Dim the lights, crank up the music and get ready to gaze at the stars! The Next Star for Eurovision 2018the singing reality show that will choose Israel’s representative for Eurovision 2018 in Lisbon, is officially on. This season features an exciting mix of rising stars and some familiar contestants from singing shows of yesteryear — and it all kicked off last night.

This year around 5,000 hopefuls tried their luck in the audition process, but only 120 of them made it to the filmed auditions, where they faced the judges and an enthusiastic audience.

As in last year’s show, the auditions phase works like this: The contestants sing behind a screen and if they achieve a score of at least 70% the screen rises and they advance to the next round. Each judge votes yay or nay, with a yay awarding the contestant a score of 10%. The audience in the TV studio votes in a similar way via a special smartphone application and the scores are then totted up.

The only change to this year’s series is that the hosts Assi Azar and Rotem Sela have the right to veto up to five rejections. So if a contestant that they like doesn’t pass his or her audition, they can press their special “save button” to pull the fallen contestant through.

At the beginning of the show, the judging panel laid out what they’re looking for in a potential winner.

  • Harel Skaat said he feels it’s time to choose a female singer to represent Israel at Eurovision, and he would like her to sing an oriental song.
  • Keren Peles is looking for someone that has strong Israeli roots and that will sing in Hebrew.
  • Static & Ben El Tavori are searching for someone who will be authentic but also international.
  • Assaf Amdursky would love to find someone with a magnetic personality.

EPISODE 1 QUALIFIERS

Netta Barzilai
Netta, 24, performs in clubs and weddings in Tel Aviv. She has a unique look, which reflects her unique musical style: She’s a one-woman show that you have to watch in order to understand. Standing on stage in a bold floral print, she sang Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” while standing next to a special vocal looper. Oozing charisma, style and beats that she threw down herself while singing, she had the audience in the palm of her hands. JOWST laid down his own DJ flair at Eurovision this year. Maybe Netta is the next big thing to shake things up? We’d have to see if the Eurovision rules would allow this kind of performance though.

Audition score: 82% (votes from four judges) 

 

Jonathan Mergui
At only 17 years of age, Jonathan has already adopted a stage name: Mergui. He looks and sounds like a combination of Shawn Mendes and Kristian Kostov — two talents that are currently lighting up the charts. He can also dance, though he didn’t share that particular talent in his first audition. He is also the son of a well-known Israeli singer named Meital Trabelsi. He amazed the judges and the audience — who he left swaying — and gave the impression he is going to go far in the show — and in the music scene more generally.

Audition score: 88% (votes from four judges) 

 

Jaki Gaforov
Nineteen-year-old Jaki was born in Uzbekistan and came to Israel as a baby. He lives with his grandparents in Tel Aviv and definitely beats(boxes) to his own drum. When the screen rose and he danced out, the judges praised his “Space-swag” — their term for his unique look and style that’s at once edgy, fashion-forward and totally unique to him. Singing strong and boxing with those beats, he’s definitely found a space in which to slay.

Audition score: 76% (votes from four judges)

 

Adva Omer
Adva, 24, is the daughter of a cleaning lady who works at the Palace of Culture in Tiberias — a venue that hosts high-profile concerts for an array of singers. Ever since she was a little girl Adva has climbed on that stage while her mother was cleaning and sung with a mop in her hand, dreaming of the day she could perform there for real. With the exception of the notoriously difficult Assaf Amdursky, the judges were thoroughly impressed with her emotional singing and clear talent.

Audition score: 73% (votes from three judges)

 

Mor Karbasi
Mor, 31, has already released four albums and has performed abroad for many years. It helps that she can sing in English, Hebrew, Spanish, Ladino, Moroccan Arabic and Berber — the language of the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco (can you do that?). During her audition she sang well but in an old fashioned way (with a lot of vibrations), and that really divided opinion. Only Keren Peles and Static & Ben El Tavori voted in her favor, with a total score of only 59%. But as we mentioned earlier, the hosts can save 5 contestants during the auditions phase this year, and in this case they chose to save Mor.

Audition score: 59% (votes from two judges) – Saved by the hosts

Which artist do you like the most so far? Who do you think would do well for Israel at Eurovision?

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Photo credits: The Next Star for Eurovision

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gili
Guest
gili

only Neta for the win!!!!

Bella
Guest
Bella

Netta and Jaki were absolutely magnificent!! I also really enjoyed Mor. Adva was nice but not phenomenal in my opinion. I will cry if Mergui is chosen. I’m sure he’s a great person but seriously? He’s about as boring and mainstream as we get. Netta is amazing though!!!!

