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 Friday, September 25, 2020, Russia will decide who they’re going to send to Junior Eurovision 2020. As with last year, the national selection will be 50% jury and 50% online vote, though this year Russia will look to improve on last year’s 13th place, the duet of Tatyana Mezhentseva and Denberel Oorzhak and “A Time for Us.” This year’s contestants will hopefully not have Oorzhak’s bad luck of being hospitalized at the Junior Eurovision finals either.

We have eleven hopefuls, and as we did last year, the team of ESC United and a random goon will review the entries and let you know who we think should represent Russia at Junior Eurovision 2020.

The ESC United rogues’ gallery plus one is represented by: ESC United’s social media guru, podcaster and up-to-date cataloguer of ESC alumni songs Connor Terry (Oklahoma!), ESC United Instagram account manager Melanie Otto (The Netherlands), ESC United writer, historian and economist James Maude (Yorkshire), and our guest contributor is former music journalist, DJ, and curator of classic rock and jazz Gerald Bergen (Philadelphia).

Now assembled, let’s hear what opinions and scores out of ten the hive of villainy at ESC United and its Philly ringer can profer.

Arseny Slesarev – “Chto ty nadelala, baby?” (Что ты наделала, baby?)

Connor – 6 – “This song pulls off the jazzy groove vibe that Gennady’s song was going for, and creates a modern and cool sound out of it. He’s also got a really interesting voice that reminds me of Loic Nottet of Belgium – a very high timbre that has power and draws you in. As the song goes on it gets a tad bit boring because it’s the same melody and motif over and over, but I’d at least listen to it again. Hopefully he breaks into the industry at some point, I think he definitely has potential as an artist!”

James – 2 – “’90s R&B clashes with 2010s funk-lite and farty trumpet effects in what is a dismal mess. The English parts are a smattering of Cosmopolitan magazine headlines like “Free yourself and live your best life.” If I rambled these things to a girl in my old high school I’d only have one kidney and my Chevrolet Camaro would have been upside down and on fire in the canal (setting things on fire while the object is in a canal isn’t called Brighouse Pyromancy for nothing). Anyway, Arseny sounds like a game lad, but it’s JESC and not a venue for cruising for chicks, son.”

Melanie – 6 – “Bruno Mars, Move Over! Because Russia has Arseny Slesarev! The trumpet intro
immediately makes this song stand out of the bunch. Sadly, it’s also the most interesting part of this song. It just makes some kind of schwung in the beat to make this song as swinging as it should be. The song has just too much a “Look-I-Am-Cool” vibe, that makes it less approachable. The huge English part in this song also partially cooperates in this. Hopefully Arseny can save this with a great choreography, so this song can open up a bit.”

Gerald -1 – “Bel Biv Devoe wants their backing track back. But paired with a shrill synthesizer trumpet, and a chorus which was all English but was unintelligible all the same, Arseny should have his entry locked into a safe, then have the safe dropped into the middle of the Aral Sea…or what’s left of it. Baby.”

Total: 15 (Average = 3.75)

Artem Fokin – “Vozmi moyu ruku” (Возьми мою руку)

Connor – 9 – “This is another song that sounds like it came from a seasoned professional in the Russian music industry today. And my goodness his vocal range! Artyom has a really surprising amount of range to his voice, and I love how easily he flips between his normal voice and falsetto in the bridge for those high notes. If he can pull off those operatic like runs, which according to his performances on The Voice Kids he can, then I think he might run off with the trophy! Also I’m not super well versed in the back catalogue of JESC but this could be one of the first pop-opera songs we end up with in the contest I believe!”

James – 7 – “One of the problems of the domination of Dimash on Russian TV is that every potential crooner will come up short in comparison. And though Artem hits the high notes very well and displays impressive range, you kind of wish he’d pick a lane, and have a more focused song written to his specific strengths rather than this smorgasbord of a – dare I say it – Dimash-esque track. I suspect he’d have more fun with it, too (recall the sheer joy and cockiness 2003 winner Dino Jelusic got away with on his still technically impressive yet focused ballad). And as great as Artem is, I don’t think the kids will rally around his entry in significant numbers for it to do well.”

Melanie – 5 – “The epic ballad we all were waiting for. It builds really great, but I have the feeling that
this song doesn’t showcase his vocal ability very well. He sounds too forced in the chorus, which makes it not pleasant for me to listen to. Sadly, in the last 30 seconds of the song, Artem finally shines when he hits that operatic voice. Maybe if the song started with that part, it would have grabbed me earlier. Now he just shines too late.”

