After one of the strongest debuts in Eurovision history, including four top ten placings in five years, Australia felt the sting last year. After their singer couldn’t make it to Rotterdam due to the pandemic, they suffered their first non-qualification. They are a nation hungry to return to the grand final, and that is all resting on the shoulders of one talented 23 year old. Flying the Southern Cross this year is Sheldon Riley with his song “Not The Same”.

Scroll down to read the “Not The Same” lyrics

Australia in Eurovision 2022: Sheldon Riley “Not The Same”

Sheldon Riley, real name Sheldon Hernandez, was born in Sydney to an Australian mother and a Filipino father but grew up in the Gold Coast. Despite being only 23, he is no stranger to the big stage, having participated in many talent shows throughout his life. In 2016, he participated in the The X Factor Australia, originally as a solo artist but then selected to be part of boy band Time And Place. They were mentored by Iggy Azalea but eliminated in the first week of the live shows.

His breakthrough came two years later when he auditioned for The Voice Australia. He auditioned with the song “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” by Culture Club, and turned all four chairs. Sheldon selected Boy George to be his coach and ultimately finished in third place. The next year, he competed again in The Voice as an all-star contestant, this time coached by Delta Goodrem. He was eliminated in the semi-final. Not done there, in 2020 he competed on America’s Got Talent and made it to the third quarterfinal.

The only singing contest Sheldon has left to do is Eurovision, so it seemed natural that he was announced as one of the contestants of Eurovision – Australia Decides 2022. He was the favourite to win the national final and ultimately placed second in both the televoting and jury. However, his combined score of 100 points was enough to secure the ticket to Turin.

What do the “Not The Same” lyrics mean?

“Not The Same” is a passionate ballad written by Sheldon Riley with Sydney-based music producer Cam Nacson. It was inspired by his history of being ostracised for being queer and neurodivergent in a conservative environment. He said of his song:

“It is the story I never thought I’d ever feel I’d be able to tell. Written from the memories of a child who at age 6 was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Growing up in public housing, moving from home to home, unaware of my sexuality, among a deeply religious family. A path already laid that I would never be able to properly understand or interact with other people.”

The song opens with the trauma of a being a lonely autistic child in a toxic environment, “Found it hard to talk and speak my mind, they never liked the things that I would like”. He notes the damage it causes from a society that refuses to respect you, “Cause you’re told to play but you’re not the same, as the other kids playing the same games, try to jump on in but they push away”.

Sheldon also refers to the practice of masking, whereby neurodivergent people hide their true selves, “My father asked me if today I smiled, I said ‘yes, I did’ but that’s a lie, oh, I always tell those lies”. But the Australian star has the revelation that he deserves respect and love, “Then you run and hide, hide the break inside till you realise that the light shines bright”.

The song ends with Sheldon speaking directly to the audience and wider society that made his childhood so difficult. He speaks of the necessity of inclusion for marginalised people and allowing us our own voices, “So you go and leave the pain and find another way, to make yourself another game, maybe one for all to play, because it’s not just me who’s not the same, we’re not the same”.

“Not The Same” lyrics – Sheldon Riley (Australia Eurovision 2022)

Composed by: Sheldon Riley, Cam Nacson
Lyrics by: Sheldon Riley

I was told at six years old
They’d avoid me if my heart was cold
Found it hard to talk and speak my mind
They never liked the things that I would like

Cause you’re told to play but you’re not the same
As the other kids playing the same games
Try to jump on in but they push away
So far away

I’m not the same, no
I’m not the same, no

Years went by I tried and tried
My father asked me if today I smiled
I said “yes, I did” but that’s a lie
Oh, I always tell those lies

Then you run and hide, hide the break inside
Till you realise that the light shines bright
Through those, oh, who’ve broke inside

I’m not the same, no
I’m not the same, no
I’m not the same, no
I’m not the same, no

Cause you never want to the be kind of person
Who can’t work it for those who can not word it
Cause you’ve been the kind of person who felt this pain
Oh, yeah, I felt this pain

So you go and leave the pain and find another way
To make yourself another game, maybe one for all to play
Because it’s not just me who’s not the same, we’re not the same

We’re not the same, no
We’re not the same, no
We’re not the same, no
We’re not the same, no

What do you think of Sheldon Riley’s “Not The Same”? Do you appreciate the powerful message of the lyrics? Let us know below!

