Gamarjoba, Eurofans who do double duty as Junior Eurofans (if you don’t, then this is your warning to back away from this blog for a while). I’m 72% sure I just greeted you guys in Georgian, which is my way of getting into the spirit of Tbilisi’s first Eurovision event.
There’s less than two weeks until Junior Eurovision 2017, when adorable child/vocal powerhouse Mariam Mamadashvili will hand over the title of reigning contest champ to another pint-sized singing sensation (or four, if The Netherlands wins). That means it’s beyond time for me to start reviewing all sixteen songs competing on the 26th! So let’s breeze past the fact that I haven’t posted since the end of August (my bad…my very, VERY bad) and get this party started.
I’ve pulled four countries out of the special EBJ hat I keep in my closet for such occasions, and they are Cyprus, hosts Georgia, The Netherlands, and Poland (bet you didn’t see that coming. It’s not like I stuck them in the title or anything). Keep reading for my thoughts on Nicole Nicolaou’s I Wanna Be A Star, Grigol Kipshidze’s Voice of the Heart, Fource’s Love Me and Alicja Rega’s Mój Dom. Spoiler alert: one of them just might be my favourite entry of the year.
By the way…I didn’t have time to get an EBJ Junior Jury together this year, but I still wanted to be able to average out the score for each song based on a few factors. I’ve gone simplistic by awarding a standard EBU-regulation point score (1-8, 10 or 12 points) to both the song itself (how I rate it personally) and the artist performing it (their vocal skills, personality on stage etc). The average of those two scores will be each country’s final score. As always, I’ll post a mini ranking at the end of each review round + the full ranking alongside my pre-show predictions just before the contest. Share your own mini ranking in the comments to let me know which entries are hot and which are not in your opinion (but don’t be too mean because we are talking about kids here).
Now let’s go.
Watch it here
Last year…George Michaelides’ Dance Floor finished 16th (second last). I had a lot of blues to dance away in George’s parallel universe where the world is a dance floor after that.
The 2017 verdict Cyprus has transitioned from George’s cutting-edge but unsuccessful ethnopop to oh-so-2005 – but probably more of a point magnet – ethnopop with Nicole. Her catchy (to say the chorus of I Wanna Be A Star is an earworm would be an epic understatement), super-predictable (a blindfolded 2012-edition Donny Montell would have seen that key change coming) song comes via three-time ESC act Constantinos Christoforou – and given that he seemingly represented Cyprus with the adult version of the same song back in Kyiv in 2005, THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. I guess I should stop going on about how dated IWBAS is, because that’s not a totally bad thing. After all, it means Cyprus is doing what Belarus did last year by bringing back a slice of vintage JESC for us all to feast on (although the Belarusian hoverboards would clearly have never featured in a Junior Eurovision circa 2004). I always appreciate a throwback in a contest that has grown up a lot recently, with a lot of the songs having the potential to double as ESC entries if a few lyrical changes were made. This throwback is a classic kid-spirational anthem with Cyprus stamped all over it, and the high energy + hooks = party time for three minutes. I definitely like it – while definitely not loving it – but I do wonder if Nicole has the charisma and live vocal ability to pull it off onstage. If it doesn’t look young and fun and if it doesn’t sound perfect, the result could be cringeworthy. In the end, I see I Wanna Be A Star outperforming Dance Floor, but only by a few rungs on the leaderboard ladder. I’m thinking 12th-14th, prior to making my official predictions…
Song score 7
Artist score 6
Final score 6.5
Watch it here
Last year….Mariam Mamadashvili’s Mzeo became Georgia’s third JESC winner in ten years of competing. They seriously need to start putting some effort in (#sarcasm).
The 2017 verdict Host entries – at least when they’ve become host entries via their country winning the year before, which isn’t always the case with JESC – have a lot of pressure placed on them to follow in the footsteps of a peak result…or at least not embarrass themselves by failing miserably off the back of a peak result. Whether they’re hosting or not, Georgia is always a country to keep an eye on when Eurovision’s younger sibling drops by, and they’ve proven yet again that they know how this contest works with Grigol and his Voice of the Heart. It’s a more mature song and vocalist combo than usual, and for the third time in a row the lyrics are 100% Georgian (YAASSS for having full confidence in your native language!). It’s almost like a child-friendly version of Versace On The Floor by Bruno Mars – in fact, the structure and 90s R&B sound are so similar I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it was directly inspired by that track. As such, since I’m a mahusive fan of both Bruno Mars and 90s R&B, VOTH is parked so far up my street it’s actually on someone’s front lawn. It’s not my favourite (or even second favourite) song in the 2017 comp, but I dig everything about it. Great melody, great build into some spectacular vocal runs that I hope to heck Grigol can replicate live, and an easy-listening feel that begs for atmospheric staging feat. spotlights and LED stars. In terms of measuring up to Mzeo, I don’t expect it to, but I am hoping for a decent 5th-8th finish. And when the audience inevitably claps their butts off for this host entry, I will be doing the same thing from my sofa (while simultaneously sobbing because I’m not in Tbilisi with them *sniff*).
Song score 10
Artist score 10
Final score 10
Watch it here
Last year…Don’t pretend you’ve forgotten about Kisses and Dancin’, or that you’ve forgotten the dance moves. I know I haven’t. As irresistible as it was, it didn’t crack the top 5 in Malta – Kisses finished 8th.
The 2017 verdict Variety is the spice of life (apparently) so the Dutch bounce from girl group to boy band is worth a fist bump. We can expect Fource to be choreographed to within an inch of their pre-pubescent lives at JESC, and if their NF performances are anything to go by their vocals will be pretty tight (unless somebody’s voice breaks at the worst possible moment) – but that’s where the similarities between Kisses and Dancin’ and Love Me come to a screeching halt. Love Me, strangely enough, isn’t as instantly loveable as last year’s song, but after a few listens I’d say it’s just as high-quality. It’s more grown-up, and something you’d hear on mainstream radio if it was entirely in English. The chorus is so simple you don’t have a choice but to belt it out along with the boys (so the English that is used has been used very well) and the instrumental breaks are made for slick, crowd-pumping choreography á la the precision kind I mentioned before. Overall, the song’s energetic, modern and strikes a good balance between youthfulness and sophistication. It’s definitely in the middle on the maturity scale, but even so it reminds me of Macedonia’s too-mature-for-JESC entry last year, Love Will Lead Our Way (I guess when your song has ‘love’ in the title, maturity makes sense). I’m only talking in terms of style, but given Macedonia’s less than impressive result in 2016, that is a worry. Is Love Me dynamic enough to be in it to win it? Not quite, but I’m not discounting these guys. The Netherlands don’t always get the points they deserve at Junior, but when they’re on point anything is possible. Fource’s is a performance I’m extra psyched to see because if it’s cohesive, as the only group act in this year’s contest they’ll stand out for the right reasons.
Song score 8
Artist score 10
Final score 9
Watch it here
Last year…Poland returned to JESC for the first time since 2004, reaching 11th place (a big leap from their losing streak of 2003/2004) with Olivia Wieczorek and Nie Zapomnij.
The 2017 verdict I wasn’t sure whether to create an air of mystery around this one or just lay all of my cards on the table right away. Eventually (after .5 of a second) I decided to go for the second option, and tell you that the suit of my cards is hearts all the way because OMG I LOVE THIS!! It is stunning. From the first time I heard that tinkly piano intro, I knew I’d found something special – the one song (because my other faves will have less trouble doing well) that I’d be supporting like a woman possessed. Like Georgia, Poland has opted to leave English out of their entry in favour of exotic, unpronounceable-to-the-untrained-speaker Polish, and it’s used in a melodically spine-tingling ballad that sounds more than a little Balkan at times (scoring major love points from me). I also must mention that masterpiece of a key change which, for a split second, makes crystal-clear vocalist Alicja sound like she’s out of tune until you realise she was just transitioning to a powerful second chorus in a way that would challenge singers twice her age. Speaking of Alicja – she may need to work on her charisma and stage presence a teensy bit, but she does emote enough to give Mój Dom the feels it needs to not look like an adult’s song being sung by a teenager. If someone can give her a shot of confidence and a Cinderella-style costume makeover before she steps on the Junior stage, Poland will have achieved perfection. Unfortunately, they aren’t a sure thing for success. I’m hoping this song will be another Tu Primo Grande Amore (or at least come close) but it could just as easily fall by the wayside, a.k.a. the low side of the scoreboard. My fingers will be crossed – once I’m done voting for it – in the hope that other people get the goosebumps I do when I hear it.
Song score 12
Artist score 8
Final score 10
And Round 1 is DONE! You’ve got to love Junior Eurovision for making the review caseload way lighter than the adult contest does (reviewing 4/16 songs makes you feel much more accomplished than reviewing 4/42 songs).
With the first four JESC 2017 entries criticised (as nicely as possible) and scored by moi, here are the current standings:
- Poland (10)
- Georgia (10)
- The Netherlands (9)
- Cyprus (6.5)
So Grigol just misses out on getting a high five from me in favour of Alicja, whose song I’ve bumped ahead because it’s a little more magical. Will Poland manage to beat Georgia, The Netherlands and Cyprus in the actual contest? Probably not…but a girl can dream.
Before we find out for sure the weekend after next, I want to find out something else from you:
Once you’ve voted, come on down to the comments and let me know how you’d rank the rest of this random, out-of-the-EBJ-hat bunch who are prepping to shine bright in Tbilisi. You know you want to! It’ll help pass the time between now and Round 2 feat. Albania, Italy, Macedonia and Portugal J
JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands + Poland
Hello again, and welcome to another episode of me putting the Eurovision 2017 entries I adore up on a pedestal, and tearing the ones I hate to shreds. Fun times (unless you love the songs I can’t stand)!
Another six songs are up for some serious judging today, via me and – once again – my mum. Being the crazy lady that she is (it’s hereditary), she has voluntarily come back to have her say on The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland. So are you ready, Martina, Koit & Laura, Levina, Fusedmarc, O’G3NE and Kasia? Too bad if you’re not, because it’s time for you to be reviewed in 3, 2, 1….now.
My thoughts I’d never complain about a contest that has a lot of musical variety – after all, forty-plus ballads/dance tracks/Hard Rock Hallelujah rip-offs wouldn’t be fun to watch or listen to (or be much fun for the producers trying to create an entertaining running order). So in terms of that, a nice little jazzy number from the Czech Republic helps with the whole ‘celebrating diversity’ motto of the 2017 comp. But that doesn’t stop My Turn from being the most boring song in the line-up by a mile. I just don’t think it has a lot to offer – the melody isn’t very catchy or exciting, there’s nothing about it that stands out and makes it memorable (I’m actually struggling to recall how the verses go right now) and I’m not a massive fan of Martina’s voice either – though I expect she’ll sound pretty much studio-perfect on the Kyiv stage. Speaking of the stage…not even an Azerbaijan 2013 level of staging genius would pimp out this entry enough to push it into the qualification zone, IMO. Dead last in the semi isn’t a dead cert, but it’s hard to imagine the juries or televoters lavishing attention on My Turn when there’s the likes of Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois (for the former) and I Can’t Go On and City Lights (for the latter) surrounding it. Then again, I didn’t think the Czech Republic would qualify last year, so I’ll prepare to stand corrected just in case. 4 points.
My mum says… This is a bit naff. It’s got a nice chorus and seems simple to sing along to, but I get the feeling two or three run-throughs would be enough for me to get bored of hearing it! Martina has an unusual voice – I wasn’t sure if it was a female or male voice at first, and I guess that makes things interesting. But the bottom line is that I won’t be too bothered if don’t hear her song again anytime soon. 4 points.
