BY WILLIAM LEE ADAMS FROM WIWIBLOGS
After a week of practice and trying to squeeze into sequined dresses, the Junior Eurovision contestants finally came together for the first full run-through this afternoon. We were inside the arena. Here’s the dirt on who burned bright—and who burned out…
The show opens with two men dangling from the ceiling and breaking the ice displayed on a giant LED screen. While they do that around two dozens drummers in white hoodies beat illuminated drums. How Beijing 2008 Olympics! It’s very urban and street, and gives way to a whole lot of break dancing.
Rachel, who placed second at JESC 2011, is then carried out and performs Loreen’s “Euphoria”. From one winner to another, we love it. She doesn’t keep it subtle like Loreen. Instead, white plumes of smoke shoot up and the dancers get a little crazy.
Then the hosts rise from out of a hole in the middle of the stage. Kim-Lian models her dress for the audience, as if she were Eurovision’s Next Top Model.
Belarus: Egor Zheshko with “A more-more” (O sea, sea)
Egor was seriously out of tune in the opening bars. It sounds like his voice is hoarse from singing too much this week. We advise that he take some cough medicine and avoid talking between now and this evening’s jury final. Things improved when the backing vocals came on, but the moment Egor was singing solo things fell apart again. It’s a shame. He’s had surprisingly good vocals all week, but now he is just too exhausted to pull it together. On the positive side of things, his dancers look amazing, especially when doing salsa. They should consider competing on a reality TV show of their own.
Sweden: Lova Sonnerbo with “Mitt mod” (My courage)
The emcee asks us to give a big round of applause for “the lovely Lova from Sweden.” She isn’t wrong: Lova looks fantastic in a minimalist dress. The staging is simple: she stands in the center of the stage with a big spotlight shining down on her. The LED features a shooting star spinning in outer space. Her back-up vocalists stand still until Lova reaches the second verse, at which point they start to shake their hips—not like they have ants in their pants, but rather slowly and to the beat. Lova changes position—well, kind of—during the bridge of the song. The lighting is very effective at this point. Her fragile voice has a mystical, mysterious quality to it. We approve. Lova will have a wind machine on on the big night, and it will blow the large satin wings hanging from her dancers.
Azerbaijan: Suada Alakbarova & Omar Sultanov with “Girls and Boys”
This act looks very, very expensive. Apparently the Azeri delegation have been working with a Russian production company that specializes in kids programming, and it shows. Their LED background – red, white and black shapes – fits perfectly with this upbeat number, giving it a bit of a club vibe. We love how Omar and Suada shake and move and bend and twist. Their metallic outfits and silver shoes look brilliant. Their choreography is incredibly effective. And the DJ they have on a platform acts as a hype girl, encouraging everyone to get up and dance. This number could really surprise folks on Saturday.
Belgium: Fabian with “Abracadabra”
In the postcard Fabian claims that his song “Abracadabra” will bring some magic into your life. We won’t go that far, but it is good. Fabian stands center stage in a red outfit while two women in silver sequins dance around him in a rather flirtatious, inappropriate for children kind of way. They look very Las Vegas. The LED backdrop shows orange and white hearts made of smoke. During the first chorus a small child in a red dress pops out of a cage, and then another one jumps out of a black circular curtain. It irritates us that there are children on stage pretending to play instruments, but this number gets stuck in your head and Fabian is pitch-perfect. He’s livelier than at the Belgian national final and that energy really shows. He also works the runway that juts out into the audience, something other contestants have been too afraid to do. As he walks back he puts his face right into the camera. Wait for it!
Russia: Lerika with “Sensatsiya” (Sensation)
Lerika starts out on the runway in the audience. She keeps her dancers way in the back because this is all about her. She then struts back to the stage ahead of the chorus. She appeared to be holding back vocally today, focusing instead on her choreography. Her dress is the same one from the rehearsals. It’s far less bling than what she wore at the Russian national final. We’re still hoping she’ll unveil something fiercer, but it looks like this is it. Her back-up dancers look like sexy swans in black tights with subtle tutus. Following Belgium’s Abracadabra, this seems extra grown-up and mature. It’s unclear if the kids will go for that. But adults surely will. The ending—lots of white lights—will blind you. Have your sunglasses ready.
