We’re back! In what seems an eternity since the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest took place in Turin, we are back at the 2022 Junior Eurovision Song Contest, in Yerevan, Armenia.
John, Richard and James are here for you over the next few days to describe everything that is going on here in the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex, in Yerevan. Today sees Day One of the Second Rehearsals – the first set of rehearsals we have access to.
You know the drill by now, refresh the page on a regular basis from 07:00 CET to see what we both have to say.
Refresh from 07:00 CET
And we are off!!!
Albania – 06:00 GMT/07:00 CET/10:00 AMT
Richard – Kejtlin Gjata is the first to take to the stage for the second rehearsals with “Pakëz Diell”. Kejtlin is performing in a salmon pink dress. The backdrop can only be described as either a sunrise or a sunset over a mountain range. While she is only 11, her vocals are incredible. Kejtlin is performing on her own on stage and her vocals helps fill the stage with her presence. The theme for this year’s Contest is ‘Spin the Magic’ and Kejtlin is providing a truly magical and enchanting performance. For me, I see Kejtlin as a dark horse for a potential victory. Slightly off topic, I can’t help feel that the actual stage is similar to that of the one in Düsseldorf and the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest.
John – Kejtlin is up first, and is alone on stage. For an eleven-year old, she has a really powerful voice that fills the cavernous space she’ll be performing in for real on Sunday afternoon. Her backdrop has the essence of a desert and mountains at sunrise about it, which really sets the song off. And of course it mirrors the song title. Kejtlin’s rehearsals passed off without incident and she looked very happy with how she’d done.
James – Dressed in a soft pink dress, Kejtlin belts out Pakëz Diell with a confidence and talent that blows me away for someone so young. Although this might not be the thumping dance track or twee fun melody that bounces along that a lot of people expect from JESC, it’s a song with a message and her vocals are undeniable. Juries cannot and should not overlook her voice – I’m not sure it has the impact musically to grab 12 and 10, but it’s the kind of song that I imagine every juror will rank somewhere in their Top 10. A little more eye contact and connectivity with the camera would help secure some more televotes too, but that’s my only critique – brava Kejtlin, a very confident and impactful performance.
Ukraine – 06:35 GMT/07:35 CET/10:35 AMT
Richard – Zlata Dziunka is next up with “Unbreakable”. Zlata is performing is a tailored white suit. The backdrop is a fiery orange colour, with the words ‘Wound’ and ‘Freedom’ amongst others appearing in both English and Ukrainian. Again, just like Kejtlin, Zlata’s vocals are incredible for her age – 14 years old. Again Zlata is on her own on stage, but unlike Kejtlin, Zlata moves around the stage, using arm-ography and interacts with the backdrop.
John – It’s serious contender time. Trouser-suited Zlata’s slightly bluesy song has a message about that thing about which we don’t need to mention. She’s alone on stage in front of a backdrop of mainly reds and golds that has words in both English and Ukrainian that appear at certain intervals. These words are written as you would write with your finger on wet/steamy glass. Her vocal is solid and belies her age. She moves around the stage nicely, holding the camera in her gaze Can this win? Probably.
James – Ukraine’s rehearsal has left me quite emotional. Separating out what we see on stage and what we know is happening in a country that the Eurovision Ireland team know and love was never going to be an easy task. What I will say, is that Zlata deserves to do well in this contest because she can sing and the staging concept is a good, strong one. Are we heading for a Turin-style landslide televote win for Ukraine? I strongly suspect we are. Juries will also respond well to this because Zlata is doubtlessly talented. Could we see a country claim both Eurovision trophies in a single year? By Sunday evening, we’ll find out!
Malta – 07:10 GMT/08:10 CET/11:10 AMT
Richard – Gaia Gambuzza has arrived with a futuristic performance of “Diamonds in the Skies”. Gaia is in a futuristic silver outfit. The rehearsal shows that choreography rehearsals have been taking place, as Gaia is appearing slightly nervous and not as relaxed in the dancing. Relax a bit more and this will come over well on the night.
