Behind any impressive victory there’s a backstory filled with ups and downs. And, according to Yoav Tzafir, the producer behind Israel’s The Next Star for Eurovision, Netta Barzilai’s Eurovision win was no different.
Speaking with Israel’s Y Net last week, the entertainment executive revealed that Netta’s journey to her Eurovision win was far from a straight line. Instead it was filled with twists and turns and emotional upheaval. He made it clear that at times he believed in Netta more than she believed in herself.
Netta did not want to sing “Toy”
After Neta won The Next Star, Tzafir presented her with “Toy” and she was not feeling it.
“Neta said, ‘I do not connect to the song, it’s not me, I do not know how I’ll stand on the stage and carry it off,'” he remembers.
Apparently she wanted to sing a song she penned herself, which featured a chorus with the phrase “Sababa Sababa”, which means “cool” in Hebrew. The committee rejected the idea. Inside the studio there were plenty of tears. But Netta broke the song down into parts and eventually added the chicken sounds and the looper, at which point it all clicked.
Controlling like Madonna
He also said that Netta has a creative vision and knows precisely what she wants. “The girl goes into the room and acts like Madonna,” he said. “We sat on the side and she directed the dancers. She wants to control every single detail in the performance and has an opinion.”
“She thinks outside the box. During the season she often asked to change a song, and geniuses are not easy people and you have to take their capriciousness with them, but on the other hand she knows exactly what she wants.”
She wanted to quit The Next Star
Throughout the series Tzafir had to prop her up, most especially after The Next Star judge Ben-El Tavori tore her apart in one critique.
“When Ben-El Tavori killed her, she had a hard time,” he said. “I told her, ‘But all the judges say you’re good, so why are you listening to someone who tells you that you’re not?’ She came and said, ‘I’m quitting,’ so I had a conversation with her and we took everything apart…She creates in the soul, so it’s hard for her to get negative criticism.”
Changing tide at Eurovision
After riding months of hype, Tzafir says both he and Netta were concerned they wouldn’t live up to expectations. He could sense that the tide among the press and delegations was shifting against them in the weeks before the contest.
“Something strange has happened,” he said. “When we landed in Lisbon, we had the feeling that the entire Eurovision universe did not want us to win — not because they were anti-Semites or BDS, but because they were looking for the Cinderella to overtake us. All the delegations envied us and the feeling was that they were looking for the dark horse to beat us.”
That would be Eleni from Cyprus, who became the bookies’ favourite. On their first time in Lisbon, composer Doron Medalie took Tzafir to meet the “Fuego” singer. “I told her, ‘You’re going to be in Top 10,'” he says. “Who knew she was going to threaten us, and then back to the semifinals, she exploded on the Internet and became the first in the betting.”