22 November 2015
From the very first note, it was wow from Malta’s Destiny Chukunyere. Her soulful voice and phenomenal vocal presentation made her song “Not My Soul” the actual fabric of her soul. It was no surprise that after taking the audience on such an energetic and joyful ride that she received the biggest applause of the night. The only uncertainty from here was whether the voters at home would agree. They did, with only the showman Mika from Armenia and his more theatrical song threatening to scupper Malta’s thoroughly deserved victory.
The result was effectively decided when Malta, which voted third last, gave Armenia 7 points. Earlier Armenia had given Malta 12. After the final country of Montenegro gave Armenia just 7 points from the initial batch to put them 1 point in front, Malta only needed any of the remaining votes to get the win. Every country gave Malta at least some points, so surely they could not miss out here. They didn’t, with the 10 points confirming Malta as the fantastic winners of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest of 2015. Such a shame no cameras were on Destiny to show her immediate reaction. The final table read Malta on 185 points, Armenia 176 and Slovenia a distant third on 112.
For Australia, it was a respectable eighth place for Bella Paige and “My Girls”. She did nothing wrong other than be a victim of her own brilliance. This was a serious young woman on the JESC stage, not a precocious kid. With such a young audience that JESC has, typically it’s the cutesy or fun stuff that rules supreme, so Bella seemed slightly out of place.
Bella was also a partial victim to the whole show feeling a bit flat. There seemed a bit of an imbalance between the vocals and the backing tracks, which was not great when your prominent “oh oh oh” support vocals are on the backing track (as is allowed in JESC). It was only the ballads that coped early on. By the second half, all seemed ok. Whether the ears were now attuned or there was a genuine technical fault, not sure. On replaying the TV recording, Bella’s performance sounded more fuller and vibrant, so maybe it was just the ears. Note that the internet stream did suffer from low sound until part-way through Australia (6th on stage). The broadcast into Australia also had sound problems, with an open microphone preventing any commentary. Given that the Australian JESC commentators have been so awful in the past, this problem proved not a problem at all.
If there’s one genuine – and small – criticism of Bella, it’s that she got too loud too soon. She has such a beautiful natural tone, so better she stick within her natural range a bit longer rather than grinding out bigger and bigger notes and being at war with herself. The obvious contrast is with the winner. Destiny kept almost exclusively in her natural range. Of course, it helps when your natural range is so vast.
JESC seemed to have a big shift to a more serious, mature style of songs this year. This can be attributed to the fact adults are allowed a much greater input in the songwriting these days, almost to the point that it’s 100%. Even if the kids are credited, how could organisers ever know the extent of the input? Also last year’s winner, a serious ballad, influenced many songs. Thankfully, with JESC being a kids show, this pattern won’t reach become an epidemic as such songs are unlikely to win.
Finishing last this year was FYR Macedonia, which is nothing short of an outrage! It had everything a kids song and performance should have. An addictive song, a bouncy electronic rhythm seemingly created on a toy keyboard, cute choreography and such a cute theme. Come on! Singing about braids and starting with a ring-a-rosy, this is the sort of stuff that kid’s actually thing about. So to see it manifest on stage so well was marvelous. Let’s make a braid!
Rating The Top 10
01 Malta – Destiny Chukunyere – 7 (185 points)
This was a big improver to me, thanks to the dynamic and effusive vocal presentation. It was just Destiny on stage doing her stuff. So pure!
02 Armenia – Mika – Love – 3 (176)
Sorry, Mika, I never liked this. I don’t like this type of music, nor this type of theatrical performance, I don’t care if it’s fun and cute, and the song got so repetitive. Worst of the night.
03 Slovenia – Lina Kuduzovic – Prva ljubezen – 8 (112)
Lina was stunning live and her tone did not have that annoying piercing quality I was hearing in the preview video. Thank you, decent sound system. The song was always brilliant, so in my top two. I’d love to see her in senior ESC one day.
04 Belarus – Ruslan Aslanov – Volshebstvo (Magic) – 5 (105)
Another that never really appealed. While it improved to average, it’s really only a couple of lines that make this song. As predicted, that trait helped get it noticed in the recap.
05 Albania – Mishela Rapo – Dambaje – 5 (93)
I really just listened to Mishela’s exquisite voice. Her tone is so beautiful and she’s such a natural. I loved the reggae pronunciation of the English sections. She’s another that I’d love to see in senior ESC. The song just got too repetitive.
06 Russia – Mikhail Smirnov – Mechta (Dream) – 8 (80)
The midway point so from here I didn’t notice flat performances. A really nice song and sung well by an ultra cute kid and presented beautifully. I’m surprised it didn’t do a bit better.
07 Serbia – Lena Stamenkovic – Lenina pesma – 6 (79)
Started the show and set the standard of appearing quite flat. It was always one of those cute songs with a cute girl and not much more. As good as could be.
08 Australia – Bella Paige – My Girls – 8 (64)
No 12 points from anyone, which is a shame. The best was 10 points from Malta. As stated earlier, a bit too “adult” for this stage and seemed a bit flat. I still loved it and, especially those early stages, Bella sounded superb.
