim by Rafael Bobeica

MoldovaSounds like: It should accompany Zlata Ognevich’s Gravity on the Lion King soundtrack

The good: I feel like there’s always one song in every Eurovision event that I love, and everyone else hates (which is probably not the case…said songs must have at least one other fan on the planet). This JESC year, that song comes from Moldova. I didn’t fall instantly in love with Cum Ša Fim – hearing it for the first time via the grainy video from the national final, where bad acoustics reigned supreme and the judges looked bored out of their minds, was bound to have a negative effect. But despite the poor start á la Roberto Bellarosa’s Love Kills, I heard potential, and when I gave the studio version a spin, that’s when I fell in love. I find it so majestic and uplifting (even if the Romanian/English mish-mash makes no sense), particularly when the choir joins in with the second chorus. It has a tribal kind of vibe that really does remind me of Gravity. I love the music, the melody, the structure, and even Rafael’s glass-shattering vocal – and if I’m alone in that, then I’ll just have to cheer extra enthusiastically for him to compensate.

Everything else: I do understand why this isn’t a popular choice (the screeching! The dodgy English bits! Et cetera!). It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of entry, and with the consensus leaning towards ‘hate’, I’m thinking Moldova’s in for a poor showing, point-wise. Still, if Rafael can keep that voice under control and thrive in the grander setting of the contest, which is more suited to a grand song like this, then there’s hope for a little more. At the very least, then we can say he pulled a Bellarosa – a.k.a. improved dramatically from NF to Eurovision and ended up 12th!

The verdict: Everyone else’s trash is my treasure. DOUZE POINTS!

JESC chances: I am predicting this as the one to come last. Hashtag sadface.

 

THE NETHERLANDS

Double Me by Mylène & Rosanne

NetherlandsSounds like: the theme of a cartoon chronicling the lives of Jedward

The good: I thought I knew how I felt about this before re-listening for this review. It had been a while, and the last time I’d heard it, it was beginning to annoy me. But I guess it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, because I’m not annoyed anymore. This song takes Mylène & Rosanne’s twin situation and runs with it, and the result is some serious fun. Yes, it is repetitive, but it’s the happiest darn thing on offer this year and I can’t help smiling as the girls shout ‘SPIEGELBEELD!’ at me for the billionth time. Every part of the song is infectious, and the chorus sticks like super glue. I even have a guilty fondness for the cheesy English parts – “Mirror, mirror, in the frame, we are just the same!” Half of me hopes the twins will stick with the cheerleader theme for JESC, because it was eye-catching with the pom-poms and lockers and stuff; the other half hopes for something new, but just as entertaining. I’m rarely not entertained by the Netherlands when it comes to Junior (the opposite applies for the ESC, unfortunately).

Everything else: Like Jedward, it’s uncertain whether this duo can actually sing, or if they’re just shouting into their mikes and the backing singers are making it listenable. I’m not sure if anyone will care that much, but 90% of the time, the winner/s of Junior Eurovision have been excellent vocalists, so to all of y’all who want the Netherlands to win, beware.

The verdict: Until I get annoyed again, 10 points.

JESC chances: I’ll be surprised if a top 5 result passes them by.

 

RUSSIA

Mechtay by Dayana Kirillova

RussiaSounds like: JESC in a neat, two-minute-something package

The good: Yeah, we’ve heard this type of song in mini-vision before. On multiple occasions, in fact. I don’t want to be sucked in so easily to something so clichéd, but I’m afraid that I am loving this entry. It goes back in time from Lerika’s very contemporary predecessor, and you know where it’s going from start to finish, but it’s so catchy I find myself ignoring both of those facts. In Monday’s running order draw, Dayana drew herself the desired performance slot of 12th (hopefully she’s not a nervous waiter) and I think Mechtay will go off as a show-closer. I can see it now – she strikes her final pose amidst fountains of pyrotechnics and various oversized props, and the crowd goes wild. Russia does pretty well in the contest, and maybe, just maybe, Dayana could win it for them for the first time.

Everything else: Then again…this might be all too ‘been there, heard that’ to be winner. Topping the scoreboard usually requires something more unique. As Russia isn’t my absolute favourite this year, I don’t mind either way. Success may also depend on Dayana’s ability to rise to what is a song that starts off in a fairly high-key, and gets higher from there. We know she can do it, but if she over-rehearses, the vocal that counts may resemble the sound of a cat being bathed against its will. Nobody wants to listen to that.

The verdict: No points for originality, but 10 for the rest.

JESC chances: Unless I’m mistaken (which is highly likely), 1st-4th.

 

SAN MARINO

O-o-O Sole Intorno A Me by Michele Perniola

San MarinoSounds like: the theme song of an Italian sitcom about bumbling police officers. Why do so many JESC entries sound like they belong on TV shows?

