Belgian Eurovision website songfestival.be has today released an interview with the Head of VRT’s selection comittee for Eurovision, Gerrit Kerremans. Belgium has two broadcasters that take turns in choosing the artist. Both VRT and RTBF select their ESC artists internally. In recent years this process has always taken place behind closed doors. Now Mr Kerremans has shined some light on the challenges that VRT has faced.

1. Sennek’s non-qualification and the pressure for Belgium for qualify

Gerrit Kerremans admits that there needs to be more attention for the act. Belgium failed to look into that with Sennek.

“That went wrong in Lisbon. We underestimated the entire staging story. Sennek wanted to pack the audience in a traditional way with her voice. As VRT we have gone too far in that. We just forgot that hundreds of million people are watching at home. We realized it too late. We did not approach that well together with the staging team. I want to take responsibility for that. Despite having surrounded ourselves with people who have experience in this. We actually failed collectively at the time.”

Belgium hasn’t qualified in two years. While the country has done pretty well overall, with two fourth-place finishes in the final courtesy of Loic Nottet and Blanche, there’s pressure to get back on track.

“I think the pressure to do well every time is high. Now we are in a dip again. You can compare that with the Red Devils: Heroes of the nation, until they lose. It seemed obvious to RTBF to score time and time again. So that’s not it.” 

2. Stromae

Stromae is an artist that has been high on the wishlist of Belgian Eurovision fans. Gerrit Kerremans confirms that the VRT has been in contact with him multiple times.

“We have asked him a number of times. You never know. You are actually obliged to do so in your country. You must at least ask the artist with the most potential. Unfortunately, Stromae always says in a friendly and reasoned way ‘no.'”

Stromae comes from Brussels and has French as his mother language. But in fact this doesn’t matter. There is no restriction for either of the broadcasters to ask an artist from the other language region. VRT could ask Loic Nottet or Blanche, for example. And there is no restriction for these artists either.

But a problem comes in case of a victory. Which language region will organize the contest then? The one where the artist is from, or the one where the broadcaster is located? To avoid these type of painful questions, both broadcasters mostly play it safe and pick from their own region. However, exceptions confirm the rule. Walloon singer Axel Hirsoux was picked in the Flemish national final of the VRT. So it can happen.

3. The success of the Netherlands as trigger for VRT

‘That has been triggering us. Especially when they suddenly started sending big names, like Anouk and Ilse Delange. How do they do that, I wondered myself. To have success at such a big festival and at the same time convince such a big artist. It turned out, they had invited Belgians to join the Dutch ESC team. I though, wtf, why aren’t they working for us? In 2016 and 2018 they were luckily on our team”. 

In the meantime, Belgian Eurovision fans have also seen how successful The Netherlands has become. And on online media and forums, some Belgian Eurovision fans are already dreaming. How great would it be to have a Belgian win, in The Netherlands, in Rotterdam. Especially since it’s a VRT (Flanders) year.

4. VRT wants to approach things differently this year

This year the VRT wants to change a couple of things in order to make the chance for success bigger again for Belgium. Mr Kerremans says that they’ve brought on new team members to help with that. And also they are talking to different artists.

“Yes, we will do it differently. The guidance must be top notch. Other people are joining that staging team. Oh, and rehearse! Rehearsing much more. For example, we didn’t do a multi-cam rehearsal with Laura. You have to train that.”

One of the new members added to the VRT ESC team is Christoffel Cocquyt. He’s an Artist & Repertoire expert. But also known as the manager Selah Sue, Gabriel Ríos, Milo Meskens and Novastar. The name of Selah Sue has also been high on the Belgian wishlist for a long time. Perhaps the fact her manager joined the VRT team will get things moving?

5. Finding an artist for Rotterdam 2020

Mr Kerremans says that VRT is currently searching for an artist.

“There are currently conversations with various people. But in 2018 we immediately asked Sennek the big question. It was already the third time we asked her. She was interested from the start. That is why we immediately made it our priority last year. Then you don’t have to encourage five other artists to participate”. 

In 2018, Sennek was chosen, but other artists were also approached. Perhaps VRT is again in conversation with those artists — although not confirmed — including Flemish singer Natalia.

