30 November 2020
Valentina from France has won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest of 2020 in Warsaw with J’imagine. From the first “Oups” in the song, there was always something so likeable about J’imagine, and that’s exactly how audiences found it as Valentina won both the jury and online voting – the latter by 39 points. Finishing on exactly 200 points, it was a comfortable win ahead of Kazakhstan in second on 152, then a close group of Spain (133), Netherlands (132) and Belarus (130).
The top 5 featured all three of the kids-orientated songs, which emphasises the point Junior Eurovision is a kids show, and with that type of song in short supply this year, it was easy for that group to stand out. With limited staging options due to the set criteria for the studio recordings in their home countries, that also helped those entries with stronger natural elements – whether that be dancers on stage or stellar vocals – to succeed. Curiously, Kazakhstan, Spain and Netherlands repeated their second, third and fourth places, respectively, from 2019. France improved from fifth to first, while Poland was the big drop from first to ninth, albeit still accruing a solid 90 points. It was a quality show and the fairly narrow points spread between first and last shows that.
While this year’s Junior Eurovision was remote, it wasn’t entirely remote. Some entries were recorded in Warsaw, notably Ukraine, Serbia and Malta, no doubt to keep costs down. While the stages were quite basic, it still is expensive to build them and set up the technical aspects to record the performances well. It was also the first Eurovision Song Contest event without Australia since 2014, and let’s just say, it was liberating not to be distracted by the appearance of your home country sticking its head in places it doesn’t really belong. The great allure of Eurovision is it is foreign, that it’s only for Europe, and is something Australians would sit detached and watch with wonder from afar. Altering that dynamic strips away much of the event’s mystic, and therefore its charm.
01 France – Valentina – J’imagine (200)
This immediately impressed by being so cute and colourful, and Valentina presenting her so song expertly and adorably. With the highly infectious nature of J’imagine (totally appropriate in the COVID-19 era), it was the entry that clearly appealed best to the target audience of the show. Upon winning, it was mass hysteria in the studio in France, with swarms of people congratulating Valentina, hugging and kissing each other, and one guy at the side furiously trying to hand out masks to anyone without one in the mass of people spraying saliva around. Aah, forget the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, it’s party time! Unfortunately, no imaginative tricks to hand over the winner’s trophy. Valentina must wait for a special delivery.
02 Kazakhstan – Karakat Bashanova – Forever (152)
Second place for the second year in a row for Kazakhstan. It was a beautiful song and sung really well. There’s no complaints with this entry at all other than the audience preferred others. Although, I will complain about the face shields Karakat and her small group were wearing. Totally pointless, especially if that was her family bubble, and even more pointless if that was her dad with it flipped up.
03 Spain – Solea – Palante (133)
This fell really flat for me. While I could understand its appeal, it lacked energy and became repetitious.
04 Netherlands – Unity – Best Friends (132)
My favourite kids-orientated song. The girls presented it with a well designed and superbly executed choreographed routine, and I especially loved the cartoon versions of themselves performing alongside them in the background graphics. Perhaps placed third to perform didn’t help compared to France’s plum last spot. Zero complaints otherwise, and I’ve had Best Friends stuck in my head all day. Let’s see them in a few years at the senior event.
05 Belarus – Arina Pehtereva – Aliens (130)
The best overall song, and Arina’s vocal performance exceeded all my hopes. She was superlative and to get a 10 from me is really getting an 11.
06 Georgia – Sandra Gadelia – You Are Not Alone (111)
One of my weaker songs entering the contest, and the online voting agreed, placing it second last. The jury placed Sandra fourth and no doubt appreciated the excellent live performance. While I much preferred it here too (except for the stupid masks on the dancers), it was the pitch in Sandra’s voice that still annoyed, and there were better songs about. Not sure why she was all alone in the studio. She looked sad and lonely. Weird.
07 Ukraine – Oleksandr Balabanov – Vidkryvai (Open Up) (106)
He seemed to surprise the host when mentioning his performance was recorded in Warsaw, and it looked like he was in the Warsaw studio during the show too. The couches he and Poland used looked the same, and they are neighbouring countries, so why not record your song a day or two before and stay on? Last year’s entrant, Sophia Ivanka, was with him too, and read out Ukraine’s 12 points. Vidkryvai was a pleasant song and Oleksandr goes home with best male entry of this year’s event.
08 – Malta – Chanel Monseigneur – Chasing Sunsets (100)
Chanel did well to lift a song that ordinarily didn’t stand out. In true Maltese style, they went a bit crazy on the background graphics.
09 Poland – Ala Tracz – I’ll Be Standing (90)
This was really well presented, and I’ve really grown to love the song. Such a low result came as a surprise. Are people sick of Poland?
10 Russia – Sofia Feskova – My New Day (88)
Not as grand as a performance as I hoped. Sofia is such a cutie, so I’ll let her off with a warning. She was another sitting all alone in a studio during the show. Perhaps it’s social distancing gone mad.
11 Serbia – Petar Anicic – Heartbeat (85)
Nice music, song and suit. Lacked a moment.
12 Germany – Susan – Stronger With You (66)
Germany finishing last shouldn’t be a surprise. The kings and queens of drab and dreary, they lived up to their reputation. Even though Susan was last with both the jury and online vote, 66 points is still a good total, so she deserves some credit. Her song is actually really nice, and her vocals exquisite. The problem is on a Eurovision stage you need visual engagement too.
My Fab Five
From my preview, Russia dropped out from fourth, and I’ve added Kazakhstan.
It was an interesting Junior Eurovision, especially the use of technology to bring all the artists together virtually for the group performance. As for Rotterdam 2021, it showed that a senior one could work as a remote event. Not that we’d want that because the lack of a live audience and a large venue hurt the overall spectacle and general enjoyment. It’s important to remember Rotterdam 2020 was cancelled just 7 weeks before the event was set to start, so insufficient time to organise and cheating the artists and Rotterdam itself of a genuine live Eurovision meant a remote event was unpalatable if not impossible. Other than the unlikely event of a sudden lockdown in Netherlands during the Eurovision period in 2021, there will be a live event of sorts. Imminent vaccines should guarantee all artists attending and a partial audience, while even a restricted and socially distanced event would have nearly every artist performing live. Kudos that we got to see Poland’s 2020 senior representative, Alicja Szemplinska, perform her cancelled song, Empires, during the interval.
In terms of scores, two 9’s and one 10 is remarkable from a field of just 12 songs. In fact, I rarely give out 10’s. The last one might have been Polina Gagarina for Russia at Eurovision 2015. Who knows. They are definitely rare. The lowest score is only 5. That was for Spain. The average score of 7.3 actually makes Poland 2020 the highest rated Eurovision show ever. The previous record was 6.9 for the first semi final at Malmo 2013, and it’s rare for any show to get near 6.5. Congratulations kids, you’re all winners!