The Czech Republic’s score 4.00
My thoughts I’ll get right to the point on this one: if Koit and Laura’s duet accurately depicts what being lost in Verona is like, then drop me off there without access to Google Maps! I LOVE this song, just as much as Koit’s 1998 entry Mere Lapsed and a million times more than the weak-as-water Let’s Get Loud by Laura’s Suntribe in 2005. Verona seems to borrow sounds from three or four different decades – mostly the 1990s and the 2000s – which doesn’t leave it feeling super fresh, but the infectiousness of all of its elements, the instant hook and the fact that it wasn’t written in the traditional A-B-A-B-C-B song structure (the song is as lost as Koit and Laura, but in a good way that keeps you wondering where it’ll end up) wins me over anyway. It’s a little dated, but in a way that works – more nostalgic than stale. The singers themselves sound great together and when they’re doing their solo duties, but their chemistry leaves a bit to be desired. It might have been the Eesti Laul staging that was a little off, but I hope there’s not a Chanée and N’evergreen situation happening behind the scenes…or a reverse scenario in which Koit and Laura are great mates IRL, but can’t channel the necessary emotions to give an authentic, appropriately-tortured performance. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, because we haven’t (correct me if I’m wrong) seen a live version of Verona since it won the NF. It’s done well in the OGAE poll so far which makes me happy, but that’s not always a reliable indication of what will succeed in the actual show. Still, I think Estonia – after a shocking trip to Stockholm that saw Jüri Pootsmann finish last in the first semi – has the power to propel themselves into the final, and onto that sought-after left side of the scoreboard with this pairing. 10 points.
My mum says… Once I stopped wondering why ‘two silly boats in the sea’ had been considered a wise lyrical choice by Verona’s writers (after Jaz informed me that the lyric is ‘two SAILING boats’, which I must admit makes more sense) I started to enjoy Estonia’s entry. I wouldn’t say it’s fantastic, but I like the sound, the beat, and the way Koit and Laura’s voices complement each other. It’s definitely more than musical wallpaper, so I think it should do well in competition. 6 points.
Estonia’s score 8.00
My thoughts Let’s do the math: in the past two years, Germany has sent two absolute gems to Eurovision, only to f%*k up the staging of both (to different degrees) and fall utterly flat in the final. If that’s the way the universe is working, then by rights Levina’s Perfect Life should be staged flawlessly and be super-successful on the scoreboard…even though it’s a bit of a snoozefest. Of course, Deutschland could just as easily be heading for their third wooden spoon on the trot (undeserved in each case) which would mainly upset me because Levina seems like an awesome person whose (perfect) life should be filled with sunshine and rainbows and puppies. Plus, the girl can sing. It’s just too bad that the song she ended up winning Unser Song with is a non-event. It starts out as a Titanium homage – which teases you with the prospect of it turning into a proper dance banger – only to veer off into plod-along territory and stay there. It’s almost like Perfect Life doesn’t know what type of song it wants to be, so it’s ended up as a compromise between a ballad and a club track that’s too down-tempo to compete with other in-betweeners like Sweden and Macedonia. I can’t realistically see anyone picking up their phone and taking the time to vote for it, and I also don’t think it’s going to stand out as something spectacular that the juries would freak out about. That doesn’t bode well for Germany. They really need to find their groove again, or have a Belgium-style turnaround. Try it in 2018, okay? 6 points.
My mum says… This is more my style. I was mouthing the words of the chorus by the end, and when that happens without me even realising, I know I’ve found a favourite – or at least a song I wouldn’t change stations on if it came on the radio. Perfect Life is definitely radio-friendly. I like Levina’s voice and the lyrics, plus the fact that she’s obviously happy with her lot. I think many of us could learn some lessons from her…or at least from whoever came up with the song’s concept. 7 points.
Germany’s score 6.5
My thoughts I think we know which country Georgia passed the bonkers baton on to after last year! Funnily enough, I’d probably be saying the same thing if Get Frighten had won in Lithuania. What we’ve got instead is less novelty but way more untamed, and it’s nothing like the Game of Thrones-inspired military march song I thought Fusedmarc would present me with, back before I heard Rain of Revolution for the first time (it just goes to show that you can’t judge a song by its title). I’m not even sure how to categorise this entry, which is almost a positive attribute when you consider how ‘different’ that makes it. Part electropop, part funk with a rocky edge, it’s not as offensive to me as it seems to be to most other Eurofans – I really like the beat and melody of everything leading up to the choruses, and the chorus itself has a pretty high sing-along factor. I also dug the staging of the song at Eurovizijos, and if they’ve decided to keep those visual effects for Eurovision, they’re sure to look epic on that LED-laden stage. But vocalist Viktorija lets a little too loose with her big notes, and that equals a messy listen (those screechy ‘YEAH YEAH’ bits being the main culprit). And it has to be said – by me, apparently – that she gives off some crazy vibes (in a psychotic, escaped mental patient sort of way, which ain’t ideal). The overall package is something that, once unwrapped, I wouldn’t try to return for store credit…but I can understand why other people would. So I’m safely predicting Rain of Revolution to go absolutely nowhere in its semi, which is a shame after Donny ‘Modern ESC Legend’ Montell did so well for Lithuania in 2016. 5 points.
My mum says… Lithuania’s taking us all back to the 80s whether we like it or not, by the (literal) sound of it. I’m not sure I do like it. Rain of Revolution is a song that seemed like it was going to become something better than what it began as, but it never did. I’ll give a few ticks of approval for the nostalgic feel and the energy of the beat, but that’s it. 5 points.
Lithuania’s score 5.00
My thoughts O-M-G3NE, I was excited when these ladies were announced as the Dutch reps for the year (as they’re JESC alums, I followed their Voice journey and have watched their audition for the show about 500 times). They’d been rumored before and their selection was bound to happen sooner or later, but I was happy to have it sooner. That, of course, was prior to Lights and Shadows being chosen and then released. So did I change my mind when it came out? Well, no…although I do think the trio have been saddled with a song that’s far too focused on being a vehicle for their voices rather than a current, competitive contest song. There’s a lot of emotion attached to O’G3NE’s entry because a) it was co-written by their father, and b) it was co-written by their father about their seriously ill mother. That should allow them to really feel what they’re singing rather than just parrot the lyrics pitch-perfectly, which they can do without trying anyway – their harmonies are incredible. However, heartstring-tugging aside, the song is a throwback with Wilson Phillips comparisons that won’t stop cropping up. IMO that’s not totally terrible, since I get a kick out of the rousing 90s feel of it. And even though it’s a very wordy song, I find it pretty easy to sing along to, and very catchy. It definitely stands out, and last but not least, we can bet on the performance being flawless, with the vocals being the shining beacon of jury bait. I just don’t know if it’s going to be a big success, a flop, or finish somewhere in between the two. I wanted O’G3NE to come strutting in to the contest with a surefire hit – i.e. a killer pop song circa 2017 (not 1997) that highlighted their vocal abilities without sacrificing musical fabulousness. I can’t say they’ve done that (DAMNIT!), but there’s a lot I do like about Lights and Shadows. And I’m still excited to have this girl band back in the Eurovision family. 7 points.
My mum says… Sigh. I could happily listen to these girls harmonising all day long. When they’re harmonising to Lights and Shadows, I instantly get the Wilson Phillips feelings that I’ve been told loads of others have too. There’s also a bit of B*Witched in here, making the song/singer combination very 90s indeed. That girl group style is one I usually enjoy, and this is no exception. Though I’d be surprised to hear something like it on the radio, I’d willingly play it again for my own listening pleasure. 10 points.
The Netherlands’ score 8.5
My thoughts Poland has been pretty hit-and-miss with me since they came back from their Eurovision vacation in 2014 (with a bang). There actually seems to be a pattern forming with my attitude towards their entries: My Słowianie, yes; In The Name of Love, not so much; Color of Your Life, yes. Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, let me cut to the chase: I’m not a huge fan of Flashlight. I had a favourite in the Polish NF that I thought had a better chance of winning (Isabell’s Swedish-written, Kygo-esque Voiceless, FYI) so Kasia took me by surprise when she won instead, with what’s a perfectly okay, gothic and melodramatic ballad. It’s just not the sort of ballad that rubs me up the right way. I feel like it would have fit in better at Kyiv in 2005, though it also reminds me of Lithuania’s Nomads in the Night which popped up three years later in Belgrade. I wish it reminded me more of Poland’s entry that year from Isis Gee, which IS the sort of ballad I prefer. Flashlight has a reasonable chorus – I wouldn’t call it catchy, however it does have some staying power – but I honestly can’t remember how any other part of it goes, and I’ve listened to it just as often as I’ve listened to the likes of Cyprus and Montenegro – two far more instant songs. It’s not memorable or modern enough for me, and I suspect for the contest in 2017 either. I wouldn’t give it zero chance of qualifying, because it might well go through…but if so, I expect it will die in the final. On the plus side, I’m guaranteed to love whatever Poland sends to Milan the as-yet-unidentified host city of Eurovision 2018. 5 points.
My mum says… It’s funny how something so dramatic can fall so flat! This didn’t do anything much for me, and I’m having trouble thinking of the melody too. It sounds like it’s trying to be something spectacular, but it never hits the heights to make that happen. Kasia’s voice is another great one that I’d say deserves a better song to show it off. 5 points.
Poland’s score 5.00
Aaaaand we’re done for the day! The ranking for this round of reviews looks like this:
- The Netherlands (8.5)
- Estonia (8.00)
- Germany (6.5)
- Poland (5.00)
- Lithuania (5.00)
- Czech Republic (4.00)
Forget two heads being better than one – three is obviously better than two, if O’G3NE’s win over Koit and Laura is any indication (though that was mainly my mum’s influence). You’ll have to hang around until all 42/43 (will I review Russia? I’m not sure at this point) songs have been crossed off the to-do list to find out which country will top our full ranking…and which one will bring up the rear. After that, Eurovision itself will decide whether terrible taste runs in my family or not.
Next time on Jaz Judges Eurovision 2017, I’m rolling out the red carpet for Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta and Switzerland. Drop by if you don’t want me to dance alone! And before that, as always, leave your thoughts + feelings on today’s reviews in the comments. Do you think the Netherlands will do the best out of this bunch in Kyiv, or does OGAE poll darling Estonia have the edge? Perhaps we’ll find ourselves in Prague next year and you’ll be saying ‘I told you so’. Let us know below!
Junior Eurovision isn’t for everyone. I totally get that.
But attention, anti-fans: did you know that your aversion to watching tweenagers/teenagers do pretty much what the grown-ups do in May each November (only on a smaller scale and with the occasional mid-song onset of puberty) is depriving you of terrific tunes that could be added to your ESC and NF season playlists?
If your answer to that is ‘No! Please fix that for me immediately if not sooner, Jaz!’, then fear not – I’ve got you covered.
As a starting point, I’ve sifted through the seventeen songs that competed in Junior Eurovision 2016 last Sunday, and singled out the most mature, non-stereotypically JESC entries of the year. The following five songs are the ones I’d recommend you have a listen to if you’ve found mini-Eurovision too young to warm to in the past, but have a reasonably open mind and wouldn’t recoil in horror at the prospect of giving a few participants a chance to win you over.
Those of you who are JESC fans should feel free to scan this list too, and make your own recommendations from contests past and present in the comments. Together, we can brainwash bring people around to our super-cool way of thinking…
CYPRUS | Dance Floor by George Michaelides
Could be a Eurovision entry from…Sakis Rouvas, Loukas Giorkas & Stereo Mike
Why you should press play Just in case the title of this track didn’t clue you in, it’s the sort of song that will have your butt moving to the energetic, ethno-dance beat before your brain has even processed what’s happening. Because Sakis Rouvas himself is probably too stiff in the joints these days to return to Eurovision – with a banger like Dance Floor, anyway – you might want to familiarise yourself with the sound of his likely successor.
MACEDONIA | Love Will Lead Our Way by Martija Stanojković
Could be a Eurovision entry from…Elena Risteska, Poli Genova
Why you should press play There are always songs competing at JESC that really put the word ‘Junior’ into Junior Eurovision. Martija’s is the opposite of that. What you hear and what you see (should you watch her performance from last weekend) are both far more suited to the adult contest. If you tend to shy away from young-sounding voices and songs, and/or if you’re a fan of on-trend, radio-friendly tropical pop, then Love Will Lead Our Way is the way to go!
