Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #7Written by Ewan Spence on April 21, 2016 | 17 Comments

You can listen to Juke Box Jury and the ESC Insight podcast online, add the RSS Feed to your favourite podcast application, or click here to follow us in iTunes and never miss an episode.

It’s London’s turn to host Juke Box Jury this week as Ewan Spence brings two debut judges (Jon Jacob and Ellie Chalkley) to the bench, and asks them both to rate Armenia, Croatia, Russia, Albania, Ukraine, and Belaurs. Who gets the hit, who will be happy with a maybe, and will anyone avoid the dreaded triple-miss?

You all know the drill, let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #7
with Ellie Chalkley (@Eurovisellie) and Jon Jacob (Thoroughly Good Eurovision).

Armenia: LoveWave, by Iveta Mukuchyan.
Croatia
: Lighthouse, by Nina Kraljic.
Russia
: You Are The Only One, by Sergey Lazarev.
Albania
: Fairytale, by Eneda Tarifa.
Ukraine
: 1944, by Jamala.
Belarus
: Help You Fly, by Ivan.

Don’t miss an episode of the Eurovision Insight podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed dedicated to the podcasts. iTunes users can find us in the iTunes Store and get the show automatically downloaded to your computer.

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (facebook.com/ewanspence).

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17 responses to “Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #7”

  1. John Lucas says:

    Oof! This was a grumpy old week, wasn’t it? Some great points from all involved, although I hope some of these songs grow on you by May for your own sakes…

    Armenia:

    This is the song from this week’s episode that I really felt got an unduly rough ride. I can’t speak to the specific musicality of the song (or lack thereof) but I definitely hear that it’s a lot to take in on the first couple of listens. However, having had some time to live with it, it’s really revealed itself to be one of the most beguiling entries of this year. I love the unusual structure, and the way it combines traditional Armenian instrumentation (Duduk alert!) with very modern production values.

    The problem of course is that viewers are only going to hear it the once, or twice, but I trust Armenia to come up with a striking stage show that really brings out the best in this number. In any event, on diaspora alone I have them as a safe qualifier and probably around the 15 mark in the final, with potential to go higher if she really knocks it out of the park. In any event, a brave and forward-thinking entry that I thoroughly applaud. HIT!

    Croatia

    I do hear the 90s new age references in this song, but I also hear a massive dollop of Ellie Goulding and Emmelie DeForest, enough of the former that this convinces me as a legitimate modern pop song rather than a dated throwback to Eurovision of yesteryear. Also, Nina is an absolutely stunning vocalist and the song absolutely passes ‘the Radio 2 test’.

    She’s on early, and I do worry that if it isn’t staged flatteringly it could come across as a little dull, as it really depends on hooking the viewer in long enough for them to appreciate how nicely it builds. However, I think it’s much more likely to qualify than not, and if the stars align this is in contention for a top 5 placing. Croatia’s best effort in two decades for my money. HIT!

    Russia

    I keep coming back to the same point of comparison with this song, and it isn’t Sakis, but a lady he shared the stage with in 2006 – Carola. Not since Invincible have I heard a pre-contest favourite that had so obviously been written expressly for the purpose of winning the Eurovision Song Contest. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and indeed for fans of ridiculous balls-to-the-wall pop music like myself, there’s plenty to enjoy here. But like Invincible, there’s just something a bit too clinical about the whole package, and I really feel that unless the stage show is a work of absolute genius, it’s going to leave just a few too many people cold to go all the way to the top. A HIT, but with reservations.

    Albania

    I actually thought this had a bit of potential when it won FiK back in December, but my word they screwed the landing when it came to this revamp. All the energy and passion of the original has been drained out of this new version and replaced with… nothing. I don’t even see any particular opportunities for her to elevate it with a knockout vocal. Diaspora and a good draw could see it limp through I suppose, but there are far stronger contenders in Semi Two so I’m calling this a MISS.

    Ukraine

    I have a niggling complaint about this one and it really holds me back from getting on board. It’s not the politics, it’s the fact that the English-language verses don’t appear to be in any kind of rhyme scheme. This really, really jars with me, which might be a deliberate choice to enhance the sense of displacement the song is trying to communicate. But for me, it’s uncomfortable, and it makes it hard for me to stay engaged with it up to the admittedly beautiful chorus. I’m sure few people will share that complaint, and this is clearly going to stand out and do very well. But it’s no winner. MAYBE.

    Belarus

    It feels like there’s a song like this in the contest every year, and it’s usually coming from either Belarus, Albania or Macedonia. Lumpen, dated 80s rock clearly never went out of fashion to the east, but it’s a tough sell at the contest. If he can find a stage show as wacky as his nude with wolves idea, this might delight enough people to slip through on an ‘only at Eurovision’ vote, but I strongly suspect he’ll be overshadowed by Romania on that front. MISS!

  2. Hans Wollstein says:

    This, truly, was my favorite juke box so far. Please invite Jon and Ellie back. Great fun!

  3. Eurojock says:

    An interesting clutch of songs this week: On the basis that top 13 in the final means hit.

    Armenia: This is an incredibly atmospheric song and the pre-parties proved that Iveta can sing. It lends itself to dramatic staging, whatever form that may take. The song builds brilliantly from that spoken introduction. I can imagine juries loving this and the televoters at least liking it. The only problem with it is , as Ellie says, the song doesn’t properly climax. For me the ‘Love Wave’ hook slightly lets it down and this becomes more evident when you watch the all the semi songs in 15 second recap. If the staging is good I predict strong Top 10, but for the reason given top 5 may be beyond it. HIT

    Croatia: I liked this song form around second listen. It has a lovely lilting melody and Nina has a nice quality to her vocal. And as Ewan says, Lighthouse is very much a Eurovision style song. However I am surprised none of the jurors mentioned the elephant in the room – Nina herself (sorry Nina!). Her preferred mode of fashion and, especially her hair style (she turned up on Serbian television with blue hair) does not fit with the song. Her stage presence and stage experience also appear to be lacking. In the Serbian TV appearance, in a small studio, she did not make eye contact with the camera once. Like Ewan I can see this possibly just passing viewers by. The song has top 10 potential, but the presentational issues and a difficult semi-draw make this borderline as to whether it even qualifies. MISS

    Russia: ‘Thunder n Lightning it’s getting exciting’ – yes, its memorable but for the wrong reasons. Like at least two of the juke box jurors, I can’t stand this – probably because of the naff chorus. But now putting my objective hat on: It will be well sung, well staged and well performed and will get the diaspora and neighbour vote. It ticks all the boxes for a Eurovision winner – in 2008! As Ewan said this is clinical – and, I would add soulless. Let’s face it it’s going to do well in the televote. It may not go down as well with the juries who will put a number of countries bringing more contemporary challenging fare in front of it. The point that Ewan makes, that the juries’ scores won’t necessarily stop a runaway win on the public vote is, however, a valid one. Moreover, at this moment in time – pre-rehearsals – there is not one clear single alternative contender to the Russian song that I see juries or public rallying around. So, reluctantly I have to say this song is definite top 5 and a clear contender for the win – which would be good for Russia but bad for the contest. HIT

    Albania – Is it too late to revert to the original? The English language revamp totally drained all the life out of this. And from the pre-parties, Eneda does not have the most appealing stage presence. Even the late semi draw won’t help Fairytale. Non qualifier and MISS.

    Ukraine: – Like the juke box jurors I loved this from first hearing but this is Juke Box Jury and we have to try to remain objective. Jamala’s vocal dexterity is incredible.The last minute of the song – from the wail – is absolutely mesmerising. But in the context of the contest 1944 takes a bit of time to ‘get going’. The song is very dark, which is not what we expect of a normal Eurovision winner and looking at various reviews on-line it is a bit of a marmite song. The negative comments don’t all seem to be coming from offended Russians/Stalinists either. Nevertheless – it’s Ukraine, it has a very good semi draw, and it will get a lot of jury love. So top 10 is likely, top 5 possible if enough of the public like it – but despite backing it at 33-1 each way – I don’t see a song as dark and as controversial as 1944 getting widespread enough support to carry it to the win. HIT

    Belarus: – A dated pop-rock song, from an unappealing long haired singer who can’t sing that well (think Moldova 2015). Now that we are all expecting Ivan to appear bollock-naked, when on the night he doesn’t, it will be such a disappointment, won’t it?!!! Non qualifier and MISS.

