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THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 1 (Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + the Netherlands)

Hello there! I bet you thought this day would never come – the day when I’d finally get my Euroshiz together and do what every other ESC website has been doing for a month.

REVIEWS!!!

Okay, so you might have known I’d kick things off eventually if you’re familiar with my sloth-like tendencies (never visit this blog for breaking news, because it won’t be breaking by the time I talk about it). Now that there are four weeks to go until Lisbon’s first semi final, though, you’re about to be flooded with my verdicts on all 43 songs competing in Eurovision 2018. It’s a review tsunami, so strap on your lifejackets and take a big breath!

For Round 1, my high-tech random selection process – in which I copy-pasted a list of the countries, closed my eyes and pointed at it 43 times – resulted in Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands being the fortunate first group to be judged (you’ll have to wait a while for the lucky last). So if you want to see how I rate Sevak, Eleni, AWS, Christabelle and Waylon, you came to the right place.

Check out my reviews, vote for your favourite of today’s five, and share your thoughts in the comments. Pretty please?

 

 

My thoughts If you’d told me a few months ago that Tamar Kaprelian would not be representing Armenia at Eurovision this year, I would have had a very melodramatic meltdown. Poison (Ari Ari) is an ethnopop masterpiece after all (Disagree? CASH ME OUSSIDE, HOW BOW DAH?!?) and when I listened to the snippets of everything else Depi Evratesil had to offer, I didn’t hear anything as awesome. As Donny Montell knows, love is blind…but it also made me deaf to the potential of eventual winning song Qami. I honestly can’t even recall hearing a snippet of Sevak’s power ballad – the first all-Armenian language song sent to adult Eurovision – even though I definitely did. Yet all it took was one look at/listen to his national final performance for me to forget about Poison (almost – a banger is always a banger) and fall head-over-heels for Qami. ‘Wind’ as it translates to – and it’s a safe assumption that he’s talking about the force of nature, not the aftermath of a particularly spicy vindaloo – ticks every box on my mental checklist for epic ballads. It’s a slow burner that starts off subtly before exploding at the end of the second chorus (kind of like the 0-100k/ph dynamism of Aram Mp3’s Not Alone). It’s haunting and mysterious. The melody is stunning, and the repetition of the title gives us non-Armenian speakers something to latch on to. Plus, the contrast between the delicate first half and Sevak’s vocal and visual strength (there’s wearing your heart on your sleeve and then there’s wearing your abs on the outside of your shirt) makes the overall package vulnerable and powerful at the same time. I know a lot of fans aren’t as psyched about this one as I am, but every year there’s one song I adore that not many other people seem to (and it can either bomb, or kick butt in the actual contest like Origo last year). I do think there is room for Qami to do some butt-kicking in Lisbon, this not being a ballad-heavy year and Sevak having the kind of song that could be a mind-blower if it’s staged right. But that’s more of a hope and prayer than a prediction, so don’t hold me to it!

2017 VS 2018? 2018, hands down (sorry, Artsvik).

My score 12

 

 

My thoughts Speaking of ethnopop masterpieces…enter Cyprus! Strutting in wearing a catsuit and a pair of sky-high heels, of course. Last year I was pleasantly surprised by Hovig’s Gravity, which was constantly compared to Rag & Bone Man’s Human – familiarity doesn’t breed contempt with me, I guess. I’m mentioning the comparison because once again, Cyprus has delivered a great pop song that happens to fit neatly into the mould of one I’ve heard before – in this case, a bunch of songs from Helena Paparizou’s back catalogue. Is there anything wrong with that? Umm, NO. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud originality, and Lisbon is lucky to have it in the form of Israel, Ukraine etc. But even a Paparizou album filler would be welcome at Eurovision, and since we can’t have the queen herself performing one (though she did record a version), Eleni and her Fuego are the next best thing. I love this, and it was an instant love strengthened by the fact that ‘You got me pelican fly fly flying’ is legitimately one of the lyrics. That IS original! I feel like this song was engineered especially to appeal to ethnopop tragics like myself because, in that department, it does everything right. Simple, neatly-rhymed verses + a chorus made up of hooky melodies and yeahs (which can be exchanged for ohs) + a memorable riff played on a traditional instrument = this, and every other ethnopop entry ever. Basically, it’s Aphrodisiac (Greece 2012) with a 2018 magic wand waved over it. With the product placement from the music video out of the question for the live ESC performance, and Eleni sure to be looking as hot as the fire she’s singing about, my only concern is how she’ll sound. The lives of hers I’ve checked out have been fine – albeit feat. some heavy lifting from backing vocalists – but I have heard she isn’t the most reliable live performer. Still, if Jedward can sing seemingly in tune (with their backup vocalists’ mics turned way up) then anyone can. And if someone can point me in the direction of proof that Eleni is actually a top-notch singer and convince me that I shouldn’t be worried, they’ll get a gold star. I really want this to be Cyprus’ fourth finalist in a row, not their first DNQ since 2013.

