It didn’t take long for the first eurodrama of the season to shine through. Last Thursday, broadcaster ARD broke the news that award-winning artist Xavier Naidoo had been internally selected as the German representative for Eurovision 2016, thus scrapping any earlier plans for an open national final. A few hours later, German fans were raging with fury about the choice, flooding Twitter with fierce criticism against Naidoo and ARD, and triggering a media storm that has made headlines even in prominent German media such as the Berliner Zeitung or Focus Online. But warum, nur warum has the choice of an established artist like Naidoo gone down so badly with the German public opinion?
Is “internal” a synonym for “undemocratic”?
Germans want to have a say — whether they care about Eurovision or not. A large share of criticism towards ARD revolves around the fact that the German audience won’t have a say in the choice for Stockholm. Those who watched last year’s Unser Song für Österreich may well remember the outrage and disappointment seen in many faces in the audience when Andreas Kümmert turned down his ticket to Vienna after receiving a whopping 78.7% of the votes. So go figure now: absolutely no say about the artist, although the audience will have a say on February 18 about the song Naidoo will perform in Stockholm. Alas, internal selections don’t seem to go down well in a country where all citizens (regardless of whether they even own a TV set) are legally bound to pay a quite annoying TV licence (the infamous Rundfunksteuer).
Allegations of homophobia
But it’s not only about the internal selection, y’all. Xavier Naidoo is not only well-known for his successful hits, his victory at the Bundesvision 2012 or his trademark beret. He’s also known for his unconventional political views and lyrics that have caused quite a stir (what Germans quite accuately call a shitstorm!). It has led many to wonder aloud whether he’s the best choice to represent Germany in an international contest. Naidoo made big headlines in 2014 by starring at a rally by the Reichbürger, a movement of citizens allegedly linked to far right parties who assert the existence of the German Reich and consider the current Federal Republic of Germany an occupied state. He is also alleged to uphold quite controversial views regarding conspiracy theories about 9/11. The whole controversy comes at a very delicate moment for Germany, when the rise of far-right movements like Pegida is reaching alarming proportions.
Some of Xavier’s old hits have also raised hackles: the NSFW lyrics for his 2012 track “Wo sind” featuring Kool Savas deals with violence against children, and many believe they carry a homophobic message. Some go as far as interpreting some hidden references to Hitler. Will Xavier fall prey to these homophobic accusations, just as Aram MP3 did in 2014? The drama is big with this one!
Xavier defends himself: “I want to bring the whole thing home”
Online petitions have already surpassed 15,000 signatories against Naidoo’s appearance in Stockholm. Both the German broadcaster and Xavier himself have stood their ground and denied the accusations. ARD’s Thomas Schreiber and Head of Delegation Carola Conze have stood firmly behind Naidoo, saying “He’s neither a right-wing militant, a homophobe or antisemitic.” The singer himself, who has pledged to bring Eurovision back to Germany, has released a statement condemning the tirades of hate towards him: “From my first performance ever on stage, I have stood openly behind values such as freedom, tolerance and love. No one that knows me personally has ever said otherwise. (…) I’m happy to live in a “colourful” Germany, with a richness in lifestyles and religions. (…) I stand behind freedom of speech. It’s indeed a shame that people who don’t know me at all are speaking ill about me just on the basis of unaccurate and unsubstantial information”.
A national final to let German viewers select a song for Xavier is scheduled for February 18th.