  4. @John Lucas

    If I had the option to do variations on ‘maybes’ I would give Armenia the highest maybe possible without it being a hit – but I really do think that the massive, daft beginning is let down by not keeping on developing it and making it even bigger and sillier all the way to the end of the song.

  5. mk says:

    Totally agree with John Lucas’ first statement :-)

    Armenia – MAYBE to HIT. I like it, but not at first listen to it, so not entirely a HIT

    Croatia – MAYBE to HIT – I actually quite like it, but she’s a bit weird, so had to downgrade from a 100% HIT…

    Russia – MAYBE to HIT…It’s for sure first Russian song in contest that I like and it’s not about peace or other political issues. It’s catchy and he’ll get a good result…Not sure if a winner, but this year there is no runaway winner anyway….

    Albania – MAYBE – I did not listen the original version, only the revamped one. It’s an average song, don’t understand the hate for it. It’s OK, not that I feel the need to re-listen to it, but so I can say about all the songs this year anyway….

    Ukraine – MAYBE – to put it bluntly I don’t like it…it has nothing to do with the message, it’s just not my type of song, it does not matter how good singer she is…I feel this is one that juries will mark high but few televoters will go for it (only those who enjoy it and those who think it’s cool to say this is great)

    Belarus – MISS – this is in ‘whatever’ category – definitely close to Serhat, but somehow not that bad….

  6. I agree; best episode this season. Well done folks!

    Armenia: First heard this and laughed; I now think there’s some interesting stuff here. Unconvinced she can deliver the chorus without sounding like a wounded manatee. Maybe.
    Croatia: Lovely but unremarkably so. Maybe.
    Russia: Good enough to do well; not special enough to win, if last year’s entry couldn’t. till a HIT.
    Albania: Best (for all the wrong reasons) preview video. Song was meh in Albanian and is meh in English. Diaspora might get it into the Grand Final, however. Maybe.
    Ukraine: Brilliant. Only limitation is its accessibility. Easily top 10 and could be top 5. Hit.
    Belarus: Jaysus wept. Miss.

  7. Shai says:

    Armenia – leaves me confused. It suppose to be something impressing but somehow it just not. It suppose to draw me in but instead it keeps me away.Maybe it lies on the structure of the song that is not really coherent one, or maybe it lies on the too many surprises the song has in its sleeves are not helping. And as said, the ending is coming so unexpected it feels it’s not ending at the right moment of the song. As for the staging-it has potential of a huge kitchen sink – MAYBE

    Croatia – I discover this song lately. I wasn’t paying attention on 1st listen. It’s a lovely song and I really don’t mind it sounds less modern. There is a nice key change which fit the way the song is built up. My concern is her live vocals and presentation. If Eurovision in Concert is an indication to anything, than she is in big trouble. HIt9for me) and MAYBE (for the contest.

    Russia – it is produced and will be staged to the inch of it’s potential. But the high production values don’t make for a good song. It is such a predictable song and you know how it is going to be and everything comes up exactly as expected.As mentioned everywhere it is dated in sound. The last time a similar song won the contest was 2005(yes, Greece) and in all years after, that kind of sons ended top 10/top 5/even top 3 but never winning. As always with Russia they will get a top result, I just hope that they won’t win.It will be a huge step back for the contest. If this win,it will also means that if you have enough resources, you can win with what ever you come up with as a song, no maater how good the song is.
    One can have comfort in the fact that after 3 years, they decided to stop sending songs about world peace – MISS(for me). A chance for HIT
    (for the contest).

