Photo Credit: Reiley
*The opinions made in this article only reflect those of the writer; it is not representative of the views of the entire Phoenix team, the EBU, Eurovision or DR*
Over the course of Eurovision 2023, there have been many songs that have had an overwhelmingly positive reception from fans, others have had a negative one and some have been mixed. One of the songs that divided opinions is the Danish entry by Reiley who performed the catchy pop song ‘Breaking My Heart’. Denmark only scored 6 points in the 2nd semi-final, finishing in 14th place out of 16.
In this article, I look at DMGP, the reaction to the song in more depth, the Eurovision performance and why, in my opinion, that he deserved better.
Photo Credit: EBU
Reiley is a singer and TikTok star who has amassed millions of followers thanks to his numerous covers on the platform, prior to taking on both Dansk Melodi Grand Prix and Eurovision in 2023. If you want to read more about Reiley, just take a look at our artist’s preview below.
Like many years prior, the Danish broadcaster DR decided to use Dansk Melodi Grand Prix to decide their entrant, which only uses a final to decide which one of the 8 contestants would win the ticket to Liverpool. When the 8 songs were first revealed, there wasn’t a lot of hype for many of them, but there were a few that caught the eye of fans. First was Icelandic-Danish sister duo EYJAA singing the country song ‘I Was Gonna Marry Him’, which featured Brynja Mary who took part in the Icelandic selection Söngvakeppnin 2020. Another was ‘Lige Hier’ performed by Søren Torpegaard which was a gentle ballad that many thought could stand out. The other one was Reiley who a few fans had recognised from TikTok. It was hard to say who was going to win until the night of the final.
Reiley was the last act to sing their song at DMGP. On the night, Reiley performed well – the staging was instantly visually appealing with a giant pink heart that proceeded to break before he was joined by 4 dancers while he sang. At the end of the song, pyro was added to the excitement of the audience. It did feel like a stand out compared to the other songs in that lineup.
In DMGP, there was a superfinal consisting of 3 songs and whoever made the Top 3 was determined by 100% televote. Then whoever would win out of those three songs would be decided by 50% televote and 50% Jury, which this year featured 2013 winner Emmelie De Forest. It was revealed that Reiley had finished in the Top 3 in every televote category in Denmark, including his native Faroe Islands. To many fans’ surprise, both EYJAA and Søren, despite great performances missed out, but Reiley made it through.
Reiley and the other two qualifiers, Micky Skeel and Nicklas Sonne, had their jury and televote scores revealed. Despite Reiley finishing joint 2nd in the televote, he scored double the percentage of jury votes than his nearest rival which meant he would be representing Denmark at Eurovision.
The Response From Fans To ‘Breaking My Heart‘
The fan reception to the song was definitely mixed, some felt that the song was a really good modern pop song for Eurovision, and Denmark, and that if it was executed correctly, then it could do very well. However, other fans thought that the song was too overproduced and lyrically a little basic. There were also fans who thought it was good, but not amazing enough to be in the Top 10 and some felt that the autotuned chorus was disjointed and off-putting.
Other fans weren’t sure on whether a TikTok star was the right choice for Eurovision as they weren’t sure how it could work for the contest. However Reiley wasn’t the first TikTok star to take part in Eurovision. Sam Ryder who represented the UK in 2022 first found fame on the social media app over lockdown, wowing millions across the world with his vocal range. His song ‘Space Man‘ blew Europe away and he finished in 2nd place, winning the jury vote and finishing in 5th place with the televote. I mentioned Space Man in more detail in an article I wrote explaining what makes a great Eurovision performance here, if you’re interested.
With this in mind, TikTok stars have had a good success rate thanks to Sam Ryder’s powerful voice, this links onto my next point, Reiley’s vocals.
Despite a decent performance in the DMGP final, Eurofans were quick to point out that the autotuned chorus was heavily featured in the backing vocals and because of this, you couldn’t hear his actual live vocals very well. This created questions as to whether he could sing live well on the night.