POLAND | Nie Zapomnij by Olivia Wieczorek
Could be a Eurovision entry from… Eva Boto, Pastora Soler, Polina Gagarina
Why you should press play Who doesn’t love a classic, money-note-filled power ballad when it’s done right? Poland’s return to JESC after over a decade away brought with it a beautifully written and executed effort (emanating national anthem-esque, military-march vibes) that struck a perfect balance between youthful innocence and mature sophistication. Nie Zapomnij beats a whole bunch of ballads that have made it to the ESC recently, so I highly recommend it.
RUSSIA | Water of Life by The Water of Life Project
Could be a Eurovision entry from…Tinkara Kovač, Zlata Ognevich
Why you should press play Because I’m biased, and since I absolutely adore this song, YOU SHOULD TOO! Seriously though, it’s a humdinger feat. everything one could possibly want in an adult Eurovision entry. It’s ethnic and modern; builds gradually and powerfully; mixes soft moments with explosive moments, making it exciting; and features a few run-throughs of the chorus in English, so those of us whose tongues won’t wrap around Russian can still sing along.
UKRAINE | Planet Craves For Love by Sofia Rol
Could be a Eurovision entry from…Mika Newton
Why you should press play Hanging onto Macedonia’s heels in the ‘maybe this should have been submitted for Kyiv?’ stakes is Ukraine, with this dreamy mid-tempo ballad. It’s an interesting (some would say boring, but decide for yourself) composition that doesn’t follow a bog-standard formula, and it has the ability to transport you to another place – the set of The Lord of the Rings, for example. It’s not for everyone, but it is more geared towards grown-ups than kids.
And that’s my chosen five. If you braved a viewing/listening session on any of the above entries for the first time, let me know what you thought of them. If you’re JESC 2016-savvy already, let me know how I went selecting the songs that might just convince the haters that Junior is worth watching. And of course, if there’s anything else you want to say about the contest we’ve just witnessed – won for the third time by Georgia – go for it. I’m not ready to stop talking about it yet!
Until next time…
Welcome to the day all of us Junior Eurovision fans have been waiting for since the conclusion of the adult contest in Stockholm: show day!
In a matter of hours, the 2016 edition kicks off in Valletta, and I couldn’t be more excited if I tried (and I have). I hope you are too – I don’t want to be the only one on the planet who’s pretty close to peeing their pants.
Let’s leap straight in to the stuff I promised to cover in the title of this post, because a) I don’t want the show to start before I’ve even made my predictions, and b) I want to distract you from the fact that I just admitted to being close to wetting myself (I must have temporarily mistaken the slogan of JESC 2016 for #embarrass). So here are some rankings and predictions for your reading pleasure (fingers crossed).
Calculated and complete: The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 for 2016 (plus my personal pre-show ranking, just because)
Just as the countdown to the contest itself was on this week, so too was the countdown to the unveiling of the EBJJJ’s post-review ranking (well, it was in my mind, anyway). After four rounds of reviews and mini-rankings, it’s time for me to pull the Cloth of Intrigue away with a magician-like flourish, and let you see who ended up where. Voila!
So there you have it. Russia, after scoring more sets of douze than any other country, takes first place, followed by Armenia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Poor Cyprus (and I am a little outraged by this) were relegated to rock bottom, which I hope will not be the case after the actual show is over. I’ll probably do a quick analysis this week of how the actual results compared to the EBJJJ version, so keep an eye out for that – the differences are sure to be drastic!
In case you were curious, here’s my personal ranking as of right this second. I got my way a few times, and I didn’t even have to rig anything. Woohoo!
- The Netherlands
How does yours compare, and what do you think of the EBJJJ’s collective Top 17? Let us know in the comments below.
Bets on (but not literally): Predicting the winner, loser and all of the results in-between
I say ‘not literally’ because I’ve never been confident enough in my predicting powers to gamble any of my savings on them. Removing money from the equation takes some of the pressure off, but I’ve got to say – I thought the absence of televoting would make trying to foresee the results easier, but it really makes it harder!
The outcome of JESC has never been decided by 100% jury voting before, so it’s impossible to say with certainty (unless you’re psychic) what will happen in a few hours’ time, and what happened as a result of yesterday’s jury final. Who knows how each jury will react/reacted to each performance? Not me, that’s for sure. But when it comes to the following questions, I have made the effort to come up with some answers…
FTW? Bulgaria. Yes, ladies and gents – for the first time in my history of being a Eurovision fan, I am calling this one outright (instead of super-gluing the seat of my pants to the fence by predicting at least three countries to win). I’ve only very recently had the feeling, especially after hearing reports on the rehearsals, that Bulgaria may be about to win their first ever Eurovision event – just six months after Poli Genova achieved their best result yet. My reasoning behind this is pretty simple: I think Valsheben Den is one of the few competing songs (if not the only one) that offers something to all three juries. I can also clearly see the credits rolling over a reprise from Lidia, which is often a good indication of a song’s potential to win (as stupid as it sounds). She’s adorable and engaging, her vocals and her costume (from the little I’ve heard and seen) are on point/fleek, and the song is catchy, memorable and uplifting. WHOLE PACKAGE ALERT! They may not be boasting my absolute favourite entry of JESC 2016, but I would be perfectly happy to witness Bulgaria win with what they do have.
Dark horse FTW? Poland. It’s time for a beautifully-sung ballad to win again, basically, and if it isn’t the up-tempo, inspirational, almost tribal ballad from Bulgaria, I have a sneaking suspicion that it could be Poland’s more traditional number. There was something magical about Nie Zapomnij from the start, and it has continued to grow on me and give me THE FEELING ever since. The pathway to victory is more mountainous for Poland than for Bulgaria, so that’s why I see Olivia as the dark horse to Lidia’s bright, white prancing pony. But watch out for this one, guys. If it doesn’t go all the way, it’ll at least outrank both of Poland’s previous results – and outscore both of their existing point totals.
The rest of the top five? Armenia, Russia, Macedonia. Armenia are better at being the bridesmaid than they are at being the bride, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Last year, I was convinced Mika would come second despite having everything required for a win, and I was right (for once). I have a similar feeling about Anahit & Mary – though really, anywhere in the 2nd-5th range of positions could come easily to them. Russia would be my ideal pick to emerge on top as Water of Life is my absolute favourite entry…but nobody’s talking about them as a potential winner anymore, and something is crooked enough about the chemistry and all-around appeal of the group and song on the JESC stage to convince me that it’s just not to be *wails like Rona Nishliu at a funeral*. Predicting Macedonia to make the top five may be a bit ambitious on my part (as I’m not sure the older jurors will go for it) but it deserves to be towards the top. If Martija doesn’t even grace the top ten with her presence, I will personally take it upon myself to beat up Jedward with an oversized can of hairspray (even if it wasn’t their fault).
The lower left-hand side of the scoreboard? Georgia, Malta, Belarus, Italy. We’re talking 6th-9th places here, so just out of the top-ten-in-adult-Eurovision equivalent that is the top five. Georgia, if I’m honest and all of a sudden, could actually win (as it turns out, Mzeo is kind of epic and has been getting the round of applause to end all rounds of applause during rehearsals), but if they don’t, I think they’ll drop down to about 6th. Malta (my least favourite) will no doubt get a boost as the home country, but I just don’t think Parachute has the substance to squeeze into the top five á la Federica’s Diamonds in 2014. Belarus would be in with a better chance if televoting was happening (hello, hoverboards!) but as the situation stands, they may have to settle for less. I think Italy’s class will win over the adult juries to an extent, and perhaps the expert juries too, unless Cara Mamma is completely overshadowed by other ballads.
The upper right-hand side of the scoreboard? Israel, The Netherlands, Cyprus, Australia, Serbia. Each of these countries has something that’s likely to stop them from steamrolling over a lot of their rivals. For Israel, it’s going up against arguably stronger and more memorable ballads. For The Netherlands, it’s racking up the points when their song is geared more towards the kids’ jury than any of the others. For Cyprus, it’s bypassing the potential jury opinion that Dance Floor lacks the technicality of a worthy winner. For Australia, it’s the same issue Israel will have, as well as a general lack of ‘wow’ factor. And for Serbia, it’s an underwhelming presentation that has been closely compared to the superior one from Belarus. Together, they’ve got about 99 problems, and making it over to the left side of the scoreboard is definitely one.
Right at rock bottom? Albania, Ukraine, Ireland. It causes me physical pain to predict such low places for two of these countries, but I really do think they’ll all have trouble capturing substantial votes from any of the juries – Ukraine and Ireland in particular. I’d love to be proven wrong and see Albania and Ukraine perform better, but I’m preparing myself for the worst.
These predictions – plus some highly scientific calculations which involved guessing which entries would appeal to which jury (kids, adults and/or expert) – come together to create a leaderboard that looks like this:
- The Netherlands
I reserve the right to delete this and pretend I never produced it if the real results are vastly different.
Do you agree or disagree with my guesses? Is there an obvious, in-the-bag winner in your opinion, or are we in for a shock that has all of our jaws on the floor?
Finally – the five things I’m most looking forward to seeing when JESC meets Malta again!
Because ten’s too many, and one would just be lazy.
- Finding out how Malta has approached JESC in 2016 versus how they approached it in 2014. Will it be similar, yet somehow very different – and in many ways, so much better – as with the ESC in Malmö VS in Stockholm?
- Finally checking out the performances from my favourites – and some of my non-favourites – after not watching any of the rehearsals in order to maintain an element of surprise. Russia, Poland, Macedonia, Cyprus and Australia (obviously) are among the countries I can’t wait to see on the stage for the first time.
- Werking it when Poli Genova does her duty as an interval act. There’s no doubt she’ll bring back fond memories of the awkward white girl dancing I did during her opening party set at the Euroclub in May. SUCH GOOD TIMES.
- Seeing some familiar faces back on the JESC stage – albeit as spokespersons when the adult jury points are announced. The 2015 artists who have been chosen to make a comeback of sorts are Mika from Armenia, Misha Smirnov from Russia, Ruslan Aslanov from Belarus (my winner of last year) and Anna Trincher from Ukraine. Reigning JESC champ Destiny Chukunyere will also be there to announce the kids jury results (after joining Poli as an interval act) and it’s always great to see her smiling face.
- Watching the results unfold in a year with no precedent for what will take place. Honestly, I’ve based a big chunk of this post on wild guesses because I have no clue what the ending to the JESC 2016 story will be. It could be a happy one, if Russia, Bulgaria, Armenia or Poland take the win (to name a few); or an unhappy one, if Malta manage to do the double with a song that would be the Running Scared to Not My Soul’s Euphoria, if you know what I mean. I’m practically dying of curiosity at this point, so bring it on, Valletta!
What are you most looking forward to this afternoon/tonight/tomorrow morning/whenever? As long as it’s Junior Eurovision-related, I want to know. Although if it’s about your dog, I’m happy to have a conversation about that too.
Wherever you are and however you’re tuning in, I hope you have a very merry JESC, and get the results of your dreams (unless they’re different to the results of my dreams, in which case SCREW YOU I WANT IT TO GO MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY!!!).
Enjoy the show.
Hi there, whoever you are and whichever hemisphere you’re in. Welcome to the first episode of four to feature complimentary and catty critiques targeted at children who may cry if they catch sight of the latter (I’m sorry, but I appear to have misplaced my maternal instincts).
Yes, it’s Junior Eurovision pre-party time again! For those of us who love JESC and cannot keep our opinions about it to ourselves, that means reviewing and ranking the competing entries – a solid seventeen, in 2016’s case – possibly in an attempt to figure out what will go down on judgment day. This year, that’s November 20th in Malta (take two for the tiny island), and funnily enough, that date is creeping closer rather than disappearing into the distance. So I’ve got to get reviewing and ranking, like, right this second.
Just before I do, an FYI: to help me out here, I’ve assembled a globe-spanning (a.k.a. mostly Australian with a few other nationalities thrown in ‘cause that’s just how things panned out) JESC jury to score each and every entry alongside me. Together, we’ll award an average rating that will go on to determine where each country sits in the prestigious *cough* EBJ Junior Jury Ranking. I’d like to thank all of my jurors for taking the time to do some Molly Sterling-esque playing with numbers as a favour to yours truly. Props bigger than Ukrainian hamster wheels and Montenegrin Trojan horses go to all of you!