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Alicia
Alicia
2 months ago

Sheldon is an incredible young person. An inspiration to who anyone from any minority group be it gender, physical /emotional/intellectual ability, race or ethnicity. We’re not the same and that is what makes us all beautiful.

meri
meri
2 months ago

I am SO HAPPY that one of my fellow ASD members is taking part in Eurovision!! ???

There is a light guiding my way
There is a light guiding my way
3 months ago

So he is the second openly autistic contestant in Eurovision history, right? So cool. I’m proud of my fellow neuro-tribeman! The message really elevates the song. It has immediately made it my favourite Australian entry to date. Before I found out about it, I was seeing the song just as another simple ballad slightly better than Don’t Come Easy (which tbf was still making it my 2d after Technicolor regardless). I wouldn’t mind Sheldon taking the trophy this year. Strangely enough however, despite being autistic myself, I can’t say I relate 100% to every word of these lyrics. For example,… Read more »

There is a light guiding my way
There is a light guiding my way
3 months ago

I think I have finally got what “they’d avoid me if my heart was cold” means! It refers to that infamous advice some not-so-smart adults give you when you are bullied as a child.. “Ignore them (don’t take it to heart) and they will leave you alone (avoid you)”. (Spoiler: it doesn’t work.)

Jack
4 months ago

I have to be completely honest here. It’s a contrived performance, all style no substance. All flash no bang. Yes he can sing, but the theatrics of it all really cheapen the song and the costume looks tacky AF. I wish people would stop dressing like lady gaga. He’s like a pound shop Sam Smith and not in a good way. Not authentic enough for Eurovision. When will Australia understand? Stop sending sings you think will get you a “Eurovision moment” and send someone authentic. So many fantastic artists from Australia, Tina arena, Ricki Lee, Vanessa amarosi, Natalie bassingthwaite would… Read more »

Jay
Jay
4 months ago

It is awful – and that sobbing!! Ugh

#synthsareawesome
#synthsareawesome
4 months ago

In terms of tune, production and playing it’s extremely generic which is compensated by the vocals and would be elevated by message if the lyrics were less generic.

musica
musica
4 months ago

This song is typical jury bait, but his inability to connect with the television audience is a real problem. You could already see it in the Australian final, where Voyager blew him away completely… but somehow the jury punished them. I can see this finishing quite high in the jury vote and then getting 8 points in total from the public, something like that.

Jonkonfui
Jonkonfui
4 months ago

I am sooo fed up with these messages and speeches. Oooo this society forces you to… I am gay and i cannot relate with so much drama. Maybe instead of living in the sadness of the past one should celebrate the joy of today.

Purple Mask
Purple Mask
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonkonfui

Like Michael Ben David does? (Israel)

ESC Stan
ESC Stan
3 months ago
Reply to  Jonkonfui

Or maybe he is singing about the past he has moved on from to help people that are living the same thing right now?

esc_fl
esc_fl
4 months ago

Where is all this hate coming from? This song really grew on me and it’s my winner XD

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  esc_fl

I hope you learn from Sheldon, and remember this for your own life.

Alicia
Alicia
2 months ago
Reply to  esc_fl

Yes yes and YES!!!! Thankyou for being in Sheldon’s corner. He has experienced enough put-downs in his young life.

Jay
Jay
4 months ago

It doesn’t change anything, the song is still awful

Kosey
Kosey
4 months ago

I like this song more now that I understand his background with autism. Initially I felt the song was contrived but perhaps that inability to connect with the audience might be something to do with his autism and so I have a new found respect for this song and performance.

