Editorials & Opinion

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest and me: On, off and back on again

Next month, hundreds of delegation members, press journalists and music fans will descend upon the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi for the 2017 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. For the first time at a Junior Eurovision Song Contest, I will be one of these people! Therefore, this seems the perfect time to look back on my relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest’s younger sibling ahead of next month’s competition.

“I was the ideal audience”

Being eight-years-old at the time of the first Junior Eurovision as well as a viewer of the adult contest – even if it was mainly because I enjoyed watching countries move up and down a leaderboard – I was the ideal audience for the inaugural contest. I’m sure the prospect of people my age competing in their very own version of the competition was a very exciting one for me! Being British, ITV took charge of selecting our entry and Tom Morley became our first ever representative. Scoring a top three finish was certainly an exciting result, especially considering Jemini’s result earlier in the year.
However, it was 2004 upon which I remember most fondly. Cory Spedding was our representative with the beautiful piano ballad The Best is Yet to Come, a song that is still one of the contest’s best ever in my opinion and a song I still listen to more than ten years on.

“I definitely prefer this to the adult contest!”

Cory was riding high on the leaderboard, and the points came in at a speed I had never witnessed before. Jessica Garlick scored impressively, but Cory finished in the top six of every single country’s vote. Aside from a split second at the beginning of the 2011 voting (thank you for those 12 points to Blue Bulgaria!), the voting process of Junior Eurovision 2004 is probably the only time where I’ve seen the UK have a realistic chance of winning the show – at least for a significant period of the voting.
Aside from a split second at the beginning of the 2011 voting (thank you for those 12 points to Blue Bulgaria!), the voting process of Junior Eurovision 2004 is probably the only time where I’ve seen the UK have a realistic chance of winning the show – at least for a significant period of the voting. I will always remember it fondly. Indeed, I’m sure I remember saying “I definitely prefer this to the adult contest!”

“The beginning of a downturn”

Unfortunately, 2005 was the beginning of a downturn, both for the UK’s Junior Eurovision interest and subsequently my own. Joni Fuller was unable to match the UK’s previous top 3 finishes and the ITV swiftly withdrew, citing a lack of interest as the reasoning. I then didn’t see another Junior Eurovision Song Contest until 2009…
Even now, I’m not sure when eurovision.tv starting streaming the contest on its web player but it was 2009 when I first discovered that they did. With my interest in the adult contest moving up another level earlier that year – I watched a foreign national final for the first ever time: the first ever Eesti Laul – finding this stream was the perfect way of filling that lull between the Eurovision annual cycle.

Click Clack was certainly a worthy winner”

I remember thinking Click Clack was certainly a worthy winner, and a Dutch win in an eastern-dominated contest was further proof to me that political voting just isn’t a factor in my favourite entertainment shows. The Armenian, Russian and Swedish entries were also amongst my favourites that year, but I thought Ralf was the correct winner! Looking retrospectively, Mimmi Sandén’s Du is now my favourite song from 2009.
For the next few years, I always watched the official web player stream of the contest – with the exception of 2011. I’m not even sure why that contest passed me by. Perhaps I’d read the result before I had the chance to watch it? Nevertheless, I finally watched the contest for the first time last year and I was team Teenager!

“Always had a soft spot for Malta”

I’ve always had a soft spot for Malta, and Gaia’s performance of The Start certainly stood out in the field of largely uptempo performances during the 2013 contest. It felt like the Eurovision-loving nation finally had a chance of scoring their first Eurovision victory, and indeed they did! In the lead up to the 2014 contest, the contest saw a deluge of new and returning countries. The contest was finally seeing a resurgence after years of keeping its head just above water.
2014 was the first time that I listened to all of the entries as soon as they were released, rather than waiting for the live final itself. Sophia Patsalides was my immediate favourite with I pio omorfi mera. Nevertheless, in general, the exceedingly high quality of the entries surprised me. The production values of the songs and their accompanying videos were equal to that of those seen in the adult contest.
In addition, the production values of the contest itself seemed to step up a significant notch. The Marsa shipbuilding allowed Malta to build what seemed to be Junior Eurovision’s most impressive stage up until that point. Overall, the contest seemed to be repositioning itself to a slightly older audience, teenagers perhaps, which just about included me.

“One of the best live music performances ever”

While Sophia’s stage presence and vocals were impressive, it was another performance that made me declare “that is one of the best live music performances I have ever seen”. It was the performance of homegirl Federica Falzon. Diamonds came alive in such a breathtaking way as a result of Federica’s live vocals and a rapturous home crowd. I was convinced Malta was on the brink of two wins in a row. Of course, it wasn’t quite meant to be!

Everything stepped up another notch in 2015. Sofia’s contest, for me, is the best Junior Eurovision Song Contest thus far, taking the quality of entries, performances, staging and everything else into account. Lina Kuduzović’s Prva ljubezen became my favourite ever Junior Eurovision entry, and Destiny’s Not My Soul wasn’t far behind. Naturally, I was overjoyed that Slovenia scored their best ever Eurovision result and Malta secured yet another victory!
The quality continued into Valletta last year. The songs were high-quality and so was the staging, despite the decision to make things a bit smaller. My favourite entries were those from F.Y.R. Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania, but no-one could deny Mariam’s vocal talent and showstopping performance at the end of the 17 acts.

“The contest isn’t cruel”

As I’ve delved deeper into the contest in recent years, I fully believe that the contest isn’t cruel on its young participants. Do check out my full editorial on that debate by clicking here. Furthermore, I remain desperate for the UK to return to the contest, which you can read all about here!
This year’s contest looks to continue the trend of impressive staging and high-quality entries. I can’t wait to visit Tbilisi for myself and immerse myself into the Junior Eurovision bubble!
Tell me about your relationship with the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Are you a recent fan? Perhaps you’ve followed it since the beginning? Let me know in the comments below!

Ryan Cobb

My first memory of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was back in 2001 and, over the years, my passion and enthusiasm for the contest has very much turned into an obsession. I adore music and I love geography, so this contest is a natural fit for me. If la la loving Eurovision was a crime, I'd certainly be a criminal!

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