Now, before it’s literally too late, let’s get started.
It’s all about girl power today as Armenia, Georgia, Poland and Ukraine face the music. Read on to find out what me and my crew think of the songs Anahit & Mary, Mariam, Olivia and Sofia are set to perform in Valletta in ten days’ time.
If you need a musical reminder so you can deliver your own verdict, then check out the official JESC Youtube channel’s playlist here.
My thoughts Armenia is one of a handful of countries that just “get” JESC. Year after year, whether they’ve nailed or failed adult Eurovision, they serve up something fun and infectious at Junior that always ends up being in the mix to win the whole contest. So have they done the same in 2016, according to moi? You bet they have! Tarber is a song with the distinction of being both upbeat pop fluff (I use the word ‘fluff’ here positively) and a song that’s likely to tick multiple boxes on the jury’s criteria list – critical for the win considering there’s no televoting this year. The latter is obvious from the second it starts, with Anahit and Mary belting out an intro worthy of a Christina Aguilera/Mariah Carey duet (which they will need to pull off live, or Armenia could suffer a serious scoreboard slump for the first time in forever). That soon gives way to a funk-inspired main event, complete with an incredibly catchy chorus and enough repetition to make the three minutes cohesive, but not boring. The fairly well-written English lyrics squeezed in towards the end (a tactic also used by the likes of Bulgaria, Italy and Russia) are the cherry on top of a cake that I suspect the jury will find pretty appetising – if not the most appetising of the competing seventeen. Overall, I’m a big fan of this song, having enjoyed it more on my first listen than I did last year’s runner-up Love. If the girls have staging up to usual Armenian standards to present in Valletta – and if they can sing close to studio-perfect live – then I think they’re on track to get Armenia inside the top five for the eighth time out of ten participations. That’s what I’ll have my fingers crossed for, anyway!
My score 10
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 6
- James, UK – 4
- Joshua, Australia – 6
- Matthew, Ireland – 12
- Michael, Australia – 12
- Penny, USA – 10
- Rory, Ireland – 12
My thoughts Here’s another country that could do Junior Eurovision blindfolded, and do it well (they have had unimpressive results for the past few years, but Georgia still has a stellar record to look back on). Only this time, I’m not so sold on their contribution to the potluck dinner of JESC 2016. I don’t hate Mariam’s Mzeo so much as I have extra-mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I think it has a nice melody and builds beautifully. Then there’s the lushly layered orchestration, which gives it a depth that you don’t find in stuff like the Netherlands’ Kisses and Dancin’ (more on that in another post). Really, it’s an IRL Disney ballad, and Mariam’s the princess with a heap of pent-up emotions to purge on stage. However, there are aspects of this song that turn me off in a big way. It’s almost too dramatic, and gets very shouty towards the end (which, seems to take a looooong time to arrive). It doesn’t capture my attention enough to keep my mind from wandering/wondering (what’s next, song-wise). I also think it’s verging on being too mature for JESC thanks to the old-fashioned, Hollywood musical sound. I know the last three or four winners haven’t exactly put the ‘Junior’ into Junior Eurovision, but they’ve all retained a sense of youth somehow. I’m not sure this song does, Mariam’s slightly squeaky voice aside (something else that stops me from enjoying Mzeo too much). To tell the truth, I prefer the weird, off-the-wall JESC Georgia. The Georgia that has won the comp twice thanks to kids in wasp costumes and kids who really, really like candy. Can we please have that Georgia back next year?
My score 6
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 1
- James, UK – 2
- Joshua, Australia – 3
- Matthew, Ireland – 5
- Michael, Australia – 1
- Penny, USA – 8
- Rory, Ireland – 5
My thoughts First things first: POLAND IS BACK IN JESC, AND I AM JUMPING FOR JOY! It’s always great to have somebody rejoin the party, but Poland’s comeback is particularly noteworthy due to the mahusive gap between their last participation (2004, in case you were unsure) and this one. Their entries in ’03 and ’04 scored six points between them, so it would be mighty fine if Poland could improve on that unfortunate record enough to make them want to embrace (HAHAHA, see what I did there?!?!?) Junior Eurovision in 2017 too. Although it’s not the tallest of orders, I think Olivia + Nie Zapomnij = a good chance. The song is a pretty, hopeful ballad, but it’s got some guts courtesy of the beat that kicks in, driving it home; and thanks to Olivia’s powerful, dynamic vocal, which is in keeping with the power and dynamism present in most other aspects of the package. The fact that it’s totally in Polish may make it a little inaccessible to those of us whose brain-boxes can’t comprehend a word of the language (TBH, I have no idea how born-and-bred Poles can wrap their head around it) but it also gives it a mysterious allure – kind of like the one Festivali I Këngës winners have prior to the inevitable unveiling of their mediocre English versions. The thing I like most about this song is that you’re not always sure where it’s going. It almost seems like a couple of songs rolled into one, without being messy. Having said that, I don’t think Nie Zapomnij is the most memorable ballad competing in Valletta, and I worry that it will pale in comparison to much of what follows it if it’s placed early on in the running order. Then again, I could be wrong and it could walk the whole thing (I have been known to make a “few” mistakes when making Eurovisual predictions). I guess we’ll have to sit tight and see what happens…
My score 8
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 5
- James, UK – 7
- Joshua, Australia – 8
- Matthew, Ireland – 7
- Michael, Australia – 7
- Penny, USA – 7
- Rory, Ireland – 7
My thoughts Next year’s adult Eurovision hosts are also one of my favourite JESC countries. It’s been a long time since I haven’t fangirled over the song they’ve sent to Junior, so I was pretty keen to find out what they’d choose in the wake of Jamala’s victory. Planet Craves For Love (AWKWARD ENGLISH TITLE ALERT!!!) was their pick, and – even sweeping any potential biases under the shagpile rug for the sake of objectiveness – I absolutely adore it (imagine me saying that in a very posh British accent, if you don’t mind). To me, it’s Anna Trincher’s Pochny z Sebe with the rock elements removed and the traditional Ukrainian sounds ramped up. The two songs are even thematically similar (though Anna’s was more intense in lyrical content as well as in the number of guitars being thrashed in the background). It remains to be seen whether Sofia will emerge from a giant lotus flower á la Anna, but even if the comparison stops when she steps on stage, it’ll still have a lot to do with the way I feel about her song. Excluding the title, there’s nothing I don’t like about it. Melodically, the verses, bridges and chorus are stunning; there’s multiple money moments throughout that make it memorable; the music is as organic and sweet as the fruit at a farmer’s market (if that makes any sense); and the tempo ensures it’s a sleepy ballad that won’t actually send you to sleep. Quietly powerful, it’s a song I intend to support via ultra-enthusiastic flag-waving on the day. I do have some reservations about Sofia’s live vocal abilities, but if she and her peeps have spent the last few months shaping and tightening up both sound and staging, well…I, for one, will be happy about it. I’m not sure how Ukraine will score in 2016 given Anna’s middling result in Sofia (that’s Sofia the city), but I’d love the jury to respond to them like they did in Stockholm.
My score 12
The EBJ Junior Jury says…
- Dara, Australia – 0
- James, UK – 10
- Joshua, Australia – 2
- Matthew, Ireland – 4
- Michael, Australia – 12
- Penny, USA – 10
- Rory, Ireland – 6
Four down, thirteen to go! And with that, we arrive at the exciting part of this post – if the reviews themselves weren’t exciting enough in your opinion (in which case, whatever. I don’t even care. *weeps silently*). It’s the EBJ Junior Jury ranking for this round, and it looks a little something like this:
- Armenia (9)
- Ukraine (7)
- Poland (7)
- Georgia (3.87)
Georgia hasn’t offered up the level of quirky fun this year that we’re used to, and the EBJJJ didn’t reward them for it. Ukraine and Poland end this episode neck and neck, but I’ve broken the tie on countback (ESC-style, of course) and ranked Sofia above Olivia. That leaves Armenia as today’s champ. I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to pull a Barei and say ‘YAY YAY YAY!’.
Next time, the EBJ Junior Jury and I will cast our eyes and ears over Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Russia. Does one of those countries have the power to eject Armenia from the top spot? Drop by in a few days to find out!
In the meantime, let me know which is your favourite entry of today’s four. And while you’re at it, which of the juror’s scores do you agree with, and whose have you questioning their sanity? Naming and shaming (in a nice, respectful way) is totally cool in my comments section.
Until next time…
Hello! Or, if you don’t mind me greeting you in the languages of the countries being reviewed today: zdravo, bonjour, xαίρετε, cześć, buna and Привет!
Don’t worry…I won’t do that every time.
Yes, it’s finally ESC 2016 review time here on EBJ (they’ve arrived just as unfashionably late as I do to all professional and social events). If you haven’t met the jury members who will be joining me on the quest to critique and compile a full ranking of all 43 entries, head to the ‘Välkommen Aboard!’ page above, or click here if you’re too lazy to look for it. You may as well get to know the people about to rip your favourite songs to shreds a little better.
Although all of the jurors will be scoring all of the entries this year, only three of us will actually be reviewing each time (if you’re hopping off the train at Complication Station right now, I apologise). And so…
In this first installment of reviews, Rory, Wolfgang and I will be taking a look at/listen to Croatia, France, Greece, Poland, Romania and Russia – a.k.a. Nina, Amir, Argo, Michał, Ovidiu and Sergey. There are some hyperbolic highs and some low, low lows among the songs of these countries and artists – but which is which, and according to whom? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out.
Let’s get started!
Rory Croatia, you’ve sent some beautiful acts to Eurovision – Doris Dragović and Daniela to name but a couple – but in recent years, you’ve given us some of the most…”interesting” songs around, with a rapping granddad, ‘SALIBRAYYYYY’, and Nina Badrić dressed in an assortment of bin bags! So where have you been hiding potential like this? I am so smitten with Lighthouse, it’s unbelievable. Nina is a proven live singer, what with her experience on The Voice of Croatia, and although her look doesn’t exactly fit the typical Eurovision style, the song is easily going to make up for that. When I listen to the song, I can immediately think of the staging and how it’s going to look, with the cameras and everything. It’s a strong, Balkan song that for once didn’t come from the nostril of Željko Joksimović! This should easily sail through to the final (get it? I’m keeping up with the nautical theme!) and make it into the top 10 – and maybe it’ll give HRT the incentive to make The Voice into a national selection, so they can keep sending individual and adaptable artists to Eurovision.
Wolfgang I’m very happy that Croatia is back in Eurovision again this year, with an outstanding voice and a wonderful song. Nina’s voice is hauntingly brilliant, and the music reminds me of some of the good Irish entries of the 90s. It sounds original, a little Celtic and folky, and it is quite different to a lot of the other female electronic ballads we have this year. In addition to this, Lighthouse gives me the same vibes that some of Enya’s songs give me every time. Plus, it is a contemporary song in the likes of Faded by Alan Walker, which is a huge hit all over Europe this spring. I’m very excited about the staged “lighthouse” that we will hopefully see during her performance. Croatian ladies are the best at Eurovision…well, mostly (Severina not included). Great choice this year, Croatia, and lots of luck from Germany!