KMO
KMO
4 months ago

I’m really surprised by all the negative comments here. So many people complain about how generic it is… yet they consider Poland a winning song? That baffles me. Poland’s lyrics are BEYOND generic and it’s clearly his vocal that is carrying him through yet he receives barely any comments like this. Hate to be that euro fan but I think there are a few ‘Australia haters’ amongst us here. Do I think this will win the ESC 2022? No. Does it deserve a top 10 placement? Absolutely. His voice is stunning and the lyrics are so personal and moving. I… Read more »

Purple Mask
Purple Mask
4 months ago

Sheldon is the closest there has ever been to myself being at Eurovision; musically, vocally, visually and dramatically (minus a piano). I totally understand the pain, and I feel the drama. Sheldon’s very brave to be expressing it all. The song is mostly about the struggle rather than hope, so unless it reaches everyone somehow, I fear it will flop by being too sad.
Anyhow, I really admire and love Sheldon; there is no “mask envy” here. 😀

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Purple Mask

That’s a big compliment to yourself. Manel Navarro for me, at least vocals…

Purple Mask
Purple Mask
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

The difference is, Sheldon is braver than I to be singing about this pain. That’s why I love him. I hope that was clear.
(Evidently he also helps me to love myself, which I think is the point of the song. We’re not the same… together.)

Colin
Colin
4 months ago
Reply to  Purple Mask

The struggle is a relatable feeling, especially in hard times. For me, a lot of tense, uncertain things have been going on lately, both in personal life, and by watching the world around me crumble down. I can understand the gravitation towards the more heavy songs. I mean, Greece is arguably even sadder, and people love it.
Sending you my best wishes and hugs. 🙂

There is a light guiding my way
There is a light guiding my way
3 months ago
Reply to  Purple Mask

I totally get you on this one. I felt the same back in 2017 when Salvador Sobral was taking part. It almost felt as if I was looking in the mirror when I was seeing him on stage, or at least if I was finally watching a normal genuine-behaving human being for the first time. Later I also found out I could relate to many things he said in interviews. His victory has become a personal symbol to me, and helped me to accept so many things about myself! I mean, when a person who moves like you when singing,… Read more »

Maria
Maria
4 months ago

1.5 minutes was enough for me to stop listening to it. Its so generic and boring.

When will delegations realuze that a backstory and a message do NOT make a song?
Its about the composition, development and lyrics. Nothing from it happens here.

Theo
Theo
4 months ago

I don’t like this song at all. Overdramatic. His hands trembling in pain. And that veil!
awful!

Princess
Princess
4 months ago

Amazing vocals. Starts well for me but after about two-thirds in it becomes a little samey and the mask drop and emotion feels a bit OTT and cringe unfortunately. I’m sure it will do well anyway though.

Im so fab
Im so fab
4 months ago

Not my favourite song, but he will be top 3 on the juries vote guaranteed. His voice is very good.

Nicolas
Nicolas
4 months ago
Reply to  Im so fab

It’s Australia so already jury pet no matter what.

Preuss
Preuss
4 months ago
Reply to  Nicolas

You do realize that Australia did awful with the juries last year? Honestly, sometimes I question people’s ability to see facts when writing things that aren’t true. Lol

There is a light guiding my way
There is a light guiding my way
3 months ago
Reply to  Im so fab

I’d go even further and bet on him winning the juries.

Doris
Doris
4 months ago

Why this thing in his head ?

There is a light guiding my way
There is a light guiding my way
3 months ago
Reply to  Doris

Ok so I haven’t tried to look up any of his interviews where he might explain it, but my first guess as an autistic person is that the mask may serve one, some or all of these several purposes: 1. Protecting his eyes from bright stage lights, since many autistic people have a sensitivity to light. 2. Sparing him off the society demand for making eye contact, as for many of us eye contact feels uncomfortable, distracting or downright painful, so we’d prefer to avoid it. 3. Hiding his natural facial expressions for the [reasonable] fear allistic society might find… Read more »

Polegend Godnova
4 months ago

i understand the good intent and beautiful message behind this song, but it really comes across as a mere vocal showoff that goes nowhere

Colin
Colin
4 months ago

I have a lot of respect for Sheldon for being both queer and neurodivergent, and using his own personal story on a platform of this magnitude. I especially love the lyrics ”It’s not just me who’s not the same”. Powerful statement! The mask falling down moment is made very powerful, yet I think that out of the context of knowing his backstory, one would expect a physical difference underneath. Don’t get me wrong, having *any* kind of differnce, especially being neurodivergent, is a very important subject to address. But for *the viewers*, after the mask is down, we see a… Read more »

Dawid
Dawid
4 months ago
Reply to  Colin

We’re supposed to learn about his illness when he’s doing it? I’d never figure it out

ete sech
ete sech
4 months ago
Reply to  Dawid

Asperger’s syndrome isn’t an illness, it’s a spectrum

Jay
Jay
4 months ago
Reply to  ete sech

Who cares. The song is horrible

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Colin

I don’t think we’re to see it as a Phantom of the Opera moment, more just the mask as a metaphor. Finally confident enough to live as himself and stop pretending.

