Yesterday, during the first set of rehearsals at Junior Eurovision 2017, eight acts threw down the gauntlet with a series of stellar performances that showed off the power of this year’s LED.
And today it was the turn of the remaining eight countries — Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine — to slay that stage.
Below is a quick — and generally encouraging — take on today’s action. You can watch all of the performances in the playlist below, watch our review video (coming later this evening) and read our reviews. Then vote in our poll. You can vote for as many acts as you’d like, but you can only vote ONE time. So make it count.
Junior Eurovision 2017: Day 2 rehearsals
Junior Eurovision 2017: Rehearsals review (Day 2)
Italy – Maria Iside Fiore with “Scelgo (My Choice)”
Continuing the LED selfie trend from Eurovision 2017, thirteen-year-old Maria utilises her own image to great effect in this emotional number, which is really coming to life now that it’s on the big stage.
Maria stands alone before a black-and-white image of herself, creating a nostalgic, wistful atmosphere. But the wall — like the song — progresses slowly and steadily, moving through images of Maria swinging through grass and walking through a field. She gives you a slice of her life visually, which makes a heartfelt song seem all the more heartfelt. As with Italy’s act last year, this doesn’t rely on camera tricks or explosions, but instead tender delivery backed by major vocal power. There’s texture here — vulnerability, strength, optimism, hope — and in the bridge she really brings this home. A rare example of a song that sounds even better live.
Malta – Gianluca Cilia with “Dowra Tond”
His JESC 2017 music video was a blast of energy that mixed classic styling — three-piece suit, bow tie, barber shop — with a funky, folk-pop sound. And Gianluca managed to bottle up all that fun and take it with him to Tbilisi. Effervescent and endlessly adorable, this worked on every level — visually, vocally and in terms of JESC spirit.
Supported by five female dancers, Gianluca was the lil’ man of the moment, serving swagger, confidence and plenty of attitude. Simple hand choreography mixed with natural dance pizzaz saw him working the entire stage — even running down the runway where he hyped up the audience with plenty of hand gestures. A versatile performer, he spins in place like a Chinese gymnast and even grabs a megaphone to shout out more of his enthusiasm.
The LED screen avoids Eurovision clichés — there’s no starry sky or random geometric shapes here. Instead we see a series of vintage televisions that feature scenes from Gianluca’s video. The presence of rotating television fits thematically: Gianluca is most definitely a star! This is a real contender for the win.
Poland – Alicja Rega with “Mój Dom”
She’s a balladeer of the first order and she’s able to serve drama and rich vocals that belie her youth. And Poland’s Alicja did it again this morning with the poise and pitch-perfect vocals we’ve come to expect from Polish singers.
What’s the colour of her life? Purple — from the LED panels that line the stage to her elegant plum dress, which sparkled before an evolving landscape of flowers and vines. Among the loveliest moments is 2:12 minutes in when she seems to dip into a minor key while maintaining her voice. It’s a lovely transition in this decidedly mature and sophisticated performance. P.S. Her hairography was on point — she looked absolutely regal!
Netherlands – Fource with “Love Me”
The boy band isn’t dead — it’s alive and well and slaying the stage in Tbilisi. This morning Fource wore velvet outfits that mix urban swag, R&B style and retro realness. The outfits play an important role — they fit the theme of #ShineBright with their manifold colours and they also provide ample opportunity for the lads to incorporate them into their choreography.
The only foursome in this year’s contest, the gents make the most of their numbers by popping and locking in unison and forming dance lines. They do all of this before a disco-esque LED, which captures the club spirit of their song. Sometimes in groups the individual artists fight for the limelight. But this number and stage show give each singer (and dancer) a moment to shine. They’re definitely in this together.
Portugal – Mariana Venâncio with “Youtuber”
Long live the emoji — and long live Mariana Venancio! This adorable “YouTuber” understands that this is a kids contest and has arrived in Tbilisi with an LED that reflects that. The opening moments see her screen explode with adorable emojis — from the smiling face with shades to the monkey to the angel to, somewhat amusingly, the smiling poo. It’s cheeky and totally deliberate — she’s reaching out to young viewers in a visual language that they understand and love.
Those adorable animations explode in a brightly coloured cityscape — the skyscrapers have multi-coloured windows — and splatters of paint that scream happiness. Mariana keeps the theme going as she sings straight into the camera, smiling big and oozing joy. Vocally the girl is on point. Yes, there is power. But more importantly there is charm and likability. Some have panned the notion of singing about a YouTuber. But you get lost in the beautiful Portuguese language and the term “YouTuber” suddenly doesn’t hold a literal meaning, but embodies a tropical sound of romance and excitement. Haters back off: There is a new queen in town! #LoveIt.
Russia – Polina Bogusevich with “Wings”
Wow. Russia isn’t playing with this one. Taking inspiration from her artistic music video, Polina once again returns to a furnished room where drama, tension and turmoil can be found at every turn. The LED room cracks and splits, and seasoned dancers bend and snap and filp with the precision you’d expect from the Bolshoi Ballet.
To say that Polina is feeling her song is an understatement. She lives every note. It showed on her face and in her body language, which was deliberate, confident and determined. She unleashes a wall of sound that’s totally striking. Yet it doesn’t feel like shouting — it feels like a young woman with something very important to say.
Serbia – Irina Brodic and Jana Paunovic with “Ceo Svet Je Naš”
This is adorable. Jana and Irina reach back in time with this endearing number, nodding to the 1920s and Vaudeville with a stylish flapper dress and suspender-trousers co-ord. Their clothes may be red and white, but their backdrop flits between a series of magical landscapes, including a series of green hills beneath moonlight and a purple sky. It’s really quite eye-catching.
They continue the vintage theme by playing a cello and old-school keyboard, all the while smiling and having a legimitately good time. By the end — when the on-screen flowers shoot magic beams and butterflies — you just want to give them a hug and thank them from the good time. It may not be mainstream pop, but it’s a nice addition to what should be a programme for children.
Ukraine – Anastasiya Baginska with “Don’t Stop”
Talk about a reboot! Anastsiya has taken her delightful song and amped it up with some properly enchanting staging. She begins the performance sitting on a white tree while a friend plays the guitar. She then dismounts with her back to the audience before hitting her chorus and voguing to the audience. Confident, cute and totally in control, Anastasiya is unfazed by the arena or the stakes.
She’s a tiny performer, but that voice is enormous. And she’s managed to tweak her song so that she can deploy that voice in more interesting ways than before. The song has more shape and takes you on more of a journey than it did previously, and it’s all helped by the changing vistas, which include purple lights and a series of trees that sprout out from nowhere.
Poll: Who had the best rehearsal?
Who impressed you the most? Who did you vote for? Let us know in the comments box below.
Photo: Thomas Hanses (EBU)