Jaz I’ve been through quite the thought process where this comeback track from Croatia is concerned. The first time I heard it, I detected traces of Emmelie de Forest, and that turned me right off (I’m not Only Teardrops’ biggest fan). On my second listen, I suddenly warmed to the Cranberries-meets-Corrs Celtic pop sound, because it’s a nostalgic throwback to the 90s while still feeling contemporary. The third time around, I realised just how much the chorus of Lighthouse mimics the chorus of Swedish superstar Zara Larsson’s Uncover (which I love) and mused to myself, ‘Is THAT what’s making this “now”?’. I won’t go on to tell you how I felt after every single subsequent play of the song, but I will tell you what I think of it at this point (since that’s the whole purpose of these reviews). As much as I’m irritated by the frail, ethereal sound of Nina’s voice, and as much as I detest songs that use lighthouses as metaphors in their lyrics (all the talk about light guiding people safely home and whatnot makes me want to deliberately steer my metaphorical ship into a cliff face so I don’t have to hear it any more), I do like this. The lyrics aren’t as lame as they could be; the pounding beat is hypnotic; the key change is impressive; and Nina does have the kind of vocal chops that suit a song of this genre. So, while Croatia may not be fielding my favourite song of the year (why they’re so high in the betting odds is a mystery to me) I am quite keen on Lighthouse.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 4
- James 10
- Jaz 7
- Martin 7
- Nick 4
- Penny 12
- Rory 12
- Wolfgang 10
Croatia’s EBJ Jury score is…8.67
Rory I’ve enjoyed the majority of French songs from the past few years (the exception being Sognu – what was that utter mess?!?) and this year is no different! Unhappy with their constant string of undeservedly low results, France has finally sent something that can actually be seen as radio-friendly! I enjoy the indie tones of J’ai Cherché, and the bilingual aspect of it means it will be a lot easier for the song to make a connection with a wider audience. However, this could end up being a double-edged sword, as the wrong sort of staging could ruin their chances. It’s been done before (Anggun, I’m looking at you…why GYMNASTS, of all things?). I’m not sure how it’s going to be on stage, as previous performances have been very bare and stripped back, but I’m open to being surprised. As long as Amir gives a strong performance, France will definitely be out of the bottom five!
Wolfgang I am a big fan of la France and their musical genre Variété Francaise-loving artists, like Patrick Fiori, Garou and Mickaël Miro. The French Eurovision artist for 2016, a.k.a. Amir, belongs in this category too, and he has got an excellent song in his luggage for Stockholm. J’ai Cherché is very catchy and contemporary, and it could be THE Eurovision summer hit of this year (at least I would love to hear it more often). As with Croatia, I am really happy that France has come again with a great song after four years of suffering over a ‘lowlight’ vocal performance, a horrible alternative song, a crazy fun entry and a boring lame lady ballad last year. But this year, France is back in the game, and it could become their Eurovision year. No other city in Europe can use such a big event like the ESC than Paris at the moment. Hopefully they go all the way with Amir – that would make me happy. Douze points d’Allemagne!
Jaz If there’s a Team ‘France Has Totally Been Robbed of Higher Rankings in Recent Eurovision Years’, then I’m on it. L’Amour Á La Française, Divine, Allez Ola Olé and Moustache all should have had more success than they did in my opinion (although in some cases, I get why they didn’t). I don’t want that same fate to befall J’ai Cherché, because I truly believe that if it doesn’t hit the heights of the top 10 in Stockholm, there will officially be something very wrong with the world (or some possible irregularities in the jury and/or televoting figures). Amir’s ESC effort is everything I appreciate about French pop wrapped up securely in a three-minute package, without being stereotypical (though that doesn’t give him the space to appear onstage sporting a Breton t-shirt and beret). It’s folk-inspired, but not stale like an old baguette; it’s fun, but takes itself seriously at the same time; it blends French and English seamlessly, making it the poster song for bilingual success at this year’s contest; and it’s irresistibly catchy (karaoke, anyone?). And then there’s Amir’s rugged French handsomeness, which is far removed from my beloved Måns Zelmerlöw’s clean-cut and beautifully buff exterior, but is somehow (almost) equally appealing. Basically, what hasn’t this entry got going for it? C’est magnifique, Mesdames et Messieurs…just don’t eff up the staging, France.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 10
- Fraser 10
- James 8
- Jaz 12
- Martin 10
- Nick 8
- Penny 10
- Rory 10
- Wolfgang 12
France’s EBJ Jury score is…10
Rory Believe it or not, this is first Greek Eurovision entry since Secret Combination that I’ve actually enjoyed *braces for the onslaught of ‘WHY DIDN’T YOU LIKE OPA?!’ comments*. Of course, I’m definitely partial to a bit of ethnicity, but if there’s a lack of authenticity, then you’re just as well to be Rodolfo Chikilicuatre! Argo has created a song that on first listen is quite…odd, but as it goes on, you start to get drawn into it, and by the end, you do feel yourself swaying with the off-beat rhythms. When I listen to Utopian Land, I get echoes of Björk’s Náttúra, which in itself is four minutes of off-beat rhythms and headbanging. I love the ethnicity of this song, and I think it’s a perfect way of describing Greek traditional-pop music. However, with the negative reception the song has received, I feel like people might not get on board with it, and Argo’s Utopian Land may become a DYStopia! I really hope not though.
Wolfgang Now we come to the “Land of Utopia” a.k.a. this year’s Greek entry. I am really biased about this song. On the one hand, I like the instruments used, and the sound is quite catchy, ethnic and original. But on the other hand, I don’t like the rap/spoken parts in the verses much, and the chorus is too repetitive for my ears. The next thing that strikes me is the terrible English the entry is sung in. Why don’t the artists sing in Greek instead of bad English? I’m absolutely not sure if Greece is able to qualify this year in their semi, since the quality of the songs is generally much higher compared to Vienna. I still like Argo’s artful video clip that reminds me a bit of Run, Boy, Run by Woodkid, which is amazing. And the song’s obviously better than the Dion-esque LLB from last year!
Jaz The last time Greece sent a group to Eurovision, everything about it was epic (and that’s if we’re talking about Koza Mostra, OR if you’d define Freaky Fortune feat. Riskykidd as a group). But the standard of their songs and their success on the scoreboard have both taken a hit lately, and I have to admit, I’m very ‘hmm…’ about Utopian Land. As with a whole bunch of 2016 songs, there are things I like and dislike about this one. I don’t mind the rap, since it tends to sound particularly badass in Greek; the chorus is somewhat catchy; and the ethnicity Argo is bringing to the table is appealing, given how little national identity can be heard among their fellow competitors. But overall, it’s a non-dynamic, non-event kind of entry, with lame English lyrics and far too much repetition. So I’m leaning towards a thumbs-down more than a thumbs-up, and I really think Greece will struggle to qualify with it (i.e. they’ll probably squeeze through in 10th place). You never know – it could be staged in such a way that it stuns us all into silence (and then we’d hear that sound that Dami Im’s on about). But I don’t think Greece can afford the amount of trampolines, confetti cannons and state-of-the-art projections required to make THAT happen.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 3
- James 3
- Jaz 5
- Martin 7
- Nick 8
- Penny 5
- Rory 10
- Wolfgang 4
Greece’s EBJ Jury score is…5.67
Rory SHOCK HORROR! MARGARET’S NOT GOING TO EUROVISION! It came as a shock to most Eurovision fans that Conchita’s Polish second-cousin-twice-removed Michał Szpak managed to triumph over Margaret – and Edyta Górniak – to win Krajowe Eliminacje. I have to say, I was expecting Margaret to win as she CLEARLY had the best song of the nine. But with Michał going instead, I’m not as disappointed as I thought I would be. His live vocals have shown that he can actually sing, and his look will easily make him stand out from the crowd. My one problem is that Color of Your Life is a ballad. A ballad in the first half of a semi that’s filled with other ballads. If it was more like Cool Me Down, it would help him be more individual and outstanding. I feel like this will bomb on the night, because it’ll get lost. If it does end up qualifying, we’ll probably see it in the same realms as Monika the year before. Poland, you should have sent Margaret.
Wolfgang To be honest, I wanted Poland’s greatest living singer – Edyta Górniak – for Eurovision 2016, and Margaret was my number two from the Polish national final. And it looked like there was a fight between those two female artists. But in the end, Michał Szpak won the ticket to Stockholm, to my surprise I must admit! But after just a few listens I am now totally won over by this song. It is a beautiful and timeless classic entry that easily could have been in any other ESC in the past. Every time I listen to Color of Your Life it grows on me and gives me goosebumps. The only thing I would change is Michał’s jacket – he looks like a circus ringmaster in it. He needs something cooler for his stage performance, but everything else is awesome, including his HAIR! I love it! I hope Poland will qualify. BTW, the “color(s) of my life” are midnight blue and orange. Man, I feel so Dutch this year.
Jaz Honestly, I’m more upset that Poland didn’t bring us My Słowianie the sequel for 2016 than upset that Margaret didn’t win their national final. Michał and his majestic mane can’t be compared to Cleo and Donatan (well, mainly just Cleo), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of butter-churning and heaving bosoms, he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve by offering us the sentimental (but not sickly-sweet), sing-along friendly semi-power ballad that is Color of Your Life. I’d say the same thing about this song’s lyrics as I did about Greece’s – they’re cringingly cliché at times (‘…ask your heart who you really are’…seriously? No originality points for you, Mr. Szpak). But that’s where I stop complaining on this one. I actually like it a lot, when I’m listening to it (when I’m not, I forget how much I enjoy it). There’s something about the chorus that speaks to me, saying ‘DAYUM, girl, that melody is super-smooth!’. And I take those words on board. I am concerned that Michał only gives us two choices when it comes to informing him what color/colour our lives are (neither of which are technically colours anyway), but I guess going through every hue in the Pantone range would have taken far longer than three minutes. So, will he bomb or be THE bomb in Stockholm? Fail or succeed, black or white? Given that I assumed Poland wouldn’t qualify last year, I’ll wait for the ESC version of his live performance prior to predicting that. But I’d happily see the country make their third consecutive final with this.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 7
- James 3
- Jaz 7
- Martin 8
- Nick 2
- Penny 6
- Rory 5
- Wolfgang 10
Poland’s EBJ Jury score is…6.22
Rory And so, from the songs I love/don’t mind to one I loathe. I didn’t really pay attention to the Romanian national selection, but what I gathered from it was two things: that Mihai will never do Eurovision again, and that Ovidiu Anton won…and I have to say, why this? It’s rock for starters, which is something I don’t listen to in the first place. Secondly, in the chorus, when he shouts ‘take a moment of SIIIILEEENCE’, he goes so off-key that dogs could probably hear his screams! I’m sorry Romania, but in the last few years you’ve given me no joy whatsoever in the songs you’ve picked. It’s just…..bleugh, for me. I’m sure it’ll qualify, just because it’s Romania and they have that 100% qualification record, but it’s gonna be like Miracle and finish nowhere near where people expect it to. Sorry! Maybe you should have a Moment of Silence for the places that Romania will never reach with this.
Wolfgang To get straight to the point with Romania in one word: HORRIBLE! Just horrible! I hate everything about the song and its stage performance. And I’m still not over Florena or Mihai not winning the Romanian national final. There was such a great line-up in Selecția Națională. I liked 6 of the 12 entries from their semi final much, and two others were quite good. But Romania took the decision out of the remaining entries I did not like. To me, that was the ‘supergau’ of this year’s national final season, even worse than Denmark. The song sounds completely dated to me like something that Belarus, Georgia or Russia would have sent in the early 2000s. And that theatrical performance à la ‘Lord of the Rings’ joined by a “Lord of the Dance” is so awful, I did not enjoy watching it. And why did they call it Moment of Silence? It’s so loud, there won’t be a single moment of silence for the whole three minutes (unless you push the mute button). To me, it looks and sounds like a formulaic Meat Loaf tribute. Normally I like Romanian entries at Eurovision much, but this year they belong to my bottom five songs, and I instantly hope they won’t qualify with this terrible song. For me, it’s one of the clear non-qualifiers of 2016 and a BIG ZERO from me. That’s absolutely not what I want to see on Eurovision stage.