Gerald – 6 – “The problem with having young boys sing in a higher register isn’t the present: just the idea that if this song becomes popular, it’s not going to be readily replicable later on in life. So poor Mr. Fokin, trying to replicate his potential hit in “Take My Hand” in a decade or so has to drop a few registers and will most likely sound a lot more like David Hasselhoff on yet another Berlin Wall tour than his current angelic-ish vocals. But he’s got chops in the now, so he’s in the Top 3 for me.”

Total: 27 (Average = 6.75)

Artem Morozov – “Leti” (Лети)

Connor – 7 – ““Another formed participant from The Voice Kids not to be confused with the other Artyom also from The Voice Kids. This is definitely not as successful of a song, but its a very close call. “Leti” allows Artyom to show off his voice and vocal ability without needing a massive electro beat to
drive the song. It reminds me a bit of the draw that Kazakhstan’s song had last year. I also enjoy
the 80’s ballad guitar moments that pop up here and there.”

James – 5 – “Excuse me, manager of this moderately charming lakeside Moldovan steakhouse, it appears that the balladeer you have performing tonight is surely too young and running afoul of your local labor laws. No doubt this young lad is very talented, but surely to perform this sort of song Artyom needs to age 40 years, have had three divorces and two jail stints like all the other steakhouse crooners from this region. As a showcase of this young man’s vocal talents this song definitely succeeds, but who is this song for? Certainly not Artyom’s contemporaries, and shouldn’t the spirit of JESC be about songs not just by kids but for kids, too?”

Melanie – 4 – “The intro of this song already turns me off. It just sounds like a typical Dutch song, but sung in Russian. But probably I’m the only one who thinks this. I really love the transition between the chorus and the verses, but that’s about it. I feel that Artyom is really trying to deliver this song, but somehow it just doesn’t reach me.”

Gerald – 4 – “If a good bit of your general demeanor could be described as “overbearingly smug” as a child, you might have an image (and “winning hearts and minds”) problem, but the song does have a noticeable level of restraint built into it. It’s complementing without completely overpowering.”

Total: 20 (Average = 5.00)

Genych / Gennady Pereverdiyev – “Nastroyeniye Panda” (Настроение Панда)

Connor – 4 – ““Okay I’ll give this song some credit here – it’s VERY different….but in the wrong way. While I can appreciate the direction this song was trying to move in, the track is extremely rudimentary
and almost sounds like it’s still in demo form. A jazzy influenced song is not something I would ever expect to hear from Russia in the contest and now that I’ve heard it, I think we should stick with Russia pop songs.”

James – 4 – “This sounds like a naff off-cut from the 1990 TV Soundtrack album The Simpsons Sing the Blues, but instead of “Do the Bartman” it’s “Do the Gennady.” Not sure what “Eat My Shorts” is in Russian, or whatever the hell a “Mood Panda” is in English, though. If JESC fans couldn’t rap their mind around the elegantly crafted kid jazz of Giorgi Rostiashvili’s “We Need Love” at JESC 2019, then this more simplistic number with a cryptic animal title is in for a worse fate.”

Melanie – 5 – “As an huge collector of stuffed panda bears, I was sooo happy to see a song about pandas in this national selection. It’s like a dream come true and I think there must be more songs about pandas at Junior Eurovision! But the song itself is something what I expect to hear in a TV show about the zoo or a musical at the zoo. That’s also the reason why I don’t think it would suit the Eurovision stage, but I can’t wait to see the staging at the national final. Hopefully someone will accompany Gennady on stage in a panda costume!”

Gerald – 3 – “Well, this little blonde-haired moppet takes those weird synthesizer horns that Comrade Slesarev couldn’t do a thing with and…well, turns it into half a loaf.  He’s present for the song, which can’t be said for a lot of the performers. Also, the press pictures of him wearing a tiny tuxedo with a bowtie with that waterfall of hair on his head is conjuring up images of comedian Steve Martin doing his “Wild And Ca-razy Guy!” routine. Incidentally, I hope that the song title wasn’t a mistranslation: I’m hoping there’s a Chinese panda on display at the Moscow Zoo who is in fact a barometer for the level of comradeship between Russia and China. A real Mood Panda, as it were. I’m going to give him a low score, but I suspect his non-vocal qualities for all of the women out there is going to put him in at least the middle of the pack for voting.”

Total: 16 (Average = 4.00)

LittleZ – “Pervaya lyubov” (Первая любовь)

Connor – 5 – “This reminds me of the entries in JESC from like 2015 and earlier, cute and fun and less
produced and adult sounding (that’s not me complaining). I think this song might not fare well in this line up because there are so many well-produced tracks that can drown it out. I’m also super disappointed that they didn’t write any harmonies into the song’s chorus despite it being two singers.”

