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Cyprus’s Eurovision entry draws protests from religious groups

By | Published on Tuesday 2 March 2021

Elena Tsagkrinou

The Eurovision Song Contest will go ahead this year no matter what, organisers have insisted. And while that will mean some fundamental changes to the usual structure of the show, there are some things that the big event cannot do without. For instance, it’s not Eurovision without a big old lyrical controversy. So everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, as Cyprus’s entry has drawn protests from religious groups in the country.

Performed by Elena Tsagkrinou, this year’s Cypriot Eurovision entry is titled ‘El Diablo’ – Spanish for ‘The Devil’ – and features lyrics such as, “I gave my heart to El Diablo / Because he tells me I’m his angel” and “Tonight we’re gonna burn in the party / It’s heaven and hell with you”.

The song was selected as the country’s entry last week and has since drawn criticism, with a petition against the selection being signed nearly 15,000 times in just a few days. “The participation of Cyprus in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘El Diablo’ is scandalous for us Christians”, say organisers of the petition.

Greek broadcaster CyBC, which chose the song, issued a statement insisting that those protesting against ‘El Diablo’ should not take its lyrics at face value. That statement followed claims from a group representing religious high school teachers that the song “pledges lifelong devotion [to and] love for Satan”.

The broadcaster explained: “The song which will represent Cyprus to the 65th Eurovision Song Contest tells the tale of this girl that has found herself entangled in a relationship with someone as bad as ‘El Diablo'”.

“It regards the eternal struggle between good and evil”, it goes on. “Through this problematic relationship with signs of Stockholm syndrome, and despite the paranoia she is experiencing, she is seeking help towards freedom. In the end, as they say, the truth always shines. Especially these days, we hope the song and its proper interpretation will inspire not only women but also everyone who faces similar situations”.

The statement followed reports that the broadcaster had been receiving threatening phone calls over the song, including threats that its offices would be “burned down” if it was not withdrawn.

Meanwhile, on Saturday a man was arrested outside the CyBC news department after being seen shouting abuse at staff. He was later charged with several offences, including threatening behaviour and causing a disturbance.

The song has been written by Jimmy Joker, Cleiton Sia, Laurell Barker and Thomas Stengaard. Barker and Stengaard have both worked on a number of recent Eurovision entries for various countries. Barker’s credits include 2019 UK entry ‘Bigger Than Us’. She and Stengaard both also worked together on Germany’s 2019 song ‘Sister’.

Last month, Eurovision organisers ruled out a full-scale show this year, but insisted that the competition will take place, after last year’s COVID-caused cancellation. Plans are now in place for a socially-distanced show in host city Rotterdam, featuring pre-recorded performances from acts unable to travel to The Netherlands. The grand final is set to take place on 22 May, providing the Devil doesn’t intervene in the proceedings, presumably.

Watch the video for ‘El Diablo’ here: