10 November 2019
Thanks to Roksana Wegiel’s great win last year with Anyone I Want To Be, we are in Poland in 2019 for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest – the home of some of the strangest accent characters in an alphabet, the love of the letter Z had its two variants, and some of the most difficult to pronounce words ever. I still can’t get miodzio right, much less try Szczecin. Thankfully the contest is in Gliwice – something much easier to remember, pronounce and type.
Entries are down by one from the 2019 event with Azerbaijan and Israel withdrawing, and Spain back for the first time since 2006. Of the 19 entries, Australia and Kazakhstan are back again by special invitation due to their associate member status with the European Broadcasting Union, while the United Kingdom is represented by Wales and its broadcaster S4C. Wales is interesting as they sing in Welsh (similarly as Ireland sings in Irish), and that’s despite all the other countries seeming to use more and more English. Soon every song will be all English except for Wales and Ireland where English is actually the main language. Go figure!
Junior Eurovision has always been a dilemma to me: frustration at the ever increasing number of bigger songs and ballads that clearly children didn’t write versus songs and voices that can be too immature for an adult to appreciate. It’s rare that the right balance is struck, so I just hope a few will reach the JESC stage each year. France last year was a quintessential example of the sort of song that suits JESC really well, and while it’s great to have the ballads, if the voice hasn’t developed, it becomes more a screech-fest. This year, there are too many ballads, and that’s disappointing.
If not for the Welsh language, Wales would lack any interest at all. It’s a plodding song, a bit repetitive, and only attempts to fire during the bridge. Then it’s back to the repetition. Australia gives us a pleasant, mature voice and a mush-mush song. It’s the reverse for Albania with a lovely, pleasant song and an immature voice. After their excellent debut last year, Kazakhstan gives us a soppy ballad from a cute little chubster who would be better to suited to something more fun. As is common with Malta, they try too hard, it just doesn’t quite work. An average song trying to be saved with vocal gymnastics. With lines like “time is running out to save the Earth”, and “Soon it’ll be too late, I can’t do it all alone”, we know what Portugal is about. An alien invasion! OK, it’s the environment. It’s all a bit too cliche, with a generic song and not much in the vocal department.
Talk about screeching, for some reason Armenia smashes you in the face from the start and then becomes quite a pleasant, mellow song with nice ethnic influences. I love the Banshee Boardwalk track in Mario Kart; I can’t quite say the same for Banshee the song from Ireland. It’s nice and folksy with a haunting feel; it just needs a bit of oomph somewhere. Perhaps it will translate better on stage. Netherlands rarely disappoint and the girls will go wild for Matheu and his catchy dance song. Georgia brings us another guy with a fun, bopping kind of song, and it proves quite interesting thanks to its 60s vibe. Italy brings us their usual dramatic flare and it seems to be that trademark beautiful Italian song until it breaks into English and loses much of its lustre. It’s still quite nice; it just could have been better, and why would you ever stray from such a beautiful language like Italian?
France has taken a cue from their successful entry in 2018. A fun, friendly, energetic song. If Carla can conjure up some memorable dance moves like Angelina did last year, she might get a similar result. Darija from Serbia wants you to Raise Your Voice, again about the environment, and with a song like this, I’m happy to sing along. It’s not something that will stand out for most people; it’s just one of those nice pleasant ones with Darija not offering anything vocal-wise to lift it. On stage, she might. Darija bluntly tells us at the end there’s no Planet B. Don’t fret, Darija, there is a Planet P. I saw it in Starship Troopers. For Poland to win again, they will need Viki Gabor to be a real superhero, because Superhero, another song about saving the planet, is a level or two below (dam daram daram daram) Anything I Want To be. It’s contemporary enough and well produced, and has a nice ethnic influence. It’s just the main hook, the “na na na na na na na” chorus section, it’s not grabbing me enough.
The Fab Five
05 Russia – Tatyana Mezhentseva and Denberel Oorzhak – A Time For Us
First impressions I thought I was hearing the guy from Ich Troje – Poland’s 2006 Eurovision entry – with Denberal’s voice so raspy. It’s like he smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and just came off a long weekend bender. To think, he hasn’t even gone through puberty yet. In contrast, Tatyana’s is so soft, and strangely these two voices complement each other so well – you can hear each one distinctly. It’s a really nice match and helps to elevate this rather cliche boy-girl ballad to something quite endearing. The song is about looking to our broader power to make the world a better place and, you guessed it, save the planet! Such very small people, such big burdens. You do hope they can focus more of their attention on school, staying off drugs, avoiding tattoos until at least they’re 14, and putting in a stellar performance on the JESC stage.
04 Belarus – Liza Misnikova – Pepelny (Ashen)
This is the sort of stuff I love at JESC. High energy, catchy and will get the audience dancing. Liza is a great bubbly girl too. The song is about looking at the same things from different angles, and don’t always think grey (or ashen) is boring. Hey, that’s the best lesson I’ve had all day.
03 North Macedonia – Mila Moskov – Fire
For FYRNKAN Macedonia (that’s Former Yugoslav Republic Now Known As North Macedonia), we get a spitting image of Michael Hutchence of INXS. Mila has that charismatic style too, and powerfully delivers Fire with aplomb and shows the difference a mature voice can make. For one of those those screeching mini divas to attempt this song, it would be a disaster.
02 Ukraine – Sophia Ivanko – The Spirit Of Music
A stunning song from Ukraine, and what I call a “journey” song. Picks you up slowly, takes you on a dramatic ride, and leaves you breathless at the end. There’s not much chorus to it other than the “hoo hoo hoo”. Those serve to build the drama, which is unleashed through the bridge and the finale and it’s all sumptuously delivered through her haunting vocals. Sophia writes her own songs, and performs them either solo or with her metal-head brother on guitar. She co-composed The Spirit Of Music and wrote the lyrics. She’s the complete package. A special touch in the video is Darina, last year’s entry for Ukraine, ride past Sophia on a scooter.
01 Spain – Melani Garcia – Marte
Welcome back Spain with this big, powerful and dramatic ballad, and sung really well too. Melani’s voice and range is exquisite. She’s like a mini Elina Nechayeva. It’s hard to believe she’s only 12 years old. She’s another singing about the environment, albeit more pointedly about the problem of plastic pollution. The song’s title translates to “Mars” and the message is our voice is strong enough to reach Mars. Melani’s could reach Neptune, and beyond. Marte is my well deserved favourite of this year’s Junior Eurovision and, most of all, I know my mom would have loved it.
My top 3 are my clear favourites, with the top 2 almost impossible to split. I believe all 3 will do well. Checking some comments online, they all have support, as does Poland and France. Guessing that the popularity of Poland is more about Polish fans swamping the comment sections, I’ll lean toward Spain winning ahead of Ukraine and Poland. Now sit down and Share The Joy!