18 December 2021
France’s win in 2020 certainly had an impact on songs for the 2021 Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Paris. Not only is Valentina’s fun and effervescent J’imagine replicated with several entries this year, various songs include “imagine” in their lyrics and some even sing parts in French. No doubt also to coincide with “Imagine” being the theme of this year’s event.
After COVID-19 reduced JESC to 12 countries last year in Poland, entries return to the usual high teens with 19 in 2021. It would have been 20 if Belarus weren’t under a suspension from the EBU. There’s the usual, albeit smaller amount, of mini divas screaming their little lungs out among the good mix of artists. Quite a few boys are involved this year, whether they be solo, or as part of a duet or group.
Here’s my playlist of all 19 songs ranked worst to best.
Portugal is too dreary for me, while Georgia’s retro boppy song (with some in French) is a bit repetitive. Not a good start for the boys as Spain, while having a nice vibe, is too generic. Armenia, with a song called Qami Qami, tries to revive the style of Qele, Qele by Sirusho – Armenia’s senior Eurovision entrant in 2008. Not only doesn’t it quite match, I was never much of a fan of Qele, Qele anyway. Qami Qami is ok, it just needs more to do.
Kids that think they can save the world – that’s what Junior Eurovision is about. In North Macedonia, we get a group called Green Forces constantly telling us we’re doing wrong. This is quite infectious, and would be higher if it had a bit more power. Kazakhstan will try melt us into submission and finally vote them the winner with another sappy entry, albeit infused with a bit of rap from Alinur. It’s nice enough, and will gain sympathy due to Alinur’s physical disability. A bit of a repeat sappy situation with Bulgaria, as Denislava & Martin enchant us their voices of love. So sugary sweet, and has a nice climax. A curious entry from Netherlands as Ayana presents nicely and promises to deliver something in magical. It doesn’t quite reach the heights hoped.
France will try for a second win with their usual fun and frivolity. While Tic Tac is not as good as J’imagine, Enzo may offset that with his charisma and good looks wooing the female teeny-bopper vote. Imagine Us says Pauline from Germany, and I can imagine this finishing around mid table despite its infectious quality and, again, talking about saving the world. It just lacks that wow factor or differentiation to break out of the pack. Same with Ireland, albeit it runs at a higher tempo. I’m still puzzled that Ireland insist on singing in Irish as it sounds like singing with a mouth full of gum. A rap-infused ballad by Malta, and it works. It’s so infectious too, as it’s been one of the songs stuck in my head. Not sure how to describe Albania as the verses have a hypnotic, bumpy feel to them while the choruses are a smoother, typical pop style. Regardless, it presents really well.
Russia – Tanja Mezhentseva – Mon Ami
This is Tanya’s second go at JESC after performing a duet with Mr Gravel Voice, Denberel Oorzhak, in 2019. They finished 13th so Tanya will be hoping for many spots higher in 2021. In Mon Ami she’s brought a quality pop entry infused with an ethno beat and it’s so infectious. There’s the liberal use of “imagine it” in the lyrics, just in case the French audience needed more of connection to Valentina’s winner in 2020. On initial listen, I had this top two. I’ve bumped it down after other songs grew on me. While it still is very likable, lacks a big of punch and is a quite formulaic. Perhaps Tanya can turn it around on stage.
The Fab Five
05 Poland – Sara James – Somebody
This revives the feeling of Poland’s winners in 2018 and 2019. It’s slick, infectious pop, and in Sara James, not only do we have another excellent performance, finally we have a Polish name I can pronounce.
04 Azerbaijan – Sona Azizova – One Of Those Days
There’s a lovely tone to Sona’s voice, and the song, a big ballad, doesn’t disappoint either. There’s a nice progression, and plenty of scope for Sona to shine on stage.
03 Italy – Elisabetta Lizza – Specchio
Probably inspired by Måneskin’s Eurovision win in May, Italy sends the rock song, Specchio, by the accomplished Elisabetta Lizza. It’s a deceptive entry, as just as you expect it to launch into a big chorus, it goes quiet. Then it picks up for the second half, with Elisabetta producing some big notes. While it seems to lack the raw power to burst out of the pack, delivering a performance just half as good as Måneskin’s it could be a double Italy rock winner for the year. It’s certainly unique in this year’s field, and that’s often a key part of the victory equation
02 Ukraine – Olena Usenko – Vazhil
Olena definitely has the biggest voice his year, and she really rocks out this song. Again, she needs to deliver live on stage as the song itself falls just a short of the top echelon.
01 Serbia – Jovana & Dunja – Children’s Eyes
At just 10 and 11 years old, respectively, Jovana & Dunja delivering an adorable and infectious song about the beauty and often mystical way the world appears to be through the eyes of children. It’s such a beautful message, and something only children can sing about, and you can feel that through the music and vocals and the innocence of the girls without any need of a translation. It reminds me of the two girls from North Macedonia singing about braids, which is still my favourite JESC ever. They finished last and while Serbia is unlikely to win this year, these are songs we need to see more in Junior Eurovision.
The running order is a good guide in recent years as favoured songs are placed towards the end of their randomly drawn halves, or at the of the show as in the case of JESC. The first and last songs were randomly drawn, which went to Germany and Portugal, respectively. The host, France, drew 13. Ukraine was placed 12th, while Azerbaijan, Netherlands Spain, Serbia and North Macedonia were placed from 14th on. I’m pleased about Serbia placed so late, while I don’t discount Ukraine in 12th and France is certainly a contender. I wouldn’t surprise of France won again. They have a successful formula, and by going with a boy this time adds some variation. Perhaps Ukraine next then Serbia. Hopefully Italy does well.