    Albania – They never learn do they. Revamp is suppose to improve a song not making it worse(and maybe they should take lessons from Israel on how to make a good revamp :) ). It’s lifeless like a corps waiting for it’s own funeral – MISS

    Ukraine – There is no doubt that the song has personal feelings for her. It shows in the emotions she put in the song. But sometime she tend to be wailing while singing. I think most of the viewers will not get it, though.It may have some alienating effect on the viewers, who want to be entertained and not reminded on the trouble they have. I am also quite sure this isn’t getting any points from Russia, which almost make sure it’s not winning -MAYBE

    Belarus – It’s basically one and a half cord of a song that stretched to 3 minutes. boring is the right way to describe this. Nothing can save this song,not even live wolves and nudity(something that will not happen). It will have to fly on it’s own wings and than crash down because it lacks everything that should assist him fly -MISS

  8. Robyn says:

    “LoveWave” annoys me so much. It starts off with such a strong opening, and seems to promise a totally amazing experience. But it doesn’t. It loses focus and just ends up being Iveta grunting and hoooo-ing until the song runs out of time.

    However, Armenia seems aware that her vocals in the studio version weren’t clear enough and she’s definitely sounded clearer in live performances in recent weeks.

    But I’m still getting the same feeling that “You’re Not Alone” had. Armenia have the idea that the song is very deep and meaningful, and because of that the flaws in the performance are overlooked because, like, it will touch people because it is such artful art.

  9. Ben Pitchers says:

    Armenia: MAYBE. This is an exercise in style over substance but I do enjoy the song more every time I hear it even if I need the visual accompaniment when I listen to it. I especially like the instrumentation. Good for Armenia for choosing a challenging entry. My main concern is how hard it is to understand what Iveta is singing. They should stage it as dramatically as the musical production and bring in the concepts of the video and depict how overcome she is with this love. Armenia should be able to qualify as they have many friends voting in this semi and they tend to do well in semi-finals. As for the final, it may be too challenging for some and it wouldn’t be the song people would be voting for.

    Croatia. HIT. I like listening to this and think it’s a solid, quality entry. The poetic lyrics are nice if a little clunky every so often. It will be a hard song to deliver live. I think it has enough to qualify and should perform fairly well with the juries and should be accessible enough for a decent televote.

    Russia: HIT. Russia really wants to win, don’t they? I can see why they chose this entry: lots to hold viewers’ attentions, a good looking, capable male singer (going the Måns route) and song with an energy that doesn’t let up for the 3 minutes. Going against it are that it sounds dated & the lyrics (esp. “thunder and lightning, it’s getting exciting) are cheesy and almost comical. It does remind me a lot of Greece 2009 but it is a better song than that and I think Sergey is a better performer than Sakis. There are many more modern songs and uptempo songs this year to vie for the same position. I think it’ll do better in the East than the West but not enough to win but should do very well. I don’t think there’s enough for the juries in the west to reward it as highly as they did to Russia’s 2013 and 2015 entries. 2014 was a very weak entry and managed to get 7th place. I think their biggest path to winning could be in the presentation – the music video is all projections and green screens and they could make, as Ewan talks about in Every Song A Story, a live music video on stage. On the other hand, Fokas could do a 2009 and overblow it.

    Albania: MISS. This is just a bit dull. Eneda has a great voice but it’s wasted here – the Albanian original was much more interesting and allowed her to show the strength of her voice. Cliched lyrics, especially in the lightweight chorus. I don’t think it will qualify. Hoping for some more intriguing entries from Albania in the future.

    Ukraine: MAYBE. The first couple of listens didn’t do much for me but it has grown on me since. Jamala is a fantastic performance and brings out the emotions this song needs to be given justice. The lyrics of the chorus are very powerful. I’ve given it a maybe based on my first reaction and my doubts as to whether this is going to come off as offputtingly challenging to televoters hearing it for the first time, or will do a Rona Nishliu and do very well.

    Belarus: MISS. I was very surprised when this won the national final and I don’t think it makes much of an impact on first listen. Ivan isn’t hugely charismatic and seems to prefer posing when performing it. Apart from the wolf howl at the beginning, I fail to see why they are choosing a wolf theme for the presentation and all this PR nonsense about live wolves and nudity is probably just trying to distract from the likelihood they won’t qualify.

  10. HarrietKrohn says:

    Armenia: I quite like it. I’ve never felt like it let me down, and I don’t think the ending being a little weird matters at all. Casual viewers see/hear that bit only once, then in the recap it’ll be one of its more impressive moments (which it has). As I’m in a good mood, I’m giving this a HIT, but I don’t think it’ll be an actual hit come Stockholm.

