Waylon showed up at his first rehearsal at Eurovision 2018 ready to rock out. The country star slipped into a leopard print jacket and definitely cut the image of a rebel as he performed his song “Outlaw in ‘Em”. Comfortable in small clubs and on grand stages, the Dutchie was completely unfazed by all the lights and cameras around him. As ever he delivered the song effortlessly, reminding Eurovision fans why he placed second at Eurovision back in 2014.
And while there’s little reason to criticise Waylon, his staging is another matter entirely. He’s accompanied by a series of backing dancers, all of whom are black. This has caused a bit of a stir as it’s been interpreted as a deliberate move that hints at blacksploitation. This takes on a particularly unsavoury connotation given that the song, on its surface, is about outlaws. That the performance comes in the wake of the Black Lives Matter phenomenon only adds more question marks. Despite his harmless intentions, optics do matter — and the optics here don’t look good.
Putting race to the side, Waylon also seems to have betrayed his country roots. He’s known as a Nashville performer. And Nashville concerts don’t normally include breakdancing or krumping, if that’s what the choreography can be called. Waylon’s backing dancers perform more of a broken break dance involving lots of violent shakes. It’s as if they’ve got the tremors.
Waylon’s Eurovision in Concert performance would have qualified him for the grand final easily. He doesn’t need any sort of narrative — let alone a controversial one — around him to make an impact. Sadly his current performance, which is chaotic at best and a total disaster at worst, won’t do him or The Netherlands any favours.
Waylon — “Outlaw in ‘Em”: Reviews and Reactions
The Netherlands: First rehearsal at Eurovision 2018
The Netherlands: First press conference 2018
Footage & Photos: EBU & RTP