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Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #1 Written by on March 10, 2016 | 17 Comments

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As requested, arriving two weeks early so we can finish the run of eight episodes two weeks early (i.e. before we start the daily shows from backstage at Globen), it’s time for Juke Box Jury! As e have done for many years, the ESC Insight team and some specially invited guest judges are going to sit and listen to every song that will be going to Stockholm, discuss them, and call each song as a Hit, a Miss, or a Maybe.

Ben Robertson and Alison Wren find a quiet spot in a Latvian TV studio to join host Ewan Spence with the first five songs facing their fate.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #1
with Ben Robertson and Alison Wren

Ireland: Sunlight, by Nicky Byrne
Belgium: What’s The Pressure, by Laura Tesoro
Switzerland: The Last Of Our Kind, by Rykka
Georgia: Midnight Gold, by Nika Kocharov And Young Georgian Lolitaz
Iceland: Hear Them Calling, by Greta Salome

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 (

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17 responses to “Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #1”

  1. Matt says:

    Great podcast again Ewan.

    Here is my score card, as I play along 🙂

    Ireland: a massive miss from me, something from the clip you had played, just rubs me the wrong way. It seems like it’s the uk in 2010 all over again and we know how much of a car crash that was..

    Belgium: I’ll give it a hit. Unlike the the other jury members, this is a song that I’ll go a vote for. I had watched this song live during the national final and it had grabbed me from the very start. I see this song going on to the finals and getting the very tail end of a top 10 spot, it’s not a winning song, but it should be up there.

    (On a side note, Ewan. You should of abstained from voting due to your conflict of interest, because you were on the Belgium jury, regardless if you picked the winner, your vote should be stricken from the record :p.) (don’t worry, I’m only kidding around here lol)

    Switzerland : it’s a miss, nothing else to say.

    Georgia: I’m going to give it a maybe. It’s quirky but it’s stage show would need to knock it out of the park, in order to even make it to the final. In the final, I’ll put it mid-table, at best. It’s not often you get this type of music at the contest, so it should be interesting to see how it’s played out.

    Iceland: I’m going to give it a a very big hit and I’ll put my neck out there and say, that it will go to the final and get a very high top 10 spot. Of all the songs, this is the only one I have heard and not seen it live, but I have heard more then once.

    As for the tie for 1st, I wouldn’t given it to Iceland, hands down.

  2. John Lucas says:

    Hooray! Glad to see this back, hopefully I’ll have a chance to sit in on one of these.

    Ireland: I think it says a lot that Ireland were talking down their chances within days of premiering this. They’re still not entering with a winners attitude, and I think that’s going to cost them. Name recognition may push them into the finals, but I think it’ll be heavily reliant on the juries. The song just doesn’t inspire. MAYBE.

    Belgium: My biggest issue with this is that it’s a complete mismatch of song and voice. A Fleur East type with with a bit of vocal grit could really sell this, but Laura sounds like she’s performing competent karaoke. That said, it’s very catchy, and if the performance is good fun and it comes near the end of the semi I can see it slipping through. Bottom 5 in the final though. MAYBE

    Switzerland: On record this is perfectly acceptable in a Margaret Berger album track sort of way, but it’s woefully ill-suited for this. As Ben identifies, it slipped through by virtue of being the least-worst song in the most uninspired and ill-conceived national final in Europe (now that Ireland has dropped the Late Late Show connection). But in competition with superior material, it just doesn’t inspire any kind of emotional reaction. It just comes across like three minutes of whining, and Rykka’s shaky live vocals only bring this into harsher relief. A clear MISS

    Georgia: Fair play to Georgia for trying something genuinely different (for Eurovision), much like they did in 2014. Like 2014, I can admire the artistry behind this, but as a Eurovision entry it’s a total dead duck. MISS

    Iceland: I love hearing Icelandic as much as the next person, but I don’t think the English translation especially harms it. A really strong, dramatic entry with shades of Of Monsters & Men that I think will stand out really well in a field packed with rather more processed pop music. If anything, I think it’ll be hampered by lazy comparisons to Mans in the staging. But easily impressive enough to be in the finals, where I expect it to achieve the usual Icelandic result of a respectable upper mid-table placing, although if everything really comes together it could go a fair bit higher. HIT

  3. Hans Wollstein says:

    Yay! Juke Box Jury is back, and for me, that means that Eurovision season has officially arrived. As always, very enjoyable even when you disagree with the opinions on offer. I do think y’all are overestimating the general continental language skills over and above being able to sing along without too much tongue twisting. I, for instance, reside in a country, Denmark, that recently offered Europe Simone’s Heart Shaped Hole.

