On Monday, Norwegian broadcaster NRK revealed the four acts who will compete in the first semi-final of Melodi Grand Prix 2020. Among the four was Norwegian pop singer Raylee and her song “Wild”. But fans soon pointed out that part of the song sounds very similar to several older songs.
Raylee’s “Wild” is already shaping up to be one of the strongest entries in this Saturday’s first semi-final. It currently leads the wiwibloggs poll, with over 46% of voters picking it as their semi-final one favourite.
The song is a celebration of being wild and free and a “beautiful monster”. It has a strong dance flavour, while Raylee’s beguiling vocals snake and bounce around the track.
But it’s the introduction of the song that is raising eyebrows. The song begins with a distinct riff played on an acoustic guitar. The riff is looped for about 20 seconds before it makes way for the full electronic backing.
For many fans, this riff sounds just like the beginning of the 2018 song “Nimfomanka” (“Nymphomaniac”) by the Russian singer Monetochka. The YouTube lyrics video has almost 7 million views, while the Spotify stream has over 1.5 million listens.
Eurovision fan @esc_JNL overlapped the intros of the two songs which appears to show that they match very closely — with the one big difference being the singers’ individual vocals.
— Luc ? (@esc_JNL) January 6, 2020
For Finnish fans, the riff also sounds familiar. It appears to start off the 2018 song “Nostalgiaa” by the singer Evelina. The single has clocked up almost 280,000 views on YouTube and over 2.77 million listens on Spotify. The song also reached No.2 in the Finnish singles chart.
There’s also a very similar start to the song “Dope” by German producer Oliver Moldan. It was released in April 2018 and the video has almost 380,000 views. And last month another song was added to the list: “Drunken Truth” by Steve Void & FANNYPACK ft. Andy Marsh. However that video has only picked up 751 views so far.
Why do all these songs seem to have the same sound?
Is it a coincidence that all these songs seem to use the same riff? Is it plagiarism? Or is there a modern-day troubadour travelling around Europe, playing the one same riff on his guitar?
One possible explanation is that the guitar riff is a sample that the producers of all these songs have leased from a music library.
This is a common practice in modern music production. Sometimes the producer will lease the sample with an exclusive agreement, other times the sample may be available for anyone else to lease.
Does “Wild” break Eurovision 2020 rules?
The official Eurovision 2020 rules don’t explicitly prohibit using samples in a song, so that’s not a problem.
The issue is the “1 September rule”, which states:
The compositions (lyrics and music) must not have been commercially released before 1 September 2019 (the Release Date).
There’s a possible grey area as to whether the rule applies to the song as a whole or to identifiable components within the song.
If a composition was released prior to 1 September, the Eurovision rules say this:
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 and/or performed publicly, for example but not limited to during concerts, 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.
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 song rather than their components.
If “Wild” makes it to Eurovision, it could be argued that the success of “Nimfomanka” and “Nostalgiaa” — each with millions of views or listens in their respective countries — could give “Wild” an advantage with Eurovision viewers in Russia and Finland. Or perhaps it would be a disadvantage — with viewers wondering why Norway’s song sounds like their local star’s single.
There is also the possibility that if a Melodi Grand Prix track wins the national final but is in breach of Eurovision rules, the song could be revamped into a compliant version ahead of Eurovision.
Malta’s “Dai Laga” dilemma
If this situation sounds familiar, back in 2018, Malta Eurovision Song Contest act Aidan Cassar had a similar issue with his song “Dai Laga”.
The song had used a previously released sample from a music library which sparked an investigation by the Maltese broadcaster.
A new version of “Dai Laga” was released that had removed the sample. The song went on to place fourth in the Maltese national final.
Raylee is due to compete in the first semi-final of Melodi Grand Prix 2020, this Saturday 11 January. Four acts will compete in the semi, vying for one place in the grand final on 15 February.