2017 VS 2018? This is like choosing a favourite child. NOPE. Not happening.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts You’ve got to give Hungary credit for never sending the same song to Eurovision twice. Their bounce-around approach has, since their 2011 comeback, given us dance pop, electro rock, an acoustic alt-ballad, EDM, a charity song, anthemic rock and an ethnopop slice of heaven (Joci Papái was my favourite last year and is still a true musical love of mine). In 2018 we’re getting something different again with hardcore(ish) rock/metal/I’m clearly not an expert on the genre of AWS’ Viszlát Nyár but it sounds intense to me. It’s certainly the most hardcore, rocky song competing in Lisbon, and while that will help it stand out, such songs don’t always go over well at the ESC (I can’t imagine juries going nuts over this). The fact is that the demographic AWS are aiming at is not found, in droves at least, in the Eurovision audience (if someone did a Venn diagram to demonstrate it, the two fan bases would have a pretty tiny overlap area). I’m definitely not the kind of person who would readily abandon their pop sensibilities for anything involving screaming to music. So you might be surprised to learn that I actually like this. Like, not love (á la Origo, which I said I’d marry in my review last year if I could) but yes, I dig it. It reminds me a little of Dead By April’s Melodifestivalen entry Mystery, which I was obsessed with back in 2012 – it features the same mixture of soft moments and intense, scream-your-lungs-out moments that a) make it dynamic, and b) stop it from totally alienating people who aren’t regular purveyors of hard rock. As always, Hungarian sounds alluring and mysterious as the language of choice (is there a genre it doesn’t work with?), especially in the verses. Overall, Viszlát Nyár might be well outside my top 10 for the year, but there are only two or three songs I dislike and this is not one of them. I’m a big supporter of Hungary in the contest and I do hope AWS give the country their 8th consecutive qualification…but I think it could be a tough task. The best comparison song would be Softengine’s Something Better, which did very well for Finland in 2014 but was a lot more accessible (and the screaming was confined to the last twenty seconds or so). I don’t expect Hungary to perform as impressively as that if they do make the final, and TBH, I’ll live if they don’t. Still, it would be nice to have some rock on hand to spice up the best Saturday night of the year.

2017 VS 2018? It’s a no-brainer – Origo all the way.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Not for the first time – they did it last year too – Malta is sending an artist to Eurovision who’s tried to represent them before with a better song than the one they’re actually getting to go with. In Christabelle’s case, 2015’s Rush really should have been her Eurovision song, but it finished 2nd in MESC that year (Saddy McSadface). And so, three years later, we’ve ended up with Taboo, a mostly Maltese production feat. input from Thomas g:Son (shocking). I’ve developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with this song, though now I think about it, those words are probably too strong – ‘like-dislike’ would be more accurate. Basically, there are parts of it I really like and others that I really don’t. First, the negatives: it may not be as lyrically lame as past Maltese entries, but it’s all over the place with metaphors and similes, making it fairly nonsensical and the message confusing (apparently it’s about mental health struggles, ICYMI). The chorus in particular bugs me like crazy – it seems like the songwriters wanted it to be meaningful, but it turned into a mess of words that happen to rhyme with ‘animals’ (criminals, miracle, *my brain explodes*). The dubstep break is my other main gripe with Taboo, just because it feels passé and could have been left out to no great loss. Positives-wise, there’s good energy, a hypnotic beat, a contemporary-sounding melody, and an overall approving nod for Malta choosing something like this. And I have to mention the MESC performance, which was OTT but very cool at the same time…even if it might be hard to replicate on Lisbon’s LED-less stage. To her credit, Christabelle is a likeable performer with a decent voice, providing she’s not running a marathon or doing star jumps constantly during a performance (code for ‘don’t make her move too much, Team Malta!’). I think Taboo has a better chance of qualifying to the final than Claudia’s Breathlessly did last year – that proved us all right when it went nowhere. But in semi two, where five or six countries could easily advance from the first half alone, Malta’s odds are 50-50, and the shock value will be minimal whether they qualify or not. Unfortunately they’re performing just three songs before Sweden, and Benjamin is armed with an uptempo song accompanied by a slick, impressive stage presentation – much like Malta, but better. And with Sweden being almost a dead cert to qualify, if one of the two is going to be sacrificed to the DNQ gods, it will be Malta.

2017 VS 2018? 2018 fo sho. I’d rather break the taboo than be breathless.

My score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts The first question to ask someone who’s about to hear Outlaw In ‘Em for the first time is ‘How do you feel about country music?’. If their answer is ‘Not good’, then they won’t be giving it douze points, or anything close. Waylon’s solo Eurovision entry is without a doubt the countriest country song I’ve ever come across. Every lyric, every guitar lick – even the title – is dripping in the genre, and makes me feel like an idiot (or should I say ‘good for nothin’ varmint’?) for not wearing a cowboy hat. Of course, as soon as the song’s over, normal cowboy-hatless life resumes. I have to say, I do enjoy a country song or 65, but I’m more of an easy-listening cruisy country fan, as opposed to a rip-roarin’, honky-tonkin’, gun-totin’ type. In that sense, you can understand why I much prefer Waylon feat. Ilse deLange (a.k.a. The Common Linnets) with Calm After The Storm to this entry. The fact that Outlaw is so darn country – to the point where it’s about to fall off a cliff edge into Cheesy Canyon – is a turn-off for me, even though I appreciate the go hard or go home mentality (a half-assed country-tinged track for Waylon? No sirree). It reminds me of Achy Breaky Heart too much to take seriously, only it’s too fast to boot-scoot to. I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t want all of y’all to challenge me to a stand-off just yet. I’m not totally, 110% anti-Outlaw. On the plus side, I like the lyrics: unlike Malta, the theme here is clear and consistent; and the rhyming is beautiful, which makes the overall package sound neat. The song is unique (in this competition, anyway) and definitely memorable. And Waylon is a great performer even when he’s not locking eyes with Ilse – in Portugal he’ll be making eyes at the camera instead, and I’ll imagine he’s staring straight into my soul (in a sexy way, not a demonic way). Will he end up staring down the barrel of qualification, though? The betting odds say heck yes, but I have to wonder if this song is going to be too divisive. It does come to life more on stage than in studio, so I can see it meeting expectations on the night/s that count most. Yet the mass appeal needed for a win isn’t there, and I can’t see a Common Linnets result in Waylon’s future either.

2017 VS 2018? 2017. Girl power and incredible harmonies > full-on country extravaganza.

My score 6.5

 

 

And that, guys, is Round 1 done and dusted. Five down, 38 to go in less than four weeks.

SEND HELP.

Then, when you’ve dialed 911/000/whatever your country’s equivalent is on my behalf, you can take a look at today’s mini-ranking:

  1. Armenia (12)
  2. Cyprus (10)
  3. Hungary (7)
  4. Malta (6.5) 
  5. The Netherlands (6.5)

So it’s Sevak who takes the top spot, which is obviously not a shock to me because I already knew how I felt about these five songs (let me hear you say ‘DUH!’). Now the question is, can Qami hold on to the #1 position as the EBJ 2018 reviews continue? You’ll have to stay tuned – and subscribed, hint hint – to find out. Opt in for new post email alerts in the sidebar, or find me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram (all @EurovisionByJaz) to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

Before I sign off and in turn stop begging you to follow me on social media, I do have another question:

 

NEXT TIME The Lisbon reviews are just revving up…and if I want to get them finished before Eurovision happens, I need to get a move on. Drop by on the weekend when I’ll sit myself down on the EBJ judging panel to critique Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania, and Spain!

 

Until then,

 

 

 

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?

 

Malmö Reviews | Part 3 (Latvia-Russia)

The artists and the press have descended on Malmö like vultures…only nothing like vultures. Basically, the majority of them are now on Swedish soil, and that means Eurovision is excitingly close. That also means that I have a heap of reviews and predictions to cram in before Tuesday the 14th. So without further rambling, I present to you the third installment of my 2013 reviews (where I get a bit nasty for the first time in relation to a certain ballad). I’m kicking things off with Latvia. Here we go…

 

LATVIA

Here We Go by PeR

Latvia13Better than 2012: No

IMO: Is there anyone who’d name Latvia as one of their favourite Eurovision countries? Really? Aside from epic debutants Brainstorm and a few other saving graces, they have not impressed me much over the last decade-and-a-bit. This year the trend continues, but I do hear a glimmer of hope in PeR’s Here We Go. It was one of the few passable songs in the dreadful Latvian final, so it’s a plus in that respect. The three boys (two pieces of guy candy, one not so much) put a lot of energy into their performance from what I’ve seen, although they could put more into perfecting their vocals which are ropey at best. But this is a repetitive song – an almost-decent chorus interspersed with brief episodes of rap (which very rarely goes down well at the contest, right Trackshittaz?) with some trumpeting thrown in for good measure. That trumpeting is the best part. I’m not in the mood to be too cruel to Latvia though, so I’ll finish with a positive. The more I think about it, this will be a suitable opener for the second semi, especially if the group manage to pull off a show just as enthusiastic but more polished than what we’ve seen so far. If they incorporate the audience participation, that too should be well received. I’m not excited to see it up first, but I’m not completely repulsed by the thought either.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.

 

LITHUANIA

Something by Andrius Pojavis

Lithuania13Sounds like: Human by Killers

IMO: This was one of the earliest picks of NF season, and while some of those initial selections get boring by May, this one has grown on me. It’s a strange song, mainly in terms of the verses, but the chorus is rockin’ (and I, having used the term ‘rockin’’ am apparently a fifty-year-old man going through a midlife crisis). It reminds me so much of the Killers’ back catalogue, which may also be latched on to by voters. Lithuania does have a way of qualifying against all the odds, as proven in 2011 and 2012. I do feel that the odds are out of their favour again in 2013, even though I have a sneaking regard for Something. It’s got a bit of quirk, but probably not enough to be considered memorable, unless everybody keeps talking about ‘that weird dude wearing a top hat’, should that weird dude wear his top hat. Speaking of which, Andrius is one gentlemanly gentleman, dressing up in his finery to sing a rock song and asking us all if we mind that he’s in love with us. They just don’t make guys like that anymore, do they?

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 7 points.

