The below editorial features the opinions and views of the quoted reviewer and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision or the EBU.

This Saturday, September 23, 2023, The Netherlands will decide who will represent them at Junior Eurovision 2023 in Nice, France.

The contest’s only ever-presents gave a great account of themselves in 2019 and 2020, when Matheu Hinzen and Unity came in 4th in both years with “Dans met jou” and “Best Friends,” respectively. But in 2021, the formula unexpectedly flopped, with Ayana’s “Mata Sugu Aō Ne” finishing in 19th and last place. This was the Netherlands’ only ever last place finish. In 2022, Luna brought the party and a top half finish (7th) with “La festa.”

Regardless of position, broadcaster AVROTROS is confident with their approach these past few years and is again persisting with Junior Songfestival, its national selection where solo and group acts are assembled from a batch of a dozen kids and paired with songs from the same writer pool of Hansen Thomas, Simon Gitsels, Didier de Ruyter, Kirsten Michel and Robert Dorn.

Again, the vote will be split into three: an adult jury, a kids’ jury, and the televote. Soy Kroon joins Sosha Duysker and Meau in the adult jury. The show will be hosted by Matheu Hinzen (JESC 2019) and Stefania (JESC 2016 and Eurovision 2021 for Greece).

And as ESC United did last year, we assembled some staff to offer our own opinions and recommendations for whom The Netherlands should send to Junior Eurovision 2022. This year’s ESC United panel is Oklahoma editor, interviewer and writer Connor Terry, Yorkshire’s own California based writer James Maude, France’s Arnaud Abadie, and Israel’s Yehonatan Cohen.

Now assembled, let’s see what this Voltron of barely professional Eurovision reviewers thinks of the Dutch entries, in order of performance at this year’s Junior Songfestival.

Duron – “Magic”

Arnaud – 8.5 – “Very dynamic, dancy and catchy. Duron has a good voice which is promising for the live performance, and I could see Magic making its way to Nice this year, but the competition is tight this year! This is the only song in the selection that is (almost) in full Dutch and we even have some rap, so it gets points for that.”

Connor – 5 – “I’m digging the retro synth opening to this song but then it flips into a very bleh structure for the verse – enjoy the bridges and chorus, though I wish they were bigger. I’m getting a feeling that this is one of those songs where the artist has to bring the song to life live, because the studio doesn’t do it justice. Definitely has potential to grow.”

James – 6 – “A fun and funky number that is hampered by some cheap touches – the samples in the chorus, for instance and some choreography for teens that exaggerates the dancers’ pre-teen gangliness – but lifted by a charismatic young singer who seems to occupy the screen with an effortless cool, a skill you expect him to transfer to a stage as well. This song needs work, but a couple of changes and this could equal or better “Dans met Jou.””

Yehonatan – 5.5 – “This is probably the song with the most potential in the selection to become a contender in JESC, despite it not being my favorite of the selection as of now. It has some real catchy parts like the pre-chorus, which suspiciously reminds me of the pre-chorus of Loreen’s “Tattoo”, but at the same time, the chorus itself isn’t as impactful as I’d want it to be from that build. Solid effort overall for a demo version.”

Total: 25.0 points (Average = 6.25)

Flare – “Side by Side”

Arnaud – 4 – “Very cute song and melody, their voices go really well together, such a typical JESC song. But it’s not memorable enough to do well in JESC 2023 for me. The song doesn’t build up or gets stronger towards the end and keeps up the cute vibe for 3 minutes. Still, their live vocals could sell the song.”

Connor – 4 – “The traditional all female feel good song is here, but it doesn’t pack the same punch as some of the previous female groups. In fact this feels a bit too laid back, as in it could easily fade into the background. Or be forgotten in a recap. It lacks a hook but the girls’ voices sound beautiful together – hard to make work.”

James – 5 – “It’s all a bit flat, like the intro for a kids sitcom. It lacks a “wow!” moment or an explosive finale, and based on little flourishes from each of the three girls here and there, they are capable of a show stopper. Instead of “side by side,” someone needs to take the lead and build this to an exciting end. There’s nothing ultimately wrong with this track, it’s just a little forgettable.”

Yehonatan – 4 – “I want this song to take a stand more than it currently does. On one hand, it’s trying to be a fun pop song, but it’s not engaging enough to hook you into it. On the other hand, it leans heavily on the girls’ vocals and harmonies, but the song doesn’t allow them to showcase them enough. That mix doesn’t work very well for me, unfortunately.”

