The below editorial features the opinions and views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision or the EBU.
Yesterday was a traumatic day for a household such as mine where both Wales and Georgia are represented. In their Pool D game in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Wales crushed Georgia 43 – 14. And since Wales is currently embroiled in a betting scandal, the loss will be extra raw for Georgia, even if they made a comeback of sorts in the second half.
Now this will hardly make up for Wales coming in dead last in their Junior Eurovision debut in 2018 as they think about who they’re going to send to Gliwice-Silesia in their national final, being hosted tonight, Tuesday, September 24, 2019, on Welsh broadcaster S4C. Georgia are far more intimidating opponents in the arena of childsong than Rugby Union, having the winningest record with three victories. And Wales’s debut last place result, where all the points came from the televote, will have stung for Wales, a proud nation that has produced some of Western Civilization’s greatest musical acts from Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Bonnie Tyler, Charlotte Church, and Skindred.
Credit where it is due, Wales decided they’re coming back for a second swing at Junior Eurovision. However, this is what Giorgi Rostiashvili, winner of Ranina, Georgia’s national selection for Junior Eurovision, will look like to Wales at the moment:
Though to be fair, Rostiashvili is a daunting prospect not only for Wales. To any other kid at Junior Eurovision 2019, Rostiashvili as backed by Ethno-Jazz band Iriao or backed by a random group of lads found sniffing glue behind the bins of a local petrol station will be a terrifying prospect.
Christ Above, how are Wales supposed to beat this kid if Georgia splashes the cash on a decent song like they usually do? Well here are how Wales are going about tackling their sophomore tilt at Junior Eurovision.
The evening of September 24, 2019, will be the national selection final for Chwilio am Seren (Search for a Star). The exact same process that resulted in Manw winning the right to represent Wales at Junior Eurovision 2018.
I hope Einstein’s maxim about doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result does not hold.
As with Junior Eurovision 2018, broadcaster S4C held open auditions, and they were whittled down to about 20 acts. From there, the mentors coached the acts, paired them up if they felt they’d be good as a duet or a group, and then went on television where they were eliminated until the Grand Final, where the song would be revealed and based on their performance on that song, would be selected.
2018’s song, “Perta,” was written by Ywain Gwynedd, the lead singer of Welsh rock band Yws Gwynedd. To quote Samuel L. Jackson’s appearance in the classic Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America, “who the f%$# is this a#%&*^@?” Well I’m sure Ywain Gwynedd, a fixture of the Welsh language music scene, is not an a#%&*^@, but the writer is not overall well known and the song did not work. The aim was for “Perta” to be written in Welsh, but with lyrics where, according to Gwynedd, “my main aim was to make the words sound nice. I don’t usually tend to use sound in the way that I have in this song, but I wanted the song to be repetitive so that even a child in Azerbaijan could sing the song and make some sort of sense of it as well. Even if somebody doesn’t understand the words, at least they can say and sing the song.”
One maxim proven at Junior Eurovision 2018: Nice guys / girls finish last.
So who is writing the song for Wales for Junior Eurovision 2019? As with 2018, the song will be revealed in the national selection final, but we do know that it is called “Calon yn Curo,” which means “Heart Beating.” However this time, the writers of “Calon yn Caro” are known to the Eurovision world at large – two of the three writers in Sylvia Strand and Jon Gregory were part of Jon Lilygreen & The Islanders whose “Life Looks Better in Spring” came in 21st for Cyprus at Eurovision 2010.
Oh. B%$%#&! That maxim again: Nice guys / girls finish (near) last.
The Welsh are going to be like the gelfling in the superb Netflix prequel The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – naive innocents being led to the Skeksis so their Welsh life essence can be drained!
Oh wait, never mind. Maria Ermakova’s “Vetra” was the closest we could have gotten to a gelfling song at Junior Eurovision, but Belarus’s jury blew it at their national selection last week.
