Last night, Saturday 30th November 2013, 11-year-old Gaia Cauchi was crowned the eleventh winner of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest since its inauguration in 2003, making her the first Maltese artist in history to win any Eurovision event outright. Results aside, however, last night’s two-hour show presented a number of interesting talking points as we tentatively look forward to the next possible running of this, Eurovision’s much-maligned little brother. In short, was 2013 enough of a success to ensure JESC will happen again?
So, last night was something of a momentous occasion for me, as it was the first time since 2005 (the last time the UK entered, and showed it on live TV) that I had sat down and watched Junior Eurovision from start to finish. Thanks to the escinsight podcasts on the contest, I hadn’t lost touch with JESC, however I had been nothing more than a casual follower, focusing mainly on the three or four entries per year that I deemed worthy of adding to my iPod. Rejoining the show in its all its glory last night was an interesting experience – rather like stumbling across an old episode of “Mona the Vampire” or something similar.
The first point of note – albeit a rather obvious one – is that it is very clearly engineered towards a younger audience. The clue is in the name. No matter how credible and “adult” some of the entries turn out to be, we cannot get around the fact that this show is made for children, with their contemporaries taking centre stage. Last time I watched the show, I was ten years old, pretty much the ideal demographic. I loved the catchy and memorable winner from Belarus “My Vmeste”, and I found the UK’s overly studied, low-key effort “How Does It Feel” absolutely ridiculous (to the point where my sister and I still to this day find ourselves randomly quoting Joni Fuller, and her odd articulation of her song’s titular phrase – “how DAUS IT FEE-YOL”) What I cannot even slightly recall however, is the rest of the show.
As such, the cringeworthy exchanges between the presenters last night – alongside the spectacularly meaningless dancing interludes – came as something of an unpalatable shock, not only for their sheer incongruity but, in hindsight, how futile they are likely to have been. I doubt children watching last night will remember them in a few years, whereas they WILL remember their favourite songs. Maybe this is just me looking at this with overly mature eyes, but I just think a bit more of a focus on the songs and performers would have been lovely. Timur’s *magic tricks* were cringey as hell. I’m not saying it needs to be completely serious, but even for children, “funny” is a variable concept, especially when we’re talking about an audience which stretches from Rotterdam to Baku.
Aside from that – and the Festivali-i-Këngës-worthy on-screen graphics – I would applaud NTU’s execution of the show. It was slick, professional, engaging and fun. The stage design was simple yet effective, and provided a platform which showed off most of the entries in their best light. Below, you can watch the contest in its entirety, if you so desire:
If any of you happened to be following our twitter updates during the show last night, you may have guessed that we’re not best pleased at the final result. More on that later. For now, suffice to say that the two of us were discussing and evaluating the show all the way through, and we came up with a few observations, which you can use the footage from the contest to corroborate.
In roughly chronological order then:
- You’ll notice that commentary was provided for the live stream by none other than Luke Fisher (of escXtra) and Ewan Spence (of the aforementioned ESC Insight) – having recorded alternative commentaries for previous Eurovision and Junior Eurovision contests, the pair were this year invited to add their voices to the official online stream – a task which, as anticipated, they executed with a great deal more enjoyment and professionalism than do many of the national broadcasters’ commentators. It was refreshing to be guided through the event by people who genuinely enjoy doing it, and who are as interested in the show itself as we all are. As someone who has followed both websites for a number of years, I for one am over the moon that Luke and Ewan were given this opportunity, and I hope it opens similar doors for them in the future!
- Queen Zlata, who you’ll already know we at ESC Views absolutely revere, was of course, one of the show’s hosts. Her initial “princess” dress was a “no, baby, no” moment, however her later outfits – we counted six in total – proved once again that her sense of style is top notch. She could look good in anything. And coming from two gay guys, that’s saying something. Her opening remarks included something to the effect of “JESC gets bigger and better every year” – wishful thinking much.
- During Armenia’s postcard, I swear I heard Monica Avanesyan say that she was from Armenia – “a small but an Asian country”. [around 18:30 in the video] – listening back, it still sounds like either “Asian” or “nation”, the latter of which would make very little sense, and the former of which would rather nullify Armenia’s inclusion in a “European” song contest. Not getting political here, I’m just surprised the EBU let that line through.
- Michele Perniola, say what you will, but THAT PERFORMANCE WAS FAB-U-LOUS. That guy can move, people!
- Barbara Popovic, bless her, it all started so well. And then [see 28:28 in the video] she got to big moment at the end of the second verse… well, let’s just say she wasn’t even in the same postcode as the intended note, was she. Poor girl. That may explain why she looked so angry for the entire performance?
- Belarus’ combination of sassy hair swishing and macho knee slides gave San Marino some competition in the fabulous stakes, it must be said.
- If you were looking carefully, you will have noticed that one of the members of The Smile Shop was, in fact, Damien from “Mean Girls” (you know EXACTLY which one I mean.) [bolded because this was LITERALLY the highlight of my evening]
- Emmelie de Forest looked bored senseless for the duration of her performance.
- Twelve months on, Anastasiya Petryk is still as terrifying as ever – her voice, however, is utterly stunning.