Total: 17.0 points (Average = 4.25)

JOY! – “Better Together!”

Arnaud – 8 – “Oh-woah-woah-woah, very catchy. Compared to Flare, the other girl group in Junior Songfestival 2023, Better Together sounds way more modern and more original. Joy! is very charismatic and seem to be able to pull out a dynamic performance. We have lovely harmonies and dance moves, maybe a good recipe to go to Nice. And we have a KEY CHANGE! And who doesn’t love a key change in Eurovision / Junior Eurovision?”

Connor – 9 – “Okay the group is aptly named, this kind of a song brings joy to me as a listener. I’m even willing to overlook the repetitious “Oh oh oh” because it’s got the right blend of joy, dance, excitement, and it’s so kid friendly. Of our four entries this sounds the most like the joy that the Dutch have sent in prior years!”

James – 9 – “For those who prefer a JESC that is aimed more at kids rather than preteens or teens, and aimed at celebrating what should be the highlights of childhood rather than the awkward transition to adulthood, then this song is for you. It’s lively, joyful, has three charismatic kids and several moments in the song where there’s potential for audience engagement (some clapping at the bridge, for instance). Sure, you can argue it’s a little too calculated (the key change!), but for your average JESC punter this will be a fun and catchy three minute banger that I am sure will land in many a televoters’ top three and contains several checks on the jury clipboard.”

Yehonatan – 6.5 – “This is a joyful entry that definitely lives up to the band’s name, and that chorus is one hell of a guilty pleasure. It can come across as a bit tacky in parts, but it is just a bundle of energy and happiness. Given a good performance, this could really be something in JESC.”

Total: 32.5 points (Average = 8.125)

Sep & Jasmijn – “Holding On To You”

Arnaud – 9 – “Wow electronic music! That is kinda rare in JESC, and I’m here for it. I instantly can picture an insane light show for the live performance. The prechorus is really catchy and the chorus is powerful, reminds me of Avicii’s music. It feels fresh to have a love/friend relation told through electronic music and not through a piano ballad or whatever. Also, thank god this is not another girl-singing/boy-rapping duo.”

Connor – 8 – “Holy crap their song has the level of oomph that I’ve come to expect from songfestival as of late. This is a full dance bop and will capture the attention of the crowd. I like that it has levels and clear dynamics, and that bridge before the chorus to showcase the tenderness of their voice. Could be a fun and memorable entry live!”

James – 6.5 – “The choice of Red Sox jacket for Sep is a bad one because as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan I just want to push him into whatever body of water he’s pining for Jasmijn in front of. And yes, us adults in the Pittsburgh fandom can be petty that way. There is a teen awkwardness to this entry that is compelling, but it is also a little too-EDM from the last decade to make it compelling enough for kids in 2023 to vote for it in droves. It has all the “bass drops” that ESC United’s Dutch correspondent Roy Postema can hope for, but it is also a song more fitting for when Roy was himself a kid.”

Yehonatan – 6 – “The award for the most adult-like song goes to this one in this selection. It has the most modern production, and that drop sits in place perfectly. I’m afraid this will be a hard song to stage for kids, so it will be hard to decide how this one will fare before the live performance, but as a studio version, it works well.”

Total: 29.5 points (Average = 7.375 points)

Right, so who does ESC United think AVROTROS should pick to represent The Netherlands at Junior Eurovision 2023? Here is the final tally of points for all four entries:

  1. JOY! – “Better Together!” – 32.5 points (Average = 8.125)
  2. Sep & Jasmijn – “Holding On To You” – 29.5 points (Average = 7.375)
  3. Duron – “Magic” – 25.0 points (Average = 6.25)
  4. Flare – “Side by Side” – 17.0 points (Average = 4.25)

So in our view, JOY! handily wins ESC United’s nomination to win Junior Songfestival 2023 and represent The Netherlands at Junior Eurovision 2023. We shall see this evening if the country itself agrees.

Anyway, tune in at around 17:00 local time to watch Junior Songfestival 2023 on AVROTROS and see who ultimately prevails.

Do #YOU agree with our editors’ recommendation of song or singer? Share your thoughts below, in our forum, or in the comments below.

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