After a few years of somewhat stale songs, Denmark is sending a modern pop number with hit potential to the Eurovision Song Contest 2023, sung by a young singer with a mega-following on social media. We’re talking about Reiley and his song Breaking my heart. Two questions: 1) What is the song about? And 2) where did this superstar suddenly come from?
1) The song
So the song sounds modern. We hear a drum machine, robot-like voice distortions and echo effects above the vocals. As the title suggests: Reiley describes a failed love relationship. But is the relationship really over?
Pink skies, red wine, you were mine, that September, that’s the one nice memory that unfortunately is so persistent that the protagonist (maybe Reiley himself) keeps longing for the relationship. He wants to forget the person and move on with his life, but it’s not easy because as soon as you start something, I’m back in my head. Is there no middle ground possible? wonders the protagonist.
On and off, couldn’t meet me in the middle.
2) The artist
‘Hi guys,’ says Reiley (born Rani Petersen) into a microphone during the press conference of Israel Calling, where all the artists present are huddled together (it’s a funny sight). ‘I come from the Faroe Islands. It’s a very small country that’s part of Denmark and has about fifty thousand inhabitants. There are eighteen islands, it’s a rugged and robust terrain, it’s mountains and rocks, very mossy. And one of my biggest sources of inspiration is taking long walks in the Faroese nature. It’s very small. And especially because the area is so small, my dreams became very large.’
It must have been after one of those walks that he decided: I’m finally going to get a microphone and a green screen.
Reiley is nowadays a twenty-five year old guy with ten million followers on TikTok. He describes his journey to this success as a combination of:
– embracing the medium early (in 2019 he was one of the first to use TikTok to record singing videos)
– working hard
– creating content that feels authentic to yourself
– being lucky.
In his videos, he immediately found his own visual style: a full-screen colour – a different colour each time – as a background, in front of which he is singing. And each time he sings pop – from Tones And I to SZA and from AJR to Stella Jang. The latter is a South Korean singer-songwriter, and during a cover of her song Colors the colour fields even change along with the lyrics:
I could be red
or I could be yellow
I could be blue
or I could be purple
I could be green or pink or black or white
I could be every colour you like
When he signed a record deal with Atlantic Records, he took the colours with him. And he added large stacked blocks, and perfectly matching outfits (sometimes he almost blends in with his own set), as we can see in the video clip of his debut single Let it ring (2021).
Reiley has notably made a name for himself in South Korea. AB6IX is a Korean boyband with a similar visual style to Reiley, and it’s not surprising that they recorded a single together: Moonlight (2022).
Funny detail: When Reiley’s name tag appears in an online Korean interview show, he’s referred to as ‘rising pop artist in the UK’.
And suddenly he was back on Danish soil, for the Danish preselection for Eurovision, in February. Because, as he says in an interview, it’s time to connect a bit more with his homeland. And by the way, he hasn’t only lived in Los Angeles. ‘I live in Denmark now, for Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. And before this, I lived in London. That’s quite close to Denmark and the Faroe Islands.’
And off he goes!
Warsaw, Tel Aviv, Madrid…
‘When I heard about the Eurovision pre-parties I didn’t expect it to be such a big thing.’ But suddenly his April month was fully booked. He flew to Warsaw, and then to Tel Aviv, and then to Madrid — ‘It’s amazing, so much energy, I’m trying to keep up!’ — and from Madrid to Amsterdam — ‘the penultimate one, boarding the plane tomorrow morning!’ — and from Amsterdam to London.
He is relieved to be in Liverpool now. ‘I am an anxious person, all that travelling is stressful for me.’ And moreover: ‘Everything here is more organised.’ He’s not stressed about the performance itself. ‘I’m only doing one song. One show that I can make perfect.’ And that’s what we’ll see this year at the Eurovision Song Contest from Denmark: the product of a pronounced perfectionist.
‘The paint on the set wasn’t quite right yet, that’s being worked on.’
Photo: Reiley / Eurovision.tv