Jaz The minute I discovered Moment of Silence was representing Romania, I asked myself ‘Would I like this if it was the closing song of the first act of a Phantom of the Opera-type musical with a residency on the West End?’. The answer is no, but at least it would belong in that environment. As a Eurovision entry, I like it even less. Pompous, melodramatic and dated dirge performed by a gaggle of Game of Thrones extras is not the kind of thing I wave a flag for. I adored De La Capăt, so this is a real step south for Romania as far as I’m concerned. I’d even rather have Paula and Ovi (plus cameo from computer-generated Paula) back for a third try than sit through Ovidiu’s “moment of silence” (as Wolfgang pointed out, that’s hardly am accurate description of the song). In spite of all of the above, I’m a generous judge and I wouldn’t give Romania nothing, points-wise. But if we were handing out fruit baskets or gift vouchers, it’d be a different story.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 2
- James 0
- Jaz 2
- Martin 7
- Nick 3
- Penny 7
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 0
Romania’s EBJ Jury score is…3.22
Rory *BRACE YOURSELVES FOR A RANT!!* And so we come to the worst one of the lot for me (though not in the whole group of songs – that’s reserved for Rykka and Serhat!). I feel incredibly let down by Sergey Lazarev’s Eurovision effort. In the teaser he published a couple of days before the public release of You Are The Only One, I was impressed by the video production, the high-tech studio, and most of all, the intro to the song, which hinted at it being an alternative, emphatic, atmospheric song (which is right up my alley). Then the song was released…and it was schlager. SCHLAGER. WHY SCHLAGER!?!?! I was left cringing for three minutes, and at the end, I was like ‘Ehh…just eh…I don’t…WHAT!?”. I loathe this sort of 90s Eurodance beat; it’s so outdated, and though people can hate me for all eternity, I’m going to agree with Christer Björkman and say that schlager should be left in the 90s/00s where it belongs. Music has changed, Russia. So should you. And yes, Sergey is very good-looking, but that doesn’t make up for the song, OKAY?! *sigh…rant over*.
Wolfgang I can’t say that I’m disappointed with the Russian entry this year, because Russia meets my expectations exactly with Sergey Lazarev, sending one of their biggest national stars again. Of course, it all smells like the (formulaic) ‘Dima Bilan’ winning package from 2008. The ingredients here are almost the same: you take a big national star, some internationally-recognised songwriters and producers, a hit-like song that sounds so Swedish (more than any song from Melodifestivalen this year) and a performance that almost looks like a Måns Production (but isn’t!). And ready is the Eurovision soup! Let’s face it: Russia are trying very hard this year. They want to win again, under all circumstances and no matter what the cost. But do I want them to win? The answer is ‘No’! The good thing about Russia’s entry this year is that they don’t annoy me again with another ‘love, peace and understanding’ message song (lesson learned?) and Sergey’s video clip is really stunning to watch. If he manages to stage only about 30% of what we see in his video with his acting and live singing abilities, then it can easily be the winning performance of the grand final. On the other hand, the song lacks any kind of emotion for me. It’s formulaic, radio-friendly, sterile and very stereotypical, and it does not touch me at all. Obviously it will be a clear qualifier and yet another top five placement, but here I would go for 3rd or 4th place and hopefully not the no. 1! And another last thing that strikes me: the running gag in Germany about the Russian entry is that the performance will be “sehr gay” this year, and I would add “faux gay” to it. Well, that is what Russians are probably known for at the Eurovision, but it always means a lack of authenticity, and that’s not win-worthy in my opinion.
Jaz If you’d asked me to review You Are The Only One right after my first listen, I would have let rip (kind of like Rory did). After all, I had been expecting something that sounded as cutting-edge as Sergey’s video clip looks, rather than a stale throwback to Eurovision circa 2006 (and let me remind you that a man with a mullet, also from Russia, managed to come second that year). Meanwhile, everyone else was drooling over the song and/or Sergey’s various shirtless shots, which made me wonder whether there was something wrong with me, or with them. The solution? Taking another listen to the song – a.k.a. giving it an andra chansen. And, well…I suddenly saw the light. Or at least, why the bookies universally had and still have Russia in their top spot. I’m not denying that YATOO is dated, and that the songwriters could have written it more into 2016 if they wanted to keep up with the Latvias of the contest. But damn, did they know what they were doing anyway. This is precisely thought-out, clinical and slickly-produced schlager dance, and it is dangerous. If Sergey’s vocals are shipshape, and his staging is as eye-catching as that video (and we know that Russia always have their staging under control), he will certainly be the ‘only one’ to beat. There’s a power in the unrelenting energy and instant chorus of the song that makes it memorable, even in studio – and when paired with visuals that give it a perfectly-packaged kind of feel (á la Heroes) it becomes one step of a winning recipe. Oh, and thank the Lordi it’s not another preachy peace ballad!
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 12
- James 6
- Jaz 10
- Martin 8
- Nick 6
- Penny 7
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 7
Russia’s EBJ Jury score is…7.44
And just like that – after several hours of feverish reading on your part – we’re done for the day. And, with all of the above said and done, the leaderboard currently looks like this:
- France (10)
- Croatia (8.67)
- Russia (7.44)
- Poland (6.22)
- Greece (5.67)
- Romania (3.22)
That makes France the très convincing champion of this round…but it’s early days. Can Amir hold on to the top spot? Only time, plus 37 more reviews, will tell!
What do you think of the Part 1 reviews and rankings? Who took the words right out of your mouth, and who should wash theirs out with soap for daring to defile an amazing song? Which of today’s six countries deserves douze points in your opinion? Let us know below.
In the next episode of EBJ Jury judgments, a trio of Aussies (#accident) – including none other than my mother – will have their say on Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. It’s going to be interesting, to say the least! Come together and join us because we are one?
Where Dublin, Ireland
Who Friderika Bayer
What Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet?
The reasons I’ve plucked this song out of thin air for today’s Time-Warp are threefold. Firstly, Hungarian is one of my favourite musical languages (the fact that I barely understand a word of it makes it so cool and mysterious). Secondly, Hungary have thrown some great entries at us since they made their 2011 Eurovision comeback (Kedvesem is now one of my most beloved of all time) and they were responsible for a few gems prior to that too – something I wanted to celebrate. Thirdly, the country’s 1994 debut entry was both in Hungarian AND one of those pre-comeback diamonds, so I’m pretty keen to discuss it. Let’s!
Friderika Bayer was twenty-three when she stepped up to her microphone in Dublin’s Point Theatre (I’m currently the same age, so I feel very inadequate as someone yet to represent any country at Eurovision). She had more responsibility than most of the other competitors on her young shoulders, because, like Poland’s Edyta Gorniak, she was about to be the first singer from her country to appear at the contest. That carries a certain amount of weight.
Fortunately, both Edyta and Friderika debuted in style, finishing 2nd and 4th respectively. Hungary even led the voting before dropping down to that still-successful placing, and I don’t find it hard to understand why – Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet? (‘To Whom Can I Tell My Sins?’) is a stunning song that was accompanied by a beautifully simple and sincere performance. You can draw a few parallels between this entry and Boggie’s Wars For Nothing, despite the 20+ year time difference – both are guitar-backed, down-tempo and sentimental songs performed by vocally proficient brunettes. But Kinek… is the superior song as far as my ears and tastes are concerned. For one thing, it doesn’t send me to sleep. There’s something about the melody and the clarity-tinged-with-vulnerability sound of Friderika’s voice that draws me in, and makes me feel ALL THA FEELS.
Lyrically (yes, this non-Hungarian speaker has Googled the translation multiple times) you won’t find any pleas for peace or cheesy clichés here. Take, for example, the content of the first verse and the chorus:
Nothing is there, only the lightless night
Only the tongue-tied distress, a vain hope
No faith, no love
No one to stroke my hand
Whom can I tell my sins
To be sure that they are forgiven?
Whom can I tell my sins, my God?
This entry is proof that a song doesn’t have to be a) busy, layered, loud and freaking full of lyrics, or b) staged like it’s one’s last chance to use a wind machine, incorporate a costume reveal and do the Moonwalk whilst mowing the lawn and baking a batch of piskóta (so basically, Amanecer) to have an impact. The entire 1994 contest, in fact, was testament to that, with a bunch of top-scoring songs being of the subtle, slow and simple variety – including Ireland’s winner. Some say interval act Riverdance stole the show, but if you look and listen a little closer, that’s not necessarily the case (depending on your attitude towards frenetic Irish dancing).
To sum up, I love this song – and judging by the applause when Friderika was finished, the audience did too. How about you?
Welcome to yet another installment of the Viennese Verdicts! I know, I know, I posted the last one, like, two seconds ago…two very long seconds that almost lasted for three days ago. But, you see, I’ve arrived at the point where I simply must cram things in if I want to take care of all necessary business by Eurovision time. Which I really do. So, with that in mind, let’s get cracking.
On the menu today we have a delicious (or not, depending on one’s tastes) selection of musical dishes, courtesy of Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia. Meet the trio sampling these pan-European dishes:
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Kohan Ikin: Kohan is from Perth, Australia. He started watching Eurovision in 2003 to see famous Russian faux-lesbian pop duo tATu, and got hooked after seeing Alf Poier’s folk/metal act performed by cardboard animals. Kohan has since been to Eurovision three times, and engineered Perth’s first Eurovision nightclub event (together with Perth-via-Denmark fan Kate Hansen). Clearly that Alf Poier incident did something to his brain. You can stalk Kohan online here and here.
Wolfgang Schmidt: “My name is Wolfgang – in full, Wolfgang Michael Schmidt. But nice people and/or good friends call me ‘Wolf’ or ‘Mikey’. I am from a small town near Essen in the mid-west of Germany, not far from the Eurovision host city of 2011, Düsseldorf. I have been a Eurovision addict ever since I can think! The first contest I remember was ESC 1974, which one of the greatest bands on Earth, ABBA, won. From then on, I watched the show every year, missing it only in 1996 as it was not broadcast in Germany (due to the fact that we did not qualify to participate). In 1998 I attended Eurovision live for the first time to support the German delegation in Birmingham. That was the most amazing experience I ever had with the Eurovision! All in all, I have attended the contest four times, in Birmingham in 1998, Copenhagen in 2001, Düsseldorf in 2011 and Malmö in 2013. My all-time favorite Eurovision songs are Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović, Stronger Every Minute by Lisa Andreas, and The One That I Love by Chiara, which would all have gotten the full douze points from me. Eurovision is a ‘come together’ of different cultures, styles of music and kinds of people who all love to share the moments of great music, awesome stage performances and ridiculous dressing (well, sometimes!). And it is THE biggest party in Europe to celebrate with people coming from around forty different countries. That makes it so special to me once a year!”
Jasmin Bear: “Let’s continue the series of ‘Eurovision-Related Facts About Jaz You May Or May Not Want To Have Forced Down Your Throat’ with a list of the countries I’d like to win Eurovision 2015…based on where I’d most like to visit. Numero uno? Heja Sverige! My obsession with all things Swedish spawned from my addiction to the ESC and, consequently, Melodifestivalen. As a lover of the language, the food, the music, the movies, the architecture, the landscapes AND the flat-pack furniture of Sweden – and as someone still waiting to make their first Eurovision attendance happen – Mr. Zelmerlöw taking the top prize in Vienna would equate to me crossing two things off my bucket list at once. In terms of the other countries I’d be hysterically happy to visit in 2016 should they take out the 60th comp, no matter how unlikely that might be…I’d say the UK, Switzerland, Belgium or Iceland. But, if one of my top three songs should win (besides Sweden, as I’ve parroted on about that country enough already) I will be satisfied to jet off to Italy or Norway next year!”
Without further ado (or perhaps I should say ‘adio’, since Montenegro features in this round of reviews) I present our thoughts on what John/Giannis, Monika, Il Volo, Knez and Genealogy are serving up in Vienna. FYI, some of these songs have left a bad taste in our collective mouths…
One Thing I Should Have Done by John Karayiannis
Kohan: Ugh! This really annoys me. I’m sure John is a nice guy, but…wait, when does that sentence ever end well? His voice is great, and the guitar reminds me of More Than Words by Extreme (not a bad thing). But that puts all the focus on the lyrics, and they’re creepy. Whiney post-breakup introspection: ‘I’m cold, I’m staring at the wall, it’s raining, sad colours’. Then there’s the passive-aggressive streak that he ‘always did everything for you’, so clearly the breakup isn’t his fault. Oh, and the One Thing He Should Have Done is he ‘should have been there’ even more?! Am I the only one getting stalker vibes here? And what was that ‘hour of need’? These lyrics pose more questions than they answer. It’s like a Stephen King novel – possibly Misery. I’m looking forward to the karaoke version. 2 points.