John – Time for bit of upbeatedness. Gaia has two dancers with her who do what they’re on stage for for when it comes to moving around the stage. Her song has a very current sound and she sells it very well. The backdrop is quite futuristic – neon, planets, stars, giant hands – which of course fits in with the song’s sentiment. As a foot-tapper, it hits all the right marks. But there are a few other songs with a very similar sound and there’s the risk of those songs cancelling each other out. You can’t fault Gaia’s enthusiasm though.
James – Take me to your leader! Gaia’s smile lights up the stage and she connects really well with the camera – both of these things will count in her favour when the viewers are deciding who to vote for. Add to that a catchy song, that 80s synth sound and lyrics that are easy to sing and bop along to, I feel like Malta are leaning/relying on the televote – especially with the retro-future styling (if that’s even a term… well how else do you describe the future as imagined by the past?!) I’m a little more sceptical of what juries will make of this. Staging wise there’s a lot going on, which looks a little cluttered at times, but still… Malta are still going to be one of the talking points of this year’s show!
Italy – 07:45 GMT/08:45 CET/11:45 AMT
Richard – Chanel Dilecta has brought the stage to life with “BLA BLA BLA”. Chanel is joined on stage by four dancers – all five of which are in colourful clothes. With the bright colours on the backdrop too, we finally have an element of fun and happiness brought to today’s proceedings. “BLA BLA BLA” is a real bop and should gain some votes easily. The colourful backdrop reminds me of Taylor Hyne’s “IOU” from Ireland in 2018.
John – Colour! And lots of it. Chanel potentially gives us a huge breath of fresh air with another nicely upbeat song. There’s lots of pop art going on in the backdrop, with many words written there too. For the avoidance of doubt, bullism means bullying. There are four dancers who ably assist, cavorting and posing around the stage at certain points. Now I liked this when I first heard it, but it could have a few potentially challenging notes in it. This is, however, just a rehearsal and Chanel only need to get it right on Sunday. Having said all this, the hard work is done with this happy song.
James – When asked what colours the Italian delegation wanted to use for their performance in Yerevan, I think they said “Yes”… Fiumi di colori indeed! It’s all very colourful, upbeat and a lot of fun – it’s like a JESC entry by numbers. For those of you interested, Bullism is actually a word according to UrbanDictionary (SIC: a question so stupid you’re sure it must be rhetorical, but the person who asked it is stupid so they’re probably serious) – but, the TEFL teacher in me thinks someone has written “bullyism” (also a word, the practise of bullying) and followed the usual rule of dropping -y to attach -i from -ism… typo aside, this is a very strong and cohesive staging and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Italy very high up the scoreboard at the final!
Serbia – 08:40 GMT/09:40 CET/12:40 AMT
Richard – Katarina Savić is the first on stage after lunch with “Svet bez granica”. Katarina is dressed in a white dress to begin with, before revealing a red outfit , just like a ballerina. She is positioned in an open white dome type structure – like a wind-up ballerina ornament. She is joined on stage at times by a male dancer, who is dressed in a mix of white and red. In the latter parts of the performance, Katarina exits the structure and joins the dancer to perform a quick classical dance to end the performance.
John – We have our first prop. Katarina takes the role of a doll on a music box. The ‘box’ has two white arches over it. Think of a scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but Katarina is far better dressed. She also has a trombone which her lone dancer gives her for part of the song. It’s a very sweet little song with very clear vocals and the pleasant overtones you’d expect from a Balkan song. And it’s in 3/4 or 6/8 time – I’m not quite sure which. All in all, this performance is a very good package.
James – Musically, Serbia’s entry may be one of my favourites in this year’s cohort. There’s a magic feeling in those notes (Spin the Magic, anyone?) and it looks like they’re playing into that idea quite heavily. Katarina stands under light arches, mimicking the movements of a music box doll. Add in a dancer, a trombone solo and a romantic waltz through the colours of the national flag, there are some really good elements in the Serbian stage show. This being said, a few of the changeovers need to be tightened up to not look clumsy. I’d also like to see Katarina look into the camera, as she doesn’t for the vast majority of the song. The pieces are there – they just need to be put together with a little more care and Serbia will have a stand out moment this year.