The good: First of all, San Marino in Junior Eurovision? *fist pump* I was surprised when they were announced as country number twelve (I had been expecting a return from Lithuania or Latvia) but I love debuts, and it’s going to be great to hear Italian on the JESC stage again. Ladies-man-in-the-making Michele is bringing his brand of sunny pop-rock to Kyiv, and despite its flaws, it’s a pretty strong starting point. I like how it begins all humble with the softer vocal, before the drums kick in and Michele ramps up the o-o-o’s. Those three syllables are very catchy, adding to a chorus that’s already sing-along paradise. The verses are quite nice too, and the Italian throughout (with no deviation into English just for the sake of it) makes the whole thing more sophisticated. All in all, Sole Intorno is a pleasant listen, and I think it strikes a good balance between being young and being mature.

Everything else: My main problem here is that the song takes so long to get going and offer us anything more than the o’s, that there isn’t enough time left at the end for it to build into something. It almost seems to be over before it’s begun. That doesn’t bother me a huge amount, but I think the song could have used that humbleàhigh energy structure in a more time-effective way, as we’ve heard before with entries like Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav and Zo Verliefd. Also, it is far from current in sound – but I suspect that won’t affect it either way, because it isn’t being belted out by a middle-aged guy with a mullet. Kids can get away with dated stuff.

The verdict: It’s not amazing, but it’s a little irresistible. 8 points.

JESC chances: I’m uncertain, but I’d love San Marino to succeed. 5th-9th.

 

SWEDEN

Det Är Dit Vi Ska by Elias Elffors Elfström

SwedenSounds like: Tell The World I’m Here by Ulrik Munther

The good: Alexander Rybak, for some unknown reason, has decided to ditch the violin and disguise himself (not very well) as a 13-year-old boy to represent Sweden in JESC. He may as well have, anyway. Elias here bears an uncanny resemblance to Eurovision’s champion of champions, and he’s given me another reason to love his country in the contest (as if I needed one…SVERIGE FTW!). Det Är Dit Vi Ska is grown-up in the tradition of Swedish JESC songs, and has a similar kind of depth behind it as Lova’s song did last year. Also like Mitt Mod, this song isn’t an instant hit, but rather a slow burner, and took me a couple of listens to appreciate. It’s opening the show on Saturday, and I think it’ll make an excellent opener in its own way. Maybe it won’t get the audience hyped up like the Netherlands or Macedonia would do, but it will work. For me, this isn’t Sweden’s absolute best work, but it’s strong, and the music and melody are beautiful.

Everything else: There’s an elephant in the room, and it can’t sing for peanuts. Elias is a weak vocalist based on his Lilla Melodifestivalen outing, and this is not a song that requires a ‘just good enough’ vocal to be pulled off. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he can emulate Ryan Dolan by pleasantly surprising us all. Or at least emulate Jedward by recruiting some backing singers willing to do most of the heavy lifting.

The verdict: Solid, anthemic and meaningful. 10 points.

JESC chances: I can’t imagine a stellar result, or a dreadful one. 6th-10th.

 

UKRAINE

We Are One by Sofia Tarasova                        

UkraineSounds like: Ukraine aren’t trying too hard not to win again!

The good: Because the cost of hosting JESC doesn’t necessarily fall on the winning country (though it has in recent years) you don’t often see the hosts running on 50% in order to spare themselves another expense. IMO, Ukraine wouldn’t mind terribly topping the scoreboard again with this dance track, which manages to stand out from the sea of songs in the same genre thanks to a few interesting features. I’ve been a big fan of it from the beginning. I think the production level is high, and that it’s super catchy and on-trend. Strangely enough for a Ukrainian artist (not) Sofia is a child singing prodigy, and the song shows off her voice even without the a cappella break. I’m expecting big things from the staging – lights, sparks, dry ice, and a Gaitana-brand flower crown to name a few. Still, I think Sofia could rock this without all of those embellishments.

Everything else: What can I say? I don’t really see any negatives here. I’m not saying Ukraine will win again (in fact, it’s unlikely) but personally, I think they’ve made an excellent choice. I hope it gets a home ground cheer worth discussing the next day. What I don’t want to happen is for the crowd to boo every time a country gives less than five points to Ukraine, which is what went down in Amsterdam with the Netherlands. Talk about poor sports!

The verdict: Slick, catchy and contemporary. DOUZE POINTS!

JESC chances: It could do really well. 3rd-6th.

 

Twelve reviews down, none to go! I’m not going to do a full ranking just yet, but here’s the standings of the above six. This was a much stronger group, and there’s not a whole lot between them.

  1. Moldova
  2. Ukraine
  3. Russia
  4. Sweden
  5. Netherlands
  6. San Marino

I’ll be back on Saturday with some last-minute hopes, expectations and predictions for JESC 2013, and in the meantime, I’ll be reading about the rehearsals whilst going out of my way to avoid seeing them. Prepare your predictions and get ready to compare notes, people!

 

What do you think of Moldova, Ukraine, and everything in-between? How would you rank them?