4 December 2017
Crazy voting, controversial voting, and a stellar winner with Russia’s Polina Bogusevich were the key moments of the 2017 Junior Eurovision Song Contest held in Tbilisi, Georgia. Polina was a giant on stage, both figuratively and physically, among the contenders, with a powerful rendition of her song Wings as the 14 year old slapped aside her mostly diminutive competition like a bear swatting at salmon in a river. It was easily the most mature performance of the night, and was followed in second place by the similarly mature sound of Georgia’s Grigol Kipshidze with Voice Of The Heart and then the mature sounding Isabella Clarke from Australia with her fun Speak Up in third. For a competition about kids, it was all so mature.
Georgia, Russia and Australia led the jury voting with 143, 122 and 93 points respectively only for it to be flipped almost upside down when the public online voting was revealed. Reading from lowest points first, Georgia emerged fifth with only 42 points, and with 11 more countries still to go, already their chances were gone. Similarly with Russia 11th out and with 66 points, while taking the lead by 3 points, 188 to 185 over Georgia, they looked vulnerable. Australia seemed the most likely to overtake them, so it was hope and pray not to hear them until as late as possible. With three countries still to be called – Australia, Malta and Netherlands – it was either Australia to jump into the lead or Russia to hold on. Alas, Australia was next called, and with only 79 points, it was only good enough for third.
Mild interest remained to see if the Netherlands – the last country to be called – could improve from 9th on jury with 44 points and win the competition. No, despite 112 points, they fell well short to finish fourth, giving the victory to Russia and reinforcing the anti-climax and futility of the protracted jury vote section. Poor Grigol from Georgia. All those 12 points, all the applause from his home crowd, and even a kiss from Lizi Pop – it all amounted to nothing. At least he’s young enough that the anti-climax was only the mild version.
This was the first year online voting was used to decide a public vote in either form of Eurovision. Other than not being able to vote during the show, it worked perfectly! The claimed 330,000 votes received, while a fraction of the millions watching, would have been a large enough sample to gauge an accurate view from the public. Thankfully you could vote earlier after watching rehearsal videos, so who knows how many of the final votes were actually from the live show. That you could vote early wouldn’t matter much because that’s already the process at senior Eurovision. Most people decide the bulk of their votes days, weeks, even years in advance, and simply wait for the live show to post them.
More interesting was the rule of voting for between 3 and 5 songs. There was no ranking situation here or doing a 12-to-1 traditional Eurovision scoring. It’s a good system as it keeps the process simple and fairer, as each of your choices is worth the same value. Whereas the 12-to-1 system suggests your favourite song is 12 times better than your tenth choice. I wouldn’t mind seeing this system tried at senior Eurovision, where you vote for between 10 and 15 songs. Maybe to give your favourites a bit more value, your ultra favourite could be worth 3 points, your next 4 favourites worth 2 points and the rest 1 point. This would also make it much more simpler for jury members.
Also of interest was the disparity between the jury and online vote. The jury, even with two of the 5 members being children, was heavily skewed towards the mature sounding songs, while the online vote went for kid-friendly stuff. Netherlands, Malta and Australia were especially fun songs both in sound and nature. The issue, again, is if the respective voting systems deliver such wildly different results, why go through the process of reading all the individual jury results? They effectively mean nothing. It’s like watching a football game until half time, going home, and being told the final score at the end.
In Australia, Junior Eurovision was shown on ABC ME, the kids-friendly channel, not SBS’s second channel, now known as Viceland, the channel of crime, drugs and sex. Both the ABC and SBS brands are government run, with the ABC the primary public broadcaster, while SBS is the off-shoot specialising in multicultural programs. Even though kids see worse on their phones these days, ME is a far better image for JESC. The only broadcast aired was a delayed one at 7.30pm on Monday night so there were gripes of no live coverage at 2am Monday – a problem exacerbated in a backwards country renown for shoddy internet speeds. Thankfully I was still in Japan, a modern country with great interenet, and the timezone meant it was also on two hours earlier, at midnight. Bonus! Catching up with the Australian broadcast once home, always the fear is the local commentary. It actually proved quite serviceable with enough information, not much intrusion, and the only points of criticism being Pip Rasmussen’s bogan accent and Tim Mathews’s surprise that the Russian jury did not vote for Russia. Juries can’t vote for their own country, noob!
On with the show…
Armenia was horrible. The song was an annoying, horrible mess, as was the kid. I’d imagine he’s one of those kids you see terrorising shopping centres that you just want to slap. With so much boomerang imagery involved, why weren’t there any Australians crapping on about “culture appropriation” either? Poland meandered through a song that never did much. FYR Macedonia similarly went through the motions of a barely above-average pop/dance song. Albania was also another that failed to really resonate. Cute girl, and her song, Don’t Touch My Tree, is an interesting insight into Albanian childhood. When I was growing up it was either don’t touch my toys, don’t touch my bike, or don’t touch my ferret. Georgia – I couldn’t remember it after watching JESC live, and I barely could after watching the TV recording last weekend. How did it finish second?
A few powerful notes weren’t really enough to lift Ukraine out of the “decent enough” category, even though I began to appreciate it the more I heard it. Malta was fun, albeit too repetitive. Similarly the cute Mariana Venancio from Portugal. Being only 11 years old, she also lacked for a developed voice. Still, there was always something endearing about her. I can see how the four boys from Netherlands with Love Me won the online vote comprehensively. That song has been often stuck in my head since the weekend, and the voting audience no doubt would be full of pre-pubescent teenyboppers dreaming to feel the Fource. I thought Ireland might do much better than second last. Belarus was a stylish, mature effort, and probably only let down by the lack of a great moment to remember.
My Top Five
Nothing changed from my preview other than the order. After Cyprus kicked off the show, it also meant a dull middle section because my other favourites happened to be the final four songs. Despite their dubious fashion sense, Irina and Jana from Serbia delivered a fun performance of their adorable song. It only lacked in that it made no sense – a problem that faces many heavily choreographed or themed performances in foreign languages.
Cyprus provided an excellent opening to the show with an energetic performance of a song I’ve always liked, as too the husky tone in Nicole’s voice. Let’s excuse the occasional wobbly vocals because, remember, they are children!
Australia stood out as the second best individual performer. Isabella has a superb voice, was so poised in her delivery, and I hope she forges a big career for herself. Probably the song wasn’t quite at the level that she deserved.
Then there’s Russia and Italy. Just like last year, these two countries battle each other as my favourite of the year. Both had great songs, so it was a matter of delivering on the stage.
This year Russia reigns supreme. While Maria’s song is so beautiful and she delivered a sterling and evocative performance, Polina borders on flawless. She is simply that good. Peerless performance, best vocals, and a great song. What more can you ask for from a Junior Eurovision winner? Heck, I’d even appreciate that from senior Eurovision some years.