James – 6 – “Former ESC United correspondent Zack Kerr often spoke of the identity of JESC shifting away from a contest for kids to one of a contest where kids perform songs of the adults they aspire to be. In Christian terms, at JESC there occurred a moment where the equivalent of the Fall of mankind happened (i.e. where humankind went behind God’s back and ate from the Tree of Knowledge), where the innocence of the Contest was lost. The Georgian kids of Bzikebi and their victorious anthem of “Bzz” are prelapsarian, or before the Fall, and Roksana Wegiel and Viki Gabor and their ultra-slick winners for Poland are postlapsarian, of after the Fall. We accept we cannot go back to the world of a Bzikebi type band winning, but LittleZ reminds us of the world we sacrificed to move JESC to a more trendy place. Roksana and Viki will be legends forever, and their more cool teen entries deserve the accolades, but for those who long for a contest where we hear the authentic voices of children from a particular country unadulterated by the sounds of the moment’s trendy adult songs, LittleZ offers a brief respite.”

Melanie – 3 – “This is sweet, this is cute, this is fun, but very forgettable. I have the feeling this sounds like every song I heard in my childhood. LittleZ need to step their game up if they want to have a chance to win their national final.”

Gerald – 2 – “I Saw the Sign: I opened up my eyes and saw … this derivative Russian duo, who have nicked music and a see-saw beat and a faux sunnier disposition from their decades older Arctic Circle brethren to the West.”

Total: 16 (Average = 4.00)

Rutger Garecht – “Doroga – moya sudba” (Дорога – моя судьба)

Connor – 7 – ““When this track started playing I immediately went “WAIT WHAT?” because he sounds way older than he looks. He’s also got one of the most interestingly done tracks trying in that cultural
sound in a modern way. The big fault for this song is that the chorus melody is a bit lackluster – which is not Rutger’s fault. He’s trying his best to carry it and I think he does a pretty good job, but repeating the same lyric and melody twice and then leaving nearly 20 seconds of blank space is precious time wasted. If they fixed the chorus this could be a good contender for JESC.”

James – 8 – “After a couple of subtle numbers, somebody’s remembered that JESC is supposed to be loud and bombastic. Don’t be surprised to see Rutger dressed in Ivan the Terrible gear as the strings and percussion almost require the establishment of martial law here. We shall see Friday night if the Russian public and jury are tired of this sort of thing, but I suspect they’re not. If Rutger wins, though, he may struggle without the live arena setting that this song was written for. Either way, this song is the most Russian-est thing I’ve heard in a while, so bombast aside, this wins for distinctiveness alone.”

Melanie – 7 – “This song sounds like a soundtrack of a movie where a little boy starts his journey to become a warrior and has to fight in big battlefields to become the warrior he wants to be. I think the
biggest problem with this song, is that there are a lot of amazing components in it, but all together it just sounds too much. After my first listen I really had the feeling my head was so overfull with a lot of impressions that it was hard for me to process what I just heard. Less was definitely more in this song. Hopefully if this song wins (because I see a lot of love for this song on the internet) they will scale it down a bit.”

Gerald – 3 – “Some exotic strings, but it sounds like (and is sung with emphasis like) it’s the theme music for a Japanese anime show about dueling monsters. So, if Rutger (fantastic name: not enough Rutgers in the world) is bucking to sing the next Pokemon theme song: chin up kid, you still might get it.”

Total: 25 (Average = 6.25)

Sergey Filin & Veronica Litovchenko – “V trendakh TikTok” (В трендах TikTok)

Connor – 6 – ““This is much more on track with something I would expect to hear from the Russian industry – heavily produced electro pop with a repetitive dance beat. Honestly the song isn’t bad, but I feel like it doesn’t allow both of the singers to show off their talents. This might be a tad too fast for
them to really just show off and sing. Definitely a good try and this is an amazing first song should they elect to make more music together after the national final!”

James – 4 – “I will admit that this is the best song referencing social media to appear in an EBU competition. But when the prior entries are Valentina Monetta’s infamous Facebook song and Rita Laranjeira’s JESC entry for Portugal referencing Instagram, the only way is up. It’s very basic, like to the degree that Sergey and Veronica could have composed, produced and performed it themselves on an afternoon between tennis lessons and posting videos on TikTok of their drunken neighbor injuring himself attempting parkour. It is fun and peppy and the 6 to 10 year old set should have fun with this, for what it’s worth.”

