Adventures In Audio

How to cheat in the Eurovision Song Contest

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Eurovision Song Contest singers are meant to perform live with backing track. But is it cheating for the backing track to have a double or multiples of the lead? Or is it cheating for live backing singers to double the lead? Watch this video and listen for yourself.

Transcript

This is just my opinion and I might have imagined the whole thing in my head. So no lawsuits please because I'm just making it up.

So - how to cheat at Eurovision

It depends what you count as cheating. Any Formula 1 team boss will tell you that it isn't cheating if you stick within the rules. But if you examine the rules under microscopic detail you will probably find a loophole that you can exploit and gift a world championship to a mediocre driver.

And so yes, the Eurovision song contest has rules. You can read them online...

Six people on stage
No dogs
No live instruments
Etc.

So basically it's a live vocal sung to a pre-recorded backing track. There can be live backing vocals performed on or off stage.

So how do you account for this...

CLIP

It's the Norwegian entry for the 2021 contest, 'Fallen Angel' performed by TIX. If I heard this and I had been told it was a studio recording, one of my thoughts would be, how amazing it is that a fairly weak singer can sound so good with double tracking.

And in this, and many other cases, it isn't double tracking, it sounds to me like more like multiple tracking. That's OK. It's a time-tested studio technique.

So how many multiples should there be? The trick is to find the number that suits the singer best, without it sounding like a choir. Just keep going until you hit gold. You can of course mix and process the double or multiples any way you like to get the best effect. Keeping them just under the lead can work well.

Let's listen to Eurovision again...

CLIP

There's no way this is a single live vocal. There are multiple double tracks.

Just to get a sense of perspective, let's listen to a real solo vocal, from the same show...

CLIP

Chalk and cheese.

So is it cheating? Here's what the rules say...

"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."

Come on. There's no way this performance complies.

But the double or multiples don't necessarily have to be in the backing track, where presumably they would be found out. Live backing singers can help.

I thought it might be interesting to compare the TV audio with the same song on Eurovision's YouTube channel. This is the same song with the same staging, but it's clearly a different video recording. But the audio will be from the original music recording session, from which the backing track is extracted for the competition.

Recording the vocal in studio conditions, they would benefit from a studio mic, studio preamp, multiple takes comped together, all the processing and effects they need, and of course don't forget Auto-Tune!

So yes, we expect the vocal to be different. But listen to this bit...

AUDIO COMPARISON

Do you hear the other difference. I'll play it again.

AUDIO COMPARISON

In the YouTube version there's a harmony in the backing track that doesn't appear in the audio from the competition.

AUDIO COMPARISON

So might it be the case that at this point in the live performance, and perhaps at other points or all the way through the song, a live backing singer 'accidentally' doubled the lead?

Hey this is all speculation, and I just made it up inside my head. But it's an interesting listen, and an interesting perspective to compare what I believe is the studio vocal recording with the live version.

You know, I don't think I'll be putting this song in my playlist, but I do quite like it, and despite my comments the end result does sound good.

And by the way, Norway came 18th out of 26 songs in the final with 75 points. The UK came last, with null points. (That's French)

 

 

 

Monday May 24, 2021

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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