  4. Shai says:

    My view of this week JBJ –

    Ireland – Generic is the right word to describe this one. There is no life in the song and someone in Ireland thought that it will be good idea to have a male singer reminiscent of last year’s winner. I am sure there are fans for this kind of song. I am not one of them. MISS

    Belgium – The first notes remind me of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”. Not a bad start, but the rest is not living up to the expectation the first notes give you. It’s quite cheerful song, a bit of 70’s & 80’s funk. The problem lies in her singing, which is bit shouty and lack the power to give the extra that may lift the song. A classic case of wrong singer for the wrong song. MISS(on the verge of MAYBE)

    Switzerland – A more capable singer with the ability to control her voice might do wonder to this song, which as it is just plodder alone without leaving any mark. And there is also a key change, like we’ve never had that before.MISS

    Georgia – I am not the target audience for this song. It is has melody and it is quite monotone. Toilet break written all over this song. MISS(a huge one).

    Iceland – Is a sort of Sweden 2012 combined with Sweden 2016. The problem is that it is very cold and calculated effort and if a song suppose to engage me and make me want to vote for it, this one doesn’t do a good job in it. I am also not sure if the chosen graphics are the right one for this song. They definitely keep me away from the song and that is quite the opposite to what they meant to do-MAYBE

  5. Ben R says:

    My review of the JBJ songs-

    Ireland: They should’ve waited- now they realize it’s going to get lost in the lineup, it’s all up to Nicky to smile and hold his hand out at the camera and hope it sneaks through. MISS.

    Belgium: It began as a potential banger (“Sax” by Fleur East uses a very similar opening) but is just..OK. The flow of the song is nice, and she can definitely sing and fill the 3 minutes well, and has some charm too. Nothing outstanding, but I don’t see why it would be ranked bottom 8 in the semi. A strong MAYBE.

    Switzerland: Great song, wrong singer. Rykka has other songs that suit her so much better than this, and it’s clear she struggles with the higher register live. MISS.

    Georgia: I have this on my iPod, but can’t make it through the live version. It’s good on its own, but not for Eurovision. Georgia deserve to be rewarded for experimenting, but the material they use to do so won’t cut it. MISS

    Iceland: Strong entry, probably going to the final. However, I really hope they change the projections a bit. The video for “Quand C’est” by Stromae did the concept really well, and it fit the song. Greta’s feel like they are there just to be there, to show off. HIT

  6. Yay JBJ is back! That Canadian gurl lives at least part-time in Switzerland (Swiss partner). So she’s a few steps closer to being Swiss than the other two Canadians Swiss reps. However I doubt she’s end up in the top 3 like Céline and Annie Cotton.

    As for this episode’s songs:

    Ireland: When Nicky was announced I had low expectations. First reaction to the song was “not sucky, but can he stay even remotely in-tune?” After the two TV performances I’m much more confident: he knows how to sing on TV and they’ve set the song us so he settles into the melody relatively quickly. HIT

    Belgium: Would work really well with a better, sense-making lyric. Great vibe, great vocal, great stage presence. MAYBE

    Switzerland: Dark songs can do well (Hungary 2014, Norway 2015), but probably not win. But this is decent rather than great; pedestrian rather than memorable. MAYBE

    Georgia: They seem lost on camera, the diction is poor and the song goes nowhere. Pub bands should stay in pub bands. MISS

    Iceland: In Icelandic I thought it was overblown and untidy. The English version came across much better, but still there’s death by choreography. Estonia’s nomads wisely stayed in Estonian so Europe wasn’t focused on how naff the lyrics were (or how they made no sense for the visuals). MAYBE

    Ireland has an outside chance of an Azeri-like surprise win. A teeny tiny chance.