“Because in 2018 there have been conversations with her (Natalia) manager. Nothing went wrong there, but in the end we can only indicate one person. We try to make a difference with our entry. Some artists are quite interchangeable when you look at other countries. But don’t get me wrong: you can definitely go to the Songfestival with Natalia or Billie. Definitely”!

What do you think? Will Belgium be able to qualify this year with a new staging team? Will the Dutch win spur Belgium to success in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comment section below. 

Read more Belgium news here

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Pancake
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Pancake

Since it clearly states that the broadcasters can pick any artist regardless if they are Walloon or Flanders, then I suggest VRT should get Blanche and bring back the indie vibe Belgium has been known for in Eurovision.

Katherine
Guest
Katherine

I would love Bazart to represent Belgium. Would be nice to hear a Dutch song again

PP77
Guest
PP77

In 1986 RTBF organise Eurovision, but VRT send song.
If Belgium win 2020, in 2021 VRT will organize, but RTBF will sent song.

Pedro
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Pedro

That was not their initial plan. They did that because VRT refused to take responsibility for co-hosting the event (even though they had said they would).

Mike Soto
Guest
Mike Soto

Belgium needs to send Angele. She’s very talented and energetic and can sing in both French and English.

Sara
Guest
Sara

Tbh it would be so cool if our Southern neighbours would win in Rotterdam, I’m rooting for you België!

Sab
Guest
Sab

I think if the number one on their wishlist say no they will ask ibe from the voice

Vladimir P.
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Vladimir P.

It would be great to have Stromae in Rotterdam!

Jo.
Guest
Jo.

yeah, sure lol

Juan Cena
Guest

VRT should ask Stan Van Samang to either represent Belgium or to write the song. I still love his gorgeous “Little Moon Rises,” Which he performed in this clip with Blanche. .

https://youtu.be/oAJiz6NkV-k

Maya G
Guest
Maya G

I thought Stromae was Flemish. I know his music is mostly in French, but his real name sounds very Dutch and according to Wikipedia his mother is Flemish, so I assumed it’s his mother’s tongue. Anyway, I see why he refuses to take part in Eurovision – he has little to gain and much to lose. Maybe he’ll be interested to write a song for another performer, that would be nice. I really want Belgium to win, and especially Flanders – all these years in the contest, many great entries, and they never even made it into the top 5.… Read more »

Pedro
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Pedro

I think in general, you can assume that if they’re big in the French music market (like Stromae, Lara Fabian or Angèle), they’re not Flemish. I think the only exception to this is Axelle Red: she’s Flemish but only sings in French and is very famous in France.

Flemish people don’t really have a strong connection to the Francophone world.

Andy
Guest
Andy

Flemish people have a connection to the francophone world, it is impossible to escape the big influence, even in our own Flemish language. French songs often become hits here also.

BlooMinion
Guest
BlooMinion

What about Lara Fabian? Although she speaks French, she’s Flemish and Italian. Last time, she went to Eurovision (for Luxembourg) she placed 4th.

Bella
Guest
Bella

Lara Fabian is not Flemish, lol. I think her dad was, but she was born in Brussels (which is 85% French-speaking despite being surrounded by Flanders). She’s Francophone and now has dual citizenship with Canada (she was a judge on “La Voix”, the Quebecois version of The Voice). I don’t think she speaks Dutch (can’t find any proof that she does, CMIIW) and not even sure she’s known in Flanders. Just found an article where she says that she went on tour with Natalia but complains that due to language barrier Natalia is a big star in Flanders but completely… Read more »

Andy
Guest
Andy

She doesn’t speak Dutch. She is known here in Flanders but never was popular. She once stated she was ashamed to be Belgian, so she can stay where she is now.

filipko54
Guest
filipko54

some news from the Czech Republic – artists and songs are already selected, everyone is now rehearsing and working on the show and staging, but the artists will be probably announced later this year

Kosey
Guest
Kosey

I miss Eliot.

CookyMonzta
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CookyMonzta

Stromae would make for a very interesting campaign. But I would like to see Selah Sue try out herself.

Henrikh Mugosa
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Henrikh Mugosa

I agree.

Bob Jeurgens
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Bob Jeurgens

They should ask Emma Bale!! She’s actually one of The best Flemish artists in my opinion.

