Back in May, Icelandic Eurovision alum Daði Freyr tweeted that “it’s time for Eurovision to stop allowing vocals on the backing track,” adding that “it’s just not as interesting” as hearing all voices live.
The European Broadcasting Union clearly disagrees. It has confirmed that pre-recorded backing vocals will be allowed for a third straight year.
However, as laid out in the abridged rules, which have been published on the official Eurovision site, no one on stage can lip-sync for their life.
As the rules state: “No on-stage Contestant (whether Lead Vocals, Lead Dubs or Backing Vocals or dancers) shall be allowed to lip-sync (playback) in such a way as to make it appear that they are singing all or most of the song when they actually are not.”
Pre-recorded backing vocals allowed under Eurovision 2023 rules
Here’s the exact wording of the abridged rules, published by the EBU.
2.2.3 PERFORMANCES AT THE ESC
(ii) LIVE PERFORMANCES ON STAGE All songs shall be performed live on stage with a recorded Backing track complying with the requirements listed under par (iii) hereafter.
The lead singer(s) of the selected song (the “Lead Vocal(s)”) shall perform live on stage only.
- Eventual vocal support(s) for the Lead Vocal(s) (the “Lead Dub(s)”) shall perform live, on stage or off stage, only.
- All other backing vocal(s) performing vocal harmonies (the “Backing Vocals”) may perform either live on stage or off stage and/or on a Backing track compliant to the requirements under par (iii) hereafter.
No on-stage Contestant (whether Lead Vocals, Lead Dubs or Backing Vocals or dancers) shall be allowed to lip-sync (playback) in such a way as to make it appear that they are singing all or most of the song when they actually are not.
(iii) BACKING TRACKS
The accompanying Backing track may optionally contain Backing Vocals. However, the Backing track in question shall not contain (i) Lead Vocals, (ii) Lead Dubs and/or (iii) any other vocals that would have the effect of, or aim at, replacing or unduly assisting the Lead Vocal(s) during the live performance on stage.
In case there are live Backing Vocals, on or off stage, as part of the Act, they shall be mixed with the Backing track’s Backing Vocals (if any). […]
When did pre-recorded backing vocals become a thing?
In June 2020, Eurovision Executive Supervisor Martin Österdahl revealed that the EBU would give broadcasters the option to use pre-recorded backing vocals during Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam. It was meant to help create a more sustainable contest.
Österdahl explained that the EBU was relaxing the rules on backing vocalists singing live in order to help countries cope with new realities.
“The lessons learned from the spring of 2020 are that we need to plan for a global crisis, and we have tailored the rules of the Contest to that effect. We must be able to be more flexible and to make changes even to the format itself and how we organize the event in these challenging times.”
The EBU elaborated on some of the advantages, saying it would allow songwriters and producers “to present their work as close as possible to their original composition” and to save delegations money by allowing them to bring fewer people. (At the same time, they could opt to use those funds to bring extra dancers instead).
It added that permitting recorded backing vocals “also contributes to reducing the technical burden and costs for the host broadcaster as well.”
At Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam, several countries made the most of pre-recorded backing vocals. Croatia’s Albina, for instance, used her own voice on her backing track, helping to create a truly intoxicating mix.
Several other artists — most famously Iceland’s Dadi Freyr — included large choirs on their track. His even included hundreds of his own fans, including Germany’s act Jendrik.
Pre-recorded vocals were not completely alien to the contest prior to Rotterdam. Popular national finals such as Sweden’s Melodifestivalen and Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix have made use of pre-recorded backing vocalists in the past few years. Norway’s Eurovision 2017 entry JOWST was also allowed to use a vocal sampling during his performance of “Grab The Moment” in Kyiv.
Do you think pre-recorded backing makes for a better show? Let us know down below!