Jerusalem, 3 February 2022

It is time for another round of reviews, as today marks the day we’ll be hearing Israel’s songs performed live for the first time. Israeli broadcaster KAN will debut the eight songs during their live show HaShir Shelenu L’Eurovizion, starting at 20:15 CET.

As reported earlier, Israel will select their entrant via XFactor Israel, with the show yielding four potential finalists: Eli Huli, Michael Ben David, Sapir Saban and Inbal Bibi. They were each assigned two potential songs for Eurovision. Tonight’s show will determine which song will be performed in the finale this Friday. 

So, an ideal time to review them all, right? We thought so too, but first a disclaimer.

The following critiques contain the personal views of the persons quoted and nobody else. They do not represent the views of ESCUnited as a whole, nor that of Matt. (If you’re curious what Matt thinks of the songs however, you can watch his reaction video HERE.)

But if you do have umbrage with what will be written down below, please contact the following (who reserve the right to politely ignore you forevermore):

  • Boris Meersman, spewing acrid reviews from his lair (Belgium)
  • James Maude, exiled Brit with a glam for all things glam (UK/California)
  • Stefan Resimic, prolific lover of ballads and bops (Serbia)
  • Tyler Griffiths, whom we browbeat into providing reviews for you today (Alaska)
  • William Carter, our fresh American correspondent, who never backs down from a review (Texas)

Each participating editor will assign a score out of 10 for each of the eight songs. This number will indicate which of the two songs they prefer. The four preferred songs will then be ranked 1st to 4th, according to their average score, with the 1st-placer being our ideal winner of the crop.

Bear in mind that this is purely based on the studio versions.

Without any further ado, let’s start!

Boris – 3.5

“This marble-mouthed schlemiel. ‘Blinded dreamers’ is a song that should pass for an “optimistic” composition, but I can’t make heads nor tails of it. It has this weird guitar-verse-into-drum-and-bass chorus progression that just doesn’t work. Narratively, Eli never explains what a ‘Blinded Dreamer’ is supposed to be, and I can barely make out the words he sings. (The second verse sounds like ‘I don’t wanna feel a cheek, systematic, roll my ardence as a weed, cuz it’s a mosh beat.what?). All I’m left to go by is Eli’s vocal tone … which gives mewling sadboi energy. There no ironic enjoyment for me to cling on to here. ‘Blinded Dreamers’ is a sad little song, and it sucks that it is!”

James – 5

“Eli looks like Tyler Hoover of Hoovie’s Garage, the car YouTuber who deliberately buys cheap collector cars so we laugh at the wrecks they are. That’s probably the most interesting thing about this song. It’s a pedestrian pop ballad, the chorus picks up a bit, there’s a nice use of his voice to accentuate themes of darkness in the verses and themes of hope and light in the chorus. Eli is a better singer than the track he’s written for himself, and though he clearly has some ideas, he could do with someone else writing him a track that pushes him as a singer.”

Stefan – 4.5

“This song gives me a deja vu feeling. Not sure what it reminds me of, but it does sound like something familiar. As much as I loved his other song, I dislike this one. I’m just missing all those things. I better don’t say anything else. xD”

Tyler – 6

“Moving past the singing style of Eli that I don’t particularly care for (as I find the kind of branded rawness makes enunciation more difficult for me to pick up), ‘Blinded Dreamers’ is solidly fine! Is it great? No. Will it win Eurovision? No. Does it seem like Eli would have fun singing it? Maybe! The staging could be interesting, and the music is good, too, with the weird breakdown in the middle with the guitars. I liked that part a lot!”

William – 6

“Melodically, this is a lot, maybe too much. I worry that a revamp would strip out some of the insane compositional leaps this song makes, though, which would be losing part of its charm. The song, overall, suits his voice quite well. Not bad.”

Boris – 2

“Yup this is very much the sort of musical misery that I would expect from a person who managed to turn ‘TOY‘ into a f’cking emoboi dirge. Go awayyyy.”

