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 10 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 review JESC debutant Estonia. They’re an unexpected house guest for 2023, but unlike most unexpected guests, we extend a warm welcome to the Balkan nation on their surprise visit and hope that it becomes an extended stay.

Estonia’s History at Junior Eurovision:

There is none. When the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced the list of 16 participants on August 29, 2023, observers were shocked to see Estonia’s name considering they had never been linked to the contest before or had even expressed interest.

Before Junior Eurovision 2023:

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR), Estonia’s main broadcaster, announced on August 29, 2023 that they were participating at Junior Eurovision 2023.

On the same day, ERR announced that they had internally selected Arhanna Sandra Arbma to represent Estonia at Junior Eurovision 2023 with “Hoiame kokku.”

Sorry to the more hipster Eurovision fans, but no junior version of Eesti Laul for you!

The Artist:

11-year-old Arhanna Sandra Arbma hails from the small town of Räpina and attends its prestigious music school, where she is being trained in piano and vocals.

ERR selected Arhanna after she won the televised children’s talent show, Tähtede Lava.

The Song:

“Hoiame Kokku” (“Staying Together”) is a ballad about the value of a good friend, that being in a funk and having a friend to help you is paramount, as is being that good friend in a time of need.

Piano student Arhanna had a hand in the composition of this ballad, which she co-wrote with Karl-Ander Reismann.

Eesti Laul nerds will recognize that name, considering ten songs written by him have ended up in no less than four editions of that venerable Estonian national selection. He also co-wrote Stefan’s “Hope,” which won Eesti Laul and placed 13th at Eurovision 2022. Familiar names to have performed his songs at Eesti Laul include Inger, Ott Lepland, Uku Suviste, and Merilin Malk.

Lyrics were co-written by Rael Laikre and Leelo Tungal. You will recognize co-lyricist Rael Laikre: she is the girl featured as Arhanna’s friend in the music video for “Hoiame Kokku.”

Leelo Tungal is a famous Estonian children’s book author and poet who has won just about every prize in European children’s literature, including the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2018 and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2010. Tungal also wrote the lyrics for Estonia’s Eurovision 1994 entry, Silvi Vrait’s “Nagu merelaine.”

With the background out of the way, here is what we at ESC United think of Estonia’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 – 6 – The ballad captivated my appreciation, particularly due to its well-crafted progression. A notable highlight was the utilization of the Estonian language, adding a distinctive and authentic layer to the composition. The culmination of the piece, marked by a crescendo towards the conclusion, elicited an emotional response, delivering a poignant and memorable experience. The strategic incorporation of language and the meticulously executed crescendo exemplify the song’s artistic merit, making it a standout entry with a nuanced and resonant impact.”

Boris – 5.5 – “Man, I wish Estonia’s debut was better. Arhanna wrote her own song with the help of Karl-Ander Reismann and we wound up with one of his typical ballads. Sadly, “Hoiame kokku” is less in line with his best ballad (Merilin Malk’s “Little girl”) than he and Arhanna would have hoped. “Hoiame Kokku” is mostly basic and unmemorable. Discerning what it’s about by somply listening and watching the movie clip is challenging. It begs the question whether the target audience (which should always be children and adolescents) genuinely enjoy listening to songs such as these. I will Estonia give half a bonus point for Arhanna’s direct involvement in the composition of her own song however, which is something I’m hoping to see from EVERY broadcaster going forward.”

James – 7.5 – “A solid piano ballad with a sweet and earnest performance from a major up-and-coming talent, that is paced well and builds to a memorable ending without going overboard. If they can sell the friendship aspect of the lyrics in the staging, they should be able to do well despite this being a type of song that kids may not gravitate to, but their parents will. A great debut, and I also look forward to seeing Arhanna at Eesti Laul in a few years.”

William – 6.5 – “Awww this is sweet. Hard to go wrong with a sweeping, earnest ballad from a big-voiced belter, and ARHANNA has the vocal chops to deliver. She does come across a little bit camera shy in the music video, so I’m hoping we don’t see those nerves flare up on stage.”

Yehonatan – 7 – I missed hearing the Estonian language in a Eurovision environment, and this song definitely delivers on that. It’s a shame the last chorus is in English because the Estonian language elevates it from being a good ballad into an entry you should really pay attention to.”

Total: 32.5 points (Average = 6.500)

We have 13 more entries to go, and Armenia retains the lead with an average of 7.6. However, an average of 6.5 from an age and geographically diverse group such as ESC United’s is not nothing and indicates that Arhanna should at least find some sizeable support to place well for Estonia this year.

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

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

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

3.) ESTONIA – 32.5 points (Average = 6.500)

What do #YOU think of Arhanna’s entry and Estonia’s debut for Junior Eurovision? Let us know in the comments below, on our social media, or in our forum.

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