As an Israeli citizen living in the U.S., talking and writing about Israel is pretty hard for me right now. But there’s one thing I have zero issues writing about: Israel’s Eurovision entry.
“Unicorn” by Noa Kirel — Israel’s entry to the celebrated European song contest, one of the continent’s most popular televised events — is is three minutes of pure pop magic.
From the rallying cry of a chorus (which will make you want to tell the world that you’ve “got the power of a unicorn”) to the super catchy bridge (which has made me whisper-sing “it’s gonna be phenomen-phenomen-phenomen-al” to myself all around the house), this song is a banger that, obviously, comes with its own TikTok dance.
The song’s lyrics definitely have that camp, slightly confusing feel that many Eurovision songs have. Just to refresh your memory, the last Israeli song that won Eurovision, Netta’s “Toy,” featured the amazing Israeli star clucking like a chicken (fun fact: both songs were co-written by Doron Medalie.) I mean, “femininal” is definitely not a word, but I’m still happy to sing-yell it along with Kirel.
The song is a cross between a ballad and a pop anthem, and also features some Mizrahi beats, an ode to that part of Kirel’s heritage (her songs almost always feature hip-hop and Mizrahi touches).
The video is just as out there and dramatic, with Kirel showing of her killer dance moves (her nickname is Noa Killer, after all) and appearing as a CGI centaur — because, I mean, her as a unicorn would be too obvious.
Yet most importantly, like so many of Kirel’s songs, this one is about female empowerment, embracing resilience and hyping yourself no matter what other people say about you.
It’s also her second animal-themed song to come out this past year: Check out the excellent and catchy “Panthera” — “Pantheress” in English — which came out this past summer and was an absolute sensation in Israel.
I’ve been a fan of Kirel’s for years, which feels strange to say about a singer who is about to turn 22. But she’s a seasoned performer with almost a decade in the spotlight and several successful international singles as part of her multimillion dollar deal with Atlantic Records, including “Please Don’t Suck” and “Bad Little Thing.”
Her songs have dozens of millions of views on YouTube, and her Israeli hits, like “Million Dollar” and “Pouch,” play non-stop on Israeli radio. She’s also the creator of many queer anthems and performed at New York Pride last year.
The young star from Ra’anana is also a bastion of Jewish pride. She went slightly viral this year when she wore an outfit featuring the likeness of Kanye West, AKA Ye, surrounded by Jewish stars to the European Music Awards.
Despite being criticized for everything from her body to her outfits to her voice over the years, Kirel is without a doubt the real deal: a talented vocalist, a beyond energetic performer, someone who can give us catchy and empowering lyrics to dance to, whether we’re at the club or just resetting our homes at night.
She’s also a brilliant self-promoter. A fun TikTok, in which she eats the strawberry with the stem on, was the first sneak peak that she released of “Unicorn” — and features the kind of distraction tactic that helps make a video go viral.
Yet Kirel has always been transparent about what her music is about. “I always want to stand for female empowerment, self-love and body positivity. No matter what someone is going through, I hope my music genuinely helps people feel good regardless of where they are in the world,” she told Paper Magazine last year.
Kirel was selected to represent Israel at Eurovision this summer by KAN, the local Israeli broadcast network. Israel will be participating in the first semifinal, which will air on May 9. Most Eurovision betting sites are giving the entry pretty good odds of making it to the final — and even making the top 10.
The contest will take place in Liverpool this year since last year’s winning country, Ukraine, can’t hold the competition safely within its borders. Israel will be one of 37 competing countries in the 67th edition of the beloved European song contest, which features countries whose national broadcasting channels are members of the European Broadcast Union (which is why Israel, and other notably non-European countries like Australia and Azerbaijan, can compete).
While Eurovision is a non-political event, international politics do make their way to it — with Russia getting booed in the 2014 semifinals and more. We don’t really know how the current tense political climate will impact how Israel does in this competition, if at all.
One thing is for sure — Kirel’s performance is going to be phenomenal and very much worth watching.