James – 3

“The lesser of Eli’s two ballads. This is glum and almost dirgey. He tries the same trick as ‘Blinded Dreamers’, with the dark and light interplay, though this time he has some backing vocalists, and his deliberate pronunciation of certain words for emphasis is grating. This also sounds less modern than ‘Blinded Dreamers’, with an adult contemporary vibe. And, for a song that starts as a simple ballad, it gets messy as we pass the bridge, with instrumentation swanning in and out almost at random. And despite the mess, it’s also boring. It doesn’t grip the listener, and I am not sure what can be done in a revamp to make that happen.”

Stefan – 8

“Oh my god… His voice just gave me the chills. This is soooo emotional, so full of pure and innocent emotions. Some may say it’s too simple and monotonous, but, in contrary, this proves that sometimes less is more… Remember Norway 2015?”

Tyler – 5.5

It feels like ‘Nostalgia’ is trying to go an indie-pop vibe at times, but it also can’t quite escape having to be jazzed up a bit for Eurovision. So you get huge sweeping musical moments that I don’t feel work well for this song … whoops. It doesn’t really show anything all that special to me, and I’m left bored at the very end of the number. This entry also has nothing on Magazin’s ‘Nostalgija’, so bye!”

William – 7 

A little mid-‘00s alt contemporary rock, perhaps, but I guess that fits with the title of the song. His vocals are gorgeous and evocative, and the music track is dream-y and transporting. Not the coolest choice, I know, but this is probably the song I would pick for Israel, based just on the studio cuts. We’ll see how this works live.”

Blinded Dreamers
Total: 25/50
Average:  5.0
Preferred by: Boris, James & Tyler

Nostalgia
Total: 25.5
Average: 5.1
Preferred by: Stefan and William

 

Although “Nostalgia” narrowly outranks its rival on score, three of our editors would rather see “Blinded Dreamers” qualify for the finale!


Boris – 7

“It’s funny to me how ‘Don’t’ is basically a positive ‘Home’. It has the same message and topic as Kobi’s song, but, instead of a performance FULL of revolting theatre kid energy / emotional exploitation of the singer’s past trauma’s for personal gain,  ‘Don’t’ serves empowering schlager realness, making it infinitely better (as ‘7‘ is indeed an infinitely higher number than ‘0‘). Pity ‘Don’t’ also plays along with all the Eurovision clichés, instead of breaking them, meaning its potential revamp quality has a relatively low ceiling.”

James – 6

“It’s Israeli night at The Abbey in West Hollywood! ‘Don’t’ sounds like Markus Riva decided to up sticks from Latvia and move to Tel Aviv to try his luck. That’s not to say it’s bad. If this song was a drink, it’d be a vodka cranberry. It’s basic but displays a willingness to have fun and is DTF. It’s not messy and won’t leave you in a ditch like a tequila drink (thanks, Javiera!). It’s pleasant, it’s fun, but I don’t see ‘Don’t’ getting too far at ESC as it’s a bit indistinct.”

Stefan – 6

“Just like with other artists, one of his songs is significantly worse than the other one. At least this is more than decent, but not decent enough, and far, far away from being considered as a potential winner. And what was with that sudden ending?”

Tyler – 8

“This is a pretty good breakup song, just by looking at the lyrics (And, as much as I dislike needless repetition, I wish ‘don’t’ was used more in the song itself; don’t come for me). Love the chorus being as uptempo as it is for a ‘yassss gawd’ moment in breaking away from an ex. I think ‘Don’t’ could be better, but I still like it for its good 2000s vibes.”

William – 3.5

This song is just a little … flat. It’s not very dynamic. It never really goes anywhere. Sending Michael Ben David with a song like this would be a waste of time, energy, and resources. Give him a song with some fun, some energy, some camp. This is boring.”