 

MACEDONIA

Pred Da Se Razdeni by Lozano & Esma

Macedonia13Top 10 material: No

IMO: Thanks to a few negative Tweets (or something like that) Macedonia tossed the amazing Imperija in the trash, and cobbled together another entry for Lozano and Esma (the loveable older lady of this year’s comp) in the space of about five minutes. You know, like Belarus did for Anastasia Vinnkova a few years ago (except that was thanks to a rule violation). The difference here is that I like this second song almost as much as the first one, even though it’s such a mish-mash of styles that I know I should be saying ‘WTF is this circus of a song?’. Pred Da Se Razdeni is more ‘by Lozano, featuring Esma’, and has the shortest opening verse I’ve ever heard on a song in Eurovision or elsewhere. True fact. But why waste time getting to the chorus when the chorus is so awesome, in my opinion? And what little airtime Esma has is taken advantage of – I LOVE her parts. I can’t wait for her to strut out with her grandson…er, I mean, singing partner, and get the crowd clasping their hands and whispering about how adorable she is. Lozano, meanwhile, will be doing most of the legwork and doing it very well – he has a great voice (and trendy eyewear collection). He, his chaperone and this song are a jigsaw puzzle that shouldn’t fit together, but together they work for me.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

MALTA

Tomorrow by Gianluca Bezzina

Malta13Best lyric: ‘Risk assessment is his investment in a life of no surprise/ she threw affection his direction, a collection of her smiles.’

IMO: Here’s an entry that, I’m afraid to say because it is so delightful (as is Dr. Bezzina), has started to bore slightly. But at the same time, there are so many things I like about it that I am mentally unable to stop wishing it into the final. The first time I heard it, it put a smile on my face. I loved the lyrics that told a story using language we don’t often hear at Eurovision – see the above example for proof – and within seconds I was shipping IT man Jeremy and the nameless woman who keeps running off on him. The song itself has been heard plenty of times in the past, but cruisy, inoffensive little ditties always have their place; in fact, one of them secured the Swiss a place in the final two years ago. If “the people” and juries alike are ready to have their hearts warmed and can be won over by a song that more or less forces a smile onto their face, then I officially declare Malta a front runner to make it through to Saturday night. I think it would help if they really played up the cuteness – bringing in the bench seat from the video, or introducing a bunch of balloons somehow (not that relevant, but cute. And I like balloons). After all, how often do you get to be surrounded by whimsical props when you’re a medical doctor?  

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

MOLDOVA

O Mie by Aliona Moon

Moldova13Better than 2012: No

IMO: Can we all just take a moment to mourn the English version of this song? The version that tackled such subjects as the ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ theory, and the possible legitimacy of the Mayan calendar? Oh god, I’m getting all misty-eyed just talking about it. I miss A Million, and not because I’m some lazy listener who wants everything in English so I can understand it (how dare you accuse me of that!). I think it was because the English version was the one originally chosen to represent Moldova, and I fell in love with that (and it was unsettling for that language switch to even happen – it usually goes the other way round). Take that moment to mourn with me, won’t you? Okay, moment over. I still really like this song as Romanian O Mie. It’s a pretty and well-constructed ballad that was – unbelievably – composed by Pasha Parfeny (how weird was it seeing him at the NF, sitting stiffly at the piano in a dinner suit, after all of that gallivanting he did in a leather apron in Baku?). It is repetitive, I’ll admit, but so are other ballads from the likes of Israel, for example, and I think Moldova has the better song. Unfortunately they aren’t in the same semi final, so Israel can’t make Moldova look good. But Aliona should be able to do that on her own. She already has ESC experience up her sleeve from last year, and with her voice and the architectural hairdo/dress combo she’s likely to be sporting, she’ll put on a show. Whether that show gets her to the final or not is a matter for later discussion.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.

 

MONTENEGRO

Igranka by Who See

Montenegro13Top 10 material: No

IMO: It would be a fair call to say this is Montenegro’s best entry ever, simply because it’s not verging on lame (like Zauvijek Volim Te), totally cliché (like Just Get Out of My Life) or anything to do with Rambo Amadeus (need I say more?). Such a fair call that I’m going to go ahead and say it: this IS Montenegro’s best entry ever. That’s from a girl who had high hopes after the song title and description were released, had her hopes dashed and labeled the song a ‘hot mess’ once she’d heard it, then finally grew to love the hot mess after another listen or two. Igranka is far from being a typical Eurovision song. It’s essentially a rap song with badass-female-soloist intervals, and features some hardcore dubstep that gives Slovenia’s all the impact of a soggy tissue. It’s a very interesting song that makes you want to know where it’s going. I love badass-female Nina’s opening part, and the little riff/melody (whatever, I’m not up with musical terminology) underneath the rap verses. The chorus is where things get messy and noisy, but for those expecting to hear the opening lines again, it’ll be a surprise. And if Nina is in tune and attempts to sing with power more than shout, the live effect will be impressive. I’d love Montenegro to do well at last, especially since they have a song that’s more complex and original than Serbia’s, but speaking of the live, this could be a disaster come show time. Igranka in studio is great, but the slick production and that air of messiness could come across a shambles when put to the test in Malmö Arena. As I write this, the trio have completed their first rehearsal, but I’m steering clear of pre-ESC video footage as usual, so I can’t say what went down.  