  7. Okay, I’m going to try to keep up this year – I’ll be putting my thoughts in more detail on my own blog over the next few weeks but here’s my thoughts in short on your choices…

    Ireland – HIT. Nicky Byrne is getting the hang of singing this live and I think that his self-belief will play a huge part on how well this does. If he nails the vocals, this will be an easy qualifier for the Final and this could revive Ireland’s interest in the ESC. Earworm central, a definite toe tapper, it hooks you in, I think this up-tempo pop song will hit a spot with the voters at least.

    Belgium – MISS. I covered this NF a lot on my blog and Laura was the best of the contenders by miles. She has lots of stage charisma and good camera awareness, the music is catchy but her vocals are the weak link, always at the top of her range and loses vocal power when moving around the stage. This will get lost in her SF and Belgium will go back a huge step from the brilliance of Loic.

    Switzerland – MAYBE. Rykka was mesmerising during the Expert Check stage of Switzerland’s selection process due to the visual edge she brought, along with a certain “don’t care” attitude that made me watch her and listen to her distinctive vocals and meaningful lyrics. The NF winning performance was a lot safer and lost a lot of impact – how far Rykka goes depends on which version turns up in Stockholm.

    Georgia – MISS. Georg-pop is obviously twenty years behind the UK, lots of Blur influences here but not as good. This is all about the musicianship of this band – unfortunately all of that will be mimed, the vocals will not be. This is all instantly forgettable and would reside at track seven of a ten song album for most artists.

    Iceland – HIT! Once or twice a year I get goosebumps listening to an entry. That means they will win at best, top three at worst – this gave me that feeling watching this in the Icelandic NF. ‘Hear Them Calling’ is a phenomenal piece of artistry, a superb combination of Greta’s acting, her interaction with the back film, atmospheric lighting and absolute vocal perfection (to be fair, I liked the Icelandic version a bit better but in today’s ESC, English has to be the way to go). This entry is about the whole package again – not just the song…

    Iceland is my favourite out of the 36 we have had this year so far – could you tell?

    I have to say that I love hearing how much analysis you all put into this, compared to most ESC fans who will be thinking ‘I like that, it sounds/looks good, I’ll vote for that’!

    I also love the way that Ewan was trying to big up the band – I suspect that there will be a theme going on this year… 🙂

  8. Stephen Colville says:

    Can’t believe Ireland won the tie-breaker. The podcast crew are in their own bubble here. Iceland clearly have the better song with the highest potential.

  9. Robyn says:

    Will you guys re-review Georgia now that the studio version of “Midnight Gold” has been released? It’s not hugely different, but that big feedback solo has turned into more of a kinder synth orgy. Apparently the work of Thomas G:son!

  10. Ewan Spence says:

    Unlikely to get a re-review on JBJ, but obviously that storyline will be picked up in the daily shows when we reach Stockholm.

  11. HarrietKrohn says:

    Oh wow, JBJ is on already! Always fun to listen to, even if I hardly ever really agree with anything. 😀

    I have listetend to 98 % of the songs only once, so my impressions are still kind of shaky – but then the average spectator won’t come prepared either.

    Ireland – a song that doesn’t hurt anyone, a singer who knows how to deliver live, but that’s about it. I’m kind of hoping it’ll qualify just because I like Ireland, but when I try to list all the songs in my head, I always (!) forget this one. MAYBE

    Belgium – I liked it when I heard it, but I don’t remember it much either. In the blog where I read about the NF and saw the video, most people were very negative about the song and I wondered why everyone hated it so much – there’s not much wrong with it, but of course it doesn’t even come close to being as good as “Rhythm Inside”. I hope it’ll qualify and I believe it could, but not much more. MAYBE