 

Boris – 8.5

“Without exaggeration, the most flaaaaamingly homosexual song I’ve heard in the NF season so far, and this is the season that has Matt Blxck rapping about all the bad head he’s gotten from Grindr hook-ups and Kim Wigaard bursting into a flurry of operatic ‘la la la have no fear to be queer!’ while wearing a giant golden tuxedo dress. Needless to say, I LOVE this song… as much as one can love a song that sounds like a literal demo. Pray the fabled Israeli Revamp Dust can pimp this into a qualifier, if this were to win HaShir.”

James – 9

“This is the gayest song Israel has ever attempted. To the point where this song straddles ‘70s disco and modern RuPaul-esque club tracks. As a composition, it’s Quantum Leap in song form, with Michael Ben David as a gay Dr. Samuel Beckett, putting gay right what went gay wrong over several eras of gay club bangers. It needs a bit of tightening up, though, as there are occasional lulls, and the Israeli elements are not as seamlessly introduced as in some of its rivals. Staging wise, it’s going to have to be over the top or nothing. Done right, this has the potential to be a Eurovision classic a la ‘Golden Boy’. But well have to wait and see.”

Stefan – 9

“THIS IS A MAAAANS WORLD. I believe we all agree this is the best dance-y, up tempo song of all eight. Whether he wins or not, this will be a banger in Euroclub in Turin (if we even get to have one). All in all, molto bene!”

Tyler – 6

“I appreciate the fast singing/on the verge of rapping in here, as I’m always down for seeing different singing styles in the same song, as long as it’s done cohesively. There’s a LOT going on in ‘I.M’ . Do I think it all goes well together? Maybe? But I can also already tell this song will not be My Thing™. I also don’t care for the lyrics, as it feels like the kind of over confidence that I don’t find endearing in other Eurovision acts. Maybe I’m overreacting again to these. But meh!”

William – 7

“I will be the first to admit this song is kinda dumb. But here’s the thing: Michael Ben David is a STAR. Anyone who has followed his X Factor Israel journey KNOWS that this song plays to all his strengths. He’s a super dynamic, cheeky performer. People are sleeping on ‘I.M.’ right now, but I think it’ll be a different story once Michael Ben David shows what he can do. So, yeah, I’m gambling on a good show, but I feel confident we’re gonna get it.”

Don’t
Total: 30.5/50
Average:  6.1
Preferred by:  Tyler

I.M
Total: 39.5/50
Average: 7.9
Preferred by: Boris, James, Stefan and William

While our team liked both Michael songs, we have a strong preference for the more uptempo and flamboyant “I.M“!


Boris – 4

“Sapir’s ballad is way too on the nose to be interesting, and, in a common theme with this selection, it feels both unfinished AND a throw-in favour of the other song. Here, it specifically feels like the composers ran out of creativity. Every word Sapir sings and every chord of ‘Breaking My Own Walls’ is exactly what you’d expect it to be, so the songwriters throw in a weird, jarring ethnic bridge – which, in itself, is ALSO a staple of Israeli Eurovision entries in general! The whole just doesn’t work.”

James – 7

“A stock power ballad by a singer with a non-stock voice. It plays out exactly as you’ve heard many times before. First verse is a piano, chorus introduces strings, second verse gets some percussion. But, at the bridge, we get Middle Eastern strings coming in. Personally, I think it’s a little late in the song for Israel to bring in its secret weapon (being a crossroads for Europe and the Middle East and able to straddle both realms authentically). I do wonder if, given Sapir’s vocal technique, she’d be better suited to a Hebrew power ballad?”

Stefan – 7

“Was it done intentionally that all of them got one good and one bad song? Please tell me that I am not the only one feeling like that. A song with a powerful message. We had to have one. That second bridge was a bit weird, but, in the end it did work out.”

Tyler – 5.5

“This feels like a run-of-the-mill pop ballad at first, and it honestly stays that way the entire time for me … oops. I think Sapir sings technically well, and the performance could be quite good, but the song itself feels so safe that I’ve already forgotten how it goes. It doesn’t stand out to me in a way to make it memorable, and the onus is on the song in this case and not on an incompetent ESC song reviewer, so bye!”