Rita
Guest
Rita

I like Mergui, Adva, and Mor (the hosts were right to save her) the most. Mergui: that voice! Adva: voice and music and Mor: nice traditional style.

HBau
Guest
HBau

Mor, Netta, and the beatboxer were all good, but the other two aren’t my cup of tea.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

I swear if they go with an attractive guy with a mediocre voice and zero artistry again…

Richardinho
Guest
Richardinho

Hmm..One of these contestants looks suspiciously familar to me. Shurely it couldn’t be that William Lee Adams has adopted a cunning disguise of large spectacles in order to sneak into Eurovision?

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Busted. 😀

Maya G
Guest
Maya G

Ooh, can we just send Jonathan Mergui’s mom? Such a gorgeous singer she is.

Maya G
Guest
Maya G

I wish we sent Netta Barzilai, she’s so fresh and bursting with talent, but I’m afraid that will never happen. She’s too unique for the masses and doesn’t match the traditional perception of “right for Eurovision”.
I would like to see a female going to Lisbon this time, but I’ll settle for anyone who’s fresh and unique (e.g. Nadav Guedj) rather than a semi-famous Eurovision Hag (e.g. Hovi, Imri).

Jayy R.
Guest
Jayy R.

For me, it’s Netta Barzilai ALL THE WAY! She is absolutely amazing and fun, I really want to see her use that vocal looper machine more. Keeping my eye on her, I hope she goes far in this contest! Could she represent Israel at Eurovision? I think so! 😀

L'oiseau
Guest
L'oiseau

What I found interesting was the stress on authenticity from the jury statements. Maybe something can really change for Israel next year.

Jo
Guest
Jo

Pick talent this time, not just a pretty face.

Roy Moreno
Guest
Roy Moreno

For now I really want Mergui, reminds of me Kristian as well but in his own way
From israel ?

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

They are all very good so far.
Obviously Mergui equals a standard choice for Israel.
The beatboxing craze has to be addressed at Eurovision at some point properly (no I’m not counting “DJ Take Me Away”), so it’s good that Israel is taking this relatively seriously. The sounds must not get in the way of the singing or the song though, and so far I’m not convinced of that. There’s time for them to work on it though. 🙂

Miguel
Guest
Miguel

Netta is so cool. She is my favourite of this group.

Gobio
Guest
Gobio

Mergui was very good , although I am not keen on the others, too gimicky, it’s good to see middle Eastern styled contastant like Adva, although she was not great.

TJ
Guest
TJ

Harel first says he wants a female singer with oriental style and than votes down the only contestant who matches these expectations perfectly. Explanation please, Harel!

not me
Guest
not me

Maybe he wants Gaby Toth. I wonder if he watches nf from other countries.

Gobio
Guest
Gobio

Adva was pretty weak so he can’t just let her pass by her musical genre.

Zolipop
Guest
Zolipop

Nice to see acts like Netta & Yaki here, I think it was a huge missed chance last year not to send The Beatbox Element.

OhhHoney
Guest
OhhHoney

I was so impressed by every one of these except for Jonathan. There is nothing special about him or his song choice but the 12 year old girls will love him so he will go far.
However the rest have so much talent and diversity between them. This is a great start for Israel

Monique
Guest
Monique

Mergui looks and sounds like a potential winner of Israel’s Next Star. He’s cute, he sings amazing and the audience will adore him. He’s already gained 88%… I believe the majority of the voters are teenage girls, let’s not forget the past 3 representatives were males. Both Hovi Star and IMRI were the only male singers in the Next Star final (2016 and 2017) and yet they won. I guess we will see…

not me
Guest
not me

I expect fun from Israel. You will see how many sad songs will be next year, because Salvador is not just ”the last year’s winner” he is the Savior that many wanted to ”bring quality back in ESC”. This is why I think next year many will copy him, and we’ll have a death vigil. Only the countries that bring fun will be on top.

Azaad
Guest
Azaad

I don’t know. 1944, a lamentation on genocide, didn’t make 2017 a really dour year (Israel, Moldova, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Romania…)

not me
Guest
not me

Maybe you are right, but I think Jamala was accepted as political winner, with unique story (as Eurovision song), and Salvador is regarded as cornerstone.

Hada
Guest
Hada

Yes but Despacito. I expect to see a bunch of Luis Fonsi/Daddy Yankee wannabes next year. There are already a couple of suspects at the Latvian NF this year.