    Croatia: I’m surprised this is ranked so high in the odds. It’s a perfectly lovely song, but also perfectly unremarkable. I like Nina’s looks, but her voice is a bit too high-pitched for my liking. It should qualify, but since my personal taste is so at odds with the odds (sorry), I don’t dare predict its final postition. MAYBE.

    Russia: So much wrong with this, yet it’s the bookmaker’s favourite. And these have won the last few years, so I’m actually very pessimistic and fear that everyone saying it won’t win is just wishful thinking. It’s calculated and clinical and soo “in your face” that I simply don’t want to like it. I read somewhere it didn’t even place high in the Russian charts (not sure this is true), so that could be a ray of hope. Not that it’s a horrible song, but it leaves me relatively cold. MAYBE (but if I had to bet on a winner, this would be it, if only because of the very intact neighbourhood voting).

    Albania: This is not unpleasant to listen to, but it’s very forgettable. I don’t know the original version, so I’m not comparing – that doesn’t matter in Stockholm anyway. Nobody knows what the song originally sounded like and so nobody will be disappointed that they screwed up the revamp. Because I’m not inclined to skip it on my playlist (even though I often have to check what country and song this is again), I’m giving it a MAYBE.

    Ukraine: First time I heard it, it was the live version from the Ukrainian NF and was like “Really, everyone loves this? Why?” – I like it better in the studio version. The wailing took some time for me to like (or not dislike), but it might also do a “Suus”, who knows. And it’s no coincidence this is political, they paid so much attention to political view and the contestants’ attitude towards Russia that I can’t help but be put off. MAYBE, because of the aforementioned good mood and because it’ll probably do well in Stockholm.

    Belarus: I love this. :D But then I also liked Moldova last year – maybe there’s something wrong with me … Yeah, sure, this is anything but a musical masterpiece, but it sticks in my ears and I find myself singing the chorus while I’m straining the pasta or brushing my teeth. I also have a soft spot for Ivan, possibly an underdog thing. And as to the whole “naked with wolves” stunt – I defy you to find a German outside of the ESC bubble who’s ever heard about that, so here it won’t be an issue at all. Unless the commentator mentions it, of couse, but it’s not quite the universal headline you’re all making it out to be. HIT, although I’d be very suprised (but happy) to see Ivan on stage on the Saturday.

  11. Borza says:

    I was disappointed with JBJ this week.

    Ewan, you have given out a lot of maybes this year, perhaps due to the fear of another Common Linnets or Loic Nottet!

    As for the two panellists, they were far too negative. Boring was used far too often and Armenia and Croatia are perfectly good songs. The Armenian one will do very well despite the comments of this panel, it has interesting production values fused with traditional Armenian music.

    Jon said he would leave before the end of semi 2, some fan. Does he not even realize that 3 of the big 6 will be performing after the semi songs? As for Russia, this has great pop production, has multiple hooks and is definitely one of the highlights this year. I find the usual criticism of Russia tedious. At least they unerringly send some of their most famous singers year in year out and take the contest seriously. I wish other countries did the same. Unfair of Jon to hope an artist messes up on stage, nobody should be wishing ill of a contestant. Disgraceful.

    A correction on the historic aspects of 1944, of course it was Soviets who deported Crimean Tatars which would have included Ukrainians as well as Russians within that army and of course was led by a Georgian in Stalin. So not sure why people are only referring to it being a Russian thing!

  12. Ewan Spence says:

    Russ/Borza,

    You credit with me with to much planning – I *know* I’m going to miscall some songs, that’s the beauty of JBJ, and I know that my opinion on every song is on record in some detail. Am I trying to hedge bets? No. Am I calling them as I feel? Yes. Maybe (just maybe) that reflects on a year with no clear favourites and a lot of songs that are ‘above average but not stunning’?

    As for ‘three of the big six’ will be on stage… no. 3 pre-recorded clips of rehearsals from the Big Six will be screened on TV for viewers at home. They’re not going live in the hall.