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

NETHERLANDS

Birds by Anouk 

Netherlands13Sounds like: Mary Poppins needs anti-depression pills

IMO: Do you remember this time last year, when Joan Franka’s You And Me had been tipped as an almost-certain qualifier and potential winner by a ton of fans and bookmakers? Do you remember how those predictions panned out? Mmm-hmm. Well, it’s happened all over again with Anouk’s haunting ballad Birds, only this time, I’m one of the people hoping the Netherlands meet those high expectations (and suspecting they might). Well, maybe not the winning expectations, but the qualifying ones. I want this to go through, damnit! I didn’t think much of it initially, but a second or third listen can be crucial, and in this case I’ve really grown to appreciate the merit and sadness in the song. There’s nothing contrived or cheesy about it, unlike one of the ballads that comes before it in the running order (more on that in a bit) and I hope that works in its favour. Anouk is a big star and a reliable performer, and her rehearsal yesterday was, by all accounts, excellent. She won’t get in the way of her own success, but voters who want something less depressing and more instant may do. It’s been almost a decade since the Dutch song made a final, and I think if it happened this year, the looks on the delegation’s faces would be priceless. Like, Robin Stjernberg, ‘I won Melodifestivalen?’ level priceless. Who’s up for making that epic-ness a reality?

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 8 points.

 

NORWAY

I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger

Norway13Best lyric: ‘You put a knife against my back and you dare me to face the attack.’

IMO: A lot of people love this, and a minority do not. The former group would willingly let Margaret feed them her love; the latter would spit it out and tell her she’s a terrible cook. So which group do you belong to? I hear you ask (and if you didn’t ask and don’t care, why are you reading opinion reviews in the first place?). Well, my friends…aagh, no more stalling. I love it, alright! Bravo, Norway, bravo. This country had two excellent Eurovision prospects, and they chose the less fun, less summery, but edgier and more reliable of those two. There aren’t many other words I can think of to describe it – industrial? Electro-rock-ish, perhaps? Different, definitely. Different from anything else on offer in 2013. I love the sound and I love the lyrics, and the contrast between such a dark song (with complimentary lighting) and the blonde-in-a-white-dress look (as Margaret modeled at NMGP) is really interesting. I would prefer this to win over Denmark, but I realise that’s unlikely. A top 10 result is more achievable, unless there’s another inexplicable lack of points for the Norwegian song that confuses me for months to come. Because I Feed You My Love can’t be compared to anything else it’s up against, unlike Stay, that too is unlikely.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

ROMANIA

It’s My Life by Cezar

Romania13Sounds like: Illusion by Krassimir Avramov

IMO: Romania had bamboozled me this year, and as fun as it is to use the word ‘bamboozled’ in a Eurovision review (or at any time) I’m not pleased about it. The tropical party thrown by Mandinga is over, and now we’ve been invited to one where the background music is Beethoven’s Fifth and the punch bowl is full of pumpkin soup, and we’re all like ‘are we supposed to take this seriously?’. Let me tell you how I feel about It’s My Life in a way that makes more sense: as much as it reminds me of Bulgaria ’09 for obvious reasons, it also makes me think of Israel’s entry into the 2004 contest – To Believe, by David d’Or. In both cases, the song I like, but the crazy-high vocal the singer ascends to, I can’t help finding comical. I realise that Cezar is very talented, and the song certainly shows off his range. But I just can’t take this seriously; not when the voice of Alenka Gotar on helium is coming out of an imposing, suited-up dude with a beard. That dude scored the sought-after performance position of last in the second semi, following Switzerland. He will appear, and three minutes later, nobody will remember that Switzerland even existed. Whether or not that will help maintain Romania’s 100% qualification record, I don’t know. Like I said, this entry has me generally bamboozled. God, I love that word.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.

 

RUSSIA

What If by Dina Garipova

Russia13Better than 2012: No

IMO: This song makes me want to do so many things, and none of them are enjoyable – things like jumping off a cliff, and/or vomiting come to mind. Well, maybe it’s not everything about What If that makes me want to do that stuff. Now that I think of it, I find the song part of the song (i.e. the music and the melody) perfectly listenable. What makes my skin crawl is the sickeningly sentimental, cheesy, clichéd, anti-war, ‘let’s put away our firearms and embrace each other’ LYRICS. Oh. My. Gosh. And don’t even get me started on the music video, which only serves to bring the nauseating sentiment to life, as a theatre-load of strangers become so overcome by the message of Dina’s song that they are unable to resist joining hands and swaying as one. Pass me a sick bag, somebody. Russia sent a novelty act of sorts to Eurovision in 2012, and they were adorable. Give me that over this schmaltz any day of the week. I am horrified at the prospect of this qualifying with ease and possibly cracking the final top 10. Dina’s voice wouldn’t be out of place there, but…nyet. Just nyet.

Winner, loser or grower: Loser. 3 points.

 

That’s another ten songs that can be crossed off my review list. But just before I go do that, here’s an overview of my rankings this time around. Although I think I’ll call them ‘igrankings’.

  1. Norway 10
  2. Macedonia 10
  3. Montenegro 10
  4. Moldova 8
  5. Netherlands 8
  6. Malta 7
  7. Lithuania 7
  8. Latvia 6
  9. Romania 6
  10. Russia 3

 

How do you rate the above entries? Let me know where we’re thinking alike, and where we’re really, really not.

 

NEXT TIME: In my second-last post before the main event, I’ll be critiquing the entries from San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UK. Eight songs, one more set of reviews. Who will come out on top, and will one of you FINALLY agree with me on everything? I doubt it, but why don’t you drop by just in case?

