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 4 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 Malta, a country that has developed a reputation for excellence at this contest despite its small size and relatively average performance at the adult version (let’s in fact just outright forget about the adults’ national selections for 2023 and 2024).

Malta’s history at Junior Eurovision:

Malta’s history can be neatly divided into three periods: pre-withdrawal, post-withdrawal, and post-Destiny funk. Malta were one of the nations in the first contest and plodded along uneventfully – a 4th place in Daniel Testa’s “Junior Swing” aside – in the lower tiers until they withdrew in 2011 and 2012.

But when Malta came back, they came back with a vengeance. Gaia Cauchi’s “The Start” was an appropriate name for their return in 2013, as it was the start of six consecutive top half finishes, including two wins, with “The Start” being the first.

Most importantly for Malta, Cauchi is one of two Junior Eurovision winners for her country who looks best set for a music career in adulthood. Cauchi exemplifies what you want out of this contest – a platform that helps launch a future star.

The other winner for Malta, however, may eclipse her. Destiny Chukunyere not only raised Malta’s profile in a Eurovision contest, she also raised the profile of Junior Eurovision itself with her stunning performance in “Not my soul.” Destiny would then go on to represent Malta at Eurovision 2021, delivering the Mediterranean nation’s best result since 2005 by coming in 7th.

Ela Mangion came in 5th in 2018, but discovered televoters could be as harsh to the Mediterranean nation as they are towards Australia. “Marchin’ On” was 2nd in the jury vote with 138 points, but only got 43 points from the televotes.

Unfortunately, it got worse for Malta in 2019 as Eliana Gomez Blanco came in 19th and last place with “We Are More,” a cruel result for a performer many pundits predict will go on to have a successful career once she hits adulthood. Chanel Monseigneur’s “Chasing Sunsets” did slightly better, coming in 8th out of 12 at Junior Eurovision 2020. Ike and Kaya then came in 12th at Junior Eurovision 2021.

Unfortunately, Malta got last place for the third time at Junior Eurovision 2022 with Gaia Gambuzza’s “Diamonds in the Skies.”

Before Junior Eurovision 2023:

Malta opted for another variant of its Malta Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2023 selection, whereby acts were required to submit two cover songs.

Malta’s Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) selected 24 young hopefuls to perform. The 24 were split into two semi-finals of 12 (broadcast on July 22, 2023 and July 29, 2023).

12 of the 24 were selected to advance to the Grand Final: 80% of the vote was by a five member jury, and 20% by an online vote done after a recap episode of all 24 acts was shown on August 5, 2023.

The Grand Final was held on August 12, 2023, with again the vote split into 80% by jury and 20% by online vote. The jury panel consisted of Claudia Faniello (Malta’s Eurovision 2017 representative) and Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2023 finalists MATT BLXCK and Ryan Hili.

Yulan Law triumphed with her cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection,” while Daylin Cassar Randich came in 2nd and Dawn Desira came in 3rd.

The Artist:

For all the derision the adults are getting these days, you can’t say that Malta does not prepare its singing youth to be seasoned pros. And 13-year-old Yulan Law is no exception.

Yulan was a finalist on Malta’s inaugural Malta’s Got Talent in 2020, and was runner-up on Malta’s The Voice Kids earlier this year (Dawn Desira, who came 3rd in the national selection, actually won that contest).

Yulan told the EBU that as well as fulfilling musical ambitions, she wishes to pursue a career as a doctor.

The Song:

“Stronger” is what fans in the Eurovision community would call a “self-belief ballad.” Lyrics are of the “pick ourselves up, fight battles together and triumph” ilk.

Yulan herself has a lyrics and composition credit for “Stronger,” and she is supported by a Swedish songwriting team.

John-Emil Johansson is a writer and producer who has worked with Eurovision 2015 winner Måns Zelmerlöw and Ebba Knutsson. Sandra Wikström is a pop and R&B singer who placed 5th in Swedish Idol in 2013.

Isak Alvedahl is a young Swedish singer, pianist and songwriter with a few published credits of his own. And finally, like Alvedahl, Elise Hedengren is a recent music school graduate who is trying to further their career as a singer-songwriter.

With the background out of the way, here is what we at ESC United think of Malta’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 – This dynamic ballad not only boasts musical prowess but also exhibits the essential elements for a compelling staging in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. The artist’s stage presence, prominently showcased in the video clip, establishes her as a charismatic protagonist, capturing the viewer’s attention with a commanding presence. The seamless integration of visual storytelling and musical narrative sets the stage for a potential standout performance.”

Boris – 3 – “Malta’s song is a pet hate of mine. Sure, Yulan has co-composed her song and that’s definitely a positive. The other four composers however? SWEDES. And as you can expect from simply looking at the title and the composers, “Stronger” is filled with empty platitudes and cliche’s, about how “we must emerge stronger” (from WHAT?) simulating depth and relevance where there is none to be found. Rolling my eyes HEAVILY at this song, which sounds more like an ad for Live Aid.”

James – 4 – “Multiple key changes, almost brown bass notes, and a fake choral backing are just three of the elements that grind my gears in this overthought, overproduced, and over-stuffed entry. They also leave Yulan in a lot of danger, because if she does not give it her all for every second she will get lost. As for the lyrics, they have to be the weakest of JESC 2023, as if the writers wandered into HomeGoods and wrote down slogans they saw on inspirational kitchen decorations there. As with Gomez Blanco in 2019, I fear Malta have landed a great singer with a duff song and the ignominy of a low placing that will most certainly not be Yulan’s fault.”

William – 6 – “Yulan’s vocal is NEXT LEVEL, and it’s Malta so we know she’ll be able to sing this live. The Maltese always can. Dare I say this sounds a little … overproduced? There’s a great entry in here, but it’s buried underneath gospel choirs, unnecessary key changes, and an overbearing music track. I’m not a believer, but Yulan could sell me with the live performance.”

Yehonatan – 7.5 – I have many mixed feelings about this entry. The verses are absolutely brilliant, and Yulan is genuinely one of the best singers in the competition, but the chorus feels a little too uninspired in parts. Still, overall, it’s very powerful and definitely a jury favorite to watch for.”

Total Points: 26.5 points (Average = 5.300)

In aggregate, we at ESC United gave Malta a 5.3 average, which is not the worst score yet. Our editors feel that Yulan herself is the selling point while she is let down by the composition.

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

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

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

8.) MALTA – 26.5 points (Average = 5.300)

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

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

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