All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.

It’s 2 days to go until Junior Eurovision 2023, and we are counting down the 16 nations who are participating in Nice, France on Sunday, November 26, 2023.

Every day we will do an overview of a participating nation in alphabetical order, recapping how they got to Junior Eurovision, a brief history of the nation’s participation, a brief biography of the artist, and finally, our “expert” panel of editors give the entries a score out of 10 and a brief review.

Next up, we look at Portugal, another nation that took a decade off after flopping early on. And have still not found good form at Junior Eurovision. Until 2021, when massive televote support told cyberbullies where to stick it.

Portugal’s history at Junior Eurovision:

To be frank, Portugal’s form at Junior Eurovision has been terrible. Portugal debuted at Junior Eurovision 2006 with Pedro Madeira’s “Deixa-me sentir,” which came in 14th.

Madeira appears to have carved out a performing career for himself after this, but after Jorge Leiria’s “Só quero é cantar” finished 16th, Portugal left the competition and did not return until 2017.

Mariana Venancio matched Madeira’s 14th place with “Youtuber,” but Rita Laranjeira’s “Gosto de Tudo (Já Não Gosto de Nada)” came in 18th in 2018. That song was also about social media. You’d have thought Valentina Monetta’s social media song would have been a warning to not sing about this subject.

Joana Almeida’s “Vem conmigo” was an environmental song, based on Almeida’s personal experience fleeing forest fires in Portugal in 2017. Too bad, thought the audience. 16th place for you. Portugal withdrew from the 2020 contest due to COVID-19.

Simão Oliveira represented Portugal in 2021 with “O Rapaz.” The so-called fandom ridiculed his beautiful tribute to his fado loving grandmother. From his old-fashioned dress style and delivery, every unimaginative and pathetic online bully came out to make fun of him. But the real fandom recognized the beauty of his entry, earning him the third highest televote score of the night. The juries sided with the cyberbullies, fickle as they are in response to online chatter, but enough televoters rallied around “O Rapaz” to land Portugal in 11th place, their best ever placement at the contest.

Nicolas Alves managed two milestones for Portugal with his entry “Anos 70” at Junior Eurovision 2022: “Anos 70” is the first JESC entry to feature the Brazilian dialect of Portuguese, and his 8th place finish is the first time Portugal has placed in the top half of the table.

Before Junior Eurovision 2023:

It had been an unofficial stance of Radio and Television of Portugal (RTP) to internally select the winner of Portugal’s The Voice Kids as the Portuguese representative at Junior Eurovision.

On June 23, 2023, Julia Machedo won the 4th season of The Voice Kids, and she was named by Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) as Portugal’s representative at Junior Eurovision 2023.

The Artist:

And with Julia Machedo, we welcome New Jersey to the Junior Eurovision fold!

12-year-old Julia was born in New Jersey to Portuguese immigrant parents, but moved back to Portugal last year to live with her grandparents in Monsanto do Ribatejo.

As well as winning The Voice Kids, Julia is a keen surfer. According to interviews, she loves surfing in Navarre, which you may recognize as the spot with the 100 foot waves.

The Song:

“Where I Belong” is an appropriate song for a contestant from New Jersey returning to her ancestral homeland – the lyrics are about a warm place she can call home and she can retreat from the world’s problems.

“Where I Belong” was composed by Fernando Daniel, who was also the composer of “O Rapaz.” Daniel came in 5th at Festival de Cancao in 2017 (the year Salvador Sobral won Eurovision), and also won an MTV EMA Award in 2018 for Best Portuguese Act.

Aurora Pinto, another graduate of The Voice Kids, is a co-composer. João Direitinho is a Portuguese singer-songwriter who contributes to the track, along with Luis “Twins” Pereira.

With the background out of the way, here is what we at ESC United think of Poland’s entry for Junior Eurovision 2023.

Providing their thoughts for Junior Eurovision this season: Alexandros (Greece), Yehonatan Cohen (Israel), Boris Meersman (Belgium), James Maude (Los Angeles, California), and William Carter (Dallas, Texas).

The Verdict:

Alexandros – 3 – Portugal’s entry this year displays commendable effort, offering a pleasant composition. However, the anticipation for a heightened trajectory throughout the song did not materialize into the anticipated climax. The absence of a definitive peak diminishes the overall impact, leaving the listener yearning for a more dynamic and elevated musical progression. While the attempt is noteworthy, the composition falls short of delivering the anticipated crescendo that would have added a decisive and impactful element to the overall experience.”

Boris – 3.5 – “Portugal completely missed their mark with their mediocre “anti-bullying” ballad. The subject matter is based on Júlia’s own harrowing experiences, and yet Portugal did not include her in the composition (she does not have a writing credit). Furthermore the song does not provide her with obstacles to overcome, so there is no sense of triumph or growth, vibes listeners could draw strength from.  The song was written for Júlia by adults whose M.O. appears to have been “well ain’t it sad she had to go through all this” which is the most base, condescending form of “empathy” imaginable. Regrettable as it is, bullying isn’t really that unique as a source of trauma. Tens of millions of children experience some form of it every year. The art of storytelling isn’t so much inflating a personal experience to be more about the performer (erase PickMeism NOW!), but locking onto one common but emotionally defining moment into a person’s life and having it tap into to the audience’s own experiences, making them feel special. It is a skill, but not one these “professional” Portugese songwriters appear to have mastered. The video clip mirrors my verdict, as Júlia starts off colourful, beautiful and unique, and then slowly takes off the layers of paint, becoming just as plain and ordinary like the rest of us. You’d have to ask yourself whether this song intends to challenge bullies, or praise their successes.”

James – 6 – “Contains the warmth of a song that you want to beckon you home, but not much else. It builds slowly, but doesn’t really go anyway. Though the lyrics reference air travel and heading towards a specific place, the landing never sticks, like the song is constantly circling above the airport. For a song contest, you want some sort of finality. I.e. You want Julia to make it home.”

William – 6.5 – “Júlia is still bringing the kind of effortless cool Portuguese singers have regularly brought to Junior Eurovision, and I appreciate the low key shift in energy. But this is the country that has brought us both traditional Fado and grunge hair metal since returning to the contest, and I can’t help but feel a little let down. This sounds like it could have come from anywhere. Portugal’s willingness to take big swings has been its competitive advantage at JESC, particularly with online voters. This song may be a little more jury friendly, but it’s a lot less exciting.”

Yehonatan – 8 – This is a very emotional song with such impactful lyrics. It stands out a lot among the rest of the songs and for good. This song calls for a very intimate staging that could give it a very nice result, and I hope Portugal can accomplish that.”

Total: 27.0 points (Average = 5.4)

Thriteen countries in, here are our current rankings in editor scores:

1.) France – 42.5 points (Average = 8.500)

2.) Armenia – 38.0 points (Average = 7.600)

3.) Ireland – 37.5 points (Average = 7.500)

4.) Georgia – 35.0 (Average = 7.000)

5.) North Macedonia – 34.5 points (Average = 6.900)

6.) Albania – 33.5 points (Average = 6.700)

7.) Estonia – 32.5 points (Average = 6.500)

8.) The Netherlands – 31.0 points (Average = 6.200)

9.) Germany – 30.5 points (Average = 6.100)

10.) Poland – 27.5 points (Average = 5.500)

11.) PORTUGAL – 27.0 points (Average = 5.400)

12.) Malta – 26.5 points (Average = 5.300)

13.) Italy – 23 points (Average = 4.600)

What do #YOU think of Portugal’s entry? Let us know in the comments below, on our social media, or in our forum.

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