 

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?

 

 

 

Counting down to JESC: Kyiv 2009

Another day, another step closer to the next contest and, you guessed it, another EBJ JESC recap! We’re on the home stretch now with three more editions to cover, so let’s get straight into the 7th. It was hosted by the Ukraine and took place under the same roof as big Eurovision had four years earlier, but in the end it was all about a country unaccustomed to topping the scoreboard…

 

The stats

Edition: 7th

When: 21st November, 2009

Where: Palace of Sports, Kyiv, Ukraine

Motto: ‘For the joy of people’

Hosts: Ani Lorak, Timur Miroshnichenko & Dmytro Borodin 

Broadcaster: NTU

Entries: 13

Debutants: 0

Returnees: 1 – Sweden

Withdrawals: 3 – Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania

Interval acts: Ani Lorak performing Shady Lady and I’m Alive,  Art Studio Rizoma performing ‘Tree of Life’

First place: Netherlands

Last place: Romania

Most douze points: 4 – Belgium

 

The entries

Sweden/ Du by Mimmi Sandén

Russia/ Malenkiy Prints by Ekaterina Ryabova

Armenia/ Barcelona by Luara Hayrapetyan

Romania/ Ai Puterea în Mâna Ta by Ioana Anuţa

Serbia/ Onaj Pravi by Ništa Lično

Georgia/ Lurji Prinveli by Group Princesses

Netherlands/ Click Clack by Ralf

Cyprus/ Thalassa, Ilios, Aeras, Fotia by Rafaella Kosta

Malta/ Double Trouble by Francesca & Mikaela

Ukraine/ Tri Topoli, Tri Surmy by Andranik Alexanyan

Belgium/ Zo Verliefd (Yodelo) by Laura

Belarus/ Volshebniy Krolik by Yuriy Demidovich

Macedonia/ Za Ljubovta by Sara Markovska

 

The scoreboard

  1. Netherlands – 121

  

  1. Armenia – 116
  2. Russia – 116
  3. Belgium – 113
  4. Ukraine – 89
  5. Georgia – 68
  6. (= 6) Sweden – 68
  7. Malta – 55
  8. Belarus – 48
  9. Serbia – 34
  10. Cyprus – 32
  11. Macedonia – 31
  12. Romania – 19

 

My top 5…

…songs

Belgium – as you may have noted in my last post, this is only my FAVOURITE JUNIOR SONG OF ALL TIME! Ahem. I’m rarely averse to a song that starts out as a ballad and then transforms into something else, a la Donny Montell’s Love Is Blind, and this is a wonderful example. Catchy, fun pop music with infectious yodeling.

Sweden – I’m beginning to think ’09 was epic, since this is another of my absolute favourites. I missed Sweden so much when they withdrew from JESC 2008, but I couldn’t have asked for a better comeback. Those Sandén sisters know how it’s done, and Mimmi opened the show in style with her sophisticated but not too grown-up electro-pop-r-and-b number (or whatever you’d call it).

Netherlands – after the great ‘WTF?’ winner debacle of the previous year, it was good to have someone come out on top who, in my mind, deserved to be there. Click Clack has that retro vibe the Netherlands seem to favour, but with a little something extra – namely a singing, tap-dancing, awesome jacket-wearing dude called Ralf.

Armenia – I love a sports anthem at Eurovision, and this is no exception. It may be shouty, but that doesn’t matter when you’re right there shouting along with Luara. Go Barcelona indeed!

Belarus – I’m not even joking. You can abuse me all you want, but I’ll still like this song. It’s pure musical madness and I’m pretty sure Yuriy was possessed by Krassimir Avramov, but that makes it stand out.

…voices

Romania – I can understand Ioana’s song coming last (it’s nice, but gets boring) but her voice was too good to be in that position. Then again, it’s not called the Junior Eurovision Voice Contest…

Sweden – what is with this family? How is it possible to have so many talented children? It’s so unfair. They could at leastbe ugly so the rest of us don’t feel so inadequate.

Belarus – his prowess is not so evident when he’s yelling ‘volshebniy KROLIK!’ (a.k.a. for most of the song) but once he goes all opera, it’s on. I bet you couldn’t shatter glasses with your high notes. No matter how tight your underpants are.

Georgia – the song is not up my alley, but I think the group sound really good together, as all the Georgian groups tend to.

Ukraine – Andranik has a really strong voice which comes unexpected from someone of his stature.

…costumes

Armenia – now here are some sport-inspired outfits I can get behind! Luara was in danger of being upstaged by her backup dancers in their super-cute soccer uniforms, complete with the Eurovision logo emblazoned on their shirts.

Netherlands – I want every single one of those jackets. Ralf, if you’re reading this while wondering what to get me for Christmas, there’s your answer.

Sweden – simple but eye-catching. Sequins aren’t a Eurovision calling card for no reason.

Belgium – yellow and flowers, two of my favourite things. This look was young, fun, and totally song-appropriate.

Ukraine – traditional costume never looked so good. Again, they’re bright and floral, but I’m not complaining. 

Luara, Ralf, Mimmi, Laura, Andranik and his dancers

 

My bottom 5…

…songs

Cyprus – I like the opening/closing riff, but apart from that I’d class this as one of my least favourite JESC entries. I find it quite whiny and monotonous. I also feel really mean right now, but I have to be honest.