Colin
Colin
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

I assume that is the main point too. And I do find it empowering, knowing his story. I just think that without knowing it, there’s little visual cue on why it’s important for him.

ESC Stan
ESC Stan
3 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Exactly. We all wear masks in different situations. Its all about being comfortable to take them off.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago

The Eurovision Song Contest is not a singing contest.

Colin
Colin
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

True, but tell that to the juries, who often tend to push 5/10 songs for having a 10/10 voice, but sometimes stop 10/10 songs from qualifying if they have an 8/10 voice. Sure, live vocals are important, especially to be above a certain high level, but it still is primarily a song contest. At least in my opinion.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Colin

I agree. If it was a singing contest, then Ethan, Victoria, and Thomas could not call themselves winners.

Thallo
Thallo
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Let’s be honest, singing matters. One of the main components of a song is vocals, especially in live performances. Not to mention, juries (who are mostly professional singers themselves) appreciate solid vocals.

So yes, the Eurovision Song Contest is a singing contest, it’s also a song contest and a performance contest.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Thallo

If it was a singing contest, Vasil would have qualified last year.

Bella
Bella
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

I’m not sure exactly what you meant with that. If what you’re saying is that vocals are not the only thing that matters, then yeah I agree (“Not the same” is a great example: powerful vocals but the song falls flat). That being said the acts *need* to be able to nail the live singing performance, otherwise what’s the point?

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Bella

It’s how it was described in the article, as if it was The Voice. It’s not.

ESC Stan
ESC Stan
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

So if a song is sung/staged badly is should qualify because “the song is good”?

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  ESC Stan

Yes, of course. Should a good song not qualify just because one performer hits a wrong note on one night?

Bella
Bella
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

To me, vocals and live singing performance are necessary but not sufficient. Eurovision is a live singing show, so if you can’t sing live you shouldn’t be there to begin with. If you can sing live, then great but it’s not necessary: you also need a good song and a good staging. So to answer your question: yes, a performer who can’t it their notes should not qualify (and I think that’s how Eurovision works: we’ve seen plenty of cool songs suffer from a bad live performance, and usually bad performances are actually penalized by both the juries and the… Read more »

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Bella

Adequate vocals are enough. What the song calls for. I don’t want Frans to join Il Volo, but am quite happy to hear him sing his 2016 song. If the singer is like Lesley Roy, who makes a mess of selling what she has to offer, then yeah, it matters. The song itself should always be the most important thing.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Bella

Also, I know what you mean about singers miming at concerts. I went to see Mariah Carey in 2019, and I don’t think a note came out of her head. I would rather bad singing than no singing.

Bella
Bella
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for an opera performance from everyone. As you said, “what the song calls for” is just what we need. Frans sang his song perfectly well (that was definitely one of my fav Swedish entries).

Colin
Colin
4 months ago
Reply to  ESC Stan

Depends on how good the song is and how bad the performance is. In a lot of cases of a fantastic song and a solid, but not flawless performance, it should still qualify.

Jesse O'Rourke
Jesse O'Rourke
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Not even a Song Contest its a political Event

Purple Mask
Purple Mask
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

This comment reminded me of the winner of 1995.
Norway went: “Vocal? Pffft, we’ll just add a few lyrics at the start and repeat them again at the end.” 😀

Janine
Janine
4 months ago

What is wrong with these people that say it is bland and soulless? It is anything BUT that. Only holding a grudge because it’s Australia? Didn’t anyone teach you if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. Good luck Sheldon! You’ve got this!