Melanie – 7 – “This is what you expect a child bop to sound like. It’s fun, it’s danceable and brings a lot of energy. I think a lot of children would love the fact that this song is about TikTok, while I really don’t understand the hype around it. If they can combine it with a Tiktok-worthy dance, I can see this coming a big hit with their audience and maybe even win their national final.”

Gerald – 1 – “Rebecca Black should file an injunction to wrest control of this knockoff of “Friday” back from these kids.  Fluid Russian singing against the smarmiest of dance beats punctuated by sporadic English mewlings of ‘Dance Dance” sounds like music to waterboard people to. Being “in the know” regarding trends and the “happening” thing of the moment is no way to go through life … or a song contest.”

Total: 18 (Average = 4.50)

Sofia Feskova – “Moy novyy den” (Мой новый день)

Connor – 6 – “Ah a traditional ballad – how refreshing! This sounds so light and happy, it reminds me of Portugal last year where you just feel a bit of joy hearing it play but you also know it will likely never win. She’s definitely putting in the work for this song and creates a great 3 minute presentation, but I’m worried it will get eclipsed by the other ballad from the other Sofia. It’s a wonderful try so props are to be given!”

James – 6 – “I am getting early ’90s adult contemporary vibes from this. I had to double-check the link in YouTube to make sure I had not wandered into a “Lesser-known disciples of Alla Pugacheva looking westward” playlist. The song is bright and cheery, which is quite an achievement for the year 2020 and the dystopian country this singer is from. Sadly, the jury is not made up of middle-aged Westerners familiar with the works of David Foster and Diane Warren, so Sofia’s probably out of luck here. She definitely has a future in music, though, but unlike her statement in the outro, today is probably not going to be her new day because of this particular composition.”

Melanie – 4 – “Somehow, this song reminds me of the Indonesian songs my mother listened when I was
younger. It sounds like a lotus that blossoms open. It’s very sweet and flows well, but it doesn’t stand out and I forget about it after one listen. The girl herself has a nice voice and I hope she will come back next year with a better song.”

Gerald – 2 – “No no no! Soaring vocals! The rush, the build to a climax! Only Whitney Houston could do this when she was alive, and unless somewhere out on the remote Siberian taiga the Russian ministry in charge of assembling Eurovision bands and songs like a nationalized scrapbooking hobby have some sort of program to clone Whitney Houston from donor cells left over from some sort of court-ordered blood test and implant her voice into an adolescent Russian tween, that isn’t going to work.”

Total: 18 (Average = 4.50)

Sofia Kirsenko – “Prosto zhit” (Просто жить)

Connor – 8 – ““Russia Episode Four – The Final Sophia. I have to hand it to her, as she’s definitely trying to keep up with the other Sofia’s and I think her song is my second favorite of the four. There’s a
quality about it that sounds effortless and radio ready, which really helps it. That said, the back half of the song does kind of drag on because it’s such a repeat of the same motif. If they had changed things up just a bit then this could have been amazing. I’m sure she’ll perform an amazing live but the track will hurt her a bit.”

James – 6 – “Another ’90s sounding ballad, though this one is more suited to the Eastern bloc. This one sounds like it’s competing for Albania’s FiK rather than JESC. If you’re going to do jazz-ish ballads for the kids, go more with something light and airy like the theme tune to Animal Crossings: New Horizons. This version could also do with bringing Sofia’s voice more to the fore as the drums and piano drown her out, and the guitar thrown into the last verse is both pointless and distracting. I hope Sofia takes FiK as a compliment and keeps going, because she can only get better as a singer and in a few years has the potential to be a real powerhouse to come back to the adult version of the Contest.”

Melanie – 5 – “Probably the song I’ll never guessed it would be a Junior Eurovision entry. Sofia Kirsenko sounds very mature for her age. The song itself is a standard ballad that we heard before and doesn’t offer something new. It just okay, but you forget it after the first listen.”

Gerald – 5 – “We have a performer who sounds like she’s actually had a life experience or two. But the constant drum effects are doing a horrible job playing against her vocals, which, happily, are stronger than most of the younger children in the contest.”

Total: 24 (Average = 6.00)

Sofia Shkepu – “Alise”

Connor – 7 – “Another Sofia? Boy they are really not going to make this year easy on the casual viewers when there’s four Sofias and two Artyoms in the same national final. This song is definitely different from what came from it and I appreciate it, it’s like a palette cleanser with the alternative pop sound that exists out there in Russia. She really came out to stand out from the crowd and with her track she definitely does. I’ll be interested to see if she can pull off this vocal live as well since the track features like a near electronic curve on her voice (Autotune can be heavily prominent in Russian pop).”