  13. What with reviewing the first ever Pre-Party I had attended and getting a surprise smash post about Hovi in Moscow, it’s taken a while to catch up with the latest JBJ! Here goes – I have now heard two of these live a few feet away so hopefully I will still be balanced in my judgements…

    I’d like to say first that Jon is a man of my own heart, maybe not in the grumpy stakes, as I’d like to think that I throw some humour into my posts, but more on the ‘I’m really blogging for me’ side of things!

    Armenia – MAYBE. I’d love to say that this will be a HIT (Iveta definitely is) as it is an amazingly bold departure away from normal Eurovision fare and I love the musical fusion of Western pop and Armenian ethnicity. LoveWave’s main issue is that it is difficult to work out on first listen, everything will hinge on Iveta’s vocals and the need for excellent staging. Her Moscow performance was good but only the rehearsals will give me a clue as to whether this will be bomb out in the SF or be this year’s ‘Rhythm Inside’ / ‘Love Injected’.

    Croatia – MAYBE. Nina has distinctive vocals (very Cranberries) and the hauntingly mesmerising lyrics of this song should get her unto the Final. It does lack a real ‘wow’ moment to make it a real hit this year but having seen her live, she connects amazingly well with cameras and the audience and she does a very ‘old school’ Eurovision performance, with loads of emotional facial delivery. I hope this reaches the Final and there will be enough Balkan votes to make it.

    Russia – HIT. All the stops have been pulled out this year to get Russia that second win, it’s another barnstormer of an entry but it doesn’t shout ‘winner’ at me for some reason. It’s fast paced, well sung, Sergey ticks all the charisma boxes but there just isn’t that killer blow to make this surge ahead of the competition. Definitely top five but the choreography that I’ve seen in the Pre-Parties looks a bit dated and I agree with the Panel that everything is all a bit clinical. There is no way that this will be a MISS though!

    Albania – MISS. When this was in Albanian and 45 seconds longer, this was passionate, powerful and emotional – a real roller-coaster with lots of nuances. All lost now it is in English, Fairytale is repetitive and low key. The only saving grace is that Eneda has superb on-stage presence, connects brilliantly with the audience and sings superbly well live. I still expect this to not qualify.

    Ukraine – HIT. Not exactly ‘happy, happy, joy, joy’, is it? Moving away from the subject matter, Jamala has an amazing voice, she gives an extremely passionate vocal and visual performance, accompanied by some superb musical rhythms and very emotional high pitched wails. It does have a lot of impact and if she is staged as in the Ukrainian NF, this will be a likely top ten this year.

    Belarus – MISS. IVAN is a bit ‘Chad Kroeger lite’, his voice is distinctive but he doesn’t have enough vocal power for a song of this type, it’s nowhere strong enough to grip the listener and make them believe in the lyrics. It was the best in Belarus but that wasn’t saying much – he comes across as a nice guy but this has no chance of getting out of the SF.

    I love the guests , a nice mix of intellectual comment and humour.

    And Ewan…you ARE the only person who doesn’t like Satellite!

  14. Borza says:

    Ewan,

    Thanks for the response. I wish I had known that about the 3 pre qualified finalists as I bought tickets for semi final 2 and flights to Stockholm purely to see Italy live because I like it that much. All that money and I won’t even see her now!

    And yes I know unfair to beat you over the head about Belgium 2015 all the time!

    Keep up the excellent coverage. JBJ is a real treat for all us eurofanatics.

  15. Ewan Spence says:

    Russ/Borza,

    Oh by all means keep hitting me over the head with Belgium 2015, it’s fun! Nothing like a good running joke. As for the Semi Final 2 stuff, the initial news post was carefully worded but it was there. Are you Jury or Live SF?

    To avoid the need to extend the length of the Semi-Finals, shortened clips of the ‘Big Five’ and host country stage performances will be shown, recorded during the previous night’s Dress Rehearsal.
    (Eurovision.tv)

  16. BORZA says:

    Live semi final so it looks like I shall have to purchase tickets for the Jury final as well!

  17. […] now, as they say, for something a little bit different. Some of you may have heard Jon Jacob on this year’s Juke Box Jury, others might recall some of his editorials here on ESC Insight. Maybe it was on his […]

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