- The EBU spokesman (after very OBVIOUSLY disposing of the animal costumes) just *spontaneously* deciding to award every country 12 points [1:34:07 in the video] really doesn’t work. We all know that happens every year, guys, you need to find a better way of announcing it, because that just came across as sooooo sensationalised. Like, seriously!? Oh my god. Nobody saw that coming…
- Skip to 1:40:35 and 1:41:55 in the video. Nobody saw that coming either.
This, more or less, brings us to the results.
Did the right song win? Not in the slightest. As you’ll know if you read our introductory article to JESC 2013, neither Rory nor myself were as enamoured with “The Start” as many other Eurovision fans seemed to be. In fact, the two of us outright loathed it, really. The dreary, lacklustre attempt at a melody collided with the brashly overproduced Whitney-wannabe instrumental construction. Shoehorn all of that into three minutes and give it to a child exuding the false aura of “this is cute and inspirational” and there you have it. An infuriatingly effective, yet essentially vapid musical number, which is as much a test of the
victim’s listener’s endurance as it is an exercise in subtle musical paraphrasing.
Denis Midone, announcing the votes for Moldova, pretty much epitomised the weakness of the song when he attempted to warble “Right from the staaa-eeh-aahh-aaaart” before awarding it 12 points. It sounded hideous. It can’t be sung. What is the point of a song which cannot be tunefully sung, not even by its own artist?
Cue an army of pitchfork-wielding “The Start” fans baying for my blood. Yes, that’s right, not only do I hate the song, I hate Gaia’s voice. For me, it is just an absolutely abhorrent sound. Not so bad in her lower range, but as soon as the chorus kicks in, it morphs into a nasal, plastic auditory monster, something akin to the sound of air being let out of a balloon. Listening to her wailing her way through that song was physically painful. I refuse to sugar-coat this just because she’s eleven, she agreed to go out there on the international stage, and as such, she has set herself up for criticism such as this. I accept, of course, that there will be plenty of people who love both her voice and the song, but – in reference to her comment about wanting to grow up and be a vet, helping “animals in need” – I reckon there are a fair few animals in need of ear transplants after having to sit through TWO renditions of “The Start” last night… better get yourself enrolled on that veterinary course soon, love.
However, whilst we’re not keen on the song or the singer who took last night’s victory, there is a third victor we must applaud: the country of Malta itself. It is lovely to see the land that brought us Chiara, Mary Spiteri and Ira Losco finally walk away with a Eurovision title under their belts; as they always approach the contest with such enthusiasm and resilience. It’s a shame that they did it with such a mangy song, but at the end of the day, if we look at last night’s victory as a victory for Malta and nothing more, then I am extremely happy about it.
Elsewhere in the score table, I am extremely proud of Sofia Tarasova and Ilya Volkov (known to Jaz and I as Team Ilfia) for rounding out the top three – both results are somewhat unexpected, but very well deserved! As far as comparing the final results to our predictions, it seems we were both pretty far out really. I did correctly have Russia down as 4th, and Rory managed to predict Ukraine’s silver medal too. From our combined results, we ended up randomly matching Armenia to their eventual 6th place, however that was more of a fluke than anything else. We overestimated the Netherlands and particularly underestimated Georgia. In short, it would seem we are both woeful at predicting! However in such a small field, as we said yesterday, even the simplest of predictions is a veritable challenge!
On that note – this year, only twelve countries were represented. Will this number increase in the coming years? We can only hope. The apparent flexibility of many broadcasters is evident in the amount of hiatuses which pepper many countries’ JESC histories – Malta, for example were absent in 2011 and 2012, Sweden in 2008 and Macedonia in 2012, to name but a few. Thus, we cannot rule out a return from practically any of the former participating nations, and with delegations from Spain and Germany rumoured to be amongst those present in Kyiv to observe last night’s proceedings, the Maltese victory may prompt renewed interest from Western Europe. As a TV event, JESC is not the first thing that would attract your average Saturday-night viewer, it must be said, however, we must return to that first point about the show being for kids. Put it on a children’s channel, and hey presto. I can guarantee that JESC would be no less popular than anything else shown on such stations, and would be more likely to connect to the target audience. Just a few thoughts, as we look towards next year’s show. Let’s hope it comes to pass, and that Malta is allowed the opportunity to host their first international Eurovision event on the island!
Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: The show itself was actually really good and I enjoyed most of it.. Just apart from the result, I would have loved it if Armenia and San Marino got a better placing and if Ukraine won the show, but apart from that, the show was amazing!
Svetlana Andriyenko from Ukraine: I was very proud to send such a great show to the world from Ukraine, it was great party, and we are all very happy for Sofia and her good result!
Ilias Kozantinos from Cyprus: Zlata was just stunning in the show and when she sang I fell in love with her all over again. I would have liked Sweden to do better than it did and Malta shouldn’t have won, the song was too boring. All in all, it was a great show!!
Regardless of the result, last night’s two-hour extravaganza was a truly eye-opening experience. Infinitely more credible than the majority of adult observers give it credit for, its more childish attributes easy to overlook, and its professional aura most striking to witness. This is borne out by the response we have had from the selection of fans above – whether we agree with the results or not, Junior Eurovision 2013 will most certainly be remembered for a long time to come.
Do you agree with our review of the contest? Feel free to leave us a comment below with your thoughts!