Editorials & Opinion

A million voices that need to be heard

Since the restrictions regarding the language of Eurovision entries have been revoked in 1999, there has been an obvious tendency in the contest towards singing in English rather than in your native language. Personally, I think it’s a shame, because this development takes away a part of Eurovision’s diversity. There are so many beautiful languages in Europe that are worth sharing beyond the national borders.
Some people might argue that English speaking songs are more successful in Eurovision because everybody understands the message of the song and it is easier to sing along. This is probably one of the reasons, why many songs that are actually written in a native language originally are being transferred into English only for the contest. This basically seems unnatural all by itself. Why not keep a song the way it is initially meant to be and take away its origin? Here are some reasons, why the contestants should rather stick with their native language.
One of them is the Hungarian entry of 2013 “Kedvesem” by the glasses-and-beanie-wearing singer-songwriter ByeAlex. Against most expectations the song ended up at place ten, even though – or rather just because – it was sung in Hungarian. Listening to ByeAlex singing in his native language just feels natural, pure, and honest. And that was rewarded in the end. Listening to the English version of “Kedvesem”, you will love the original one even more, because – quite frankly – it’s pretty horrible.

The emphases of the English words seem a little odd and it must have been tough matching the syllables to the music. The result is not very lov-e-ly. We can consider ourselves lucky that ByeAlex stuck with the original version for the contest.
Some people argue that they prefer English speaking songs because they want to understand the message of the song. As to “Kedvesem”, I would say that the message of the song isn’t the most complicated one. You could get it just by typing in one word in a Hungarian dictionary. Anyhow, I doubt that English lyrics automatically always help you understand the meaning of a song. For once, you mostly don’t even get all the lyrics right when you’re listening to a song – regardless if they are in English, Hungarian, Corsican or whatever. Then again, there are plenty of songs where the lyrics just don’t make any sense. “Fighter oximated”, “Time is like thunder”, “Undo my sad” – those phrases are still confusing me. Sometimes, though, we might not even want to understand the meaning of a song – thinking of lines like “You put my mind in a dirty zone” by Russia’s slimy representative Alexej Vorobjov in 2011.
However, it is not only the language that makes you understand a song. Its message is much rather transmitted by the melody, the performance, and the singer’s charisma. So why not just go for the natural way and sing in the language that you are most comfortable with?!
It would have also saved a lot of Ralph Siegel’s precious time if he didn’t have to rewrite “Chain of Lights” for Michele Perniola and Anita Simoncini in order to save them the trouble of pronouncing the English th right and just let them sing in Italian instead. I’m not saying that that would have helped them getting through to the final – I’m not saying that at all! – but maybe they would have just felt a little more natural on stage.
After all, Eurovision is all about embracing our differences and variety. The different languages are a main part of that and instead of standardising them we should rather just let them be what they are. In my in opinion it would bring back a part of Eurovision’s initial character if we had a rule to sing in your native language. Even if that doesn’t necessarily mean one of the country’s official languages but in case of immigrants also languages like Swahili for instance which might actually broaden our horizon a little bit more. I still think it’s a shame that Stella Mwangi didn’t reach the final with “Haba Haba” in 2011. It was such an exotic, cheerful, and energetic song.
However, there are more examples of songs in a native language that were truly successful in Eurovision. One of them is “O Mie” by Aliona Moon where the singer’s presence, the performance on stage, and the natural language composed an extremely harmonic picture:

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