Now, I want to make something very clear before the off here – I’m fully aware that some of you don’t like the Junior contest – and that’s fine – I’d stop reading before I got any further if I were you and I know I’m not a child between 9 and 14 BUT no matter how much you slice it, this is a competitive singing contest. There are votes handed out by people who will be judging these songs, either in a room at a broadcaster , at home with their children Or gay men on the sofa that love a contest. I will pull my punches slightly but as a televiewer I’ll still tell you what I think I see. Also these reviews were done the first time I saw them, just like a televiewer, and they are based on the official music videos.
Malta – Yulan – Stronger
A song written by a hundred million Swedes must surely mean one thing – Malta are gunning for the win, but did the songwriting camp work? ( they must have had one, right?)
It’s a song about feelings – just what this contest needs but I’m not going to diss this song because it is exactly what the contest needs. A singer with a soulful voice singing a well crafted (well it is Swedish) pop song that fits her voice. There are going to be loads of places to show off Yulan’s voice ( i.e lots of long notes) and despite it sounding very familiar, it has all the required elements for a decent finish. Imagine “Not my Soul” slowed down and you have the distilled essence of this song.
Yulan is no Destiny, but she is a class above some of the people in the MESC this year that’s for sure. With the performance nailed down this could do very well indeed.
Phil’s Score – 7/10
Netherlands – Sep & Jasmijn – Holding On To You
The Dutch have gone for a love song for the tween generation – yeah they are allowed to have an attraction to people too – don’t turn your nose up.
This song has a great Chorus and is, arguably, the first proper uptempo song that there has been in a while and it’s the kind of thing you could imagine the boyband star of Scandinavia singing in an MF or an MGP ( Theoz anyone?). Their voices mesh really well and, if the preview video is anything to go by, there is going to be some dancing and bopping around the stage going on in Nice. It is, though, very safe. It doesn’t do anything dramatically different but in this field all it has to do is to be competently performed in order to get it’s head above the also rans. They are both talent show alum, they’ll know how to perform this Just to back that up I then clicked their performance at the Junior Naaaaaational Songfestival and that backs up everything I have just said. Who says I talk the shits?
Phil’s Score – 7/10
North Macedonia – Tamara Grujeska – Kazi Mi, Kazi Mi Koj
For about the gamillionth time in this run through we have a song about feelings – this time with added “North Macedonia Formula” in the form of a young female singer that is tearing her heart out on screen telling us about her beau. It is everything that a seasoned watcher of this contest has come to expect from them – namely a well thought out song that will clearly appeal to the juries that are assembled for this contest sung by a young woman (and I don’t think that a boy has sung for them – but I await to be corrected) with a verse and a chorus into English which doesn’t sound forced.
Tamara will know what to do infront of the 40 million people that tune in – she’s been singing in kids festivals since the age of 5 and it shows. Not in an Irish Stage-school kind of way, but with the look and sound that experience can bring. I like this one, a lot and although in parts it sounds generically Balkan – it’s going to do well.
Phil’s Score – 6/10
Poland – Maja Krzyżewska – I just need a Friend
It’s safe to say that Poland get this contest but with this one, I’m not so sure. In contrast to North Macedonia and the easy structure and insertion of English, this is… less so. They almost seem to have alternated language between English and Polish at every stage of the song and it makes it sound disjointed. They could have done the first whole part in one language and the last part in one language and it would have been better.
The song itself is a bit of nothing, if I am being totally honest, with echos of Arcade in the lyrics – She’s a Small town girl in an endless world – but I jus think that this is more of an album track rather than a song that is going to wow the bits of Europe that are going to see this. It doesn’t have a memorable hook, in either language or a half way decent chorus, sadly. She’s won the Polish pre-selection so knows how to perform a song, she’s going to have to give this everything if it is going to do well.
Phil’s Score – 4/10
Portugal – Júlia Machado – Where I Belong
It would be easy to say that Portuguese is the problem with this song but it certainly isn’t going to help it. With a language that is so impenetrable it is important that the chorus or the bits that are in English are effective at getting your message across. This song does that, but in a very perfunctory way but they don’t compliment the Portuguese lyrics which are about always moving around and never putting down roots, and I only knew that by looking at the translation, there isn’t going to be that many television viewers going to go to those lengths.
That said, it’s sung nicely and Julia seems to have a good voice and stage craft – again, she’s won a Kids talent show to be here. I just wish that the song she is singing had more of a broad appeal to get noticed. As it is, it gets lost in the crowd.
Phil’s Score – 5/10
Spain – Sandra Valero – Loviu
None of your changing into English for a verse nonsense here with Spain – Apart from the title sung in 4 languages it’s all in Spanish. The preview video here is very good – it’s happy and bouncy and involves one of those little train things that you see in many cities across Europe.
Unfortunately the song itself misses a trick. It needs to have a backing track that goes at a million miles an hour and is full on pop. What we get is a mid tempo plodder which completely lets down whatever Sandra would be singing. She could be singing the phonebook to a banging beat, whereas it just feels like she’s swimming in treacle to get to the end of this three minutes and, rather like the train, it feels as though it runs out of steam too early. This could have been so much more.
Phil’s Score – 5/10
Ukraine – Anastasia Dymyd – Kvitka
With Anastasia closer to the bottom end of the age range for this contest this would be many people’s idea of what a kids song in a kids contest is about in their nightmares. The Chorus is based on one word, Kvitka and the repetition of that word and the tone in which it is sung gets old very quickly. Don’t let that fool you though, the lyrics are a very definite anti-war song talking about “Stop this Tragedy” and finding the flower for the Children’s happiness.
It’s a curate’s egg of a song. It’s neither full on “ Stop killing my friends” but neither is it twee and minipops, especially when Anastasia’s voice changes from “Cute little kid” to “Wailing Siren” in the middle eight and she genuinely scares me when she looks at the camera in the middle eight! I don’t know if this kind of thing is what the contest needs or wants.
Phil’s Score – 3/10
United Kingdom – Stand Uniqu3 – Back to Life.
There is an argument that the girls are acting too old for their age and the song’s lyrics are, quote, too old and yes, there is an element of that from what I am looking a i.e they are dressed like posh supply teachers rather than teenage girls. I’m also seeing potential. Last year we were deprived of a live performance by Yerevan Flu. There will be no such shenanigans in Nice where it will be at least 15 degrees warmer.
I sense that this song is more made for performance than the preview video because it seems underpowered as though the girls are holding something back which is fine because your music video isn’t getting any points. I also think that this will be choreographed to within an inch of its life, which might give the girls too much to think about than the vocals and I dislike the ending immensely because the song just.. ends. By that I mean it doesn’t build or come to a natural conclusion. All that said, I’m going to go back to that potential. It’s a decent enough pop song that, if transposed to an adult Girl Group would do well, it’s catchy and the girls voices mesh together nicely and each of them gets their time to shine.
I can’t call it – I wan’t to say it will do well but I have walked this tightrope one too many times over the long, long years.
Phil’s Score – 7/10