09 Bulgaria – Gabriela Yordanova & Ivan Stoyanov – Colour of Hope – 5 (62)
This was the big drop for me, from second favourite before the contest to bottom four. It was just too cliche and Gabriela and Ivan didn’t seem to have any rapport. Gabriela would have been better alone. Or better still, bring back Krisia, who finished second last year and should have won. She’s so adorable and such a polished performer. Her “Planet Of The Children” is actually stuck in my head right now. I’m glad she had a small reprisal and such a big presence in the intervals and the pre-show party.
10 Georgia – The Virus – Gabede – 5 (51)
It was better than the preview, especially with the trio of girls making it all so cute and bouncy. It still got repetitive and more show than go.
Rating The Rest
11 Ukraine – Anna Trincher – Pochny z sebe – 6 (38)
Anna starts in a pod, and when it finally opens, you expect something amazing. Instead, just a very placid song and understated performance. It was really only saved by Anna’s superb vocals, pleasant voice and natural beauty.
12 Ireland – Aimee Banks -Realta na Mara – 4 (36)
Sung well, boring song.
13 Montenegro – Jana Mirkovic – Oluja – 6 (36)
From the land of giants, this was my fifth favourite pre-JESC and performed as expected. If height was a competition, Jana and her dancers would win JESC every year. The ABBA style musical interlude was the big curiosity, and it was handled very basically with Jana pirouetting with yellow ribbons attached. Whatever. The whole presentation seemed quite indifferent, with Jana also seeming to have problems with her earpiece. She began complaining to her dancers immediately after the song, not realising the camera was still there for her to thank the audience.
14 San Marino – Kamilla Ismailova – Mirror 8 (36)
A surprise this finished so low. After a mesmerising start, this was a very pleasant song, very engaging and presented well. Remember these are kids, and Kamilla, at only 11, had every right to seem a little uncertain at times. It was my third best of the night.
15 Netherlands – Shalisa – Million Lights – 7 (35)
I quite enjoyed this live, and she sung well. It deserved much higher up. In saying that, between 11th spot and 16th is only 4 points, so effectively a mid-table effort.
16 Italy – Chiara & Martina – Viva – 7 (34)
One of my favourites before the contest, it couldn’t quite transfer the full fun and energy of the preview video to the stage. Being early would not have helped. I enjoyed it regardless and the twins performed well.
17 FYR Macedonia – Ivana Petkovska & Magdalena Aleksovska – Pletenka – Braid of Love – 9 (26)
Such a shame viewers didn’t respond to this. It’s understandable because it’s not super slick, nor is there one great striking feature about it. It’s charm is that it doesn’t do any of this, that it’s so innocent, being without any contrived antics or adult influences. It’s the most quintessential JESC song ever that I know. I hope the two girls can be proud of their effort and continue with their music.
Before JESC, my Fab Five was Australia, Bulgaria, Italy, FYR Macedonia and Montenegro.
The new Fab Five is FYR Macedonia, Slovenia, San Marino, Australia and Russia. Filling the top 10 is Malta, Italy, Netherlands, Montenegro and Serbia.
Bulgaria made the biggest drop, down to the bottom 4. San Marino was the biggest rise into third, with Slovenia and Malta also doing well into second and sixth respectively. San Marino and Malta were borderline top 10 beforehand, while Slovenia were on the precipice of top 5.
Predictions were average. My top 3 of Russia, Bulgaria and Slovenia finished sixth, ninth and third. Slovenia was spot on, so that’s something. Predictions are always mixing the head with the heart and facts are my heart wasn’t in Malta much and not in Armenia at all. Australia’s eighth was four spots lower than predicted.
This year’s JESC will be remembered for the abundance of great singers: Slovenia, Netherlands, Australia, Ukraine, Malta and Albania – to name only the uber brilliant ones. They dominated the boys, despite the best attempts of Russia and Belarus. Songs were of good standard too, which is due to the increased role adults now have in the composition. I’m not convinced that is best overall for the show, especially considering the girls from FYR Macedonia were 100% responsible for their song and finished unjustly last. That’s hardly encouraging for others.
Last year was the first JESC that I did a review. We can thank Bella Paige that this year was the first I did a preview too. That will be the real bonus of Australia being involved, that existing fans will get more involved much earlier on. In terms of ESC and JESC itself, Australians know it enough that they’re unlikely to switch on in droves just because Australia is involved. It will take a cultural shift for any serious increase. That will take time, and will be mostly driven by the host broadcaster and local media becoming more respectful of it. With Australia’s Eurovision involvement now extending to ESC 2016, that process will get a strong foothold. Already the JESC 2015 main broadcast will be a prime time affair on SBS’s main channel next Saturday night, rather than buried mid-afternoon on the second channel.
There is only one complaint against the host broadcasters, Bulgarian National Television. No, the interval acts were good, the theme song “Discover” was superb, the postcards were good, the host Poli Genova was good, and the show finished bang on time. The complaint? Bella Paige is from Melbourne. They showed her on the map as from Sydney. Believe it or not, Australia extends far beyond one city and its Opera House.