To Americans, the Eurovision song contest is a truly bizarre concept. It is a massive, song contest that pits some thirty nations against one another in a battle of song and dance that more closely resembles the Olympics than American Idol.
Eurovision is not limited to Europe (especially with Australia competing) and the acts presented range from the outright silly to the breathtaking and beautiful. It is over the top in every respect, and it is a massively popular affair with the 2019 event drawing a total of 182 million viewers.
However, one of the more bizarre traditions of Eurovision is plagiarism allegations. Hardly a year has gone by without some song, dance routine or even stage facing accusations that it’s a work of plagiarism.
Perhaps the greatest example took place in the 2018 Eurovision where the winning song, Netta Barzilai’s Toy became was accused of using the same chords as the White Stripes song Seven Nation Army. The dispute ended with Jack White getting co-writer credit on the song.
Due to the pandemic, the 2020 Eurovision contest was cancelled and many though many of the songs that were selected for it have been held over for the 2021 Eurovision.
However, the lineup has not been without controversy and now, with the show some 75 days away, at the plagiarism allegations targeted at Eurovision participants.
Disclosure: Though I am a plagiarism expert I am not an expert on musical plagiarism. As such, I won’t be offering much commentary on whether the allegations carry weight or not.
Spain: Blas Cantó
In February, Spain’s representative, Blas Cantó put forward two new songs as candidates for the contest. The fate of the two songs, Memoria and Voy a Quedarme (I’m Going to Stay), were to be decided by public voting.
However, Memoria turned out to be controversial for other reasons. Shortly after the song’s debut, Twitter user @alvarozapato came posted a comparison video that he claimed showed Memoria was identical to a 2019 song named Thai Food by Rakky Ripper.
Rakky Ripper responded saying that she demoed the song in 2016 and uploaded it to SoundCloud in the summer of 2019. She went on to say that he felt the similarities were strong enough that, “If I wanted to, I could sue.”
In the end, the issue ended up being moot when it comes to Eurovision. With 58% of the vote, Voy a Quedarme won the contest and will be the song that represents Spain at Eurovision.
Cyprus: Elena Tsagrinou
Shortly after the allegations against Cantó, similar allegations were made against the performer representing Cyprus, Elena Tsagrinou. There, the allegations are that her song The Devil, is too similar to the 2009 Lady Gaga song Bad Romance.
The similarities were highlighted in a short video by Twitter user @shajacobos.
Though considered by some to be a favorite in the contest, it’s proven to be very controversial even without the allegations of plagiarism. Religious leaders in the country have accused the song of promoting “devil worshipping” though the country’s national broadcaster has declined to retract the song.
Currently, the song remains the one that will represent Cyprus and, barring a last-minute change, it seems like it will be performed at Eurovision, plagiarism or not.
Eurovision is very interesting from a plagiarism standpoint. You have thirty nations, each of which host their own selection festivals. This brings in hundreds of songs into the process and many of those songs have unique sets, dance routines and other elements.
All of this takes place under intense, global scrutiny from some of the most knowledgeable and passionate music fans. It’s easy to see why it’s produced a few interesting plagiarism stories along the way.
With that in mind, this is unlikely to be the end of the allegations for the 2021 show. As such, I plan on updating this post as new stories come out (or I learn about old ones I missed).
In the end, pretty much everything about Eurovision is over the top and that includes the stories about plagiarism.