Now Manw Lili Robin who represented Wales at Junior Eurovision 2018 was not the problem with “Perta,” so whoever they get to sing “Calon yn Caro” will no doubt be among the elite of Welsh singers in the 14 years old and less bracket. And there was a time when Welsh singers were objectively among the world’s best.
Point is, we’ll have to judge the song on its merits when it comes out and not on the “nice guy” reputation of the songwriters. However, I’d have liked a change in attitude, as it seems their writer choice has set a marker for where they want the national selection winner to go. Instead of “nice,” I’d have liked no-one other than Wales to come out of Gliwice-Silesia, Poland alive.
So who is going to coach the finalists?
After the second round of non-televised auditions, three mentors oversaw the training and refinement of 20 Welsh kids. And… oh c’mon! Two of the three mentors from last year are the same! Connie Fisher and Tara Bethan return as mentors, while Lloyd Macey replaces Stifyn Parri.
Fisher is an actress and singer who has made a career out of playing Maria Von Trapp from The Sound of Music, while Bethan is another musical theater veteran who also recorded several Welsh language songs. Macey is a 25-year-old singer who made it to the Semi-Finals of X Factor.
Same thing, second time, different result expected… etc.
Coached by JESC newcomer mentor Macey, Sophie has great stage presence and can hold a note like she and her father can hold a bow and arrow. She tried out in 2018, but made it to the final this time. Sophie is a likely televote favorite due to her humble roots and very likeable, charming family.
Now here is an inspirational story – for all you hear about stepmothers, Carys’s saw that she was lacking confidence despite possessing raw talent and decided to enter Carys for Voice of the Valley, which after her victory led her to audition for the Wales national selection. She is completely self-taught, but give her something bombastic and some training, Wales could have the next Destiny Chukunyere on its hands. If Rostiashvili is Ivan Drago, could Carys be Wales’s Rocky Balboa?
Plus points for Erin – she is very comfortable in both English and Welsh, and as we saw in the semi-finals of Chiwilio am Seren, is very expressive facially and with gestures when singing in a language that 99.9% of Europe will not understand. Mastering two languages with the 60/40 language rule at Junior Eurovision and being able to communicate the emotions of your song while knowing your audience doesn’t understand the specific words are two winning skills.
The five piece girl group The Minis made it to the final, also coached by Macey. It is hard to comment on their prospects as they don’t seem as experienced as some of the groups we’ve seen at national selections thus far (see The Monkey Tops from Belarus), but Macey could coach them to a winning and cohesive performance tonight.
Another self-taught young singer who took a stab at the S4C auditions to boost her flagging self-confidence and found herself in the national final. Perhaps she did not expect to get to the final, but she came out of her shell at every stage. Will she be ready at the final, though, to take on more confident and more accomplished youth singers? Don’t bet against her.
Mackenzie & Rhiannon
Bethan actually coached Mackenzie and Rhiannon separately, but for the final combined the two into a duet. This could be an inspired choice. Bethan has to have something up her sleeve for the final, because in watching these two it is hard to imagine how these two could work together. If Bethan gets these two polar opposites to play off of each other effectively, well not to jinx it but, we could have potential victors in Gliwice-Silesia. The idea of a washed up pretty boy playing a cowboy doing a duet with a down-on-her-confidence Lady Gaga on the soundtrack of a remake-of-a-remake-of-a-remake-of-a-remake and making one of the biggest hits of the 2010s seemed ridiculous, so hopefully Bethan thinks Gregory and Strand’s song lends itself to the junior version of “In the Shallow.” Okay, this may be hyperbole, but I am excited to hear where Bethan is leading these two.
It seemed like I was poo-pooing Wales’s chances earlier, but in looking at the six finalists, there is some talent in that pool to make the argument that with the right song, Wales could launch themselves into the top half where, based on their history, is where they belong.
And there’s quite a few Georgians in the household where I’d love to add Junior Eurovision to Rugby Union as areas where Wales crushes it and I can troll them about it..
Who do #YOU think has a shot at taking Wales to glory at JESC? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum.