With four audition rounds done, 1TV decided to ring in 2023 in Georgia with the first elimination round of this season’s The Voice of Georgia.

Switching from 22:00 on a Thursday to 21:00 on a Saturday, The Voice of Georgia began whittling down the 32 contestants with eight contests on New Year’s Eve. Within each team, the coach picked singers to go head to head, with the winner advancing to the next round and allowing rivals to “steal” losing singers.

However, each coach was not alone, as Georgian musical celebrities joined in order to advise each coach on which singer would win their head to head.

Stephane was aided by Georgian singer-songwriter Maia Darsmelidze, who was also a judge on the first and second seasons of The Voice of Georgia. Sopho was aided by Nina Sublatti, who came in 11th for Georgia at Eurovision 2015 with “Warrior.” Dato’s adviser was veteran Georgian singer and former politician Dato Khujadze, while Nika Kocharov joined David Evgenidze. Kocharov came in 20th at Eurovision 2016 as frontman for the Young Lolitaz, while also leading Circus Mircus at Eurovision 2022.

During the first battle, Likuna Tutisani beat Mariam Toronjadze on Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” a technically tough song with a tricky rapid fire bridge requiring the singer to sing quickly and enunciate clearly, a test of both stamina and pronunciation. Likuna prevailed, while Mariam was picked up by Sopho.

Tina Datikashvili edged out Anri Bolkvadze on Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain,” while Iru Khechanovi prevailed over Ani Nozadze on Bruno Mars’s “Leave the Door Open.” Iru was part of Candy who won Junior Eurovision 2011 for Georgia with “Candy Music.” Ani was also picked up by Dato.

Giorgi Datiashvili beat Ekaterine Mdiviani on “You don’t know my nation,” with Dato picking up Ekaterine afterwards.

Georgia’s love of old musicals cropped up again, with David Rusadze competing with Ukrainian-Georgian singer Aliona Tsintsadze on “My Funny Valentine,” the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hunt song first performed in 1937 by Mitzi Green from the musical Babes in Arms.

Two fan favorites were pitched against each other, with Sopo Batilashvili and Tako Kakalashvili being given the unenviable task of trying to perform Janis Jopkin’s “Try.” Sopo edged out Tako, but Dato picked up Tako.

The seventh battle of the night was a strange one. Dato Porchkhidhze had Kakha Aslamazashvili take on Tsotne Barbakadze on Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” but on a version that sounded like it was arranged by Michael Bolton. Tsotne, who gives off vibes like he’s Stiffler from the American Pie movies, won despite Kakha picking up the acoustic guitar and noodling a little solo at the end.

In the final battle, The Voice of Georgia brought some Christmas spirit with a carol contest. Trio Allegro beat Mariam Buighlishvili on “Silent Night,” which seems a touch unfair as she was up against a seasoned acapella trio on a carol with slow tempo and minimal instrumentation where every syllable is stretched and held. Mariam’s mishit on “calm” shows how dangerous this song can be for non-English speakers and that there’s nowhere to hide. Still, whether or not a seasoned trio who specialize in mostly Italian songs is a good fit for representing Georgia at an international contest still remains to be seen.

The Voice of Georgia is being used to select Georgia’s Eurovision entrant for the 2023 season, and two coaches have a direct connection to past Georgian Eurovision entrants.

Sopho Toroshelidze was the lead singer of Georgian nu metal band Eldrine. Eldrine’s “One Fine Day,” which was entered at Eurovision 2011, is currently Georgia’s joint-best entry coming in 9th (Sofia Nizharadze’s “Shine” also came in 9th at Eurovision 2010). Eldrine won the Georgian national final, and Toroshelidze later replaced original vocalist Tako Vadachkoria due to a contract dispute between GPB and Vadachkoria.

Stephane Mgrebishvili was kicked out of Eurovision 2009 as part of Stephane and 3G when the band refused to change lyrics to their entry “We Don’t Wanna Put In” in response to the European Broadcasting Union’s (EBU) political content rule. “We Don’t Wanna Put In” was a reference to Russia’s invasion and subsequent occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008. Stephane was also a judge on the season of Georgian Idol that selected Oto Nemsadze to represent Georgia at Eurovision 2019. He was also a judge on The Voice Season 3.

The man with the bandanna that everyone recognizes as the third judge is Georgian musician and film composer David Evgenidze. He was previously a judge on Georgian Idol when Tornike Kipiani was selected to represent Georgia at Eurovision 2020 (he was internally selected to compete at Eurovision 2021 after the cancellation of Eurovision 2020). Evgenidze is also a regular judge on Ranina, Georgia’s method of selection for Junior Eurovision. He also wrote “We Need Love” for Giorgi Rostiashvili, which came in 14th at Junior Eurovision 2019.

Lastly, Dato Porchkhidze returns as a coach on The Voice of Georgia having been a coach on the first two seasons in 2012 and 2013. Dato’s proteges Salome Katamadze and Mariam Chachkhiani won Season 1 and Season 2, respectively. A musician in his own right, with over 600 compositions to his name, he was also a part of the famous Georgian group Face.

Georgia have not qualified for the Eurovision Grand Final since Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz’s “Midnight Gold” at Eurovision 2016. Though Georgia is often highly regarded in the Eurovision fanbase, their cult status has not translated into qualification for the Grand Final of late.

Georgia’s last entry, Circus Mircus’s “Lock Me In,” came in 18th and last in Semi-Final 2 at Eurovision 2022 in Turin, Italy.

The Voice airs at 21:00 local time on Saturday evening after the audition rounds were shown on Thursdays. The Voice is presented by Gvantsa Daraselia. Non-Georgian viewers will be able to check it out directly on TV-1’s livestream on their own website or The Voice’s Facebook page.

Do #YOU think the Voice of Georgia is the right method of selection for Eurovision 2023? Do #YOU think this and the recent change to Semi-Final voting rules will bring Georgia’s first Grand Final qualification since 2016? Let us know in the comments below, our social media, our forum or Discord.

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