On Saturday night, Israel debuted The Next Star for Eurovision 2019, its selection process for Tel Aviv 2019. Despite the (very) early stages of the process, which is intended to end around mid-February, the judges were optimistic and said that they can already imagine a second consecutive victory or a “double” as they called it. But this is probably due to the fact that Netta’s stardust is still present and hasn’t settled yet.

The Next Star format

The Israeli national selection is the same one that has been used during the last four years. After Israel failed to qualify for the final four years in a row, The Next Star was introduced and changed Israel’s faith with four straight qualifications to the final between 2015 and 2018, including two top tens in 2015 and 2018, and of course one victory in 2018.

Hosts and jurors

As in previous years, the hosts are Assi Azar, one of the leading candidates to host Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv and his colleague, TV presenter and model, Rotem Sella. Assi and Rotem have also been known for their very long relationship on screen as co-hosts in many other TV shows in Keshet (channel 12) and are sometimes referred to as the married couple of the Israeli entertainment industry (although both are married to other people in their real life). Rotem, however, is not a candidate to host Eurovision in Tel Aviv.

The jury panel was upgraded this year with Eurovision alum Shiri Maimon, who has just returned from New York where she played Roxie in the hit musical Chicago. During the show, the hosts performed “HaSheket Shenishar”, Shiri’s song for Eurovision 2005, as a tribute for her joining the panel. It also reminded the audience that until Netta’s victory, this has been Israel’s best entry in almost two decades!

Other than Shiri (who we must say brings something fresh to the jury), the panel includes the following artists:

  • Harel Skaat, Eurovision alum who represented Israel with “Millim” in Oslo in 2010;
  • Keren Peles, popular singer and songwriter;
  • Asaf Amdurski, singer, songwriter and producer; and –
  • Static (aka Liran Russo) and Ben El Tavori, leading Israeli pop duo.

During the show, Harel was mocking himself and said that his voice had undertaken “some changes” while singing in Eurovision 2010. He was referring to his out of tune performance on the grand final.

Now on to the show

As in last years’ show, the auditions phase works like this: each contestant performs her or his song behind a screen and if they achieve a score of at least 70%, the screen rises automatically and they advance to the next round. Each judge votes yay or nay, with a yay awarding the contestant a score of 8% (totalling 40% as Static and Ben El vote together). The audience in the TV studio votes in a similar way via a special smartphone application and the scores are then added up.

Before each audition, the hosts have a chat with each candidate and sometimes this also continues on stage just before their performance. It is a very informal concept  which can perhaps hint about Israel’s plans for Eurovision 2019 (More involvement of the performing artists? Short interviews being added to the postcards?). But this is only our thoughts as Keshet and KAN are different broadcasters: whilst KAN is a member of the EBU, Keshet (channel 12) — which has been responsible for the production of the Next Star since its birth — isn’t.

First Show Qualifiers

Daniel Mazuz

Daniel, 27, has been one of Netta’s dancers and backing singers in Lisbon and she’s apparently also a singer despite the fact she has no professional experience. After discussing her excitement and sharing her thoughts about winning in Lisbon, with the hosts and jury pretending to be unfamiliar with her, she sang Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” with her own interpretation which was unique and quiet. Her dancing skills have also had their impact. She achieved 90% and has been one of the leading candidates in this episode. In fact, the judges described her as a “potentially Eurovision 2019 winner” but this is much too early in our opinion.

Ofri Kalfon

Ofri is 16 years old and she lives in Dimona, a small southern city in Israel. In a stark contrast to her appearance and (very) quiet manner of speech, her vocals are HUGE and stunning. In fact, without seeing her, one would probably presume that she is much older than 16. Ofri has been singing since she was six, mainly in her school choir. Before the audition, the judges asked her how she would cope with million of viewers as she looks so shy. The answer has become clear after her audition. She sang a Hebrew song called “Le’esof” (“Gathering”), originally performed by the Israeli singer Yuval Dayan. Ofri lifted the roof with 92% of the points and in our opinion, she had the best audition this episode – simple yet very capturing. The judges were (justifiably) thrilled and pronounced that “a star was born”. Keren Peles said: your job is to sing and not to speak”.

Shachar Adawi

Next came Shcahar Adawi, 20, a soldier in the IDF who started to practice religion when he was 15. Shachar mainly spoke about his life as a religious Jew whilst his brothers are secular. He chose to sing a song which reflects his life called (and translated) “Wikipedia” and in which he asks the public not to look at him as a representative of the larger religious community, and implores the public not to believe in stereotypes. Hmmm… thank you for celebrating diversity – the 2019 version?