Wolfgang: I have a soft spot for male singer/songwriter ballads, so I really like this song! I like the voice of Giannis and think he will do a good live performance. But I fear that the song can soon be forgotten again right after his performance. I would recommend staging with just the spotlight on Giannis and his song, which could create a more intimate atmosphere and give us a Tom Dice moment on stage. The ‘one thing he should have done’ by May is change his glasses and wear something comfortable, so we don’t get another Moran Mazor effect! I’d love to see this qualify to the final, but I don’t have much hope it will. Some of these ballads have to die the ‘ballad death’ in the semis. 5 points.
Jaz: Considering how long and involved Cyprus’ Eurovision Song Project was, it didn’t narrow things down to a great selection of songs. You could say that this particular project was, if not an F-grade fail, C-grade at least. Like the other less-than-impressive NFs of the season, though, Cyprus scores points for picking the best of a bad bunch – that is, the best apart from Hovig’s Stone In A River, which I personally believe should be representing them instead. One Thing I Should Have Done is a soft, reasonably pretty ballad that definitely harks back to the days of Tom Dice and his equally simplistic entry. The thing is, I was never that attached to Me and My Guitar, and the same goes for the bespectacled John/Giannis’ song (which has nothing to do with the fact that Tom was better-looking). It’s nice, it’s sweet, and the emotion is genuine, but I don’t feel much at all when I listen to it. The only reason I’d be disappointed if Cyprus didn’t qualify with this is because it’s Cyprus, and I always like it when they do advance. But unless they create a ‘moment’ on the night – an air of simplicity that provides a stunning contrast to most of the other performances – I think Slovenia’s three minutes that follow will obliterate all memory viewers have of Cyprus. 5 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 4.00
In The Name of Love by Monika Kuzyńska
Kohan: I like this one! I know I’m meant to be a punk/metal fan, and this is so middle-of-the-road adult contemporary…but dammit, it works. Just when I think the song is about to plateau, it kicks up to the next level, bringing the guitars, bringing the drums. The way it swells to a crescendo is perfect. It better qualify for the final, it’s good. I think Poland is safely through semi two this year. 6 points.
Wolfgang: I am not really impressed by this song, as it sounds to me like the prototype of an LLB (Lame Lady Ballad). It could have been an entry in the contests of 1979, 1985, 1994 or 2001, etc – it sounds quite old-fashioned and like I’ve already heard it a hundred times before in different ESC shows. I absolutely think this song cannot stand out and will not qualify. I would compare it to the entry of France, with France having the advantage of already being qualified to the final. Sorry, but this simply is not enough to make the difference on the Eurovision stage. It sounds like the B-side of If You Asked Me To by Céline Dion. I hope there won’t be another Dion-esque diva performance in the second semi. I don’t see a second performance here! 2 points.
Jaz: Many people will be inquiring as to the whereabouts of the buxom butter-churner and her stain-removing friend (whisky and gin are hard to remove from one’s petticoat) in Poland’s performance this year, as I can safely assume they will not be making an appearance. In The Name of Love is pretty much as far removed – genre, mood and subject-wise – as you can get from My Słowianie, which is a strike against it in my book. Poland made a serious splash in Copenhagen, and it’s a shame to see them toss their triple-flavour icecream sundae with hot fudge sauce, sprinkles and a cherry on top (two actually…one on each scoop *wink*) in the trash in favour of a plain Greek yoghurt (or Polish yoghurt, if there is such a thing). Having said that, there must be a little sugar in this confection, because it is sweet. As piano ballads go, it flows nicely and compliments Monika’s voice, and the lyrics don’t make me nauseous. It isn’t cutting-edge, but I still feel like it fits well enough into the 2015 contest, even if it would go down a treat in 1995 as well. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and I find it to be a soothing, pleasant listen. But it’s just not memorable, and when you think back to Poland 2014, it becomes even less so in comparison. I cannot see Monika making it out of her semi final, no matter how hard I try, because there’s nothing here that would compel the masses to vote. She’ll do okay with the juries, and if her performance is well-packaged, she’s sure to avoid the dreaded last place. But I think that’s the best result Poland can hope for. 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 4.67
Grande Amore by Il Volo
Kohan: Majestic. Italy has the full package: charisma, perfectly harmonised vocals…and they look fantastic. The way the song builds is sublime. I understand now the true power of a well-tailored Italian suit, and putting Back To The Future references in your video clip is a great way to bribe the Hatman jury (thanks, fellas). But…I’m only giving it 8 points (Jaz is gonna kill me). It’s a contender for the trophy and the juries will love it, but it isn’t a song I’m playing repeatedly.
Wolfgang: Il Volo are already popular in a lot of European countries. That is an advantage, because they already have a wide fan community. And the guys have great voices and outstanding live abilities, so this year Italy will easily fly again into the top 10 of the scoreboard if they do a perfect show. The song also combines the musical taste of the older and the younger generation, so that they will get a lot of points from various countries across Europe. I think it will easily end up 6th-8th in the final. The bookies already see this coming close to winning. IMO, it is the best song of these five I am reviewing here, but it is not a winning song. 8 points.
Jaz: If marrying a song ever becomes socially acceptable, I will be dragging this one down the aisle before you can say ‘Jaz, what the hell is wrong with you?’. It was love at first listen between us, fueled firstly by the beauty of the popera, secondly by the blend of those three voices, and thirdly by my bias where Italian music is concerned. Then, when I watched the music video, the collective attractiveness of Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca was added into the mix, and my grande amore (the pun had to happen) for Il Volo and their Sanremo winner was cemented. This entry is everything that great Eurovision moments are made of. It starts softly, then builds to an explosive crescendo perfect for pyrotechnics use; it’s sung in Italian, the most musical language in existence; and it’s performed by three magnificent vocalists who have been honing their harmonies for six years, despite still being in their early twenties. After a bit of a misstep last year, Italy should be back to its flawless, classy-as-heck best in Vienna. I don’t buy into any of the negative comparisons between Grande Amore and France’s operatic flop of 2011, Sognu. The former is more of a pop-and-opera hybrid (hence my use of the word ‘popera’ earlier) whereas the latter was straight opera – Grande Amore is much more accessible. Plus, the boys from Il Volo are charismatic and laid-back performers, unlike Amaury Vassili on the ESC stage. He looked stiff and uncomfortable, and like it was an extreme effort to expel every word of Corsican. A better reference point for Grande Amore would be Latvia’s 2007 entry Questa Notte, which was a triumph by Latvian standards. Italy being Italy, and Il Volo’s song being more dynamic and accessible than Questa Notte, they should fare even better. I do have to agree with Wolfgang – I don’t think Italy is gong to win Eurovision this year. But I do think they have the power to come close, and at the least, make up for Emma’s panty-flashing mishap. DOUZE POINTS!!!
EBJ Jury Score: 9.33
Adio by Knez
Kohan: I liked this when I first heard it, and it’s grown on me even though it’s not my usual style (what, no electronica? Where’s the drop?). The transition at 1:24 is awkward and I don’t know what the song is about, but it still keeps me hooked every time I listen – there’s something about the ambience it creates. I hope it qualifies, but I doubt it’s a song we’ll remember next year. 7 points.
Wolfgang: After my first listen to Adio I was a bit disappointed, because my expectations on another Željko song were really high, him being my favorite male artist of all time in Eurovision. And I really love all four of his entries to the Eurovision, including Oro by Jelena Tomašević. When I compare this song to the other four, I automatically come to the conclusion that Adio is not the best song Željko has ever written for Eurovision. But that’s complaining on a very high level, because it is still a very good song and Montenegro can be proud of Knez, who is a really good singer, too. I am sure this will qualify to the final, but then, anything can happen. I hope at least for a placement between 11th and 16th, which would be a bit better than Sergej Četković’s placing last year. This song to me is a grower, getting better with every further listen. 7 points.
Jaz: Once the weaker player in the Serbia VS Montenegro tournaments I hold in my mind, Montenegro has embarked on a steady rise in my estimations over the past few years. Igranka > Ljubav Je Svuda. Moj Svijet > the nothing that Serbia sent last year (obviously). And now, Adio > Beauty Never Lies, by far. I too am a massive Željko fan – y’all probably know that all of his previous entries are ESC favourites of mine – so whenever I find out he’s making any kind of Eurovision comeback, as he is composing Adio for Knez…I FREAK OUT! There is something hauntingly, spellbindingly beautiful about all of the Balkan ballads he creates, and this one is no exception. I agree that it isn’t his strongest composition for the contest, but it has the ŽJ stamp on it, and I’m sold. The only thing missing is the man himself. I have nothing against Knez, who is a great performer, but he’s not quite as…shall we say, debonair as Mr. Joksimović (and the fact that he looks like a magician reminds me so much of this that I can’t take him seriously). But all in all, the ethnicity, interesting rhythms and great melody have won me over as they always do. This may be a ballad amongst many, but it will stand out, being the traditional, non-English-language kind, performed by a male (as opposed to the generic, English-language female ballads on offer). I hope that equals qualification. If not – or if Adio fails to finish in the top 10 in the final – it will be the first Željko entry to finish outside of that top 10. I suspect it will struggle to hit those heights, but I’m more than happy to help it out by voting for Montenegro. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 8.00
Face The Shadow by Genealogy
Kohan: This just confuses me. With the disparate musical styles, it feels glued together, like it’s trying too hard to be Bohemian Rhapsody. Just when I hear a part I like, it turns into a ballad again. Or worse, the part with the opera singer attempting to scat like the UK’s Electro Velvet. Never mind that ‘Genealogy’ is contender for most uncool band name, and that I have no idea what’s with the 1800s family photos in the video (I think I’ve missed something). And those lyrics…is she singing ‘You are chicken your heart’? I give half a point for the black leather outfits (so goth!) and half a point for the power rock ballad parts. I.e. 1 point.
Wolfgang: I am really biased with this entry of Armenia this year. My first thought was, six amazing voices do not make a perfect song! The multiple changes in this song rather make a chaotic impression to me. Every artist alone is a really good performer, but together they don’t make the perfect whole. I am a bit indifferent with this song, but there is something in it that makes me like it. Nevertheless, I think this will qualify to the final even in a semi with so many Eastern European countries. If the Dorians qualified in Malmö, this one should easily do, as it is much better. 3 points.
Jaz: I hate to say this, but whenever I think about Armenia in relation to Eurovision 2015, it comes out as ‘ArmeniUGGGGH!’. I love the idea of Genealogy, presumably borrowed from Switzerland’s assembling of Six4One in 2006, and in theory, the six members would be a force to be reckoned with. In practice, however, they are putting forward a shambolic, chaotic reject from an off-Broadway musical. If Armenia had sent Inga, Tamar, Essaï or any of the other members on their own or as a duet (with a different song) things might have been more palatable. Unfortunately, all of the singers have such distinctive vocal stylings and genres they are suited to, so Face The Shadow comes off as three minutes of cobbled-together competition, in which everybody’s fighting to be the star of the show. I hate to break it to them, but nobody’s winning that fight. As cookie-cutter and naff as Six4One’s If We All Give A Little was back in ’06, at least that was cohesive. It knew what it was, and all six singers blended into a serviceable supergroup. Genealogy and Face The Shadow are the complete opposite. In spite of the star power, I can see them giving us the car crash performance of the year – an onstage mess that will hopefully be swept away by Belgium straight afterwards. 2 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 2.00
Talk about the good, the bad and the ugly! This round of reviews has given the EBJ Jury leaderboard one of its highest, and one of its lowest scores so far.
Here are today’s standings:
- Italy (9.33)
- Montenegro (8.00)
- Poland (4.67)
- Cyprus (4.00)
- Armenia (2.00)
So Italy reigns supreme for the time being, taking the #1 spot from previous champs Slovenia. Will our Grande Amore take them all the way? Or will another bookies’ favourite end as favourite with my esteemed jury members? You’ll have to wait and see.
Up next = Sweden, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Romania. A YouTube star and my mother (again) will be passing judgment on the songs from these five countries, and you won’t want to miss what they have to say. What I have to say will probably be interesting too. Fingers crossed.
I’ll see you in a few days’ time for Part 4 of the Viennese Verdicts. In the meantime, let me know how you would rank Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Cyprus and Armenia – a.k.a. how much you disagree with all of the above!
