Over the past few weeks, the Wiwi Jury — our in-house panel of music unprofessionals — have been rating all of the Junior Eurovision 2016 songs to determine our favourite entry. Friendships were made and lost. We shed blood, sweat and tears. But we have come to a conclusion and we are ready to present our rankings for Junior Eurovision 2016.
Our jury for this edition consists of 21 jurors who hail from Australia, Croatia, Georgia, Ireland, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. We are truly international, y’all! Each juror assesses each song independently, and then awards each song a score from 0 to 10. Before calculating the Wiwi Jury verdict, we drop the highest and lowest scores to reduce potential bias and outliers.
Below you can watch a video that presents our results in reverse order. You can scroll down to see the final rankings along with the average score and some of our comments. Click on the song title to read our review and watch our video reactions.
WIWI JURY: OUR TOP 17
1. Russia – The Water of Life Project with “Water of Life”
The positive: (Deban, 10/10) This revamped version breathes life into what was originally an excellent offering. Sofia Fisenko is an excellent team player who engages well with her backing vocalists, whilst capturing key moments to shine as a soloist.
The negative: (Robyn, 7.5/10) “Water of Life” is a really decent and modern pop song, with a mature sound that wouldn’t be out of place as an ESC entry. If the music video is anything to go by, the girls will deliver a performance that’s just as slick. My only issue: the song isn’t especially memorable and might not have the sticking power to inspire votes.
2. FYR Macedonia – Martija Stanojkovic with “Love Will Lead Our Way”
The positive: (Antranig, 10/10) The Macedonian entry is easily the best song when it comes to balancing a kid-friendly vibe and a potential radio hit. “Love Will Lead Our Way” oozes youthful energy, but adult juries will bob along too. Martija’s voice complements the song perfectly and carries control and sultriness that belies her age. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this achieve Macedonia’s best Junior Eurovision result ever.
The negative: (Robyn, 6/10) While other countries are happy entering heartwarming songs that will surely bring warm feelings to all the parents and grandparents watching, FYR Macedonia is just happy to enter a song that could easily be at home on the pop charts. But that’s the problem — the charts are full of songs that sound exactly like this.
3. Italy – Fiamma Boccia with “Cara Mamma (Dear Mom)”
The positive: (Renske, 10/10) Fiamma’s song is one of the sweetest of the year and it’s even dedicated to her mom — adorbs! She sings every note so clearly with her beautiful, angelic voice. It’s so passionate that I nearly cried. Fiamma teaches us to spread love freely and without judgment, which is such an important message.
The negative: (Chris, 4/10) Fiamma is a wonderful singer, which is all that you can really take away from this song. Unfortunately, to me at least, it is completely wrong for Junior Eurovision. Yes, play it at an Italian Mothers Day concert. It would be fitting in that context. Outside of that, however, I find it far too predictable and almost — to a point — tacky.
4. Bulgaria – Lidia Ganeva with “Magical Day”
The positive: (William, 9.5/10) Morning, day or night — Lidia Ganeva brings magic with her innocence, charisma and gorgeous voice. This pint-sized powerhouse balances diva and adorable better than most and her song is a stroke of genius.
The negative: (Antranig, 4/10) Lidia is very talented with vocals that are incredibly powerful for her age. On the other hand, the song is very forgettable. For the second year in a row, Bulgaria has sent a great vocalist with a mediocre song.
5. Malta – Christina Magrin with “Parachute”
The positive: (Stanislav, 10/10) I was a little perplexed after listening to “Parachute” – but in a good way. I wouldn’t mind hearing it at next year’s Junior Eurovision during the winner’s reprise. Christina’s voice is among the most powerful in this year’s contest — and it fits her song perfectly.
The negative: (Josh, 6/10) When I first heard “Parachute”, I was completely obsessed with the first minute of the song. Then the chorus started and it suddenly went down-hill. I could absolutely live without the “ooh, ooh, ooh, p-p-p-parachute”.
