Eurovision 2021 | Österdahl announces first rule change as new Eurovision boss
Earlier today it was announced on the official Eurovision Facebook page that new executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, Martin Österdahl, has made his first changes to the contest, mostly in response to the recent pandemic that forced the cancellation of the 2020 contest. The new rules were approved by the Reference Group, who voted on rule changes in the last few days and sent to the countries that have expressed interest to participate in 2021.
The most significant change is that backing vocalists for all performances are no longer required to be live. This means that harmonies and all vocalists apart from the main artist can be recorded. This has been done with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, giving each participating broadcaster the opportunity to limit the size of their travelling delegation and as a result, thus also limiting the risk of spreading the virus. However, there is speculation this is not the only reason. In 2017, the Norwegian electronic group, JOWST asked for special permission to play recorded synthesised vocals to make the EDM, Uptempo sound true to the studio version and the EDM style of music it aimed to showcase. The then Executive Supervisor, Jon Ola Sand, agreed to allow recorded vocals on specific circumstances and since, recorded vocals has been speculated to make an officially sanctioned return to the contest.
While this rule change is described by Eurovision.TV as "a one-year trial" with the continued modernisation of the contest, we would need to see if it is to become a permanent new rule. The musical diversity that this change offers certainly allows for a more modern and technologically advanced contest, and allows the presentation of songs to be as flexible as possible or as close to the original version as wanted by each delegation. There is concern from some fans that this is a change that could lead to Eurovision losing its live traditions however Österdahl has ensured us that this is not his aim, saying that "It is my mission, as I step into the big shoes left by Jon Ola Sand, to ensure the Eurovision Song contest remains agile but close to its traditions, its values and history."
In addition to Österdahl's first musical rule change, the new Eurovision boss has also said a new series of contingency plans will ensure that regardless of the global situation, the contest will take place in some competitive form after the dates of Eurovision 2021 were confirmed this week as the 18th, 20th and 22nd of May. In the Eurovision press release, Österdahl highlights the need to be pragmatic, open to change while also respecting the traditions of the contest. He argues that the new plan will provide better co-ordination for future responses to any global crisis and that as a community, we must be willing to change the format to ease broadcaster and hosting pressures during times of difficulties. Part of Österdahl's talk said that,
"As organisers of the World's largest music event we are determined and united in our mission, to bring back a contest, a new winner, and a handover to a new broadcaster. These elements are in our DNA and part of our legacy... When making the rule change maintaining authenticity and fairness has always been front of mind. We have to adapt, even if as preferred we are able to come back with our A-scenario, a contest as we know and love it, in a packed arena with fans and delegations."
It is still unclear in the coming months and at the next contest how this plays out and how songs will be effected. However, Österdahl's of fusing modernity and tradition seems clear and direct and will surely result in some further intriguing changes.
What do you think about this major change? Are you on board with it? Tell us in the comments below!