Candy — a group of five teenagers from the Republic of Georgia — has won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.
Their winning song, entitled “Candy Music,” set their love of sugar to a disco beat. “Who loves sweet caramel? Wow, jellies and lollipops, fruits and nuts and bonbons!” they crooned in Georgian during Saturday’s contest in Yerevan, Armenia. “We’ve got plenty here, can you hear?” Plenty of candy indeed, as it was even plastered on their outfits. The girls, who range in age from 11 to 15, wore leggings patterned with candy canes, shoulder pads shaped like dollops of frosting and at least one tutu that resembled cotton candy. En route to victory, they defeated an Armenian dressed as an air hostess, and a Latvian crooning about her dog.
Throughout Eastern Europe, communism has given way to competition — and at Junior Eurovision, it’s usually doused in glitter and sequins. Broadcast live to 30 million viewers in Australia and much of Europe, it’s the world’s biggest song contest for kids aged 10 to 15. It’s also a miniaturized version of Eurovision, the European singing competition that helped launch the careers of musical icons like Abba and Celine Dion. For little contestants from small countries, Junior Eurovision offers a platform for some very big dreams. As the head of the Maltese delegation told TIME last year: “Kids look at it as an opening to Europe. Maybe they can make contacts with producers. You don’t know who is watching.”
Contestants write and compose their own songs, providing a unique window into childhood. This year’s songs covered everything from teenage rebellion to superheroes. But, as always, the overwhelming theme was love. The singer representing Russia compared her unrequited love to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. The Belgian entry pleaded with her wayward beau for “just one more kiss.” And the 15-year old Swedish contestant sounded more like a forlorn divorcee than a kid: “Silly me, standing at your door/When nothing is like yesterday/Breathe, breathe/You’re ignoring me…You have to know I’m falling.”
It may sound surprising, but Georgia’s sugar-coated ode to sweets actually represents a move toward understatement. In 2008 the nation won the contest with a trio of kids dressed as bees singing in an imaginary bee language. And last year Georgia placed fourth with an outrageous act (and pink wigs and rhinestones) that earned its singer the nickname Baby Gaga.
But for the five girls of Candy, that was neither here nor there. As the confetti fell after their victory, they focused on celebration: “We are the happiest children in the world,” one of them said. “Thank you Europe!”
William Lee Adams is a staff writer at the London bureau of TIME. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.