The Junior Eurovision 2016 jury final took place on Saturday afternoon, and we had a front-row seat for all of the action. These performances were filmed and will be sent to jurors on Sunday at noon CET for their evaluation ahead of the live show on Sunday at 16:00 CET.
The press were forbidden from filming or snapping pics during the show — PBS wants to keep everything a secret. But we typed our comments on-the-spot and have throw in our earlier rehearsal videos.
Jury Final Vlog: In the press room
Jury final Review
Ireland: Zena Donnelly with “Brice Ar Bhrice”
A is for atmosphere and Zena certainly created that this afternoon. Feeding off the energy of the crowd, she looked amazing in her turquoise dress, which matched the blue-white clouds in the background. Her vocal seemed to be even stronger than in the rehearsals earlier this week, suggesting she was able to translate the energy from the crowd into her performance. Producers unleashed a series of smoke bursts that resembled geysers with all their power and ferocity. At one point Zena falls to the ground at the same time as an eruption and it’s just BAM! Today she managed to make her folk-pop song sound incredibly mainstream. It’s a steady and fierce opening to the show.
Armenia: Anahit & Mary with “Tarber”
Anahit may have had a cold earlier this week, but she is clearly over it as she was on-point and alive throughout this performance. The opening bars — essentially a vocal showdown between Anahit and Mary — sounded as good as it did in the studio version of the song. Their costumes — so shiny, so bright, so sequinned! — worked well with the dizzying background. Their dress reveal two minutes into the song had the audience SCREAMING, and the silver-and-white colouring worked well with the grey-and-white spotlight LED. In the arena we could see Christer and Jedward whispering to each other after this one, suggesting they loved this as much as we did. If this doesn’t come Top 3 with the kids jury, I’ll be shocked.
Albania: Klesta Qehaja with “Besoj”
You can just cut and paste everything I’ve already said this week. Young Klesta has the voice of a Mariah or a Whitney, and the cute factor of 20 puppies wearing matching bows. Earlier in the week I thought the visuals were a tad boring, but producers have worked on this. There’s now a gorgeous sun that rises during one of her “Besoj” moments. We saw Mads, the opera expert on the panel, clap very loudly afterwards, suggesting she’s one of his early favourites.
Russia: Sofia Fisenko & The Water of Life Project with “Water of Life”
Seated on the floor and serving other worldly realness, Sofia and her dancers delivered a confident opening that seemed spiritual and somehow religious. This was amongst their best vocal performances so far — even if the backing vocalists seemed a tad shouty at the beginning. Watching in the arena, it’s not the most exciting performance — they just stand in place. HOWEVER, the camera spins and cuts help give it the dynamism and drive it lacks in the arena. This is made for TV and from that perspective it works very well.
Malta: Christina Magrin with “Parachute”
The LED of clouds makes it seem like Christina is in free fall — but she was in total control this afternoon. Wearing red from head to toe — including sparkling shoes, spray-on leggings and an adorable coat — she was fiery and confident. It was obvious the crowd was helping push her to another level. And not just vocally — her choreography was sharp and on-point, delivered with a vigour few can match. When it comes to firing power, the girl may just win the day.
Bulgaria: Lidia Ganeva with “Magical Day”
Following the fortissimo performance from Malta, Lidia’s softness and pianissimo realness really stands out. She is soft, tender and sweet. She stands toward the back of the stage and moves closer to the audience with each verse, growing in power and confidence as she does. When she reaches the bridge and starts spinning in her princess dress, you can feel the audience melting. This remains the most age-appropriate entry of the year. Depending on what direction Junior Eurovision judges want the show to go, this could really challenge.
Macedonia: Martija Stanojkovic with “Love Will Lead Our Way”
Better suited for the O2 in London than the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Malta, this act was very Beyonce — from the body-con catsuit to the urban choreography. The fact she followed the most tender of acts brought Martija’s maturity into sharper focus, making it feel like it’s in the wrong competition. (Get this girl on X Factor Adria asap).
Poland: Olivia Wieczorek with “Nie Zapomnij”
There is cute. And there is classy. And this was BOTH. Olivia is completely unnerved by the competition, yet she manages to retain a degree of frailty. It’s charming and refreshing. Yet as she delivers her vocals — which are so enchanting — you can feel the fire of a seasoned diva who only knows how to slay. The LED background — dark, interstellar, at times with dandelions and constellations of people — has a subtle charm that grows more intoxicating as the act goes on. Olivia is magic.
Belarus: Alexander Minyonok with “Muzyka Moikh Pobed”
How Alexander avoids a hoverboard crash is beyond me. In the final minute of the song all five performers are on stage spinning — and dangerously close. Yet somehow they never hit each other. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Alex holds his vocal and maintains his energy. The kids in the audience reacted very strongly to this, suggesting that going for fun and excitement will serve him very well with the kids jury.
Bulgaria: Poli Genova with “If Love Was A Crime”
Listen. She’s not a kid and she isn’t competing. But Poli Genova reprises her Eurovision 2016 entry at this point in the show and it’s absolutely amazing. She stands at the front of the stage wearing a silver jacket, matching leggings and a grey cape — leading a troupe of 16 dancers who wearing all-black, including shredded leggings. The LED is a starry sky and it’s just unbelievably powerful. This song has aged better than most from Eurovision 2016 and will no doubt remain a fan favourite for years to come.
Ukraine: Sofia Rol with “Planet Craves For Love”
With stunning lighting, dramatic mimes and Sofia’s mysterious voice, this feels more like art than pop. Her oversized umbrella doesn’t seem like a toy, but rather a vessel to convey the ups and downs of a planet in need of love. It’s the visual centrepiece for a magical performance carried by Sofia’s voice and her expressive mimes. Is it right for Junior Eurovision? Perhaps not. But it’s stunning to watch and something Sofia should be very proud of.
Italy: Fiamma Boccia with “Cara Mamma (Dear Mom)”
Mads, the opera expert on this year’s expert panel, could not take his eyes off of young Fiamma. Looking sweet and innocent, she stood centre stage in a casual but sparkling black leather jacket and matching skinny trousers. The look was of a young woman in charge — yet still completely fresh and youthful. Vocally she elevated her game, leaving any and all missteps behind her in the rehearsals. Listening to her sing I could feel the same energy in the arena as I felt when Vincenzo won a few years ago. She’s back in this.
Serbia: Dunja Jelicic with “U La La La”
Following the non-stop hoverboard showdown that was Belarus, the stage felt somehow empty. Thankfully Dunja thrives on pressure and managed to deliver those “U La La La”‘s with panache and energy. The close camera crops prevent viewers from feeling the empty space and her attitude and gutteral delivery makes this memorable. For a girl performing disco but rolling on her own, this was very strong indeed.
Israel: Shir & Tim with “Follow My Heart”
Talk about peaking just in time! Little Shir finally let her personality show, bouncing and bobbing and smiling from ear-to-ear in her silver sequins and black skirt. The red accents matched the fire she finally let loose. Showing out vocally and sartorially, she finally matched Tim’s exuberance and the pair looked fantastic together. For me this has gone from mid-table to near the top. Well done!
Australia: Alexa Curtis with “We Are”
Alexaaaaaaaaa honeeeeeeeey! We knew you were a star before you got here. Today, you turned that star into a supernova. All week she’s been steady, but today she went nuclear — clearly she had been saving everything up for when it counted. This felt anthemic and I seriously wanted to light a lighter and wave my hand. She was precise and in-tune, with some extra sass in her hand flourishes and hips. Earlier in the week I worried that the “We Are” lettering on the LED might be a tad cheesy. But seeing this with the camera angles and with Alexa on her A-Game (make that A+ game), it really worked (and werked). Alexa is fresh, likeable and endearing. She doesn’t need Junior Eurovision — but she’s gonna slay it anyway!
The Netherlands: Kisses with “Kisses and Dancin’”
The Dutch act returned to their colourful costumes that said “on fleek” and “LOL”. But laugh at them and the joke is on you. These girls nailed their choreography and seemed as confident as ever. Their harmonies worked as we’ve come to expect. The audience wasn’t as raucous as I’d hoped for. But that’s probably because this is made for TV, with the close crops and camera angles giving this the energy and drive that may seem absent in the arena since they stay in the same place for the duration of the show. (If we were bobbing like them we wouldn’t be running around either!).
Cyprus: George Michaelides with “Dance Floor”
Grab your fire extinguishers — George brought the fire! Channeling the Eurovision Dance Contest, he did his thing as he has done all week, twisting and spinning and slaying. During the opening sequence, the drumming behind him is slightly distracting (though visually amazing). But that’s unlikely to come off on TV. This act has the best choreography of the evening and remains among the most memorable.
Update: On Saturday evening we bumped into George’s team at the official hotel. Apparently he was experiencing serious audio issues — not his fault — so the EBU allowed him to perform a second time after the run-through. That performance will be sent to the juries on Sunday.
Georgia: Mariam Mamadashvili with “Mzeo”
This was the only act of the day where the audience started clapping non-stop one minute before it even finished. Despite all the power coming out of little Mariam, there’s a real sense of silence — as she takes it higher and louder, the audience could not speak. This gave everyone — including those who hated on the song earlier — major tingles. Among those in awe was the panel of jury experts, who raised their hands and said “yay, yay, yay!”
We’re fairly confident that Georgia won the jury final — she closed the show with a surprising and amazing bang!