Stockholm 2016

Xtra Debate: Keep Spain Spanish?

The six potential Spanish entries will be revealed in full tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon for their national final taking place on Monday 1 February – read all about the entries here. However it’s been reported just in the last few days that broadcaster RTVE has requested all competing artists sing at least some of their entries in Spanish. Not a huge surprise perhaps – all of Spain’s 55 Eurovision entries have been sung in Spanish with only six containing even parts of any other language (mostly English). However it must be an inconvenience to a couple of the artists who had publically announced that they would be fielding songs in English.
We will find out tomorrow at 17:00 CET whether the artists have followed through with the broadcaster’s wishes when we hear the full songs, but for now we want you to have your say. Is RTVE right to instruct all artists to sing in Spanish?
We have made a poll for you to give your opinion on the matter, and we have also put the question to two of our editors. Read what they had to say below…

Is RTVE right to instruct all artists to sing in Spanish?

Poll Maker

Nick van Lith says “yes”.

TVE has told all artists in their national final to use at least some Spanish in their songs. Now, despite not being the biggest fan of the Spanish language, I think it’s fully justified to make such a request.
Spanish music has had a true revival in the past ten years. Away from the eternal ‘Olé olé’ attempts clapping your way through summer, Spain has evolved into a nation where credible pop music is made and is delivered to all of Europe. That happens by big names (Shakira, Enrique Iglesias), but also up and coming names manage to get their Spanish hits into Europe, just think of last year’s breakthrough artist Alvaro Soler. The Spanish language is, in my eyes, the second biggest language in European music.
Many artists, even in national selections, are looking for ‘that Spanish feeling’. We of course had Adelén’s Bombo, but this year, we have Hispaania Tüdruk in Estonia (by Indrek Ventmann). The Spanish feeling, whether through music or through language, is popular. Why would Spain want to change that?
Sure, I can hear the arguments that Spain need to break away from the tradition as they don’t score that high anymore. Question is: Can we really blame their results on the use of Spanish? I highly doubt it. Pastora Soler sang fully in Spanish – came 10th. Ruth Lorenzo sang most of her song in English – came 10th. I don’t think acts like Daniel Diges or Rodolfo Chikilicuatre are anywhere near representative for the Spanish music scene, neither is ESDM. And then we can completely remain silent over Edurne’s Loreen reject.
The problem in Spain is not their language. Their language can actually work for them. Their problem is in thinking too easy in terms of artists or what they need. When we hear those songs tomorrow, we’ll have a good idea of what Spain is able to achieve – regardless of the language it’s using.
If language is not the problem, then why does it matter what language they use? That, in my eyes, has to do with philosophy.
TVE is pumping money into Eurovision and their Eurovision act. Their idea is to showcase Spain in all its forms – so that takes them away from the typical summer song including ‘Bailar conmigo, chica’. There is no reason why Spain would give up on their philosophy that Spanish has to be used. Yes, one could say that you’re challenging artistic freedom by telling them what language to use. Then again, all of these artists know the drill and they knew the philosophy TVE had when they agreed to be in the national final.
And last but not least, there is one reason why we cannot go without Spanish in the upcoming Eurovision: We’re just way too addicted to hearing at least one corazón on the Eurovision stage. We just need it. A Spanish entry without corazón is just not a Spanish Eurovision entry.
So, in short, I’d like to wish TVE the best of luck in Eurovision 2016. With a song that showcases their language and their culture, the language and culture they’re so proud of.

Peter Dunwoody says “no”.

If the reported sequence of events in Spain is true, then this all seems like a bit of a mess. The national broadcaster choosing artists, presumably aware of their back catalogues, the artists recording songs, official publicity about the songs going out, and then a demand being made of the artists a matter of days before the songs are revealed to the world?
I did think when I read that a couple of the songs were in English this year that RTVE had finally entered the 21st Century. I thought perhaps they had taken a tip from countries like The Netherlands and just let their artists get on with things and prepare their entries their way, without interference. No, it seems Spain is still stuck in the past.
I’m all for diversity at Eurovision, and I am a particular fan of the Spanish language, but why are we in the business of telling artists how they do their job? RTVE has managed to assemble a reasonably impressive line-up of artists this year too – these aren’t amateurs entering a talent show, these are people who do this for a living. Some of these artists have extensive bodies of work behind them, some of which are mostly or even solely in English.
The excuse no doubt is that the Spanish broadcaster and Spanish people are proud of their language and culture and want to promote it to the world. They are right to be proud and justified in wanting to show off, but their thinking is all wrong. By sending the best song they can, and putting forward someone who will represent the country as best they can, they will be promoting Spain, Spanish talent and the Spanish music scene. As long as they are professional and do their country proud, they can do this with a song in Spanish, English, Russian or Swahili. If you are so proud of your culture then you should have the confidence that there is much more to it beyond the language you speak.
It would be a shame to eliminate a selection of professional, strong candidates by demanding they perform in a way in which they are uncomfortable or doesn’t show off their work to its maximum potential because of an antiquated notion that “language is everything.”
Some national contests do have stipulations about language such as Iceland, which requires all competitors to perform an Icelandic version of their song, but gives the artists freedom to perform their songs how they wish at Eurovision, and indeed the rules stipulate that come the final, the audience is given the chance to hear how this will sound. In Sweden, there is a quota each year for a number of Swedish songs in the line-up, but these either come from songs originally composed in the language, or from lengthy discussions about what is best for each individual song.
An encouragement to embrace the national language is commendable (indeed it might turn out tomorrow that the reports have been exaggerated and this is all that has taken place), but dictation is not. The priority should always be for the artists to be true to themselves, as ultimately this is what will make a country competitive at Eurovision.

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