Judge Keren Peles said: “I like what I see” and Static responded: “you like anyone, so far”, implying perhaps that she tends to be in favour of most singers.

Overall, Schachar’s performance was good, although we think that there were better auditions and that he was favoured because of what he represents. He did pass to the next stage, having gained 89% of the votes. The judges (who all voted for him) said that it would be interesting to see how Europe will react to such an “unusual” singer, although they will not need to see the Israeli flag in order to understand whose country he represents. His look speaks for itself as can be seen from his audition.

Nadav Phillips

Nadav, 18, is a high-school student. He said that he loves divas such as Shiri. Obviously, she loved to hear that. Nadav was also sharing his fears about not being able to lift the screen. Curiously, he looks a bit like Jonathan Mergei, the runner-up in The Next Star 2018 (and we think that he sounds like Hovi Star, Israel’s artist in Stockholm 2016).

Nadav sang Whitney Houston’s “I have nothing” with a lot of passion (but also with some mannerism) and gave a promising performance. He also achieved 82% with all the judges – except Harel Skaat – voting for him. Harel explained why he didn’t vote: “I don’t relate to your performance and mannerisms. The song was performed in an old fashion way”. Assi cynically suggested that Harel is simply jealous because Nadav looks like Jonathan Mergei, who is now in competition with Harel. Can you spot the differences?

Daniel Barzilai

Despite sharing Netta’s last name, they are unrelated. Daniel, who is very good looking, is 26 and lives in Tel Aviv. He participated in season seven of Kochav Nolad, the “old” version of HaKochav Haba (where Shiri Maimon and Harel Skaat had their breakthrough in 2003 and 2004, respectively). Daniel works in a restaurant and creates music mainly as a hobby. Just before his audition, a cute cat had stepped onto the stage which was quite amusing.

He sang a song in Hebrew which is called “Osher Le-Daka” (originally performed by Israeli singer Uri Ben Ari and translated as “A Brief Happiness”). Daniel has a lot of charisma and he’s not only a good-looking guy but also a very good singer. He also achieved a very high score – 88%.

Shiri said that he’s very photogenic and Harel was very positive at this time and crowned him as the best singer of the evening. As usual, Keren was very enthusiastic and said that she would be happy to write him a song. We also think that, with Ofri Kalfon, he had the best audition in the first episode.

Shalva

The last audition in the first episode was performed by a band called “Shalva” (translates as “Calm”). Shalva is also the name of a non-profit organisation for people with special needs and this is what so special about this band as its members are people with disabilities — the lead singers are blind and the drummer has Down syndrome.

The band has been performing professionally in the last couple of years, including concerts abroad and collaboration with Sarit Hadad (who represented Israel in Tallinn back in 2002 with “Light a Candle”). Before they started their audition, the judges said that this might just be a gimmick, but the band was actually quite good and delivered a harmonious and emotional song to the stage.

They were received positively both by the judges and the audience and got 91% of the votes. However, we still haven’t decided whether this was due to their performance, their gimmick or both. You can judge for yourself.

Two other candidates didn’t qualify for the next stage out of 8 candidates.

Overall, the first episode was a bit overrated perhaps due to the good energy that that the host country has towards the contest. In any case, it will be interesting to see how this develops.

You can watch all the auditions, including the interviews with each candidate, on The Next Star website.

Do you think that Israel’s next representative has been discovered? What do you think about the concept of the show and Shiri joining the panel? Leave your comments below!

Read more Israel Eurovision news here

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LawStudent
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LawStudent

Maya Buskilla sang today. She performed “Listen” by Beyonce. It was just okay. Certainly didn’t deserve the standing ovations it got. I feel like she over-sings and has a throaty after sound that is quite annoying. I really like Stephan Lager but if he were to compete in Eurovision it will likely end up looking and sounding just like France’s Allez Ole Ole from 2010. Elkana Marzianno absolutely doesn’t excite me. Instead I am actually really looking forward to see how Ketreyah does on the show – She has a really impressive voice and style (see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeOUOSRlP50). But at… Read more »

David
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David

What is this thing, that Israelis often use the same names for boys and girls?

Idan Cohen
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Idan Cohen

Like most European names, Daniel is actually a Hebrew name. it boils down to “Dan-Ni-El” meaning “God is my judge/God judged me”, so Daniel, at least In Israel, Is a unisex name.

Barzilai, BTW, Is an Iraqi Jewish last name. if some Israeli holds the last name “Barzilai”, you can assume part of his family is from the Jews of Iraq. (yes, Netta is half Iraqi half Ashkenazi)

Maya
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Maya

Maya Buskila is the next Israeli representative. and she is GREATTT for Eurovision. She will audition on Tuesday.