6. Albania – Klesta Qehaja with “Besoj”
The positive: (Jason, 9.5/10) I loved the first version of “Besoj” for its subtle balance of power and emotion, and of course, Klesta herself. The new and improved cut takes this entry to even greater heights. It has been delicately preened and polished and is ready to take on the favourites. So they better watch out, because Klesta is not messing around.
The negative: (Andy, 6.5/10) This girl can sing! You will be hard-pressed to find a vocalist who feels her song as deeply as this young starlet. The song is a tad dated and a little slow in parts, but it is at no fault of the singer who slays this power ballad like the most experienced adult songstress.
7. Armenia – Anahit & Mary with “Tarber”
The positive: (Josh, 10/10) One of my favourite countries in JESC is Armenia, and “Tarber” solidifies that. Anahit and Mary absolutely slay my inner child with their energy, danceability and OMG! voices. Starting off with that amazing vocal run showdown and continuing with the great message portrayed in their English chorus, everything about this screams winner.
The negative: (Deban, 4/10) The first few bars of “Tarber” showcase a fierce vocal showdown. Juries will respect this. However, beyond the vocal flourishes, much of this isn’t engaging. I love the cutesy sass that pours out of Anahit and Mary. They hold their own and remain confident throughout. Unfortunately, they flush us with more of the same making the overall package very good, but not great.
8. Serbia – Dunja Jelicic with “U La La La”
The positive: (Jordi, 9.5/10) This is just the entry I was waiting for. I can’t stop playing it. Serbia brings us an uptempo, urban song with powerful vocals. By reproducing some of the choreography from the videoclip, this could really slay in Malta. I only have one complaint – I don’t want it to end! I want more U La La La.
The negative: (Zakaria, 5.5/10) The song and the video are fun to watch and listen to, plus Dunja has a very soulful, mature voice. But I can’t say this song is my favourite — it gets too repetitive towards the end with all that “U La La La”. I fear this may get lost and forgotten during the show.
9. The Netherlands – Kisses with “Kisses and Dancin'”
The positive: (Deban, 9/10) Blastastic! “Kisses and Dancin’” is exactly what the doctor ordered for Junior Eurovision. This europop number is modern, upbeat, sassy and age-appropriate. Ringing out the dirge, and giving me a beat — Kisses slay!
The negative: (Robyn, 5/10) “Kisses and Dancin’” is a throwback to the early 1980s disco pop, and is surprisingly simple and repetitive. It’s an odd choice for such a lively young trio. Kisses can’t be faulted — they are three talented young singers, and if the music video is anything to go by, they have great chemistry.
10. Australia – Alexa Curtis with “We Are”
The positive: (William, 9.5/10) We were given these arms to fight and Alexa was given that voice to sing. And boy does she! Pitch perfect, powerful, controlled — her vocals are atomic and she deploys them with the precision of a fighter pilot.
The negative: (Antony, 6/10) Alexa should be commended for her strong voice and for being a seasoned performer, both of which are evident in the music video. However, the song itself a bit boring. What I do like are the various beats within the song, which allow her to show off just how cool and hip she is.
11. Georgia – Mariam Mamadashvili with “Mzeo”
The positive: (Jason, 9.5/10) Someone give this girl her own musical! Mariam shows just how it’s done on her epic entry “Mzeo”. Her vocals are impeccable and she has no problem hitting those massive notes with ease. She is proof that gimmicks and elaborate staging are not always necessary. On top of that, she is absolutely charming and I can see her being a big jury hit.
The negative: (Chris, 6/10) I’m slightly worried that despite Mariam’s obvious talent, there’s a lot working against her in this entry. The opening takes far too long to get going. It will be up to Mariam to earn that attention back live during the show. Whilst she’s very strong vocally, I also feel that against some of the other ballads, the song itself doesn’t particularly stand out.
