After nearly two months of auditions and preliminary elimination rounds, X Factor Israel‘s mainstage shows began on Sunday, December 26. This season of X Factor Israel has featured a Covid scare, a partner split, and even a newborn baby, but the most important question still remains: Who will win the right to represent the country at Eurovision in May?
Beginning with a pool of seventeen finalists, the competition has narrowed to ten. And with this week’s shows themed to Eurovision songs of the past, now is as good a time as any to check in with the remaining field of competitors.
Special thanks to Twitter user @stateofESC2020 for additional research.
41 year old Adi Cohen entered the season as part of a duo, in more ways than one. She and her partner, Liron Lev, auditioned with Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (see below), but decided to compete separately by the time the finals rolled around. Liron withdrew from the competition shortly after, while Adi missed the first mainstage show last week … so that she could GIVE BIRTH. She returned this week to perform Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision-winning anthem, “Rise Like a Phoenix”.
Adi previously competed to represent Israel at Eurovision in 2011, placing 3rd and losing out to Dana International‘s “Ding Dong”.
The talented youngster made quite a first impression with her choice of audition song. Performing an acoustic cover of Mahmood‘s 21st century Eurovision classic “Soldi” (see below), Anna answered the question, “will an audience clap at the prescribed moments in ‘Soldi’, even if it’s slowed down and transformed into a dreamy love ballad?” The answer is yes.
She performed Loreen‘s enduring, contest-winning dance track “Euphoria” during Eurovision night.
The 23 year old singer-songwriter got his start on season four of The Voice Israel, ultimately placing 4th. His coach on that season, Israeli-rocker Aviv Geffen, is one of the judges on this season of X Factor Israel. Eli impressed the judges with his audition performance of Keane’s “Everybody’s Changing”, and has covered songs by Twenty One Pilots and British musician James Morrison.
Eurovision 2018 champion Netta Barzilai is a judge and mentor of the Boys category this season, and Eli performed her winning song “Toy” during Eurovision night (see below).
One of only two singers in the Teens category left in the competition, 18 year old Ilay hails from the northern Mediterranean coast of Israel, and his song selection so far reflects that. On the show, he has primarily covered Mizrahi music, an Israeli oriental genre typically performed in Hebrew. He auditioned with the song “Etz Yarok MiPlastic”, originally released by current X Factor Israel judge Margalit Tzan’ani.
On Eurovision night, Ilay performed Shlomo Artzi‘s “At Va’Ani”, Israel’s 1975 contest entry (see below).
Inbal has actually competed on X Factor Israel once before. In 2014, she placed 5th on the show’s very first season. Seven years later, she returned to show off her more mature vocal chops, covering Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” in her audition.
She gave herself a challenge on Eurovision night, covering Celine Dion‘s 1988 winning song “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi” (see below).
Linet, a 46 year old Turkish-Israeli belter, has long dreamed of competing at Eurovision. In 1993, she placed 10th in the Israeli national selection with the song “Aniana”. You can watch that performance here. Since then, her career has been evenly split between Israel and Turkey. Another competitor on this season of X Factor Israel actually auditioned with one of her songs.
She went the extra mile during Eurovision night, performing a mash up of Greece’s winning 2005 entry “My Number One” and her own song from the 1993 Israeli national final (see below).
Michael Ben David
Michael Ben David started his journey this season with a bang, auditioning with both a bombastic performance of Lizzo’s “Juice” and a restrained, soulful rendition of “Ima”, originally by current X Factor Israel judge Miri Mesika. He has continued to demonstrate his range, performing songs by both Pet Shop Boys and The Mamas & the Papas.
His selection for Eurovision night was Israel’s 1976 entry “Emor Shalom” by female music trio Chocolate, Menta, Mastik (see below).
Sapir was the winner of the fourth season of The Voice Israel, the same season Eli Huli competed on. Her audition was heavily teased in the run up to this season of X Factor Israel, and her cover of the song “Hopefully Devoted to You” from Grease received unanimous praise from the judges (see below). As was the case for Linet, another performer covered one of Sapir’s songs during the auditions.
Due to a Covid scare and subsequent quarantine, Sapir sat out Eurovision night, but she is expected to return for next week’s shows.
Sheeran & Ron
The stylish duo auditioned with an original song titled “FadayTak”, showing off their particular brand of electro-Arabic pop music (see below). They went on to cover songs by Drake and American singer-songwriter LP.
On Eurovision night, the pair performed Hedva Amrani’s “Belev Echad”. That song finished 2nd, just behind Izhar Cohen‘s eventual contest champion “A-Ba-Ni-Bi”, at the 1978 Israel Song and Chorus Festival.
Based on first impression, you might not expect to hear smooth R&B vocals from Shahar, a skinny kid with glasses and traditional payot. But that’s exactly what the judges got from his audition, a cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello”.
Shahar‘s choice for Eurovision night might have seemed a little, ahem, unorthodox, but his moody rendition of Dana International’s 1998 contest-winning song “Diva” had the judges jumping in their seats (see below).
All episodes but the final few of this season were filmed late last year. The field of competitors was narrowed down to a (yet unknown) group of four acts before the song selection process began. Over 130 songs were submitted to the broadcaster this year, and a six-person panel chose two songs that best suited each of the four finalists.
In a special set to air later this month, those four acts will perform the two songs assigned to them, and a mix of public and jury scoring will determine the best option for each singer. Then, at the grand final, the four competitors will face off, with the winning song and artist booking a ticket to Turin.
This is the fourth season of X Factor Israel but the first that has been used to select the country’s Eurovision act. Eden Alene, who won season 3 in 2018, went on to win the honor of competing at Eurovision during the 2020 edition of Rising Star. After Eurovision 2020 was cancelled, she went on to represent the country in Rotterdam with “Set Me Free”, placing 17th in the Grand Final.
Who are #YOU rooting for on this season of X Factor Israel? Linet, right? Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.