Groundbreaking singer and musician Netta Barzila, a 24-year-old from Hod Hasharon, will be Israel’s representative at the Eurovision singing competition this year in Portugal.
Barzilai beat out three other finalists – Jonathan Mergui, who came in second, Riki Ben-Ari who placed third, and Chen Aharoni in the live finale of Kochav Haba (The Next Star), on Tuesday night. She will be the first woman to represent Israel at the contest since 2014.
Barzilai will compete in the first semi-final in Lisbon on May 8, and, if she advances, will take the stage in the final on May 12.
From her very first audition Barzilai made a big impression, particularly in her use of a looper, a musical instrument that recorded and played back her voice in real time. Barzilai often performed her songs with a twist – a mashup, remix or tempo change – for a totally new experience.
A combination of the show’s judges Assaf Amdursky, Keren Peles, Harel Skaat and Static and Ben-El Tavori, special guests and votes from home selected Barzilai as the grand winner.
There are high hopes for Barzilai this year – 40 years since Israel’s first Eurovision win in 1978 and 20 years since its third in 1998.
For the past three years Israel has sent a young man to the contest to sing in English, with varying degrees of success. Last year’s entrant, Imri Ziv, came in 23rd overall, while in 2016 Israel’s Hovi Star ranked 14th and in 2015 Nadav Guedj finished ninth. All three were on hand Tuesday night to help crown Barzilai as the winner.
Over the coming months, a team will select a song for Barzilai to perform on the enormous Eurovision stage in May.
All three of Israel’s wins – however long ago they may be – were with Hebrew-language songs. The winners in 2016 and 2017 both contained portions in foreign languages, but there is no doubt that English has been the language of choice of most winners over the years – in fact Hebrew is tied for third place as the language with the most Eurovision wins.
Throughout the season, the judges praised Barzilai’s musical stylings and her stage presence as being well suited to the kitschy and glitzy Eurovision contest. So will this be Israel’s year? We’ll find out in May.