In the weeks leading up to this year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix several concerns regarding the many foreigners in the national final were expressed. Deliberately or not the Danish TV viewers mainly went for the Danish names quickly voting off the foreigners. Is it a coincidence or could it be related to the Danish culture?
It is only a couple of years ago Danish broadcaster, DR, opened up for foreigners taking part in the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. Back then the rule said that singers as well as songwriters had to be Danish of citizen or otherwise have lived in Denmark for quite some years. The rules are now changed to allow foreigners as long as there is at least one Dane connected to the song for example with one of the songwriters or the singer being Danish. This change meant that Swedish songwriters took part in the Danish finals in 2009 and 2010, but with Danish singers to perform their songs, only exception being Icelandic Hera Björk who sang a song written by Danish and Swedish songwriters together. Hera however lived in Denmark and was fluent in Danish.
This year we suddenly saw American, British and Swedish singers competing to represent Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest. Lee Hutton had learned to say the word “smuk” which means beautiful about the Danish girls and he liked our beers, but the Danish TV viewers couldn’t associate themselves with the thought of him showing what the Danish music scene has to offer. The fact that the band Swedish Jenny Berggren used to play in have had a contract with a Danish record company didn’t make her Danish enough either.
Out of the 10 songs competing in the 2011 Dansk Melodi Grand Prix half of them had foreign connection; three of them even a foreign singer. Four of the ten songs made it to the semi-finals, but all foreign singers were left behind. Of the qualifying four songs three of them were pure Danish meaning Danish singers and Danish songwriters. The two songs in the final were also pure Danish. It might just be a coincidence, but it is worth paying attention to what appears to be Danes saying no to foreigners in their national selection.
Those interested in politics will know that Denmark has one of the strongest set of laws when it comes to immigrants and furthermore the country is being accused of not following international rules in an attempt to prevent the immigrants that do get into Denmark from getting a Danish passport. To this you need to add that the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix in Denmark has a market share among the highest and that the Eurovision Song Contest always has been seen as a way to show the world around us what Danish music has to offer. Then it makes sense that the Danes would have a hard time seeing a British or an American singer that don’t speak a word of Danish and hadn’t set their feet on Danish ground before the press conference, where they were introduced as participants in the national final, as being Danish culture.
It is interesting to notice that the change of rule came at the same time as DR started talking quite loud about winning the Eurovision Song Contest again. So loud that it borders to the maximum level of arrogance you can show before too many people turn off. But where DR might be so focused on winning again that they are selling out of their old statements about Dansk Melodi Grand Prix being Danish culture this didn’t influence the minds of the Danes. They all saw that, in one of the top TV programmes of the year, subtitles had to be used a little too often when interviewing the ones who want to represent Denmark. For the Danes it is an honour to represent your country at the Eurovision Song Contest and they don’t want this honour given to someone who doesn’t deserve it… with that in mind it probably wasn’t believable when foreign songwriters in English talk about how much Denmark means to them when they in the next sentence say that this is the first time they are visiting the country!
The Danes wants Danes to represent them at the Eurovision Song Contest and through the years they have laughed at countries not having any good enough musicians themselves since they had to go for foreigners. In Denmark we believe we do have plenty of good musicians and therefore it requires something very unique if a foreigner wants to convince the Danish TV viewers that they should be defending the red and white colours. That unique thing was present last year where a set of Swedish songwriters managed to win the Danish final, with Danish singers though. It wasn’t the song that was unique – it was the fact that Denmark was guaranteed 12 points each from all the former Soviet countries. DR made sure that it was mentioned many times during the show that Denmark rarely receives any points from these countries. If we suddenly have 60 points plus the ones we can get from the rest of the countries it would become almost impossible to beat Denmark. It wasn’t hard for the TV viewers to do the math and vote for Chanée & N’evergreen and a Eurovision Song Contest victory.
Now, a fourth place is generally considered good in this contest, but the Danes felt robbed when they saw the countries whose 12 points had been guaranteed basically not give us anything. It turned out that apparently Thomas N’evergreen wasn’t such a huge star in those countries after all. Best guess is that had those points not been guaranteed, the Danes would have voted for Bryan Rice to win the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix and the privilege to represent Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest.
The good thing is that DR at least learned so much from that promise to the TV viewers that they this time didn’t use the national final to guarantee 12 points from United Kingdom and Ireland if the Danes went for Lee Hutton or even 12 points from the United States in case of Justin Hopkins…