Kobi Marimi. .
(photo credit: screenshot)
Israel will be sending Kobi Marimi to the 2019 Eurovision, and hoping to pull off a rare back-to-back win at the competition in May.
Marimi, a 27-year-old native of Ramat Gan, was crowned the winner of Hakochav Haba (Rising Star) on Keshet 12 on Tuesday night, earning the right to represent Israel at the competition in Tel Aviv this year.
Marimi beat out the three other contestants who made it to the finale of the show: Maya Buskila, Shefita and Ketreyah Fauch. Marimi's renditions of "Let it Be" by The Beatles and "Always" by Bon Jovi blew away both the judges on the show and the audience at home, who voted live via app.
Marimi, an early favorite, was actually voted off the show a couple of weeks ago, but the production brought him back to give him another shot at the title.
"Thank you, thank you so much," was all an emotional Marimi was able to utter immediately after being announced the winner late Tuesday on evening.
After the live show ended, Marimi said: "I'm in shock and I haven't absorbed it yet. You made my dream come true and I will do everything I can to bring the most respect to this country."
Judge Keren Peles said it was "clear that the people of Israel feel that he's the real thing, and he sings from his heart, and I'm so happy he won." Fellow judge Harel Skaat - a former Eurovision contestant - said Marimi "proved tonight he is the most unique contestant we could send to the Eurovision."
Next month, KAN will select the song for Marimi to perform at the Eurovision in May. The public broadcaster has appealed to Israeli songwriters to send their original submissions in by this Sunday. In his dozen appearances on the show, Marimi only performed in English. The last four songs Israel has sent to the Eurovision have all been entirely in English.
Since Israel is hosting the competition this year, Marimi is guaranteed a spot in the Eurovision grand final without participating in the semi-final round.
Marimi was a fan favorite from the beginning of the show, with a unique style, a Freddie Mercury-esque mustache and a deep, booming and distinctive voice. His performances of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, "Sweet Dreams" by Beyonce and "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman left lasting impressions on the judges and audiences. When he was shockingly ousted a few weeks ago, the production of Kochav Haba knew they had to give him another chance.
Last year's winner Netta Barzilai also marked Marimi as her favorite early on in the competition, saying that he was quirky and different just like herself.
Culture Minister Miri Regev congratulated Marimi on his win late Tuesday.
"Congratulations to Kobi Marimi who impressed and moved an entire nation with his unique voice," Regev said. "He proved that willpower and faith are stronger than anything, and after he was already ousted, he returned to the show and won... 40 years ago we won the Eurovision twice in a row, and with Kobi we can do it again."
Shortly after he was announced the winner, the Tel Aviv Municipality building flashed the message "Good luck Kobi" in bright lights.
The celebratory finale of Kochav Haba, which was watched by more than 30% of the viewing public - included a performance by Eurovision champion Netta Barzilai of her new song, "Bassa Sababa." Judges Static and Ben-El were also joined by fellow singers Eden Ben-Zaken and Stephane Legar to perform their latest hit "Yasso." In the audience on Tuesday were members of The Shalva Band, who were fan favorites on the show until they pulled out last week due to the requirement by the Eurovision to work on Shabbat.
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