Gili
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Gili

No no, Stephan legar is going to win the contest easily, you just don’t know he is going to participate…the contest can be closed, he is going to win and probably will win the Eurovision as well…mark my words

Idan Cohen
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Idan Cohen

Stephan Lager vs Maya Buskila vs Elkana Marzianno? Wow. the earth is shaking in Israel.

Even though I havn’t seen even one article stating this fact. do you know that for sure? usually the media is all over those stars

Gili
Guest
Gili

For sure and I don’t think Maya and elkana have any chance although they are great singers.. Stephan just has the x factor that can actually win Eurovision second time in a row

Sunny
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Sunny

Amen!!!! Stephan is GOOOOOD [email protected] YESS!

Henry
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Henry

How’s can you not remember Daniel? She sang Toy during one fo the press conferences. The one in which Netta sang it opera/Elina style. She can easily win if she’s given a banger like Toy.

Sera
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Sera

¿She?

Sera
Guest
Sera

Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see the female Daniel.

Neko
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Neko

The one that sang the acoustic version of Toy with Netta was Maayan Bukris though. She was a backing vocalist, wasn’t shown on stage during performances (was behind those huge cat-walls).

Roy Moreno
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Roy Moreno

I agree that it was an overrated episode (though I haven’t watched all of it)
Daniel was the best in my opinion, she can do really well in the show! Of course, it’s too early to say anything about her winning the show or even Eurovision 2019 xD
(From Israel)

Idan Cohen
Guest
Idan Cohen

The big guns haven’t been revealed yet: Maya Buskila, Elkana Marzianno, Kithria, Klara Sabag.
Just wait, it was just the first gear!

Gili
Guest
Gili

Stephan legar….

Miguel
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Miguel

I don’t see a winner in this bunch. They are good but not great.
My favorite was Shalva. Their acapella version of toy was quite good.
I also liked Ofri.

Maya
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Maya

Maya Buskila is the next Israeli representative. and she is GREATTT for Eurovision. She will audition on Tuesday.

Gili
Guest
Gili

Stephan legar is going to be the winner and I will be surprised if he will not win Eurovision as well..look for him in youtube

Dorian
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Dorian

Daniel -ofri-nadav were the one i liked
Maya Buskila diva vocalist- I wonder how far she will go in the show.

Maya
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Maya

Maya Buskila will win the show. it’s obvious !!! Europe – Get ready for a real diva !!!

Maya G
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Maya G

Maya Buskila is way overrated IMO, more of a diva-wannabe than an actual diva.
Still I think she’ll make it to the final, but I do hope she doesn’t win it.

Gili
Guest
Gili

Maya can’t win Eurovision..I agree with you

Gili
Guest
Gili

Daniel is very talented, so far i think she is the best but its only the first episode, waiting for a bigger wow. Nadav is also with lots of potential, just needs to clean some of his movements. the rest are ok but dont think that they can win eurovision

Idan Cohen
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Idan Cohen

Also, it’s worth mentioning that Shiri also judged in all of the seasons of “The X Factor Israel” before leaving for the rival show, “The next rising star” And also also, you forgot to mention that Daniel Barzilai, Hovi Star and Mei Feingold all participated in the same season of “Kokhav Nolad 7”, That season, Dana international was one of the judges. Kokhav Nolad 7 also featured Omer Adam, Israel biggest Mizrahi singer, that was expelled after he lied about his age. Speaking of Kokhav Nolad, Both Shiri and Ha’rel were the runner ups in season 1 and 2, respectively.… Read more »

Maya
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Maya

Boaz was the winner of season 6 (or 5) !!! you should add that to your list

Idan Cohen
Guest
Idan Cohen

The fifth. I thought about it as well. Khen Aharoni was also one of the contenders in one of the seasons, and also Clara Sabag, who participates in this season but still hasn’t been shown.

Maya
Guest
Maya

Chen was with Boaz in the same season…So he was in the fifth..The winner of the 7th season was Roni Dalumi (represented the Israeli act – MTV…few years ago) – the first winner is Ninet Taybe (also represented Israel in the MTV..as well as Shiri) – Lots of great preformers !! Marina Maximillian Blumin lost to Boaz in the 5th season..she is the runner-up of that season and if she would have accepted the offer to represent Israel in the Eurovision ( or Ninet Taybe-the first winner of the show), it would have been a sure win for Israel –… Read more »

Nikki
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Nikki

The videos didn’t work for me (in uk) is there territorial problems?

Erasmus
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Erasmus

I’m in Slovenia and it worked.

Oscar Tipper
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Oscar Tipper

I’m in the UK and they worked fine

Idan Cohen
Guest
Idan Cohen