Serbia – not dreadful, just ‘meh’.

Macedonia – let’s face it, anything was bound to be a letdown after the few minutes of perfection that was Macedonia’s 2008 entry.

Georgia – this takes a while to get going, and once it does, it doesn’t go very far.

Malta – I know this is Junior Eurovision (as if I haven’t mentioned it enough already) but this is just too kiddish for me, as catchy as it is. The lyrics are ridiculous.

…voices

Serbia – I’m sure Anica is a lovely girl, and excels in other areas of life in general…but my god, her voice is terrible.

Cyprus – it may be the song that makes Rafaella’s vocal sound worse than it is.

…costumes

Cyprus – this look just doesn’t appeal to me.

Romania – it’s not so much the costumes that are bad (but I had to bring this up) than the creepy cardboard cut-outs which are apparently there to give the illusion of more people on stage. Just like the Swiss mannequins of ESC 2007, this trick wasn’t fooling anyone.

Georgia – they’re sweet, but they make the girls look like they should be going to bed, not performing in front of a crowd of thousands and a TV audience of many more.

Rafaella, Ioana and the Group Princesses

 

 

Did you get a kick out of Kyiv, or was Ukraine’s show a fizzler?

 

Most-Played…JESC entries

By my reckoning, there are 296 days until Junior Eurovision 2012 – but I always was rubbish at maths.

Now that I’ve gotten that bad joke off my chest, I can tell you that there are in fact 22 days until the show, and that I don’t feel one of my usual rambling introductions is necessary for this post. Here’s a playlist of my most listened to entries from the last nine years of mini Eurovision, which surprised even me in its lack of resemblance to my list of all-time favourites…

 

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

“I’m SO much cuter than Ralf…it should’ve been me!”

This list may not go hand in hand with my top 20 Junior songs of all time, but it does have my absolute most-loved right where it should be. Belgium is one of my favourite JESC countries (as opposed to being one of my most maligned ESC countries) and of all the gems they’ve sent over the last nine years, Laura’s is my personal best. Who’d have thought yodeling could a) not bring up unpleasant memories of being forced to watch all 56 and ½ hours of The Sound of Music when I was a kid and b) be so enjoyable? Prior to 2009 (and Gwen Stefani’s Wind It Up aside) not moi. 

#2 | Erazanq by Arevik (Armenia 2007)

#3 | Antes Muerta Que Sencilla by Maria Isabel (Spain 2004)

#4 | Arabiens Drøm by Anne Gadegaard (Denmark 2003)

#5 | Mama by Vladimir Arzumanyan (Armenia 2010)

“The power of my finger compels you! To vote for me, that is.”

Two years on and I’m still loving it! This is the most recent winner I was 100% happy with, and didn’t have to spend a fortnight or so coming to terms with. Vlad (who I suspect will grow up to be quite the ladies’ man) deserved the victory with this ethno-pop plea for his mother’s love advice, which I can’t believe he wrote and composed himself at the tender age of twelve. 

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

#7 | Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav by Dino Jelusic (Croatia 2003)

#8 | Allt Jag Vill Ha by Josefine Ridell (Sweden 2010)

#9 | Eooo, Eooo by Anja Veterova (FYR Macedonia 2010)

Little does Anja know her backup dancers are laughing at the ‘KICK ME’ sign on her back

I’m sorry to say this, but Anja’s singing – and unfortunately, speaking – voice is one of the most irritating I’ve ever heard. Luckily her entry for Macedonia in Minsk was so damn catchy it overshadowed that. I find this such a good sing-along song, and I think it could stand up in big Eurovision with a few tweaks. 

#10 | Knock Knock!…Boom Boom! by Nicole (Malta 2010)

#11 | Mijn Ogen Zeggen Alles by Roel (Netherlands 2003)

#12 | Anders by Trust (Belgium 2007)

#13 | Oki Doki by Bartas (Lithuania 2010)

Bartas’ reaction on discovering he’d be opening the 2010 contest

I distinctly remember disliking this in the lead-up to Minsk, something I could say about quite a few of the songs on this list. Apparently I’ve come around. It does have a way of getting into your head – particularly the ‘oki doki’ parts, which are kind of annoying but so easy to sing along with. 

#14 | Muzyki Svet by Daniil Kozlov (Belarus 2010)

#15 | Shut Up by Oliver (Belgium 2008)

#16 | Click Clack by Ralf (Netherlands 2009)

‘Click-Clack’ is actually Dutch for ‘stop that, you’re pulling my arms out of their sockets!’

Who doesn’t love this song? Okay, so it’s likely not everyone loves it, but come on – it’s so hard to resist those ba-da-bi-di-do’s! All in all it’s one of my favourite JESC winners, and despite the strong competition from Russia, Armenia and Belgium, I think it was the right choice. Anytime the Netherlands win anything ESC-related, there should be widespread celebration. 

#17 | Čarobna Noč by Sonja Skoric (Serbia 2010)

#18 | Moondog by Amanda Bašmakova (Latvia 2011)

#19 | Get Up! by Jill & Lauren (Belgium 2010)

#20 | Sommer og Skolefri by Malin (Norway 2005)

‘Yes! I managed to hold up this giant mike the whole time!’