Eurovision 2014 is still months away, but there’s already been casualties, and some major ones at that. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, and (worst of all, if I may pick one) Serbia (NOOOOOOOOO!) have all said non to Copenhagen, and it sucks. But with a lack of cash being a popular reason for withdrawal, no amount of EBU bribery (unless, of course, the bribe is of the monetary variety) is going to get them back. So instead of dwelling on who won’t be buying airfares to Denmark, let’s focus on who will.
Back in the competition next year we have Bosnia & Herzegovina (which eases the pain of Serbia’s exit a little bit), Portugal, and Poland. Whilst it’s only been a year’s break for B & H and Portugal, Poland hasn’t shown up since failing to qualify for the third time in a row in 2011. Evidently, they’re ready to give it another try (and I don’t mean not qualifying), and I for one am super glad to have them back. To celebrate what will hopefully be a worthwhile return on the twentieth anniversary of their debut, I’m casting a spotlight on their ESC history right here, right now. Refresh your memory or get to know Poland as they were, 1994-2011.
POLAND: THE STATS
Debut 1994 – 2nd place with To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak
Silver medals 1 – 1994
Bronze medals 0
Best result 2nd – 1994
Top 10 finishes 2/16
Top 10 success rate 12.5%
Top 5 finishes 1/16
Top 5 success rate 6%
Wooden spoons (last places!) 1 – 2011 semi final
Semi final qualifications 1/7
Qualification success rate 14%
My favourite entry
Keine Grenzen, Zadnych Granic by Ich Troje (2003). Not only is this my favourite from Poland, it’s also one of my favourite Eurovision songs of all time (let’s just say that when Poland are good, they’re really, really good). Who would have thought that a message song largely carried by a guy who, in his own words, can’t really sing – and in my own words, sounds like he lives on a diet of gravel – would be so beautiful? I think it works because it isn’t a cheesy kind of message song, á la What If and a million others from ESC history. If you check out the translation you’ll see it’s not sickeningly sweet, and is actually very pertinent to the contest created to unite Europe. Plus, it has a stunning melody and structure, and builds into something worth waiting two-and-a-half minutes for.
My least favourite entry
Time To Party by the Jet Set (2007). Most of the Polish entries I don’t like are boring, not bad. But this terrible piece of trash (if you know what I mean…I’m being incredibly subtle here) I file away in the ‘Why, God, Why?’ category, alongside such gems as Switzerland 2004. Okay, so the chorus could be less catchy, but lyrically and just generally – yeuch! If you’re not convinced, allow me to present you with a few lyrical samples:
“Every little moment is so special for me. I’m a little bit crazy, crazy, like a baby, uh.” BRB, off to puke.
“Hey guys, you really know what I like, just like that…you know that I’m really hot.” Modesty is always appreciated. Unfortunately, the Jet Set has none.
If you still think Time To Party has some redeeming features, then I respect your right to have your own opinions, but at the same time, I’m afraid there is NO HOPE FOR YOU.
More of the memorable
To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak (1994) – A close second-favourite of mine, this spectacularly-sung ballad gave Poland an epic debut result. In my mind, it should have beaten Ireland, but since there was an (inexplicable) sixty point winning margin, I can’t really justify that.
Ale Jestem by Anna Maria Jopek (1997) – This didn’t make much of a splash on the scoreboard, but I reckon it’s an interesting, pleasantly folksy number that’s definitely memorable in comparison to some of Poland’s other entries.
Follow My Heart by Ich Troje (2006) – They didn’t qualify on attempt #2 (it still hurts…) but Ich Troje rocked my socks yet again in Athens. I really dug those elaborate outfits, too.
For Life by Isis Gee (2008) – I really like this, based on everything except Isis’ oompa-loompa spray tan (if that was her natural colour I apologise, but I find it hard to believe anyone could have come into the world so orange).
Legenda by Marcin Mrozinski (2010) – Memorable mainly because Marcin had one of his backup dancers in a headlock at one point. That’s what you get when you try to overshadow the main artist, I guess.
Jestem by Magdalena Tul (2011) – A prime example of a great entry ruined by chaotic staging, inappropriate lighting and unsuitable costumes. The visuals should have been slick, sexy, and heavy on black leather and studs. Still, Mags wasn’t the only one to be let down by staging in Düsseldorf, was she…coughBluecough.
Their best stage show
For Life. Poland brought out the dry ice and string instruments (which were played by people who hopefully didn’t choke on said dry ice) for this soaring ballad, which was performed to perfection by Isis in her striking blue gown with matching, lusted-after-by-Jaz bracelet. The aspect I really liked about this performance was Isis’ move down the catwalk to the mike stand, just in time for the first of several money notes. I don’t think catwalks are used often enough in the ESC when they’re available, so I applaud anybody who does elect to use them – especially when that person is wearing massive high heels.
Their best costume/s
Ich Troje. Like I said, these babies were elaborate, and like something out of a period drama (I think they also served as inspiration for Eric Saade’s Masquerade video). Maybe they distracted a little from the song, which is always a danger when you give your seamstress free reign over the fabric bolts AND bedazzler, but you can’t say they weren’t eye-catching, particularly with Michał’s festive green hair setting things off.
Their best vocalist/s
Edyta Górniak. Who cared that she had forgotten to change out of her nightgown when she was attacking the song like that? Only someone who lives to rally against sleepwear on the ESC stage, that’s who. Edyta’s vocal was full of light and shade, i.e. soft ByeAlex moments and epic Pastora Soler moments (only she pre-dated both of those guys) and she nailed all of them without breaking a sweat. Sometimes it’s the singer that makes a song great, and in this case, top-notch vocals certainly made To Nie Ja! what it was/is. I can’t imagine it having the same impact with a lesser vocalist in charge.
Just because they’re not a hotshot kind of country when it comes to Eurovision, don’t assume Poland won’t be in it to win it next year. You never know when a country will surprise you with a cracking song – and if they do happen to send one, they may even not screw it up with crappy staging!
While we’re waiting for Poland (and everyone else) to choose their song, here’s something to think about…
Are you happy to have Poland back in the contest? What have been your highlights and lowlights from their past participations?
- 1 controversy surrounding the construction of the venue: I’d say that there should have been a tad more planning put into this project so that nobody had to knock on the doors of a bunch of Azerbaijanis and say ‘I’m terribly sorry to interrupt your breakfast/lunch/dinner/grandmother’s funeral, but I’m afraid we have to build a gigantic stadium on the top of your house now.’ Or something like that. There’s no doubt the Crystal Hall will be amazing, but no amount of amazingness can justify making people homeless. Unless it’s made of actual crystal…NO. Not even then!
- 42 participating countries so far: Every year, around September, I make a point of having a nervous breakdown. Why? Well, it’s not because my birthday is in that month and I am freaking out about getting older (which would be understandable because last September I turned twenty and found a grey hair). It’s actually because the number of confirmed ESC nations is hovering around the 31-34 mark and I panic that it won’t get any higher. Thankfully, it always does. This year’s contest has the potential to have 44 entries, but if it’s 42, I’ll be more than happy, especially since last year’s returnees, Austria, Hungary and Italy (allegedly) are back once more.
- 1 comeback country: Give me an ‘M’! Give me an ‘O’! Give me a…oh God, I cannot be bothered. It’s Montenegro, okay? In the past I’ve found it odd that Serbia kicks bottom at Eurovision whereas its former spouse struggled three times in the semis before calling it quits. But, perhaps inspired by the changes being brought about by the presence of juries in the voting, Montenegro are back, and despite my being less than fond of their entries, I’m glad. 2012 will be another chance for them to pick a winner – or at least a qualifier (with their artist being called Rambo Amadeus, the latter is all I’m hoping for).
- 1 withdrawing country: Poland is out and the mourning is well underway. There’s not much to say on this matter apart from ‘I sure hope Poland come back in 2013, preferably with Edyta Gorniak or Ich Troje (now with yellow or purple hair!)’. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
- 2 ‘will they, won’t they?’ countries: No, neither of them is Slovakia, although you can expect Slovakia to start messing with us again any day now. It is, in fact, Armenia and Morocco. I have a bad feeling they may be missing in Baku. As far as Armenia goes, I find this uncertain status very sad, because they are a trusty Eurovision nation and the idea that they may have to sit this year’s contest out because they can’t be guaranteed safety in Azerbaijan, to be blunt, sucks. Even more so because Eurovision was created to unite the continent.
- 26 participants in this year’s final: Wow, that means it’ll be almost as marathon as the 2007 semi during which my entire bottom half went numb from sitting on the couch too long! Awesome! But why is it so? Well, that’s because not only do we have the Big 4 (the UK, Spain, Germany and France) but we have the newest member of that exclusive set, Italy (obviously making it a Big 5. I may not have done any maths since high school, but I can count up to ten), and the host country. Add that to the 20 semi final advancers and you have the magic two-six.
- 26th of January (when the semi final allocation draw will take place): I don’t honestly believe that any particular performance position – except for maybe last – helps a song to qualify, but that doesn’t stop me from immediately setting about predicting once the draw is done. This January draw will determine who sings in each semi, as well as in which half, and that alone is enough to get speculation going.
- 2 selected songs: I think it’s safe to say that right now, Switzerland is the favourite to win. Unbreakable by Sinplus would definitely deserve the honour and shiny trophy in my book when compared with the “interesting” “song” that is Suus by Rona Nishliu, Albania’s pick. I’ll leave my spite for some proper reviews later in the year (although, if Suus is reworked enough – i.e. completely – the spite level may have decreased by then).
- 8 selected artists: Here’s the role call – Iris, Maya Sar, Ivi Adamou, Anggun, Kaliopi, Rambo Amadeus, Zeljko Joksimović and Pastora Soler. I’ll assume you already know which country they’ll be representing (if you don’t, see if you can figure it out by the names…consider it a fun little game!). It looks like Belgium and Cyprus are going down the Lena route by choosing someone young and fresh, whereas France, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Spain are bringing out the big guns with chart-topping, established artists. As for Bosnia & Herzegovina? Well, they’re taking a leaf out of Iceland and/or Georgia’s book by kidnapping last year’s backing singer and forcing them at glitter-gunpoint to sing this year (but without the violence, I guess – I hear Maya was fully consenting). Personally, I’m hanging out to hear what Zeljko will come up with, as he is the creator of two of my favourite Eurovision songs of all time, and another cracking one. He’s under a heap of pressure to deliver the goods, but I reckon he can.
- 7 national selections scheduled for January: As I write this, here’s the go – Bosnia & Herzegovina, France, Slovakia and Turkey will have both songs and artists by the end of the month; Denmark’s MGP will be on the 21st; Cyprus will pick a song for Ivi on the 25th; and Belarus will make their decision on the 28th. As you read this, none of the above is likely to be true. NFs are so very fickle!
- Today’s final number is a triple-digit 100, for the amount of times per day I think about how excited I am for Melodifestivalen. The list of entrants for 2012 reads like a who’s who of Swedish music (which is kind of what it is). I’ll be keeping my eye on…
– Loreen and Danny Saucedo, two of my favourites from last year
– The Moniker, since last year he came third (like a certain Eric Saade did back in 2010 before coming back and winning!)
– Timoteij, because they are amazing. Obviously.
– Ulrik Munther, the Swedish Justin Bieber (there’s one in every country. Australia’s is Cody Simpson. Who’s yours? Unless you live in Canada in which case your Bieber IS Bieber, and I’m very sorry for that).
– Afro-Dite, Andreas Lundstedt, Molly Sandèn and Charlotte Perrelli, because they have all graced the Eurovision stage in the past – some once, some 7564 times (and it’s still not enough is it, Charlotte?) and others on a smaller scale.
So that’s my overblown numerical take on the stale 2012 news that everyone had known about forever. I hope you enjoyed it, and do come back, because I promise to post more regularly and be more hilarious than ever this year. Well, I did at about 11.58pm on December 31st anyway.
Happy New Year!
What are you most looking forward to in the 2012 Eurovision season? Who are you excited to see in the national finals?