Rebecca Stadlen Amir
March 25, 2018

With less than two months until the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest kicks off in Lisbon, Israel’s entry to the competition has already captured the attention of music-lovers around the world.

“Toy,” sung by Netta Barzilai and co-written by Doron Medalie, is quickly rising to the top of the Eurovision betting charts. If chosen as the winner in May, it will be the first time Israel has won the competition in 20 years.

“I knew we were making something unique and different, but never in a million years did I think the song and the video clip would get such a strong positive response,” Barzilai said in an interview with Wiwibloggs, an independent site dedicated to Eurovision news.

Since its release last week, the quirky, catchy song has received praise from countries across the globe, even some unlikely ones. When Israel’s Foreign Ministry shared a video of Barzilai performing “Toy” on its Arabic-language Facebook page, it got surprisingly positive responses.

Fans from Morocco, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia posted comments expressing their support for the song and praising its message. One user called the song “wonderful,” saying it mixes Arabic, Western and European music.

Earlier this week, the Ugandan dance group Spoon Youth posted a choreographed dance to “Toy” on its Facebook page. The video quickly went viral and spread across Barzilai’s fan base in Israel as well as fans of Eurovision. “For us the song already won!” the group wrote on its video.

The official music video for “Toy,” uploaded one week ago by Eurovision, currently has 6.6 million views and counting. One comment referred to the song as “the most catchy song in Eurovision history.”

The song also was released on a wide range of digital music platforms, including iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music, where it quickly climbed to the top of the Israeli charts. In Europe, the song reached No. 5 on the Spanish iTunes charts and No. 24 in Greece, and is entering the top 100 in Norway, among other countries.

Though many have developed a love-hate relationship with the song’s poppy tune, the lyrics are universally applauded by Eurovision voters. Phrases like “I’m not your toy” and “Wonder Woman don’t you ever forget, you’re divine and he’s about to regret” encourage female empowerment and speak to the past year’s #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment. Songwriter Medalie said he wanted to find a way to relay the right message about female power but in a more lighthearted way.

Barzilai added her own comical touch with the song’s “bucka bucka” chicken noises, which have been the topic of many online discussions.

“It’s so funny how people are caught up with that. It has a double meaning,” she told Wiwibloggs. “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 [sic] is also ‘stupid’ in Japanese.”

A post shared by netta barzilai (@nettabarzi) on

Frequently admired for her bold, individual style, Barzilai has become somewhat of an icon. Throughout Israel’s “Rising Star” competition, Israel’s pre-selection competition to Eurovision, she consistently wowed the judges and audience with her unusual costume choices and introduced a new vision of what a pop-star can look like in today’s world.

“My message is that you don’t have to fit the normal standard model of how a person should look, think, talk and create in order to succeed. We’re only here for a minute — we better enjoy the ride,” she told Wiwibloggs.

Barzilai will perform “Toy” in the first half of Eurovision Semi-Final 1 on May 8, 2018. The final is scheduled for May 12.

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