Dai Laga dilemma: Does Aidan Cassar’s MESC 2018 entry break Eurovision rules?

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After announcing the line-up way back in October, TVM finally released all 16 Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2018 entries on Thursday.

Among the standouts was “Dai Laga” from MESC newcomer Aidan Cassar. Despite some rather ropy lyrics — who exactly is Old Tony? — fans were quick to warm to the song’s tropical vibes, comparing it to Justin Bieber’s recent efforts.

Aidan is credited with writing both the lyrics and music, and is the only act in this year’s national selection to do so without any assistance. Or is he?

On Saturday, wiwibloggs commenter EscAU shared a link which suggests that “Dai Laga” may not be wholly original and could potentially be in breach of the Eurovision Song Contest rules.

Aidan Cassar “Dai Laga”

The link in question was to a production track with the very long title “(Justin Bieber, Major lazer type) Come Alive Prod By Lttb” on BeatStars. For a fee, artists can download the track for use in their own compositions.

And if you listen, it sounds strikingly similar to the “Dai Laga” backing track.

We’ve used the popular music-identifying app Shazam on “Come Alive” a number of times, and on almost every occasion it identifies a different song. All of which have used the same BeatStars backing track, and in places are indistinguishable from “Dai Laga”. You can listen to a few examples below.

Obviously, Cassar has put his own slant on things — for starters he’s added extra instrumentation — however, it’s hard to ignore what both our ears and technology are telling us.

If indeed Aidan has used this sample, is he breaking Eurovision rules?

“(Justin Bieber, Major lazer type) Come Alive Prod By Lttb”

Odeosa “Come Alive”

Badguybenny “She Wanna Have My Baby”

JRoa “Ulit ulit”

Reesie Reese “Come Alive”

According to the Eurovision rulebook:

“The compositions (lyrics and music) must not have been commercially released before 1 September 2017.”

At first glance, this wouldn’t appear to forbid the use of samples, as long as the 1 September rule isn’t broken. But if we go back to the Beatstars website, we can see that the backing track was first uploaded on 18 September 2016, and a version was uploaded to YouTube even earlier, on 14 August 2016. Also, multiple artists sampled it between then and the deadline.

A possible grey area is whether the 1 September rule applies to the song as a whole or to identifiable components within the song.

Where the 1 September rule becomes an issue, the contest guidelines state:

In case the composition has been made available to the public, for example, but not limited to, on online video platforms, social networks or (semi-) publicly accessible databanks, the Participating Broadcaster must inform the ESC Executive Supervisor, who shall have authority to evaluate whether the composition is eligible for participation in the Event. In particular, the ESC Executive Supervisor shall assess whether such disclosure prior to the Release Date is likely to give to the composition an advantage in the Event vis-à-vis the other compositions. The ESC Executive Supervisor shall authorise or deny participation of a composition which may have been available to the public as described above, subject to the prior approval of the Reference Group.

This rule has previously been applied to Anja Nissen’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016 entry “Never Alone” and Jamala’s Eurovision winning number “1944”. However, the issue in both instances related to previous public performances of the songs rather than their components.

wiwibloggs has reached out to Aidan Cassar for comment.

What do you think? Does “Dai Laga” break the Eurovision rules? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow all of our Malta Eurovision 2018 news.