While studio backing vocals are allowed now in the contest, if this song was entered a few years ago, Reiley would’ve had to sing on his own and with live backing vocals. Click this article if you want to read more about this backing vocal rule and why it’s proved to be controversial.
Another reason why some fans were skeptical about his live vocals was due to previous live and karaoke performances emerging of Reiley performing the song without the autotuned chorus and it not sounding quite right. It is important to note that for informal karaoke performances that the artist isn’t necessarily going to have flawless vocals and sometimes people read too much into it. Eurofans shouldn’t feel the need to criticise or worry if one performance isn’t 100%, as this is what rehearsals are for. The most important performance that matters most is the live show on the Eurovision stage.
Like the song, fans also had very mixed views on whether this song would qualify for the final and the bookies were also in agreement. When the Eurovision odds were first announced, Denmark were 13th, going up to 10th in April, but they were always borderline in the run up to the contest. After the rehearsal pictures were posted, Denmark went back up to 10th place and bookies were predicting a 60% chance of the nation qualifying.
Eurovisionworld odds for Denmark in the lead up to Eurovision
The staging for Eurovision was a lot different to the DMGP one and tried to recreate the bright colours (pinks and greens) and the elaborate house set up of the music video. There were three rooms that revolved around throughout the performance. It was a cool idea to recreate aspects of the music video for the Eurovision performance, showing it wasn’t just a catchy song but also producing a memorable visual. There was also an LED floor which was used to great effect containing more bright colours and clouds tying into Reiley’s aesthetic. As previously mentioned, once the first rehearsal pictures were released, Denmark went up in the odds to qualify, despite the fact that they were performing 1st in the Semi-final.
Photo Credit: EBU
Reiley’s Eurovision Performance
During the actual live performance in the Semi-Final for the public, it didn’t start great as he scribbled on what the viewers thought was the camera, which was instead just revealed to be a little piece of paper attached to it. Reiley was supposed to pull this off but it wouldn’t come off at the right time. You could see that something went wrong and unfortunately, Reiley hit a bad note not long after and although he did his best to recover, ultimately the public just wasn’t convinced this was worthy for the final. The rest of his performance in my opinion was fine, but it did come across as quiet on the TV and this wouldn’t have helped persuade voters.
That being said, once he had left the house staging during the climax of the song and moved towards the audience, they gave him a big cheer and it felt a lot better, as the audience were able to make a connection with him as they’d only seen him initially around the house staging.
After the live performance, he went down in the odds list and the bookmakers said there was now only a 17% chance that Denmark would qualify.
The full Eurovision Semi Final 2 odds on who bookies thought would qualify according to Eurovision World.
The bookies were correct. He finished in 14th place and the only country that gave him any points was Iceland, who gave him 6. No one else was convinced enough to put this in their Top 10 out of the 19 countries that voted. Not even the ROTW vote could be persuaded to rank him high enough despite his TikTok success and him gaining a fanbase in South Korea.
Why He Deserved Better
One of the reasons I think he deserved so much better is that this is a contemporary catchy pop song which, in the lineup of songs, didn’t deserve to be forgotten. I personally love a lot of pop songs, it’s easily my favourite genre of music, and I especially love a lot of modern and catchy pop music, therefore something like this was right up my street, though I completely understand why the song is divisive amongst fans.
At Eurovision 2023, there were a few contemporary sounding songs that felt like they were from 2023, Denmark was one of them, Serbia, UK, Armenia, Israel and to an extent Finland as well. Some of these countries excelled and others struggled.
I think it’s important that in Eurovision that we have these modern songs no matter what genre in the contest and it’s OK for countries to choose songs which reflect current trends so that the contest continues to achieve mass appeal and for the songs to continue to have commercial success across Europe and beyond. I know Eurovision in general doesn’t always have the reputation that there’s a lot of music reflective of the current scene that takes part in the contest. This is something that some fans have criticised in the contest, but this is changing. In 2016, this was even referenced in the ‘Love Love Peace Peace’ interval act performed by Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw. In the song Petra explains that if you want the perfect Eurovision song, it might be good to add a DJ, she says:
“In real life this is thirty years old but in Eurovision, it will give your number a contemporary feel”
That being said however, one of the reasons that Eurovision has become so popular today with millions of excited fans is due to the variety of music that you get from the contest year in, year out. It’s ok to experiment with different sounds and genres in order to stand out such as Finland who I previously mentioned where ‘Cha Cha Cha’ won with the televote in a landslide.