I’ve already sung the praises of this entry in my JESC ’05 recap (not literally, but if I had it would’ve gone something like this: ‘IIIII looooo-uhhh-ooooove thiiis SOOOOOOONG!!’, followed by riotous applause) but you can never say too many good things about it – it’s not like it’s going to get a big head. Malin was so teeny and adorable back then, and her super-cute song that implied how much school sucks was just the cherry on top.

 

Which Junior songs make your most-played list?? 

 

COMING UP: As the countdown to Amsterdam continues, I put JESC 2009 under the microscope. Then, it’s the exposé you’ve all been waiting for: who are the JESC doppelgangers? All will be revealed very soon…  

 

Spotlight on…the Netherlands

This December, the Dutch will play host to Junior Eurovision for the second time, having come second (grrr) last year in Yerevan. That of course has nothing to do with them hosting, but I always enjoy being able to put ‘second’ and ‘the Netherlands’ in the same sentence. The country has had their ups and downs in JESC, but with several top 10 results and a win under their sequin-encrusted, kid-size belts, their record is a lot more impressive than it has been in ESC of late. If you, like me, struggle to recall a time when the Netherlands kicked butt at big Eurovision, then here’s a reminder. Have your time machines at the ready!*

 

*Not literally…if you had one of those you wouldn’t need to be reading this post, which would be very, VERY bad.

 

  

THE NETHERLANDS: THE STATS      

Debut

1956 with Voorgoed Voorbij by Corry Brokken and De Vogels Van Holland by Jetty Paerl

Entries

54

Wins

4 – 1957, 1959, 1969 and 1975

Silver medals

0

Bronze medals

1 – 1974

Top 10 finishes

21/54

Top 10 success rate

39%

Top 5 finishes

9/54

Top 5 success rate

17%

Wooden spoons (last places!)

2 – 1968 and 2011

Semi final qualifications

1/9

Qualification success rate

11%

 

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Hemel En Aarde by Edsilia Rombley (1998). Killer song + killer voice – what more do you need? Well, evidently something since this entry didn’t win, but it was up against Dana International and her Gaultier. Nonetheless, in my opinion this is the best thing the Netherlands have sent to the contest, which is more than you can say for Edsilia’s second go in Helsinki…

I also have to mention Without You by Re-union (2004), my second favourite. In the history of the semi-finals, it remains the only Dutch entry to have qualified, although it didn’t do too well in the final. Perhaps it was overshadowed by Germany’s rather similar-sounding song (which catered to the home audience by incorporating a little Turkish into its lyrics) or perhaps people just didn’t like it as much as I do. Silly, silly people.

My least favourite entry

De Troubadour by Lenny Kuhr (1969). I don’t know if I just can’t connect with a lot of the music of Eurovision’s earlier years or if this is just a bad winner, but it makes me want to close my blinds, crawl into bed and sob into my pillow. That is until it gets to the ‘lalalala lala LAI la la LAI la la’ bit, at which point I emerge from under my bedding and start tearing my hair out.

More of the memorable

Een Beetje by Teddy Scholten (1959) – This is just cuteness! One of the few very early entries I enjoy listening to.

Ding Dinge Dong by Teach-in (1975) – Here is one of the better onomatopoeically-titled songs from ESC history. It’s catchy, fun, and – I imagine – great for karaoke.

No Goodbyes by Linda Wagenmakers (2000) – This song x 43 is what many people think the contest consists of. To all of them I say no, it does not, but gosh darn it I enjoy it when there’s the odd one or two.

Ik Ben Verliefd by Sieneke (2010) – Ah, the Smurf Song, one we love to hate and hate to love. My thought is that the song has nothing on the hideousness that was Sieneke’s outfit. I think her stylist was under the impression she was in Oslo for a soap opera audition…circa 1983.

Their best stage show

On Top of the World by Edsilia Rombley (2007). As previously mentioned, the song did nothing for moi, but the staging was rather good. There was nothing too OTT to distract from Edsilia’s luverly vocal, nor was there anything too 3JS yawn-worthy.

Their best costume/s

Linda Wagenmakers. I’m off to see Cirque du Soleil next year, and I’m 99% sure the show will be held inside her dress. The first one, that is – the shredded silver number is otherwise occupied at a disco/bootscooting party somewhere. Both of the above were totally OTT, and totally fabulous.

“Lions and tigers and bears (in tutus and on little bicycles) oh my!!”

Their best vocalist/s

Maggie MacNeal (1974, 1980)/Edsilia Rombley. Here we have two very different singers, Maggie as soft and sweet (most of the time) as Edsilia is deep and growly. Both are equally talented.

I love the Netherlands in the ESC because…

Okay – to be honest with you, I don’t. During my years as a Eurovision fan they have had a tough time succeeding with their entries, and the reasons haven’t been too hard to find. I do always look forward to their selection, though, in the hope that they’ll do a Germany and pull out an amazing song that can’t possibly fail – at least to reach the final. As with countries like Cyprus and Portugal, it’s always a great moment when the Netherlands do qualify (which as we know, has only happened once. But that moment was great, was it not?) and already I’m hoping to experience that in 2013. Any country can turn things around at any time, right?

 

What are your thoughts on the Netherlands in Eurovision?