The Next Star for Eurovision 2020, Israel’s national selection for Rotterdam, has started off well. The contest has already seen 17 artists make it to the bootcamp round and auditions are in full swing. Here’s the summary of Saturday and Sunday’s episodes.
Yahel Ya’ish (71% – Qualified)
23 and from Gan Yavne, Yahel Ya’ish is an Israeli R&B singer of Yemeni descent. His grandmother, Yemima Ya’ish, is a TikTok and Instagram star. Yahel runs her Instagram account, which has nearly 80,000 followers. He became the first participant to perform an ESC 2019 song, taking on Mahmood’s “Soldi”. His stage performance was convincing and very Imri Ziv, which won the public voters’ hearts. The judges weren’t so impressed, with two voting against him. After a passionate discussion, Shiri Maimon decided to let Ya’ish through, and he received 71% (jury 24/40, public 47/60)
Zohar Manor (88% – Qualified)
Zohar Manor, 25 years old from Givatayim, has already somewhat established herself as a singer. During her interview, she said her parents mostly cut ties with her. She and her mother don’t talk anymore, and her relationship with her father is very unstable. Assi Azar announced his love for her before the interview and asked the judges to be lenient. Zohar performed a low-tempo, ballad version of Netta’s “Nana Banana”. Her vocal tone was impressive, and the judges praised her groove. Zohar’s boyfriend cried during the performance, and then the waterworks came from the jurors as well. She earned a score of 88% (jury 40/40, public 48/60).
Moran Aharoni (88% – Qualified)
Moran Aharoni — who we’ve known would participate in the contest for the past few months — isn’t new to singing reality shows. She participated in the A Star Is Born 4 in 2006 — the Israeli take on the Idol format. The judges were all familiar with her, with Shiri Maimon and Assaf Amdursky knowing her in real life — Maimon participated in the subsequent A Star Is Born season, and Amdursky previously wrote for her. Moran performed rock anthem “Believer” by Imagine Dragons and showed amazing vocal control. All of the judges were sold very quickly, and the public votes trickled in throughout the performance. Moran hit wild high notes and sang with true, fiery passion. She received 88% (jury 40/40, public 48/60).
Sagi Trabelsi (47% – Failed to qualify)
Sagi Trabelsi, 23 from Rishon LeZion, tried his luck in A Star Is Born a few years ago, but did not succeed. He released his debut album recently. He says he previously lost 52kg and changed his appearance following the birth of his daughter. On stage, Trabelsi performed “Lekh Im HaEmet Shelkha” by Next Star for Eurovision 2018 semi-finalist Eden Meiri. Meiri himself came to the audition to watch Trabelsi sing his song, and showed his appreciation for the up-and-coming singer. However, the judges didn’t like it as much, and the Rishon LeZion singer only received 47% (jury 8/40, public 40/60). Only Keren Peles voted for Trabelsi.
Raheli Tarka (88% – Qualified)
Raheli Tarka, 32 from Kiryat Malahi, currently works at a gas station. Even though she has been singing since she was a kid, she’s never pursued music professionally. Raheli has seven older siblings, and they and her close friends are always “in shock” when they hear her sing. She performed “Issues” by Julia Michaels, a song which Abraham de Carvalho performed last year. Despite not being a professional, Rehali’s stability won the jury and the public’s support. She was very confident and comfortable on stage, and reached 88% (jury 40/40, public 48/60).
Niki Goldstein (85% – Qualified)
Kdam veteran Niki Goldstein, 42 from Tel Aviv, has become famous recently for his stand-up comedy act. Since he acts in teen TV shows nowadays, people seem to have forgotten that he is, first and foremost, a singer. The singer is also the host of KAN’s Carpool Karaoke show, and will try to sing on the broadcaster’s behalf in Rotterdam. He performed “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi. Despite the jury’s uncertainty, the public let Goldstein sail through, and he made the bootcamp with 85% (jury 32/40, public 53/60). Assaf Amdursky didn’t vote for Goldstein.