    Switzerland – the song is almost okay, but Rykka’s live vocals are dreadful. I don’t mind that it’s not a cheerful song – 26 cheerful songs in the final would drive me crazy anyway – but I do mind that it’s boring. MISS

    Georgia – reminds me of the music I listened to in my early teens, so it kind of takes me back to happy days. I prefer a song that’s different to one that is bland. But bands that are all about playing live and playing a song that is very much not pop music tend to fall flat on their faces at Eurovision. MISS

    Iceland – I still listen to “Raddirnar” a lot. I speak a bit of Icelandic, so of course I hate that Greta went and changed the language again. Argh! This song was awesome! It’s still by far the most interesting of this bunch, although maybe a little constructed and not very genuine. Greta has to work on getting in sync with the graphics because she was a little off in the NF and she can’t afford to do that in Stockholm. Iceland clearly beats Ireland, but I don’t see it making top ten (although so far it’s in my top 3). HIT

  12. Eurojock says:

    Welcome back JBJ. Ireland – This sounds like standard slightly dated boy band pop. Ryan Dolan immediately came to mind and I agree with Ewan that a similar result could be on the cards. Belgium – Good performer but the song feels dated. Feels like a non qualifier. Switzerland – Based on the NF performance, there are vocal issues. Added to a dreary song this feels like a non qualifier. Georgia – I like it, but I’m certain my views won’t be shared by many Eurovision fans or jurors. The requirement to mime the instrument playing won’t help this at all. Not qualifying. Iceland – I agree it sounded better in Icelandic, but the harsh reality of Eurovision is that songs do better in English. On the plus side it is memorable and will stand out in this year’s crop of songs. On the minus side I feel the song doesn’t go anywhere after the first big instrumental passage. Also the staging feels like it is copying from both Mans and Loreen and it is never a good ploy to repeat last year’s innovation. Greta’s face remains in darkness for most of the song which won’t help her connect with the viewers. (Mind you it worked for Loreen!) Definite qualifier but at the moment I see this mid table at best.

  13. Ben Pitchers says:

    Ireland: MAYBE. This is a very competent and inoffensive song that, assuming Nicky sings it well live, should qualify and come mid-table. My only concerns are that it may be too middle of the road and not stand out enough to do really well.

    Belgium: MAYBE. I think this will be my guilty pleasure of ESC 2016. I always seem to have one song I like and want to qualify that most everyone else thinks is a no-hoper. The second half draw in SF2 and a good performance by Laura, who looks like she really enjoys singing the song, could mean it scrapes into the final. I’d like to see her not oversell it and tone down the choreography from the NF a bit.

    Switzerland: MISS. On paper I like the song and find the lyrics pretty intriguing – somebody else could do a better job with a different vocal register to Rykka. She reminds me a little of Lana Del Rey as she is quite mannequin-esque when she performs. There’s something about Rykka’s vocal performance that puts me off during the chorus.

    Georgia: MISS. The band is obviously competent and this could be a decent album track that grows on you over time but it is totally wrong for a competition like Eurovision. The band don’t interact with the camera much and the technical aspects Ewan pointed out in the podcast will probably be lost on most of the audience. Even if the jury like this I think the televote points will be low. Georgia has a strange Eurovision strategy; some years they seem like they want to win and try to do so by following what they believe is a winning formula (2013) and in other years like this year and 2014 they present something completely from left-field which adds variety to the show but sinks their chances of qualifying.

    Iceland: HIT. The music and the lyrics are unusual in a good way and if Greta can develop the NF presentation I think it will catch the attention of voters and jurors. I’m sure she’ll be less nervous than in 2012 and should get Iceland their highest place in the final since 2009.

  14. IRELAND: Nicky Byrne with ‘Sunlight’ — “MAYBE”:
    If I’m not mistaken, Nicky’s first live performance of ‘Sunlight’ was rather abysmal no (at ‘The Ray d’Arcy Show)? I was flabbergasted. Stunned. Nicky really needs to perform better. On top of that, Ireland performs in the deadpool (first half) of semi #2. I see Australia, FYR.Macedonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Serbia all qualify from the first half. Add to that the rather dated entry, and Ireland will only qualify, because we have to find a 9th or 10th qualifier. And the 2nd half by comparison is rather lackluster (Norway, Ukraine, Bulgaria).