From a personal perspective, I watched ‘Breaking My Heart‘ performed live during the evening preview show and he sounded a lot better in the arena, getting a great crowd response. Even when I watched the live semi final in Eurovillage, he had a lot of support from the crowd, and many of the group who I was with (including me), even voted for him. However, all of us are in our twenties and as mentioned before, the song appealed to a mostly young demographic and to be successful at Eurovision, you need to have your song appeal to all age groups.
I also think that it could have done better with the juries as well, as the performance in the evening preview show was better and I think they may have responded well to the pop tune. However, as he finished so low with the televote, it would have been a really big ask for him to have qualified overall.
Semi Final 2: Full Results
- Australia 🇦🇺 149
- Austria 🇦🇹 137
- Poland 🇵🇱 124
- Lithuania 🇱🇹 110
- Slovenia 🇸🇮 103
- Armenia 🇦🇲 99
- Cyprus 🇨🇾 94
- Belgium 🇧🇪 90
- Albania 🇦🇱 83
- Estonia 🇪🇪 74
- Iceland 🇮🇸 44
- Georgia 🇬🇪 33
- Greece 🇬🇷 14
- Denmark 🇩🇰 6
- Romania 🇷🇴 0
- San Marino 🇸🇲 0
This is especially evident when you see how Estonia who finished 10th overall with the televote, excelled with the juries in the final. Not to mention other countries who failed to qualify such as Diljá from Iceland and Iru from Georgia who all gave flawless vocal performances which in my opinion, could have resulted in a great score with the juries, therefore making Denmark’s dreams of qualifying even harder.
I mentioned before about some fans being skeptical about TikTok stars taking part in Eurovision, but as time goes on, I think we’ll see more stars emerging from social media who will want to take part in Eurovision hoping their fanbase will help them to do well. It’s not like we haven’t had singers who have initially found fame on TikTok going onto great things before, such as Sam Ryder, Addison Rae and PinkPantheress, to name a few who have found success on the charts.
I think some Eurofans were very harsh to him just because they weren’t a fan of the song and he’d received a lot of unnecessary hate. It’s okay to say that you dislike his song, or simply expressing the opinion that you don’t think he’s a great singer. But fans shouldn’t send comments which are personal and hateful directly to the artist, as many Eurovision artists read these comments. This isn’t something that has exclusively happened to Reiley as many other contestants have received a lot of hate and this is more of a general comment, but Reiley definitely received his fair share. These are artists who want to sing their song to the continent in what could be one of the biggest gigs they’ve ever done or ever do, and is supposed to be a great experience for them.
While I can’t ignore the vocals not being perfect on the night, there have been many performances where the singer may not give the best or a great performance, but they’ve still sailed through or done very well in the Eurovision final. That’s Eurovision for you though! Sometimes you don’t know who will qualify which makes the contest much more exciting!
Overall, while I understand why in a strong semi-final like this why ‘Breaking My Heart‘ didn’t qualify, I think it’s a shame as it was a great contemporary pop song and a shame that a song that was very radio-friendly, and perfect for 2023 would do as bad as it did. In the run up to the contest, it grew on me so much and it became an earworm for me, its since become around my 3rd/4th favourite song of the Eurovision year, and I still listen to it a lot even now!
2023 hasn’t all been bad news for Denmark however. Although Loreen may have won Eurovision for Sweden may have won Eurovision this year, the contest will be held in Malmö next year which is very close to Copenhagen in Denmark, so there will still be thousands of eager Eurovision fans flocking to not just Sweden, but Denmark too next year!
Did you think Denmark deserved better this year? Let us know in the comments!
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