James – 8 – “I’ve always thought they should split Junior Eurovision into Eurovision Kids and Teen Eurovision, as it’s hard to wrap your head around a national selection that has the Tik Tok song up against Sophia’s song here. JESC is going more in the Teen direction after crushing wins by Roksana Wegiel and Viki Gabor, and Sophia is clearly aware with this cool, dark and mysterious dance number. Whether the kids will think this is too cool for school remains to be seen, but for a promising young Russian performer this song is not half bad and I hope she’s encouraged to keep going after this selection is over.”

Melanie – 8 – “This is definitely the most interesting song of this national final! Really loving the fact that it’s a not obvious bop, but it’s definitely danceable. It has a darker and edgier vibe that I really like. I even would call it kind of haunted and it keeps creeping around in my head. Really curious to see how they are going to stage this song, but the song itself would be a great choice for Russia.”

Gerald – 6 – “Sophia seems to be dipping from the classic Lady Gaga beat catalog, and, singing with a bit more “Umph” communicates more passion and energy for her topic of choice than just about all of the other finalists. Sonically, it’s a lot more aurally interesting, and the vocals, while not extraordinary, complement the music well.”

Total: 29 (Average = 7.25)

Sophia Tumanova – “Bolshe sveta” (Больше света)

Connor – 9 – “The last time Russia sent a pop ballad to JESC they won the contest – I’m just saying. So far in my random run through of the songs, this has been the most finished song in the national final – as in it sounds like it’s already in the JESC line-up. This could be a good choice for them and would allow them to bounce back from their worst placement ever that happened last year. Give it a good LED and staging, this could be a front runner to win the whole contest.”

James – 5 – “The subtle, almost brown notes of the bass clash with the soaring vocals and synths in the chorus. That, and Sofia’s occasional spoken word bits, are pretty much the only special parts of this composition. The song also suffers for being a ballad entered in a contest not really known for ballads, and not being the strongest one at that.”

Melanie – 9 – “Russia, you can stop your national final, because this song screams winner for me. “Bolshe Sveta” is a really atmospherically ballad that doesn’t need to rely on a high note. Of course, the build to the high note, where as a listener I have the feeling that Sofia is speaking to me, before she is going to hit that note with her voice is brilliant, but the song itself is also perfect without that moment. Her voice really blends will with the beat and it just sound like the door to heaven opens when she sings the chorus. Please let Sofie Tumanova represent Russia at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2020.”

Gerald – 4 – “Sofia kept it in a lower register and manages to get away a lot better than Ms. Feskova, but it’s still pretty limited with some tumultuous orchestration in the background.”

Total: 27 (Average = 6.75)

So eleven songs in, here are our final rankings for Russia’s 2020 Junior Eurovision national selection.

  1. Sofia Shkepu – “Alise” (29 points, Average = 7.25)
  2. Artem Fokin – “Vozmi moyu ruku” (Возьми мою руку) (27 points, Average = 6.75)*
  3. Sophia Tumanova – “Bolshe sveta” (Больше света) (27 points, Average = 6.75)*
  4. Rutger Garecht – “Doroga – moya sudba” (Дорога – моя судьба) (25 points, Average = 6.25)
  5. Sofia Kirsenko – “Prosto zhit” (Просто жить) (24 points, Average = 6.00)
  6. Artem Morozov – “Leti” (Лети) (20 points, Average = 5.00)
  7. Sofia Feskova – “Moy novyy den” (Мой новый день) (18 points, Average = 4.50)*
  8. Sergey Filin & Veronica Litovchenko – “V trendakh TikTok” (В трендах TikTok) (18 points, Average = 4.50)*
  9. Gennady Pereverdiyev – “Nastroyeniye Panda” (Настроение Панда) (16 points, Average = 4.00)*
  10. LittleZ – “Pervaya lyubov” (Первая любовь) (16 points, Average = 4.00)*
  11. Arseny Slesarev – “Chto ty nadelala, baby?” (Что ты наделала, baby?) (15 points, Average = 3.75)

*Tie-breaker rule is the act with the lowest spread from the mean gets the higher placement, i.e. if average = 4, the situation where 5 and 3 occurs is superior to 7 to 1 due to spread being a measure of consensus.

So in aggregate, we believe that Sofia Shkepu should compete at Junior Eurovision 2020 on behalf of Russia with her alternative pop sound that our reviewers have referred to as “aurally interesting.” Though other acts received higher individual scores, Shkepu earned scores between the narrow band of 6.00 and 8.00, which is usually the sign of a solid and non-divisive contender.

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

Like our content? Consider supporting us on Patreon HERE to help us continue our work to bring the contest to #YOU!

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