If I was ever under any doubt that the Junior Eurovision Song Contest wasn’t up to the standard of the Adult Contest these reservations have now been put to bed. On Sunday afternoon we were treated to the traditional ridiculous staging concepts; shambolic voting procedures and stunning vocal performances. All of which one is so accustomed to with the Adult version in May. Would I watch it again? I think so but I’m still a little skeptical.
The show opener was a fairly lurid and excitable number, exactly what one would expect from a children’s singing competition. The opening ceremony was an invention from past JESCs that found it’s way to the main Contest but the idea of them all singing a line of the same song as they enter the stage was first class. Lizi Pop was a consummate professional out-shining her adult compatriot for the most part. She had energy in spades and kept up the high standard for the whole two hours. I would not be surprised to see her host the main show if Georgia were to win Adult in a few years time.
I thought our young stars displayed professionalism and confidence well beyond their years throughtout the show. I felt so sorry for little Misha from Armenia though. Now I’ve never been a member of a delegation so I don’t know how much sway the singer has but I’m of the assumption they do have some creative input at Adult. With Junior one imagines the performers, especially the younger ones, are at the mercy of their adult companions. Whomever decided a plastic brown shirt & tie combo paired with a temperamental boomerang mounted hover board needs to remove themselves from any further Eurovision activity for the rest of time. The nine year old himself did a fine job with a shambles of presentation. Mans Zelmerlow’s ‘Fire in the Rain’ it wasn’t.
Having had my doubts before Sunday there were most definitely songs & performers who would’ve felt right at home at the Adult Contest. If you were to tell me that Helena Maraai’s performance was actually destined for Lisbon I would be shocked. Only because it’s of a far higher quality than the standard Belarusian offerings every May. (NAVI excluded. Not you guys, you’re great!) The eventual winner from Russia treated us to an incredible performance worthy of the mini glass microphone. The wee chap from Malta was a bundle of energy and fun, unsurprisingly taking the runner up spot in the ‘public vote’ and then…then there was Muireann.
I was a sucker for a stripped back gentle beauty with Salvador earlier in the year but this time it was the Irish entry that took my heart. It was a loud and garish show for the most part which was only to be expected for a kids show. It was like someone took a normal Eurovision and spliced with the colour palate of a 90s Woolworths Pic’N’Mix stand. Then came the delightful Muireann McDonnell, her hair adorned with glitter and her guitar in hand to steal my heart. Súile Glasa is the song from this Contest that I’ll be listening to years to come. An authentic performance of a song with a catchy hook, a winner for me!
This was followed by the ‘voting’ but not voting as we know it. Oh no. We had online voting. Many see JESC as the perfect opportunity to test out format tweaks for the main show. However, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any replication of this unmitigated cock up at Adult any time soon. Within seconds of the voting ‘opening’ viewers from over 100 countries across all corners of the globe had the opportunity to look at a blank webpage. Thank goodness they took some votes after the rehearsals or else we’d have given nul points to all countries. To make matters worse the script was resolutely stuck to, we were repeatedly urged to vote despite that fact it was impossible. Seems it’s not just the ticket bots that can prevent Eurovision fans from getting what they want.
In terms of the actual show though I was thoroughly impressed. I did feel alienated through my age at points but it had all the hallmarks of a proper Eurovision to carry me through. I laughed, I cringed and questioned almost every vote announced by the spokespersons just as I would in the regular Contest. Despite an overly earnest song about a tree, pleads to vote when it was impossible to do so and multiple spokeschildren not knowing what time of day it was I do think I’ll give Minsk a go next year. Not totally won round, but getting there.
My favourite moment of the whole show occurred right at the end. As Polina was reprising her winners song her accompanying dancer realised that in the rush to get ready she’d forgotten the bag she uses to pack clothes during the performance. After sharing a smile with her fellow dancer what did the girl do? She mimes like the prop is there anyway! Having forgotten many a prop on stage in AmDram productions just fronting out and pretending it’s there shows first class performing skills. Bravo!