I bet you’re thinking, Gav, you already covered the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in a rather lengthy, frankly indulgent post? It was cancelled because of Coronavirus, leaving you rather irate with only the 40+ track accompanying album to review...what more could you possibly say? Well, my friends...as it happens, A LOT. You see I may or may not have overlooked the fact that, there is also a JUNIOR version of the song contest, which apparently France won this past weekend. I bet I also know what you’re thinking now; Gav...no, please? They are children?! You couldn’t possibly?!?!? That...sounds darker than it needs to...nevertheless! I am about to review, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, 2020. Does this count as child abuse?
While not having the 60+ year heritage of the actual contest, the junior version is itself still in its 18th year and is continuing to grow, providing an international platform for budding young artists and performers hoping to make a career in the music industry. This year the contest was meant to be held in Poland, the first time in Eurovision history a nation has held it twice consecutively, but due to the ongoing issues regarding Covid-19, only 12 nations chose to participate, and it was televised from separate national studios instead of having one live-performance final. With the slogan #MoveTheWorld, it captured a positive message of togetherness and safeguarding the future, as the younger generations look to make the world a better place. Sadly, that time will have to wait, as I’m about to review the shit out of these twelve entries...
For the purpose of convenience, I’ll be running through the tracks in order of their album placing according to Spotify, as opposed to the actual running order of the final, so if you choose to listen, this list will at least be cohesive whether you agree with me or not, and we start with Belarus. ARINA PEHTEREVA gets us underway with the track “Aliens”, and apparently, she’s only 12 years old. Seriously...what do they put in the water in Belarus? Aside from 70% of the Chernobyl fallout. The semi-hushed, soulful pop effort with brief hip-hop elements sounds far more mature than her 12 years and it's actually an impressive vocal performance... I mean if she’s 12, then I’M an alien...shooketh I am!
Next up we have Germany, and it marks their first ever entry into the Junior version of the contest. Well, they need something to do in the absence of the Hitler Youth, right? I jest. (Come on it’s been 75 years get over it) ...the track is called “Stronger With You” by a young lady named SUSAN. Really? Not to nit-pick here but, Susan is the least German sounding German ever... doing a weekly grocery shop in ALDI is about as German as Susan gets. I digress. The 14-year-old delivers a traditionally performed pop-ballad in a mixture of German and English, dramatic and cliched, it’s basic, safe Eurovision fodder and sadly boring as a result. She came last by the way. Take that, Susan.
Moving on to Spain next, and the song “Palante” by a 9-year-old girl by the name of SOLEA. Apparently, a slang term for “Keep going” or, “Go for it” in Spanish, its intent is obviously positive and encouraging, motivational even, and the overall Latino/Hispanic pop grooves while stereotypical, aren’t dreadful. I mean it’s not as shit as “Despacito” ...there...praised a nine-year-old. Quickly hopping across the border then to France and we have our aforementioned winner; an 11-year-old named VALENTINA with a track called “J’imagine”. Other than sounding like Jimmy Saville’s own brand of cologne (Hey why does this smell like Rohyp....zZzZzZz) it’s performed in French, like most of the French entries, and comprises of a predominantly inoffensive, quirky, up-beat piece of sweet-pop. The track itself is nothing spectacular, but what’s funny is someone has edited Valentina’s Wikipedia page, stating that she cheated. No proof, just calling her a cheater. And I thought I was petty and bitter!? That’s actually amused me, well done, random butt-hurt person.
We’re a third of the way through now thankfully as we head over to Georgia, to check out SANDRA GADELIA and her entry “You Are Not Alone”. To be fair, you are undoubtedly correct here as I cannot be the only one not having a good time right now. Here is the shock twist however...the piano ballad is fuelled by some incredibly and impressively powerful, emotive vocals. This has some presence and one has to tip his hat where it’s warranted. There’s a SLIGHTLY dodgy key-change which makes you question it’s necessity, but other than that, well done; an album high-light this.
Next up we have KARAKAT BASHANOVA representing Kazakhstan, though while not as popular as Borat globally, she probably brings less shame upon her country. At 12 years old she’s currently attending a musical boarding school where she is classically training in violin and piano, which is beyond evident in the more mature, operatic / ballet composition of the song. It’s quite elegant in all fairness and again, impresses. It’s still pretty safe, your typical ballad in terms of Eurovision, but this young lady has a potentially bright future in musical theatre for sure. Jagshemash!
Moving swiftly on to Malta next as we find CHANEL MONSEIGNEUR singing her entry “Chasing Sunsets” ...it is, undeniably, yet another by-numbers soft pop-ballad which, for the pre-teen is delivered clearly and confidently and it’s a pleasant pop song as a whole, but this is getting a little rinse and repeat by this point. It’s getting difficult to find anything of real interest...forget chasing sunsets this is more like chasing the dragon now. Also, there is a pattern forming...can our next entry mix things up a bit? Well, a bit is fitting. UNITY who are representing Netherlands here, aren’t just a young female solo artist...no, they are a group of young female artists! Did any boys enter this at all? It’s not a bad thing if they didn’t but it’s certainly interesting. Performing a track called “Best Friends”, they essentially come across as a sort of, teenage LITTLE MIX. Littler Mix, if you will. That about sums up the track.
We’re into the final third now as we get host nation Poland and their entry “I’ll Be Standing”, by ALA TRACZ. Not to be confused with Alcatraz, but it does feel like I’ve served some sort of life sentence up to this point. It’s got an assertive chorus rich in percussion, brass AND synth elements while the young lady fleets back and forth her native tongue and English vocals, and really its quite up-beat; this is far from the worst track here. Serbia are up next and we get our first male performer of the contest...PETAR ANICIC and his song “Heartbeat”...and I’m not going to lie when I say my mind instantly went to some, Serbian rip-off of a certain 1960’s Yorkshire based police drama. I can’t imagine Serbian police letting Greengrass off so lightly for poaching though if I’m honest. Anyway, it’s another piano ballad, what a surprise.
Our penultimate track comes from Russia with love, as SOFIA FESKOVA performs her track “My New Day” and it’s yet another, sickly-sweet pop-ballad. I mean she’s clearly got Disney+ at home going by this track...I wouldn’t be surprised if she ran into the woods to sing this to the animals quite frankly but, being Russia it’s probably safer not to. Be like Snow White, but instead of seven dwarves she’d stumble across seven prisoners of war in some forgotten gulag. Finally then, we round things up with the Ukraine’s entry; “Vidkryvai (Open Up)” by a lad named OLEKSANDR BALABANOV (Do-do-dododo...sorry I just had to). It’s more of a soulful slow jam with a touch more character than a lot of the tracks here and he’s got a uniquely blended vocal and it ends the album on a better note.
While I praise the variety and character of the original Eurovision Song Contest, my first experience of the Junior contest hasn’t been completely encouraging. Sure, there have been one or two impressive vocal performances for the age range we’re talking about, and we can’t overlook the fact that the majority of countries pulled out because of Covid-19, but the tracks that made up the remaining contestants failed to excite or inspire. You could argue that, as children, they are having songs written for them...true, but so do the adults most of the time. The difference is, with children, you aren’t going to get ridiculous entries like LORDI...you aren’t going to have artists like CONCHITA or HATARI making bold statements, you’re going to get things pretty safe, and sadly that’s exactly what we had here. Fair play to them mind, they got up on stage and they sang for their countries, and they should be proud of themselves. Except you Susan...you came last.