William – 3

“Sung well, but expected and kind of dull. For a song, I think, designed to be a vocal showcase, she doesn’t get nearly enough big, belt-y moments. Pop music producers need to give canned gospel choir backing tracks a rest for a few years. The ethnic breakdown section comes out of literal nowhere and ends just as quick.”

Boris – 7

“Shapir’s bop has the bare bones of a good entry: it has an enticing, memorable melody, a positive message, a good build-up. A bit expected, but fine. Two things concern me, though: First, several parts of the instrumentation, specifically the trumpets and guitar riffs, sounds like they were bought from a royalty-free music peddling website, which makes the song sound a bit uninspired and cheap. Second, the incredibly thick autotune makes me suspect ‘Head Up’ will either be a train wreck live, or be underwhelming, and neither are things I particularly look forward to.”

James – 8

“Even though this is more of a dance track, this addresses one of my criticisms of ‘Breaking My Own Walls’ in that we get this song is from Israel from the get-go, rather than a minute into it. First two verses and choruses this moves at a nice canter, but it needs something a bit more explosive after the bridge. Israel at Eurovision have addressed lack of momentum  criticisms in their revamps before, so I am confident that they can do this here. And, hopefully, Sapir can cope with the whirlwind displays that Israel’s staging crew will invariably throw on here.”

Stefan – 2.5

“Is it just me, or is this just a bland and bad copy of Eden’s song from last year? I even didn’t manage to listen to the entire song. And that tells you everything.”

Tyler – 6

“Sapir’s chance at an uptempo pop number and…it’s fine! Going to be saying that a lot in this selection. There isn’t really anything musically that makes the song interesting to me, more than the use of what I feel is autotune (DQ this song now!!! /Sarcasm) but it isn’t like I don’t like this? I think it’s fine! I think the message is good, even if it’s generic. But it’s a fine song.”

William – 5.5

This is a fun, upbeat, ethnic-tinged composition. The song has a lot of attitude or, at least, a lot of potential for attitude. In its current form, it’s a solid B/B-, but, with the right revamp, I could see it working. There’s potential here, even if I’m not totally sold on it in its current form.”

Breaking my own walls
Total: 26.5/50
Average:  5.3
Preferred by: Stefan

Head up
Total: 29/50
Average: 5.8
Preferred by: Boris, James, Tyler and William

If it were up to the team, “Head Up” would emerge victorious tonight, making it Sapir’s song for Friday’s finale.


 

Boris – 8

Marionette stands out as the only song in this entire line-up that feels like a finished product, as if KAN are fully hedging their bets on Inbal’s victory. Personally, I’d be okay with Inbal winning X Factor with ‘Marionette’. It has good instrumentation, quirky (but not grating) lyrics, a decent build-up and an easy built-in staging ideas with the well, Marionette, stuff. Speaking of, I hope they don’t take the title too literally, act-wise. I don’t want this to turn into a rerun of Montaigne’s ‘Don’t Break Me’ (whose live staging in AusDecides suffered from Obsessive Repulsive Disorder). Because, as far as mid tempo pop ballads are concerned, Inbal’s is more than serviceable for Eurovision.”

James – 7

“Not sure if ‘Marionette’ is the best title for this one, as Inbal is trying her damnedest to tell us the demons inside her head will not make her be their marionette. As a self-empowerment anthem, this works reasonably well. The chorus has impact, and I hope we get a nice array of flames in the staging to complement the lyrics, perhaps with a swishing hand gesture to extinguish them when she announces her triumph over the demons? Perhaps also tune down the guitars or synths there to give the chorus more oomph?”

Stefan – 8

“Ariana Grande called, and she wants her song back. This is waaaay better compared to her other song. It is just like any other song you’ll hear today, but, again, there is that thing that makes it stand out. And that high note… For sure it will sound amazing live.”

