Netta Barzilai was born on 22nd January 1993 in Hod HaSharon, Israel. The singer took part in this year’s edition of The Next Star, which is used to select Israel’s Eurovision entry, and was one of the season favourites from beginning to end. In her performances, she stood out due to her use of a vocal looper, and her performance of “A Ba Ni Bi”, the winning song of Eurovision 1978, earned her praise from the original performer of the song, Izhar Cohen. Her musical style is described as unique.
Netta will represent Israel at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon Portugal, on Saturday 12th May with her song “Toy” — a freestyle, Mediterranean women’s anthem with Oriental / Mizrachi sounds. She’s unleashed a chicken cluck heard round the world — she trended globally on YouTube in Spain, the U.K. and beyond — and is leading the odds to win this year’s contest.
Her full name is Netta Barzilai, but following the path set by other leading ladies like Beyoncé and Madonna, her stage name is simply Netta.
You know she’s not your toy, silly boy. But here are 10 more facts you may be less familiar with:
1. SHE GREW UP IN NIGERIA
Netta was born in Israel in 1993, but two years later her father moved the family to Nigeria as part of his job. Netta lived in Nigeria for about four years and then she settled back in Israel. Her sound has a global outlook that can be hard to place. And that may stem partly from her exposure to sounds and traditions that would sound novel back home.
2. SHE WAS A PART OF AN ENSEMBLE CALLED “THE EXPERIMENT”
In 2016 Netta co-founded an improvisation singing ensemble called “The Experiment”. The ensemble toured all across Israel for two years with their special freestyle improvisation gigs. Netta was the lead vocalist and the group’s three other members played instruments — from drums to keyboards to guitars.
3. SHE WAS A KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Making a living as an artist isn’t easy in general or in Israel in particular. So Netta worked all manner of jobs: from waitress to kindergarten teacher to babysitter. Perhaps the last role explains her fondness for taking Pikachu home and letting Bernie talk! In interviews she frequently discusses how much she loves children and how one of her dreams was to be a kindergarten teacher. She was also an instructor in youth organizations in the north of Israel. She believes the children are the future…and they believe in her.
4. SHE ALMOST DIDN’T MAKE IT TO EUROVISION 2018
Netta was a huge favourite right from the start of The Next Star for Eurovision 2018, but during the grand final she almost got eliminated in the first round after losing her duel. But the judging panel used its powers to save her and sent her through to the final round. In the final round she came a close second in the public vote but the juries gave her first place — and by some distance. She ended up winning with a small gap of only 5 points ahead of the runner-up Mergui.
5. SHE BUYS MOST OF HER CLOTHES FROM ISRAELI DESIGNERS
Netta says it’s hard for her to find cool clothes in the usual plus size clothing stores, so she buys most of her clothes from Israeli designers. It costs a lot, but she saves up and buys new looks every couple of months. “In the summer, I love Maxi dresses without sleeves or short dresses, but it will always be in the A cut because it compliments my body shape, there is a pearly body structure that is pretty close to the bottom, but my form is an apple-shaped body type. I don’t like to have only black clothes. All my clothes are colourful: silver, red and loads of yellow — this is my favourite color, I love to celebrate diversity.”
6. SHE BECAME A TREND BEFORE “TOY”
During the last couple of months there’s been quite the interest in Israel surrounding Netta and her unique style, both visually and musically. She was even imitated on “Eretz Nehederet” (A Great Country) — one of Israel’s most popular TV shows.
7. SHE IS THE FIRST ARTIST EVER TO USE A VOCAL LOOPER ON THE EUROVISION STAGE
From the moment Netta had her first audition in Israel the big question surrounding her performances was whether the Eurovision rules would allow this kind of performance. Netta is using a vocal looper which is a mobile recording device that allows her to record her voice, several times in a loop, until a playback is formed. According to the latest reports the EBU will allow her to use her own special toy on stage, as long as the voices will be recorded to the looper during her live performance.
8. HER MUSIC VIDEO HAS MORE LIKES THAN ANY OTHER VIDEO ON THE OFFICIAL EUROVISION SONG CONTEST CHANNEL
In just three weeks, the music video of “Toy” racked up over 9 million views on the official Eurovision Song Contest YouTube channel (and another 9 million views on KAN’s channel). It continues to break records as this post is being written. Other than being the most viewed video from this year’s contest with a lead of a few millions views, Netta’s video is also the one with the most likes on the Eurovision Song Contest official YouTube channel ever. For example, The winner of Eurovision 2017, Salvador Sobral’s “Amar Pelos Dois”, has 125,000 likes while Netta’s “Toy” has about 231,000 likes. That’s quite an amazing achievement and we’re still a month away from the contest itself, so those numbers will only rise.
9. “TOY” IS NOT THE FIRST EUROVISION SONG SHE HAS SUNG
In her second, more intimate audition in The Next Star for Eurovision 2018 Netta chose to bring a one-string guitar for her special version of the Eurovision 1978 winning song, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi”. Izhar Cohen, the original performer of the tune, watched her cover and said she’d be fab for Eurovision — it looks like he knew what he was talking about. You can watch more of Netta’s perfomances on these links: “Hey Mama” | Mashup | “What Is Love” | “Barbie Girl” | “Wannabe” | “Kzat Meshugaat” | “Tik Tok”/”Gangnam Style” | “Rude Boy”
10. THE CHICKEN SOUNDS IN HER SONG HAVE A DEEP MEANING
In our recent interview with Netta she told us all about the chicken sounds in her song: “It’s so funny how people are caught up with that. It has a double meaning. The noises are supposed to imitate the voices of a coward — a ‘chicken’. Someone who doesn’t act the way he/she feels and treats you like a toy. Baka is also ‘stupid’ in Japanese… The song has an important message – the awakening of female power and social justice, wrapped in a colorful, happy vibe.”