The Junior Eurovision show on Sunday November 29th has been adapted in many ways due to the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe. This is most notable in how the show will be recorded and presented – each of the participants will be in their home country on the day. Some countries have traveled to Poland to perform their songs prior to the show itself, whereas others have stayed at home and replicated the studio setting without the need for travel.
The spread of this virus has caused society to change dramatically in recent times, with the lockdown of society and the reduction of meeting people and cross-continental travel all occurring as governments globally try to limit the spread of COVID-19 across the population. For our young performers some of them have missed months of schooling or lost the ability to compete in other competitions or visit family members.
What is fascinating is that, directly or indirectly, many of these twelve songs competing on Sunday have been influenced by this pandemic. Let me take you on a journey of some of the stories and visions our young performers want to share.
Arina Pehtereva – Aliens – Belarus
Arina revealed to the Junior Eurovision website that her song was written in the midst of the first lockdown in the spring of this year.
“The song was written back in the spring, when the coronavirus epidemic broke out around the world. The idea behind the song is simple: the world has stopped, the borders have closed, people can no longer communicate, visit each other, even the Junior Eurovision Song Contest this year has changed.
“However, I believe that the future is in our hands, and it is up to us children to save this world and make it better.”
Lyrically the song is incredibly poetic and the title ‘Aliens’ refers to how our separation makes us increasingly lonely in this new normal. However, rather than twinging on the negatives, Alina expresses a view that this world is a storm passing over us, and that brighter times are out on the horizon.
Susan – Stronger With You – Germany
This year’s debut entry from Germany is also a direct reflection of how the pandemic has changed society, bringing in the thoughts of fear, powerlessness and despair in her first verse.
The song is a call for help from her friend to reconcile and reconnect, a feeling that Susan can’t do yet but she will be waiting until the opportunity arises. The start of the music video also showcases these memories of a time when people could come together, and a time that Susan is longing for.
“This is my dream and I need you to be on team,
Because I’m stronger with you”
Similarly to the Belarussian entry, Susan’s song is of the belief that a brighter future lies ahead, and that her friend, with courage, will be able to manage what the new life throws at her.
Valentina – J’imagine – France
The French kiddie bob ‘J’imagine’ offers a direct comparison to the world of the coronavirus pandemic through its lyrics. The song opens discussing how flowers have wilted on the balcony and that spring will come back. I certainly interpret this as a phrasing for how many people feel they have ‘lost’ many parts of 2020 and that plans and dreams for this year have been taken away.
Valentina goes further, and is wishing for a time when she once more can touch the city walls, rather than just our touchscreens, and asks the audience to imagine that world alongside her.
That time will come “tomorrow” – we don’t know yet when it will be, but there will be a brighter future to celebrate, enjoy and explore in.
Sandra Gadelia – You Are Not Alone – Georgia
The Georgian entry for this year’s contest is another with a direct look at the world we live in, and a message of hope to everybody kept apart. Sandra reminds listeners that they are not on their own coping with the struggles and that there is hope of a better future.
What is particularly poignant in these lyrics are the introduction, with Sandra wanting to show “all my feelings grown” to the world but that those “days are gone”. This is a gentle reminder of the huge changes that happen to our young people as they grow up, and weeks and months to them may seem much longer than they do to us adults. Furthermore in the chorus line ‘I know, I know, you’ll make it all’ Sandra is showing how she is confident of these better times arriving.
Unity – Best Friends – The Netherlands
The only group in the competition, Unity present a song about friendship, and how that can clear any obstacle. The song beings by reminding the listener how, in the world today, no matter how large the distance, they can be connected.
In the chorus we get theme that there will be a chance when they will together again ‘sing’, ‘shine’ and ‘unite’. Unite is in particular a powerful word currently, the wishes and desire to share the moment together. It is noteworthy as well how the song explains that this friendship can travel over borders – something which may not be possible everywhere today.
A Message Of Positivity
The world of November 2020 is not a happy place for many on our planet. It would be very easy for our young performers to let out their frustrations about the world they live in. These songs don’t hide behind the challenges of today but they also reach out to a better future. Many of those above reference the idea of a bright future or the Sun re-emerging from the dark skies. To me, this imagery suggests that it feels like the world to many of our young people has been like one long winter and I, like them, am wishing for a 2021 that will emerge full of brightness, hope and energy once more.
Remember though that some of these songs are not the creations of the children – there are three songs this year that have some element of child composition, from Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. The themes to these three songs don’t have that influence of the pandemic situation about them. These are adult words, but onto children. In short, these are messages that we adults want our children to have in this era.
That doesn’t mean they are not genuine. I spoke to Giga Kukhianidze last year in his studio in Tbilisi, and this is his 10th composition for Junior Eurovision. He told me how he always tries to write the song based on the wishes and the message that the singer wanted to present, to try and create this unity between the singer’s desire and the song they perform. It is likely then that Sandra was the one who had the theme for the song, but then Giga put that into music.
And I believe the words these young people sing, and believe that they want to share these messages to us this weekend. Throughout 2020 many of them have been isolated away from society and this is their chance to speak out to an entire planet. This is their opportunity to get their voice heard, and they aren’t going to miss that opportunity.