Coco
Guest
Coco

She has already said multiple times that she’s not interested

Sabrina
Guest
Sabrina

I’ve been saying this for a while here: Belgium has been doing an amazing job on picking talented artists and quality songs, but they’ve also been failing on how to prepare their singers for the last 3 years. So I’m very glad to read that they will focus on giving their artist better guidance and lots of rehearsal. It’s also refreshing to read a head of delegation admiting their own mistakes and not blaming others.

Preuss
Guest
Preuss

Well Blanche came 4th – but I think it could’ve been more if the performance was better as I could really see «City Lights» do better with the juries

Sabrina
Guest
Sabrina

Some juries would probably would give them more points if Blanche showed more confidence. In the final she was already feeling much more comfortable. For someone that unexperienced, 4th place was a very good result. And the song also did well in the charts.

Roy Moreno
Guest
Roy Moreno

There’s no need in big names, I mean, Duncan was quite unknown and he won the contest, in contrast to the big names they’ve sent
Belgium’s got a chance as long as they send a great and worthy act
Belgium is becoming a successful country as well in my opinion; Beside their great results of 2015-2017, people are eagerly waiting for the Belgian act to be revealed every year now and they shouldn’t take it for granted 🙂
I still think both entries which failed to qualify were quite good but I can definitely see why they failed to qualify

CastESC
Guest
CastESC

Well, in the case of Eliot, his live performance was probably one of the worst of the night. No offence intended, but they should definitely try to find someone able to sing live…

Roy Moreno
Guest
Roy Moreno

Oh yea, definitely, but the song was cute (though weak)

Trash KAN
Guest
Trash KAN

Convincing Stromae to represent their country is not enough. They need to bring back their magic on stage like what they did in 2010, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017 and it does not matter if the artists that they’ll talk to is a popular one or not.

Joe
Guest
Joe

I appreciate this sort of candidness and honesty from the head of a selection committee. Belgium clearly have that flame lit under them to bring it next year in Rotterdam (and I gotta admit: if it takes being jealous of their neighbors’ success to do it, so be it). I heard Hooverphonic rumored, that could be great. Fact is, VRT brought Belgium out of their rut nine years ago with Tom Dice. Might be time for them to do it again.

BREXIT CAREER WOMAN
Guest
BREXIT CAREER WOMAN

Don’t send K3 😉

BREXIT CAREER WOMAN
Guest
BREXIT CAREER WOMAN

please send LOST FREQUENCIES

BREXIT CAREER WOMAN
Guest
BREXIT CAREER WOMAN

He cannot speak Flemish so he does not deserve to represent Flanders.
I prefer Natalia or Annemie (Ian Van Dahl) or Sylver or Milk inc.

Leduc Dirk
Guest
Leduc Dirk

He wil present Belgium not Flanders

BREXIT CAREER WOMAN
Guest
BREXIT CAREER WOMAN

gij zijt zot

dygh
Guest
dygh

Not deserving? He is the best artist Belgium has seen in many, MANY years so he would deserve it without question, being famous beyond international borders. It doesn’t me he should go, but still.
To get political here: views like yours damage what can be our beautiful little country.

Stef
Guest
Stef

He does speak Dutch. On Youtube you can find an interview between Felix and Sean Dhondt.

Mariko
Guest
Mariko

Please, please do not ask Natalia. I mean the papers would write about it here, so they would succeed in getting the attention, but that’s it.

Sam
Guest
Sam

I don’t think they should try to persuade consolidate artists to sing for them. Blanche and Loïc are the perfect examples that prove that young and not necessarily well-known singers can reach a top 5 in the esc and take it as the departure point of a promising career. I’m still impressed by the quality of some of Loïc’s songs such as Million Eyes, On fire or 29, any of these three could have done well in the contest. In any case, I’m confident Belgium will find again the formula to come back to the top spots after the last… Read more »

Alex
Guest
Alex

I’ve been praying for Stromae to be at Eurovision for a long time.