Tyler – 6

Part of what I like about ‘Marionette’ is the different kinds of keys Inbal does. She goes into her big showstopper moment at the end, but then a slower, talk-y style that is good too. I like the different levels in the song, even if I don’t like the lyrics all that much … whoops. Too much repetition for me to not notice. Maybe the performance could save it, but not enough for me.”

William – 4

“This is A LITTLE Eurovision paint-by-numbers, if I’m being honest, but there’s a swag to this that I can imagine Inbal pulling off. The song gives her lots of opportunities to show off her impressive vocals, so, in that way, it does get the job done.”

Boris –  5

“The token Israeli member of our Discord described ‘ZAZA’ as an attempt to emulate the music that gets airplay in Israel itself, and you can tell from merely listening to it, can’t you? ‘ZAZA’ feels like a weird mish-mash of radio-friendly party elements, awkwardly sewn together into a song that is surprisingly boring. Because of this, I cannot be bothered to get into ‘ZAZA’, even if I wanted to (and I don’t, because ‘Marionette’ is better). It’s a lazy, uninspired attempt at being current, and that’s a massive disappointment from a writing team that has recently given us bops such as ‘Roots’ and ‘Feker Libi’ in 2020.”

James – 6

“Has potential to be a great banger, especially from the bridge onward, when we get more percussion and Middle Eastern instrumentation thrown in, as well as the vocal acrobatics that Inbal seems to want to try out. The first two verses leading up, however, feel a bit sedate and could use some better arrangement to ramp up the song. Not bad, needs some serious work to get this to Turin and out of semi-final 2.”

Stefan – 3.5

“She’s trying hard, you can hear it. And so many Arabic sounds and beats here. It’s not that I don’t like those, it just sounds unfinished, unfurnished. I also guess the authors were more focused on how the performance can look like rather than making a good song.”

Tyler – 5.5

“The title reads as a fun little number about being positive about life and stuff, and just when we reach the end of the chorus, it doesn’t feel like it should at all. I get wanting to have those kinds of different tempos and notes in the song, but it reads more to me like it’s just trying to dump the Hebrew lyrics into the void, and any momentum for the song just dies there. The song makes me dread listening to parts of it, and I don’t think that’s a good quality to have for Eurovision!”

William – 6.5

“This is cute. The song is a little … compositionally bizarre, so I have NO idea how it’s going to be received by the general audience, but I’m mostly on board. I can imagine this working really well in a live performance, once all the staging and production elements come together. If she delivers these high notes in the final, she might be tough to beat.”

Marionette
Total: 33/50
Average:  6.6
Preferred by: Boris, James, Stefan and Tyler

ZAZA
Total: 26.5/50
Average: 5.3
Preferred by: William

As you can see, “Marionette” is our favourite, by a 4-1 concensus.

THE VERDICT

  1. Michael Ben David – “I.M” (79%) vs “Don’t ” (61%) (4-1)
  2. Inbal Bibi – “Marionette” (66%) vs “ZAZA ” (53%) (4-1)
  3. Sapir Saban – “Head Up” (58%) vs “Breaking my Own Walls” (53%) (4-1)
  4. Eli Huli – “Blinded Dreamers” (49%) vs “Nostalgia” (51%) (3-2)

If our panel of critics got their way, we would see “Marionette”, “I.M”, “Blinded Dreamers”, and “Head Up” as the qualifiers  tonight.

Out of these four, Michael Ben David’s “I.M.” got by far the highest score, making him our canonical favourite at this early stage. It will be exciting to see whether the lives hold up to our expectations or shatter them completely, and whether Israel will follow suit. We’ll see you later tonight with the first night of HaShir Shelanu L’Eurovizion results!

The show can be watched live HERE, starting at 20:15 CET.

Will #YOU be watching ‘X Factor Israel’ tonight? Do #YOU agree with our takes? Which song do #YOU think will win? Let us know in the comments, on social media, or join the discussion on our Forum HERE or on our Discord HERE

 

 

 

 

 

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