Pete
Pete
4 months ago

I felt nothing when I heard this song, and while listening only I was thinking what am I going to have for lunch…

Whisker
Whisker
4 months ago
Reply to  Pete

I could only focus on the song, it was a super cool experience.

Lambert
Lambert
4 months ago
Reply to  Pete

Know what you mean, but the song did not even stimulate my appetite.

Whisker
Whisker
4 months ago

I remember watching Sheldon’s performance and thinking he would do well. I also like the fact that Australia cares about ESC and values their own talent, unlike European countries that buy their songs from Sweden.

sam
sam
4 months ago

the lyrics are great, reading them without music i really enjoy it. however the song, vocals, production, etc dont do anything for me. it’s just the classic voice contestant eurovision entry that shows off their shouty vocals with a generic song. i know the fandom really likes australia this year but i can see them failing to qualify again

Pearli
Pearli
4 months ago
Reply to  sam

Delusional.

sam
sam
4 months ago
Reply to  Pearli

it’s delusional to think this wont be in the televoter’s bottom 5 in the semi

Andrea
Andrea
4 months ago

I always knew he’d be a perfect fit for Eurovision.

noone
noone
4 months ago

The lyrics are well written and the topic is important, but the song (melody) is just sooo bland and uninspired. Good voice of course and the mask thing is cool as well, but the song itself just isn’t enough.

Darren
Darren
4 months ago

FairPlay and all but this song just does nothing for me.
While it’s trying to show his human side, it all just ends up being quite soulless, narcissistic and just not my cup of tea.
Sorry Australia.
Probably will qualify but considering they didn’t last year with a much better song …I just don’t know.

shin
shin
4 months ago
Reply to  Darren

not your cup of tea , ok. but soulless and narcissistic? yea you need to get your ears checked if you cant hear the emotion behind any song, especially this (which is amongst one of the most soulful songs this year) . you might not feel it but you can clearly hear it. its not my favorite either but i gotta give it to him for conveying his emotions in a very beautiful way

Darren
Darren
4 months ago
Reply to  shin

It’s another one of those Eurovision entries that we get every year that is more symbol than song, he’s this years Tix.
Last year everyone was like “oh the wings mean this, the dice means that, the way he takes his glasses off means this”
Now we have the same ideals again. The mask.
I’m sorry but there’s nothing in it for me. It’s Eurovision Song Contest, I don’t care about masks or wings or whatever they are supposed to represent.

Briekimchi
Briekimchi
4 months ago
Reply to  Darren

Your words are a little stronger than those I would use but I think I’m in agreement with the sentiment behind them. I have a fair idea of what this song is *trying* to be but I don’t think it’s successful in doing so in a way that comes across as genuine and authentic. The package is very melodramatic and seems to be done in a way that somebody believes to be Eurovision-y.
His voice is impressive though.

Liam Lindsay
Liam Lindsay
4 months ago

As someone who is both Gay and Autistic, I cannot tell you how much this means to me to see someone exactly like me be on that stage. The song is okay, but not wow. His voice is wow, I just wished he had a better song.

I truly wish him the very best of luck. Thank you Sheldon for being a voice to a voiceless group who gave been ostracised and ignored for far too long.

nikonyashka
nikonyashka
4 months ago

Talented singer, wishing him all the best, BUT skipping every time. It’d be far easier being Autistic if people without Autism weren’t or at least were aware of their communication styles and issues.
Anyway, wishing you a happy happy happy happy Autism Awareness/Acceptance month – read that sentence in a snarky voice.

There is a light guiding my way
There is a light guiding my way
3 months ago
Reply to  nikonyashka

I hope he stands for Acceptance not Awareness though, cause I couldn’t really dechiper it from the interview.

KLINE
KLINE
4 months ago

Wish him best of luck – but must admit that I skip the song every time it appears!

Ffgsg
Ffgsg
4 months ago
Reply to  KLINE

Same

Vivian
Vivian
4 months ago
Reply to  KLINE

We’re not the saaaAAame noOoOh!

Sometimes
Sometimes
4 months ago
Reply to  KLINE

Same

tylos
tylos
4 months ago
Reply to  KLINE

Yes, we’re all the same. I skip it too.