Roelof Meesters
Guest
Roelof Meesters

Belgium has one of the most interesting music scenes when it comes to indie music and that especially goes for Flanders. I don’t think Belgium needs a big name to represent them, they need a captivating song and a great performance to go with it. Belgium could win VERY soon if they get everything right.

pepe
Guest
pepe

I love “A Matter Of Time”. I would have qualified with a professional approach. But I read an interview with Hans Pannecoucke in which he said that it was either Sennek’s way or the highway. She had only one dress with her, because that was the dress she wanted to wear and nothing else. And she insisted on performing on the catwalk.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Huh. I always assumed that it was Mr. Pancake’s doing. I thought that since Sennek wrote such a classy song and worked as visual something at Ikea, she surely had to have some kind of good taste. I have no clue what possessed her to make all the worst choices possible and murder her own song, the best of 2018. I still listen to “A Matter of Time” but her performance is unwatchable. I wonder what Mr. Pancake could say about working with Trijntje.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Pannecouke has now proven twice over that, given his druthers, he can do magic, as evidenced by how good he made the Common Linnets, Douwe Bob, and (of course) Duncan look. He appears to have been let down either by songs that don’t match his talents (Do It for Your Lover) or controlling artists (both Netherlands and Belgium in 2018).

TheDr Mistery
Guest
TheDr Mistery

It would qualify from SF2. Bad staging and bad luck but the song was on par with “Rhythm Inside” and “City Lights” and among the best possible Bond themes to ever grace the contest in its studio version.

Joe
Guest
Joe

That was my heartbreaker of 2018. That song looked poised to do as well as the last three Belgian entries and it tanked because of shoddy staging and iffy vocals. Might’ve scraped through if the competition wasn’t so stiff in that semi, but still. What a letdown.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Right? The studio version of “A Matter of Time” keeps jumping back onto my playlist to this day. It could have been staged so epically, definitely not with all those faces from the crowd and the flag waving serving as the biggest distractions a Eurovision performance has ever had. Honestly, I didn’t even want to watch it again in the final. So weird to not care whether your favorite song makes it or not.

Joe
Guest
Joe

That was the first Eurovision I followed start to finish, so Sennek was always an artist I was interested in. It gave me the unique chance to see an artist’s Eurovision journey form beginning to end. When the song came out, I was pleased and impressed. But then I saw the rehearsal clip, and heard her at the pre-parties, and suddenly I figured out what fans mean by a “shock non-qualifier.”

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Hmm to me a shock non-qualifer is someone with a great song who also performed it well, thus expected to be a sure finalist. This one, to me, wasn’t shocking as a non-qualifier, it was shockingly poorly performed.

Joe
Guest
Joe

True. Switzerland was probably the only true shocker.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

I totally would have kicked out a couple of others to replace them with Switzerland.

Sabrina
Guest
Sabrina

The studio version for “A Matter of Time” is probably in my all time top 5. I absolutely adore it. I still think Sennek deserved at least to qualify, but in that death semi no mistake could go without punishment.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Somtimes it feels like it’s meant to be broken.

Amor Amankwah
Guest
Amor Amankwah

That’s really unfortunate. Sennek would have done well to listen to the more seasoned professionals in regards to staging. She could have qualified.

Student Officer
Guest

Stromae is one of the best musicians of modern times

BREXIT CAREER WOMAN
Guest
BREXIT CAREER WOMAN

I prefer Sabrina Lia when it comes to Francophone music.

jack
Guest
jack

well its not about the name, its about the song. If you cant have that, stromae cant win on his own.

sangfreudx
Guest
sangfreudx

I agree. Stromae is a cool artist with cool songs, but to me his style doesn’t fit in a 3 minute rigidly-rehearsed format. Eurovision is like 42 different footballs, and Stromae is a balloon.

Anyway I’m always a fan of the less known artist who gives us a happy surprise – a la Loic, Blanche, Roberto Bellarosa, Tom Dice, etc.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Belgium haven’t had a super-established artist represent them in a while. Established composers, sure, but it’s been a minute since a big act represented them. I don’t know much about Belgian music (though I like what I’ve heard), but from what I’ve gathered, the last big artist selected for them was, I dunno, Clouseau from 1991.

Skiwalko
Guest

What about Kate Ryan? She was very famous in 2006 in Europe, mainly thanks to her hit song, “Desenchantee”.

poe-tay-toe-chips
Guest
poe-tay-toe-chips

Wasn’t Eurovision what made Clouseau famous though and not the other way around?

pepe
Guest
pepe

Clouseau became famous in the two years before competing in Rome. “Daar gaat ze”, their biggest hit was from 1990.

Katariina
Guest
Katariina

Laura Tesoro was quite well known in Belgium when she went to ESC

BREXIT CAREER WOMAN
Guest
BREXIT CAREER WOMAN

yeah, she’s a Disney star