After almost two months and a whopping 20 episodes, the auditions round of The Next Star for Eurovision 2019 (aka HaKochav Haba La‘Eirovizyion) is finally over. Now it’s time for the first cut. While 65 lucky acts made it to the second round of the auditions, only 20 survived to make it to the live shows. Let’s meet them now…
We started way back in November and have watched more than 100 auditions during 20 episodes (you can review all of them in our recap posts). Those shows were loud and featured a massive audience. But Round 2 was a bit more intimate. The contestants sang only for the judges, and without any input from a braying crowd.
This special second round of auditions was held in order for the judges to decide who among the contestants should qualify for the live shows.
First, each contestant performed his or her song behind the screen and needed to achieve a score of at least 60% in order to win and to make the screen rise up. Each judge voted yay or nay (blue or red), with a yay awarding the contestant a score of 20%, so votes from at least three out of the five judges were required in order to pass that round.
Then, in the final round, among the lucky winners who had raised the screen, the judges picked their favourites, who then qualified for the live shows.
You can watch the auditions (including the ones from eliminated artists) at this link.
MEET THE FINALISTS
He’s 27 and looks a bit like Freddie Mercury. His first audition was quite impressive and dramatic. Kobi performed Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams” and completely turned the song upside down, moving it from a pop song to an emotional ballad.
We were speechless and so were the judges, hosts and audience. Judge Shiri Maimon said that this was the best audition she’d ever seen. The second audition impressed just as much, as Kobi is a real performer.
Avraham De Carvalho
Avraham, 27, immigrated to Israel from Brazil. Until recently he’d been an orthodox Jew and he’s now married to an Israeli man. He shared with the audience his conflicts as a gay man and why he left the religion and became secular.
In both of his auditions he played the piano while singing. His voice is so powerful and accurate — there’s no doubt he has one of the best voices of the season and is charismatic and loveable to boot. He has a very bright future ahead of him.
Danielle, 27, was one of Netta’s dancers and backing singers at Eurovision 2018. She doesn’t have much professional experience, but she is full of ambition and confidence and wants to take the stage by herself.
She knows how to perform and to bring her own interpretation to each song in a very unique way. Her dancing skills also have impact. Will she go to Eurovision again, but this time as a leading artist?
The most famous singer this season is definitely Maya Buskila.
Maya, 41, started her career in 2004 with her very successful album “Sipur Machur“ (A Sold-Out Story), which featured a huge hit that is still being played even now — it’s called “HaLev” (The Heart). She released a total of four albums until today.
In 2005 she took part in Israel’s Kdam as an interval act together with judge Harel Skaat in a special Eurovision medley.
A few years later she was (reportedly) considered to represent Israel at Eurovision in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Maya accompanied a family member (Lior Chen) to her audition, and then the hosts of the show decided to convince her to take part herself, which she eventually agreed to.
Maya has a big Diva voice. For some people it might be a bit too much, while others adore her. The judges looked a bit embarrassed to be sitting there and judging her, as they are her colleagues in the music business — some of them were even kids or complete unknowns when she had her big breakthrough.
The Eurovision 2019 slogan is Dare to Dream, and Eurovision has always been Maya’s big dream. That’s why she decided to push her ego to the side and compete in the contest. Will her dream finally come true this year?
Ketreyah is 22 years old and she belongs to a very small community in Israel which is called The Black Hebrew Israelites or simply the Black Hebrews or Black Israelites. These are groups of African-Americans who believe that they are descendants of the ancient Israelites.
Ketreyah definitely had one of the best voices this season. She nearly scored 100% in her first audition and got some major compliments from the judges. We just hope she opens her eyes a bit more moving forward.
Tay (aka Tamar), 20, is a singer in the IDF band. She has previously appeared on the Israeli version of The Voice and came second.
Both Harel Skaat and Shiri Maimon also had their big breakthrough when they came second (in different years) in a similar singing reality show back in the days, so it was discussed that Tay might end up with the same fate and find herself on The Eurovision stage.
Tay simply wowed the audience and the judges during both of her auditions. With her powerful voice and captivating performances, the judges had nothing but compliments for her.
Rotem Shefi, 27, is an Israeli singer who covers famous songs in her special character of “Shefita”, which is an exaggerated Arab Diva from Dubai who “got stuck” in Israel. She deploys a heavy accent and a funny attitude.
Shefita is quite the mix of great actress and impressive singer, and she is so convincing that you can’t really tell. Some see her as a joke, while others think she is perfect for Eurovision.
To each song she gives a very unique and strong Mediterranean flavour — all buoyed by some very powerful vocals. She’s no doubt very talented…although we’re not sure if the European audience will relate to this kind of act. In her first audition most of the public didn’t get the joke and didn’t vote for her and she was saved by the hosts. Can she convince the public in the live shows?
Klara, 24, has just finished her service at the IDF. She served as a singer in the IDF band, alongside her friend Netta.
In 2011 she tried her luck in a similar singing reality show called Kokhav Nolad (A Star Is Born), though she didn’t achieve a high ranking. She released her first album in 2015 and has performed in different venues over the years.
Her favourite genres are oriental, RnB and soul, which are quite different from one another. That’s why she always picks a different style when she performs. She says her heart is torn between Beyoncé and Sarit Hadad. Her voice is very powerful with a bit of roughness, and it makes her sound even more special.
The Shalva Band
Shalva is not only this special band’s name (in Hebrew it means serenity). But also the name of a non-profit organisation for people with special needs.
The band’s members are people with disabilities: the lead singers are blind and the drummer has Down syndrome.
Originally, the band had 15 members, but lately they are only eight. In case they go to Eurovision they’ll have to make another choice and sit two people out.
The band has been performing professionally for the last couple of years, including at concerts abroad and in collaboration with Sarit Hadad (who represented Israel at Eurovision 2002).
When the judges first met the group, they had their doubts about a possible gimmick, but after their auditions they said that they are not a gimmick at all, but full of talent, harmony and emotions.
Naama Gali Cohen
Naama works as a professional singer mainly in night bars, she released her first album in 2014 and she defines herself as an RnB, soul and pop singer.
As with many of the show’s contestants, she also took part in a similar singing reality show called Kokhav Nolad (A Star Is Born) in 2011.
Naama has a unique and cool style both in her singing and in her hair. She brings a fresh and international “vibe” to the show.
One of the secrets to her success is her husband, Yahel Doron, who is a known musician and singer. Yahel is the man behind the musical arrangements of Naama’s performances and you can hear how impressive each of her performances are when Naama’s talent is mixed with Yahel’s production.
Ofri is only 16 years old and she has been singing since she was six, mainly in school ceremonies.
In stark contrast to her appearance and her quiet manner of speech, her vocals shocked the judges and the audience during her auditions. In fact, without seeing her, one would probably presume that she is much older than 16.
With her special voice, which is both rough, yet a bit fragile, she got compliments from all of the judges. When she sang her cover of Liran Danino’s song, he came to watch her perform and was impressed as well. They even got to sing a duet together.
Nitay Twito is a young man with a big voice. Just before his audition, he confessed that he’d been “obsessed” with Shiri Maimon for many years.
He told the judging panel, which she sits on, that when he was a child he went to one of her concerts and sang her “HaSheket SheNishar” — her entry at Eurovision 2005.
She loved it and even gave him a card where she wrote: “Itay, you sing wonderfully”.
Apparently she misspelled his name. After his first audition she was very emotional (and corrected the card, adding the missing “N” to his name). But to be honest, no one could blame her for being biased in his favour as Nitay sure has got the charisma, the confidence and the voice.
Liat, 27, is a professional singer with a successful YouTube channel. She is working on her first album and performs in different venues both with covers and her own original songs.
She came to the auditions with her fiancé who’s also her professional manager and producer. You can hear immediately how professional and talented she is, with her strong vocals and stage presence.
Shahaf, 21, is a singer and a dancer. He was very frank from the beginning and said that as a gay man, Eurovision and big show performances are his thing.
The judges really liked his fashion style and his outfits and said that he could easily win in that field.
Shahaf sure is a performer and can even dance, although he hasn’t shown that talent yet. We’re sure he will entertain us in the live shows.
Lior is Maya Buskila’s sister in-law (who, just before her own audition, accompanied Lior as a mentor). She already participated in The Next Star for Eurovision 2018 but failed to qualify.
This time around Lior arrived much more confident, impressive and precise in her performances, with her profound and silky voice. She later said that she’d rather Maya win and not herself. What a lovely girl.
Daniel is 26 years old, and no, despite sharing Netta’s last name, they are not related.
Ten years ago he became quite known after his participation in a similar singing reality show called Kokhav Nolad (A Star Is Born). He said that today he feels much better prepared for a big stage.
Daniel works two jobs — in a restaurant and in a clothing store — and he creates music mainly as a hobby, in his free time. Other than his good looks, he sure has a lot of charisma and talent.
Although there were many singers in the Mizrahi/Oriental field, Naor, 21, managed to stand out among them as being quite unique.
He works in a kiosk during the day and performs at nights. Despite his young age, he sounds very skilled and professional. The main criticism from the judges was regarding his big hand movements that need to be refined.
Nave, 17, says he has always loved the stage but was afraid of it at the same time. But once he got on stage, you could really feel his maturity and confidence.
With quite an impressive voice he owned it, and he even promised that he can dance. He can’t stop smiling and he will make you smile as well.
“Wanna Wanna” are a four-piece girl group: Mor Polanuer, Ronit Rolland, Ruth Aharoni and Talia Bik.
They define their style as vocal-electronic music, as well as RnB and soul. They write their own songs, and also perform covers.
They are quite known to judge Keren Peles, as one member of the group performs with her in her special Cabaret show and another member used to be her music teacher.
They brought cool vibes to the show with their original covers and beautiful harmonies.
Osher, 20, is in his second attempt to win the ticket for Eurovision having tried previously in 2017.
Osher mainly spoke about his dream to represent Israel in Tel Aviv with a Mizrahi (Oriental) song. Fortunately, if he wins he will not need to travel abroad as he has a fear of flying.
This year he came with much more confidence, since he’s been performing on countless stages in recent years. Before his audition he even declared that he came to win Eurovision 2019.
He delivered a very energetic show in his first audition and quite a powerful yet emotional performance in his second audition. The judges were quite impressed.
THE WRONG ELIMINATION
There are many artists that failed to make the Top 20 despite their strong credentials and talent in their second auditions. But the eliminee that really impressed us among them is Gal Binyamin.
The 24-year-old performs as a replacement singer in a famous band called “The Ultras”.
He is not only good looking but has quite solid vocals and stage presence. He was referred to as a singer that sings in a very intelligent way and we felt the same.
Gal delivered great performances in his two auditions, but the judges were divided, as some found him charming and captivating, while others said there’s nothing unique about him. We think he should have made it the Top 20, but maybe we’ll meet him again in the future.
Now, as 2019 is already here, it’s finally time to start the real competition. In the next episodes the acts will battle head-to-head and only the best twelve will survive.
In case you missed any of the previous episodes, you can watch all of the qualifying performances and read quick reviews in our recap posts.