12. Belarus – Alexander Minyonok with “Muzyka Moikh Pobed”
The positive: (Chris, 8/10) With an underlying beat that has hints of Alyona Lanskaya’s canned “Rhythm of Love”, Alexander has a track that could surprise. To me, it’s one of the most thematically appropriate tracks of this year’s contest. It’s fun and the hoverboards, should they make it to Valletta, only emphasize this fact.
The negative: (Edd, 6/10) Strong vocals, excellent stage presence and a boom-tastic show, but unfortunately the song ain’t going nowhere. The verse is a well-produced build up to what should be a killer chorus, but instead is just a messy melody sung over a weak instrumental.
13. Cyprus – George Michaelides with “Dance Floor”
The positive: (Mario, 9/10) Anthemic and moody, “Dance Floor” demonstrates George’s call to be both a singer and dancer — and slay at both. Standing out from the bunch for its club sound, this takes no prisoners, avoids JESC clichés and remains true to itself.
The negative: (Jordi, 5.5/10) It seems that Cyprus have come back to the contest with another high energy entry. Despite its ability to stand out from the ballads this year, the song does fall short slightly for me. George’s powerful song makes me want to stand up and dance, but it really failed to grab my attention.
14. Ireland – Zena Donnelly with “Brice ar Bhrice”
The positive: (Bernardo, 8.5/10) I’m in love with this song. The radio-friendly production is on point and Zena’s vocal control is astonishing. I feel like I’m inside Disney Pixar’s “Brave”. It’s magical, compelling and it puts a smile on my face from the very first verse.
The negative: (Josh, 4.5/10) Ireland absolutely made the right decision in selecting Zena Donnelly for JESC this year, but I don’t think “Brice ar Bhrice” is the right song to showcase her vocals. She is a fierce and confident performer, and when she’s on stage forced to sing a dated pop ballad in a language that a lot of Irish people don’t speak on a day-to-day basis, it makes for a level of awkwardness that is a tad uncomfortable to watch.
15. Poland – Olivia Wieczorek with “Nie Zapomnij”
The positive: (Marek, 9/10) Olivia’s biggest weapon is her voice. She can sing, but she also has the ability to convey subtlety and emotional depth. The way she sings this live is almost identical to the studio version. She slays.
The negative: (William, 5/10) Edyta Gorniak better watch out — there’s a fierce young diva snapping at her heels! Olivia has a lovely voice, strong stage presence and a lightness of touch that suggests she’ll easily evolve from child starlet to adult star. And while she’s a compelling singer, this isn’t a compelling song.
16. Israel – Shir & Tim with “Follow My Heart”
The positive: (William, 8/10) This boy-girl duet stands out for its unique instrumentation (guitar, strings and plenty of tambourine) and the dreamy quality it transmits from first note to last. The kids — who were paired together for Junior Eurovision — harmonize well and move easily from quiet verses to anthemic chorus, proving themselves adept at major and minor keys along the way.
The negative: (Robyn, 5.5/10) “Follow My Heart” is vaguely reminiscent of Heart’s big rock ballad “Alone”, and it wouldn’t have been out of place in the pop charts of 1987. Shir and Tim make sure the sound doesn’t sound too much like a relic of the ’80s, injecting a fresh and youthful sound. It’s a decent effort for Israel’s Junior Eurovision comeback.
17. Ukraine – Sofia Rol with “Planet Craves For Love”
The positive: (William, 8.5/10) Smooth, warm, delicious — her voice reminds me of hot chocolate. That’s a good start. And it becomes even better with the song, which channels mystery and a strong ethnic identity. The flowing and memorable chorus anchor the song so well. With the right staging this sophisticated number will transform into art.
The negative: (Deban, 4/10) Sofia’s hand movements channel ethereal beauty whilst her voice remains angelic throughout the performance. Unfortunately, her song is not memorable as of now. As she tries to draw a wider audience in by switching to English late in the song, the revelation of the song’s message is an uncomfortable dose of déjà vu — we heard this message from her country at the most recent JESC.