Stephanie Dúnio (65% – Failed to qualify)
Stephanie Dúnio, 24 from Buenos Aires, is the first foreign act of the season. She came to Israel four months ago and started teaching herself Hebrew using song lyrics. Since she doesn’t speak Hebrew fluently, the interview switched from Hebrew to English. Stephanie performed “Whenever Wherever” by Shakira. What she lacked in vocal ability she made up for with appearance and moves. However, after three jurors wanted her to go through, the final two voted against and she failed to qualify to the bootcamp. Stephanie’s final result was 65% (jury 24/40, public 41/60).
Lihi Toledano (91% – Qualified)
Lihi Toledano, 17, is a beginning singer from Gan Yavne. She is the daughter of Avi “Mr Eurovision” Toledano, the runner-up of Eurovision 1982. Her father also wrote “Hi”, the second-placed entry of Eurovision 1983. But she isn’t living in his shadow at all and has amazing talent herself. For her audition, Lihi sang “Af Achat” by Miri Mesika. She has a very ’80s Israel voice and very notable stage presence. Her tone is reminiscent of Israel’s iconic power ballads, and the judges saw the potential in that. The judges all praised her exceptional vocal abilities and appreciated her taking after her father. Lihi received the highest score of Saturday’s episode, with 91% (jury 40/40, public 51/60).
Shira (91% – Qualified)
You may be familiar with Shira, 30 from Tel Aviv, if you followed American Idol in 2013. The singer, who has been a rumoured participant of Next Star for Eurovision for two months now, gained fame and stirred controversy after participating in the American singing show. She also sang backing vocals for Azerbaijan in Tel Aviv. After Shira mentioned this, Assi Azar revealed that he has a crush on Chingiz (but who doesn’t, really?). Shira is the daughter of Israeli singer Miki Gavrielov, which immediately connected her to the previous contestant. The judges were pleasantly surprised to see her and recognised her. She then sang “Shallow” by Lady Gaga, and convinced both jurors and public voters quickly. Though four of five judges let her wait until the very last second, they all voted her through. Ultimately, she qualified to the bootcamp with a whopping 91% (jury 40/40, public 51/60).
Dave Spektor (58% – Qualified as wildcard)
Ukrainian-Israeli Dave Spektor, 34 and living in Ashdod, is an avid fan of Eurovision. As a result, singing on the stage in Rotterdam is his biggest dream. His family said that he’d been singing since he was four. In fact, he sang so much as a child that his neighbours would leave the building. Spektor always wanted to pursue a singing career, but nowadays he’s a construction worker. He sang “Caruso” by Lucio Dalla. He showed off his tenor voice and channelled fierce Il Volo vibes. The judges said it’s “not for Eurovision”, but Assi Azar begged to differ. The Ukrainian-Israeli only finished with 58% (jury 24/40, public 34/60). Assaf Amdursky and Keren Peles didn’t vote for Spektor.
But Assi Azar wouldn’t have it. The crowd chanted “save”, and he took the advice. Because Azar, a Eurovision enthusiast, knows that popera has potential in ESC. After all, popera songs made the top ten twice in the past two years. So, the hosts saved him, and he made it to the bootcamp as a wildcard. Notably, 58% is the lowest score achieved by a bootcamp qualifier so far.
Itzik Shamli (81% – Qualified)
Itzik Shamli, 39 from Rishon LeZion, has already made his name in Israel. Over his two-decade career, Shamli released three albums and had multiple hits. He said he was inspired by Maya Buskila to go to the contest. Assi Azar had a surprise up his sleeve and revealed it during the pre-audition interview. A video on Azar’s phone showed Miki Núñez saying: “Hi, Itzik, it’s Miki from Spain. I want to wish you luck in the audition. Eurovision was an amazing experience for me, and I wish [for] you to be there next year”. Shamli then went on stage and performed his original song “Kama Khaser”. As expected, his Mizrahi singing abilities easily carried him through. He also gave strong rock vibes, and he sailed into the bootcamp with 81% (jury 32/40, public 49/60). Assaf Amdursky didn’t vote for Itzik, but only praised the song as well as Shamli’s vocal abilities.
Who is your favourite from these two episodes? Does anybody have winning potential? Let us know in the comments!