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 1 day to go until Junior Eurovision 2022, and we are counting down the 16 nations who are participating in Yerevan, Armenia on Sunday, December 11, 2022.
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 Ukraine, the adults’ defending champions, but whose kids have also performed at the junior version over the years.
Ukraine’s history at Junior Eurovision:
Ukraine debuted at Junior Eurovision 2006 with Nazar Slyusarchuk’s “Хлопчик рок ‘н’ ролл” (“Boy rock ‘n roll”). It had a goofy charm despite being a bit of a mess of disco with an electric organ in a song title with “rock ‘n roll” in it?
Victoria Petryk came in 2nd in 2007 with “Матроси” (“Sailors”), an appropriate song as she was from the port city of Odessa, Ukraine. Her performance had backing dancers doing a routine to mimic day-to-day ship chores. An odd choice. As was the rap part at the bridge, and then the tempo shifting last third. It’s a memorable entry, not least because it leaves you as much out of breath as Victoria did performing this crazy song.
After a last place in 2010 (Yulia Gurska’s bizarre ballet dancers on a funk song with a piano solo entry “Мій літак” (“My Plane”)) and a couple other middling results, Victoria’s younger sister Anastasiya did one better and won Junior Eurovision 2012 with “Небо” (“Sky”), which dabbled with dubstep after the second verse. A surprise in a bombastic ballad such as this and the low notes she can hit.
Sofia Tarasova came in 2nd in 2013 with “We are one,” but since then it’s been middle of the pack for Ukraine. Darina Krasnovetska bucked that trend in 2018, though, coming in 4th with “Say Love.”
Despite a lot of pre-contest critical praise, Sophia Ivanko came in 15th at Junior Eurovision 2019 with “The Spirit of Music.” It is Ukraine’s lowest placing, though their 14th place in 2010 is technically worse as it was last place that year.
Oleksandr Balabanov improved by coming in 7th in 2020 with “Vidkryvai (Open Up).” Olena Usenko’s “Vazhil” came in 6th in 2021.
Before Junior Eurovision 2022:
Ukrainian broadcaster Suspilne held a national final, and per usual, it had some variation on the finals held before.
This time there was an online vote for who could be one of three jurors for the national selection. Out of ten possible choices of Ukrainian musicians and producers and other luminaries, Ukrainian online voters picked Khrystyna Soloviy as the head juror, with a jury panel of Myroslava Saliy and Anzhelika Rudnytska.
The final took place on September 18, 2022 in Kiev, with five performances for the jury and online voters to consider. Sofia Artemenko & DJ Polinka’s “Zamovliannia” won the online vote and came in second with the jury. Zlata Dziunka’s “Nezlamna (Unbreakable)” came in second with the online vote and won the jury.
Per the selection’s tie-breaker rules, they went back to the jury, with two jurors of the three voting for Dziunka.
14-year-old Zlata Dziunka is a formidable competitor, and Junior Eurovision 2022 will be old hat to her as she has years of experience competing in singing and instrument competitions.
She placed highly at numerous international festivals, including Prague Art Festival (Czech Republic), Zvaigzdziu Sonata 2022 (Lithuania), and Vistula Sounds 2022 (Poland).
She also plays the ukelele, and as with most the Ukrainian kids these days, is a walking encyclopedia of blues, jazz and soul.
“Nezlamna (Unbreakable)” was co-written by Dziunka, continuing the Ukrainian tradition of having the kids involved into the composition process at Junior Eurovision.
Dziunka wrote “Nezlamna (Unbreakable)” with Kateryna Sereda.
With the background out of the way, here is what we at ESC United think of Ukraine’s entry for Junior Eurovision 2022.
Providing their thoughts for Junior Eurovision this season: Alice Christine (Washington, D.C.), Boris Meersman (Belgium), Gianluca D’Elia (New York City, New York), James Maude (Los Angeles, California), Roy Postema (The Netherlands), William Carter (Dallas, Texas), and Zephaniah Gabriel (The Philippines).
Alice – 7 – “A hard-hitting and emotional ballad about resilience.”
Boris – 7 – “I’m a bit mixed here. On one end, the politics. Sure, we can’t *expect* Ukraine to ignore their current situation but the EBU really should strive towards keeping JESC as neutral as possible. I’m surprised they’ve allowed sentences such as “why does our generation die young in this war?” slide. On the other end we have the music which I admittedly, like very much. “Nezlamma” inherently possesses a lot of raw jazz power, which it keeps accumulating as the song progresses and then discharges in a powerful finale. If we had to include a protest song of the sorts in these times, best make it one that leaves a mark and Ukraine have done just that. I would give this a higher mark if it had been fully in Ukrainian though.”
Gianluca – 7 – “The lyrics of this song were beautiful and so heartfelt. Instrumentally, I felt like it could have been more interesting. However, I believe this song will make for a truly beautiful and compelling performance. While some fans might call it out as political, I appreciate that this is a song from the heart about real life. At a musical event that puts children at the forefront, the insight we’re offered into a 13-year-old’s experience living through an invasion of her country is valuable and important to hear.”
James – 7.5 – “First off, I have no time for the “Dis is Politics!” crowd howling about Zlata singing about war. Where were their complaints when Boggie did a war number back in 2015? And second, considering the trauma inflicted on kids from war in general, it would be disingenuous for Zlata to come in and sing a ukelele track about a dog named Raffles. This song is not “We don’t wanna Put In,” and really this is all distracting from what is a solid, competent ballad that seems more of a fit for the adult version. At 14, Zlata is shaping up to be a formidable singer and is likely to get support purely from the strength of performance alone (assuming her live performance goes well on the day). The song hews too much to a formula, even down to the explosive finale, but it’s solid.”
Roy – 5.5 – “Awesome lyrics, but the ballad’s instrumentation and structure is just a bit too tame and basic for my likings. The final chorus added a lot to the song after the revamp and it lends itself wonderfully for a big staging moment!”
William – 7 – “Zlata’s not playing around with these vocals! Yes, ma’am! She’s a pretty charismatic performer in general, or at least that’s the impression I get from the music video. There’s a couple of sonically and energetically similar songs competing this year, and I might prefer them just a tad. This is still really solid, though, if not totally as audacious as I might like.”
Zephaniah – 9.5 – “Is this pop rock and gospel? Because it seems like it is. This sounds powerful and I like how this song is done and the vocal arrangement towards the end of the song is amazing.”
Total: 50.5 points (Average = 7.214)
Ukraine comes into the middle of our pack, with most reviewers not straying far from the 7 point mark.
1.) Serbia – 60.5 POINTS (Average = 8.643)
2.) The Netherlands – 58 points (Average = 8.286)
3.) Ireland – 56 points (Average = 8.0)
4.) Italy – 55.5 points (Average = 7.926)
5.) Armenia – 54.5 points (Average = 7.786)
6.) Georgia – 52.5 points (Average = 7.5)
7.) France – 52 points (Average = 7.428)
8.) UKRAINE – 50.5 points (Average = 7.214)
9.) North Macedonia – 48.5 points (Average = 6.929)
10.) Poland – 47.5 points (Average = 6.786)
11.) Portugal – 46 POINTS (Average = 6.571)
12.) Kazakhstan – 45 points (Average = 6.429)
13.) Albania – 42.5 points (Average = 6.071)
14.) Spain – 41.5 points (Average = 5.926)
15.) Malta – 38.5 points (Average = 5.5)
What do #YOU think of Ukraine’s entry? Do #YOU think Ukraine has a shot at victory, or is this another middle of the pack entry? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum.