Denmark: Reiley and Breaking My Heart

I used to think that Denmark, one of the happiest nations in the world, had so little angst that it was incapable of creating good music. But the past few years have gone a way towards changing my mind – Rasmussen? Fyr Og Flamme? Ben and Tan? All solid songs that I will happily sing (or attempt to sing) when they pop up on ESC Radio.

And this year, Denmark is sending the boppiest of happy bops that’s actually full of angst. I mean, the first line of this is “Do you remember/Said it’d be easier if I was dead”!

I think Reiley’s song is cute, and I think Reiley is adorable, and I appreciate the whole cotton-candy, pastel, Teen Beat aesthetic that he’s putting forward.

But what’s more important than Reiley’s song this year are two debates that Reiley is bringing to the contest (and no, his age is not one of them.)

The first thing Reiley’s participation will help us understand is the impact of Rest of World voting. While we’re still awaiting some details on participation, this year, for the first time, Eurovision will count televotes from people in countries that do not participate in Eurovision. Now, there are always fans of Eurovision acts outside of their own countries, but I think this might be one of the first times we’ve had a Eurovision act – Reiley – with a strong fan base in South Korea. As such, his placement might show the impact that non-European fans could have on the contest.*

The second thing I’m hoping Reiley’s participation will open up is a conversation about the type of music we’re allowed to have at Eurovision. It’s the Eurovision Song Contest, and we’re supposed to be judging entries on the best live performance of a song that night. But some of the most interesting music coming out today uses voice distortion on portions of the song. (Yes, I’m still salty about CENERE.) Shouldn’t Eurovision artists be allowed to use voice distortions that contribute to the overall impact of the song?

Before the pearl clutching starts, let me note two things – I’m not talking about canned auto-tune performances. I don’t want to see lip-syncing live on stage – which is arguably already what’s happening in some performances. And it’s not like we’re currently in a situation where the bulk of the lead vocals are being carried by the person doing the performance – some of those backup performers are working overtime.

Eurovision isn’t a The Voice style singing competition (thank goodness). Yes, every year we get some powerhouse vocalists belting it out in a ballad. But we also get innovative artists who are trying new things with technology, and I think we should support them. Especially because many of the distortions on vocals create a robotic and canned effect. It’s a style that is very different from the big Christina Aguilera-style vocals that we’ll be hearing in a ballad.

And ultimately, I’d think of it like this: the performance is going to be judged on a Saturday night by people who don’t obsessively follow Eurovision rules. So if they think a performance is bad because it sounds artificial, they’ll vote accordingly. And countries will thus choose acts accordingly.

Have I just made a “let the market decide” argument? Ugh. Yes, I guess I have, but Eurovision is a song contest that has the involvement of the music industry. It’s already a tool of the market!

TL:DR: Reiley has a cute li’l angsty bop and he should be able to perform it the way he intended it to be performed.

*La Zarra is from Canada, but as she’s representing a Big 5 country, she doesn’t have to go through the semifinals.

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