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🇧🇪 Slideback Sunday – Ishtar divides opinion with O Julissi

After last week’s Slideback Sunday took us back to 2010 with Armenia’s “Apricot Stone”, and today we are staying firmly in the late noughties with Belgium’s 2008 entry, Ishtar’s O Julissi.  What do our team of Slideback superstars think of the entry?

Ishtar got to represent Belgium after winning Eurosong 2008, succeeding over more established performers, and facing rock group Paranoiacs and Nelson, who had written a modern ballad, in the final. 

The song was released as a single on 14 March, entering the Belgian Ultratop at number 7, and proceeding to top the list in the second week. 

On the Eurovision stage, the singer does indeed look like a candy cane, and the choreography involves her just walking around her bandmates.

Nevertheless, the folk tunes and happy, if in an imagined language, lyrics can and do have us bopping along. Taking inspiration from swing, the song urges to have a little dance-off, blending several voices in beautiful symphonies. 

Audiences across the continent didn’t agree, however, and the entry failed to qualify, finishing in 17th place in the first semi-final with 16 points. 

Overall, for better or for worse, the performance stands out with the sheer unexpectedness of its sound, staging and tunes. What is happening? What language is she singing in; why are certain words understandable but why do the overall lyrics not sound like 

The only thing we can do is strap in and enjoy – or endure – the ride. 

What the team thinks

Sara

I’ve always made the case that 2008 was by far the worst contest in Eurovision’s modern era, and O Julissi is one of the reasons why. I genuinely hate everything about this entry. The lead singer being dressed like a Campino caramel, the backing singers looking like Cinderella’s evil step-sisters trying their hand at the little black dress, the back and forth pacing and random dance moves to make this look even remotely interesting…

God, it’s awful. The imaginary language is the least offensive part about this entry but it’s still annoying. Mind you, this isn’t my cup of tea musically so I wouldn’t have liked it being sung in a real language or with better outfits, but at least it wouldn’t have elicited this strong of a reaction from me. Then again, awful doesn’t even being to describe Belgium’s entries in the 00s, so this was right on brand. We love a country with a vision!

Sean

O Julissi slaps and I refuse to hear any feedback about this. Of the three imaginary language songs of the 2000s, this is far and away the best (and that includes Sanomi). Sure, her vocals are as far up her nose as a swab during a flu test, but just the amalgamation of things happening give me that drop of serotonin my brain craves. It’s so sweet and fun, and in a year as… “interesting” as Eurovision 2008, this definitely should’ve done better in the actual contest. And I’ll take it a step further. I don’t think Belgium has sent anything better than O Julissi since. Someone had to say it.

Simon

Too twee for me. Ishtar threw various styles together for this, but none are left standing and the overall effect is pretty incoherent.

On the positive side, it is cheerful, and short. Perhaps the Belgians were hoping to stand out to voters by presenting a swing song sung in an imaginary language. However, followed onto the stage by Azerbaijan, ‘O Julissi’ was simply swallowed up by the transcendent visual and aural assault that is ‘Day after day’.

Oliver

Like Simon, this song doesn’t do it for me. I quite enjoy the dress (solely for the Proustian memory of campino sweets – anyone remember those?) and I have to commend the group for the joy they are attempting to muster… Imaginary language songs can be risk and in this instance I don’t know how the imaginary language ‘enhanced’ the song as opposed to lyrics. In a semi with a number of songs with powerful vocals, distinct genre and visual identity, this entry sadly becomes more of a palette cleanser between the melancholic (and deeply underrated) Miodio and the spectacle that was Azerbaijan’s debut. While Ishtar’s entry does have a camp/twee sensibility to it – the staging doesn’t make a huge impact and the vocals don’t command the Belgrade stage… lessons which Austria’s Zoë seemed to successfully correct in 2016.

What’s your opinion on ‘O Julissi’? Do you agree with the team? Let us know! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter, @escxtra on Instagram and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates!

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