    BELGIUM: Laura with ‘What’s The Pressure’ — “MISS”:
    I actually quite like the song. There’s this nice Queen-intro (‘Another One Bites The Dust’), and it’s really a great throwback to 1970’s R&B. The biggest struggle though is the fact that my personal taste with this song doesn’t reflect in its chances. Laura lacks attitude and stage presence. A singer like Edsilia Rombley would have brought this entry to new soulful heights (Which can be said of Finland as well). Therefore it’ll struggle to qualify.

    SWITZERLAND: Rykka with ‘The Last Of Our Kind’ — MISS:
    Same again, quite a pleasant song that I occasionally put on. Reminds me a bit of 1980’s music from Kim Wilde. Even Rykka’s voice is similar. But the Swiss entries, and especially this one, can not really go to ‘winning levels’ with their songs. On the whole the entry lacks punch.

    GEORGIA: Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz with ‘Midnight Gold’ — ‘MISS’:
    Perfect for the European EuroSonic Music/Rock Talent Festival (annually in Groningen, Netherlands), but not suitable for Eurovision. Televoters and jury’s need to see faces….not band members who are too focused on their instruments. Which will look considerably weird in an environment where there are no ‘live’ instruments.

    ICELAND: Greta Salome with ‘Hear Them Calling’ — ‘MAYBE’:
    I think this entry is the best of the bunch in this 1st Podcast. But the song doesn’t do it for me. It’s simply too ‘complicated’. I can’t hum or whistle it after one listen. Visually it looks wonderful, but the total package still isn’t coherent enough due to song & visuals not matching. It’s also screams “Yeah, Sweden, Netherlands and Estonia did wonders with staging, so we need to catch up”. It doesn’t work like that. Still, in the 2nd half of semi #1 this might actually qualify. But perhaps barely. Not higher than 7th overall in this semi.

    To summarize:
    01. ICELAND
    02. IRELAND
    04. BELGIUM
    05. GEORGIA

    But by jolly, a poor bunch of entries in this 1st Jukebox Jury

  15. Songfestivalwerk! says:

    I hope my comment was not offensive :-). I love the Jukebox Jury :-). Let me know if you don’t like a direct link in my name. Hugs, Gert

  16. Ewan Spence says:

    Nope,just that new (or big) comments need manual approval to keep the spam away! All sorted now.

  17. André says:

    Whoo! Jukebox Jury is early this year. Added bonus of completing it before being in Stockholm, detraction as you don’t have the full accompaniment of songs to compare things against.

    Ireland – Miss — I think I agree with y’all in that this song is unremarkable. But I disagree with you in regards to its ability to qualify. It’s bland and does not go anywhere. Nothing short of an amazing staging will help it clear the huddle of qualifying. Also, in 2007, Edsilia Rombley competed for the Netherlands, did not qualify for the Final, and then gave the votes Saturday night, so Nicky could definitely do that, too.

    Belgium – Maybe — I think the word you’re looking for, Ewan, is “sterile.” I, personally, love this song and think that it will connect with the viewing audience who will want to sing and dance to it. I don’t think that the juries will like it.

    Switzerland – Maybe — This is much more of the clinical approach than any other song this week. I think it’s alright. Definitely better than Ireland, but not by much. I don’t think it’s a very dark song, but Norway and the Netherlands have done quite well in recent years with dark songs, so it’s definitely not a detractor.

    Georgia – Miss — I think the song is alright, but it is much like Georgia’s 2014 entry. It adds fantastic diversity to the Contest, but will not translate to the audience or the juries.

    Iceland – Hit — Unlike in 2012, I think that English is the better option here, it flows better. Yes, many Europeans know English (as a second language) but not enough to really dissect the lyrics as y’all have done here. The song is amazing as is the staging. I agree, as long as the timing aligns, this song will contend for the victory.

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