Poland – 09:15 GMT/10:15 CET/13:15 AMT
Richard – Laura is next on with “To the Moon”. Another futuristic style performance, with Laura joined on stage by five backing dancers. A CGI graphic of the moon is shown several times on screen, while the back drop is filled with space-like elements such as shooting stars, space dust, moons and planets. I’m glad we are at rehearsal stages, because while the vocals are good, I believe Laura has something stronger inside of her.
John – We know Poland have form in this event. And they have the potential this year. Laura has a decent voice – maybe not the best of the 16 – but she makes up for it with enthusiasm. And there’s an energetic stage show with five backing dancers. They’re all dressed in silver, and we have a dark backdrop of stars and maps of lit up countries. I like it, but as I’ve said elsewhere there are other similar songs that could split for the vote.
James – Augmented reality planets, pyro, light balls, dancers, acrobatics… there’s not much TVP haven’t thrown into Laura’s stage show. As always, there are some fantastic elements in there but it might be a case of too much going on. Different parts of the show stop being show-stopping and start looking a little sloppy when there is so much going on. This being said, Laura shines (figurately and literally in her silver space suit!) and gives us a confident rendition of her song and is to be applauded.
North Macedonia – 09:50 GMT/10:50 CET/13:50 AMT
Richard – Lara feat. Jovan and Irina have brought some colourful joy with “Životot e pred mene”. The whole performance comes across as if they are a group of friends having a good time – this shows that the choreography, if planned has worked without a problem. All their vocals work well together and the harmonies show this. The back drop, as well as their outfits are a colourful treat for those watching.
John – Here’s a cheerful and bouncy number from North Macedonia. And it’s our only song not by a soloist. It’s very pleasing to the ear and the various elements of catchy song and friendly rap do seem to work to a point. With its bright colours, and passable choreography it’s very reminiscent of JESCs of old, so in that respect it sticks to a tried and tested formula. Between run throughs, main singer Lara was going through scales and trills just to keep her voice in tip-top shape. A pleasing song sung by enthusiastic young people like this should get its fair share of internet votes.
James – Long time fans of ESC and JESC know that North Macedonia have a bit of a chequered history with these competitions, arguably more so than any other country – so every year, I’m hopeful that this’ll be the one to turn things around for them. And so far, the signs are good! There are a lot of things that work well about the Macedonian staging – it’s upbeat, it’s fun, colourful… I feel like kicking the energy up a little would help push this up and over. The song also relies a lot on the audience clapping along, which might explain why it seems to be missing the mark slightly during these rehearsals (which, is exactly why we have rehearsals!). Lara, Irina and Jovan work well together and the staging has a lot of elements that were this any other country, we’d be saying its (to quote our benevolent leader) “Good to go!” – It’s a taller order for North Macedonia than for most, but this is promising and I wish them nothing but luck.
Portugal – 11:45 GMT/12:45 CET/15:45 AMT
Richard – Nicolas Alves rounds off the day of rehearsals with “Anos 70”. He has a unique sound when it comes to his singing – something I’m not sure whether or not the target audience for this Contest will appreciate. It comes close to the rock genre and appears monotone in colouring throughout most of the performance, with the odd hints of orange now and again.
John – Now here’s a thing that doesn’t crop up very often in a JESC – rock. There are people more expert than I who could tell you whether it really is rock, but it certainly sounds like it to me. Nicolas has the guitar and long hair that add to the edgy vibe. There’s a backdrop of lightning and the graphic equalizer graphics you see on Youtube audio videos. It will make an impact and if the right constituency is watching, may well pick up a number of votes because it is that different.
Thank you for joining us today. We will be back tomorrow with the second day of Second Rehearsals. Please #JoinUs at the same time tomorrow for the remaining countries taking to the stage. In the mean time, keep an eye for the first set of interviews from this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest stars that we have managed to bring to you.
Author: John Stanton & Richard Taylor
Source: Eurovision Ireland