Israel: Kids.il with “Let the Music Win”
Their postcard is adorable They ask the kids at home to “sing along with us” and then shout, “Shalom from Israel!” They are wearing pinkish-orange cocktail dresses with black leather boots with subtle sparkles. At the beginning two children sing center stage while the other four sit on and around a piano. They hug and touch each other constantly, which fits well with their message of peace. The song builds really nicely, going from mellow ballad to up-tempo dance number halfway through. The “Oh La Oh La” line is particularly infectious. The choreography is simple—a few fist pumps and sways and finger pointing and spinning. But they don’t miss a step. Daniel, the sole male singer, was in perfect tune during the bridge today. The LED screen features music notes in pink and white. They seem to be enjoying themselves. They didn’t want to leave the stage when it was over.
Halfway through the performances, the host of the show asks Lova from Sweden to stand up and compliments her dress. She then shows us her stuffed animal moose, which she says is cute and not dangerous. He then speaks with a kid from Azerbaijan who says he thinks the hotels in Amsterdam are beautiful. Given all the oil money in Azerbaijan, the 12 year old probably knows all about luxury.
Albania: Igzidora Gjeta with “Kam Një Këngë Vetëm Për Ju” (I have a song just for you)
After being scolded by the EBU, Igzidora decided to put on some clothes. She’s wearing the same dress, but she seems to be wearing a black t-shirt and blouse underneath it. This means there’s no more flesh on display. Whew. She gives the dress a splash of color with a sparkly silver belt. This song reminds me of something I heard in a disco in 1986 in Tirana. Apparently Albania has not moved on. On the positive side of things, Igzidora is singing with more conviction now than she was during the rehearsals. She still freestyles during the bridge and really puts her back into it. I just hope the cameraman who follows her on stage can keep up given how unpredictable her movements are. Today she started blowing kisses at the camera. Will you blow one back?
Armenia: Compass Band with “Sweetie Baby”
This act is dark and dreary and makes me feel like I’m at a funeral. The LED is totally black and features rain droplets, adding to the feeling that everything is ending. The boys sing in tune, and their black suits with black ties look rather nice. We wish they had asked an English speaker to proofread their song. It’s “give me a smile”, not “give me smile”.
Ukraine: Anastasiya Petryk with “Nebo” (The Sky)
In her postcard she describes herself as “a small Ukrainian girl.” She most certainly is. The three-foot child opens the song by crouching on the ground as a dark and sinister sky appears on her LED. A wind machine blows her blond locks all over the place while she howls. Smoke comes up through vents and she performs weird mystical dance moves while lighting appears on the LED. She has no backup dancers. Her voice is so big there is no room for them!
Georgia: The Funkids with “Funky Lemonade”
This is easily one of the most colorful entries this year. The clothes look fantastic. Lukas struggled with his beep-boxing in the opening bars, but we think this may have been an issue with his microphone. At times he was a little breathy. Perhaps he’s been flipping around too much? Their play-fighting sequence is particularly effective as these young divas push Lukas around. This act seemed to lack energy today. They have been so high-octane all week I think they’re just exhausted.
Moldova: Denis Midone with “Toate vor fi” (All will be)
Denis Midone’s act is pure sugar. It’s sweet and innocent and gives you a little buzz. Dude can sing, and he’s brave enough to wear white pants on stage. Vocally he is on point. But his back-up dancers are frequently out of tune. Their voices simply don’t blend with his. It’s sad because on his own he would sound so much better. The bridge of the song just doesn’t work. Shouting Na na na na is never a good idea.
The Netherlands: Femke Meines with “Tik Tak Tik”
There were some worries earlier in the week that Femke had throat problems. But it sounds like she’s rested: her vocals were powerful, rivaling those of the Ukraine’s Anastasiya (though with a few more pitch problems). The stage is very pink and purple throughout her act, and her dancers work every inch of the stage. Femke is wearing really high pink socks and they look great in the light. The LED features a big pendulum clock swinging back and forth. We’d like this song better if it stopped after two minutes. It just gets a bit same-same after a while.