Olly Alexander addresses ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during Eurovision semifinal: ‘It’s live TV, it happens’

A portrait of Olly Alexander, and right, him performing for the Eurovision Semifinals
Olly Alexander performed at the Eurovision semi-final Tuesday 7 May (Images: BBC)

Olly Alexander has addressed his “wardrobe malfunction” at the first semi-final for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The former Years & Years singer performed his track ‘Dizzy’ with a troupe of backing dancers at the televised event on Tuesday (7 May 2024) following weeks of controversy around his participation.

During the performance, the star’s microphone fell off, leading to Alexander having to “improvise” his routine. The 33-year-old automatically qualifies regardless, as the UK is a member of the ‘Big Five’ contributing countries.

The ‘Big Five’ are France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom – countries who via their broadcasters make the biggest financial contribution towards the organisation of the Contest.

“I had to improvise” – Olly Alexander

Speaking about the performance during an interview on Lorraine yesterday (Wednesday 8 May 2024) the ‘If You’re Over Me’ singer explained he had a “slight wardrobe malfunction… my mic pack fell off and [I] had to improvise.”

“But that’s fine, it’s live TV, it happens,” he went on.

Alexander also told interviewer Lorraine Kelly: “This whole Eurovision experience is wild. Last night was amazing. It was the first time performing in the arena and on TV. It was just… yeah, it was amazing.”

The next Eurovision semi-final takes place tonight (Thursday 9 May 2024).

Alexander, also known for songs such as ‘King’ and ‘Take Shelter’, was revealed as the UK’s Eurovision entry in December last year, during the Strictly Come Dancing live final.

Last month, Alexander answered an open letter signed by Queers For Palestine and 450 LGBTQ artists, individuals, and organisations, among them the actors Maxine Peake, Indya Moore, and Joel Kim Booster, asking him to quit the contest in protest of Israel’s inclusion in the shadow of the Israel-Hamas war.

Queers For Palestine’s letter to Olly Alexander, sent 28 March 2024

Dear Olly Alexander,

We write to you as fellow queers, artists, and fans, who are deeply distressed about the continued inclusion of Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest in the current context of its ongoing genocidal assault on Palestinians in Gaza and attacks on Palestinians across their homeland. 

We share the vision of queer joy and abundance you’ve offered through your music, and share your belief in collective liberation for all. In this spirit, we ask you to heed the Palestinian call to withdraw from Eurovision. By refusing to expel Israel from the competition, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is providing cultural cover and endorsement for the catastrophic violence that Israel has unleashed on Palestinians. There can be no party with a state committing apartheid and genocide.

As we know you are aware, we are now in the sixth month of Israel’s genocidal campaign against the 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza, who are subject to intense and relentless attacks. More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed, and over a million have been displaced. According to Oxfam and major international human rights organisations, Israel is using starvation as a weapon against Palestinians in Gaza, with its siege causing acute shortages of food, water, and essential medicines. Already famine has killed at least 17 Palestinian children. Shamefully, the UK government remains deeply complicit in Israel’s attacks.

At a time when accountability is so urgently needed, Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision would enable and cover up its war crimes and crimes against humanity. Understanding the propaganda value of its participation in the contest to artwash its ongoing genocide, Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, stated “It’s important for Israel to appear in Eurovision.”

In January, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called on the EBU to ban Israel from this year’s contest. But the EBU has refused, so Palestinians are now calling on all artists to withdraw from performing in Eurovision. 

We salute you for using your platform to speak up against Israel’s genocide and in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. As the letter you’ve signed read, “We, as LGBTQIA+ people, cannot let others weaponise our struggles for freedom on the basis of sexuality and gender identity to justify systemic occupation and genocide of a people.” In this spirit, we ask you to heed the call from Palestinians and commit not to perform at Eurovision while it provides cultural cover for an ongoing genocide.

Thank you for standing with us, for queer life, joy, and liberation for all.

In a statement posted on X, Alexander said: “As a participant I’ve taken a lot of time to deliberate over what to do and the options available to me.”

He added: “It is my current belief that removing myself from the contest wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal.”

In 2022, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) excluded Russia from participating in Eurovision due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Eurovision has rejected calls for Israel to face the same treatment this year, with Jean Philip De Tender, Deputy Director General of the EBU, issuing the below statement.

Jean Philip De Tender, Deputy Director General of the EBU on Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision 2024

“The European Broadcasting Union acknowledges the depth of feeling and the strong opinions that this year’s Eurovision Song Contest – set against the backdrop of a terrible war in the Middle East – has provoked. We understand that people will want to engage in debate and express their deeply held views on this matter. We have all been affected by the images, stories, and the unquestionable pain suffered by those in Israel and in Gaza.

“However, we wish to address the concerns and discussions surrounding this situation, especially the targeted social media campaigns against some of our participating artists.

“The decision to include any broadcaster, including the Israeli’ broadcaster Kan, in the Eurovision Song Contest is the sole responsibility of the EBU’s governing bodies and not that of the individual artists. These artists come to Eurovision to share their music, culture, and the universal message of unity through the language of music.

“The EBU has previously explained the reasoning for the inclusion of KAN and the differences between them as an independent broadcaster and previous participants who were excluded. Constructive debate is a positive consequence of such decisions.

“However, while we strongly support freedom of speech and the right to express opinions in a democratic society, we firmly oppose any form of online abuse, hate speech, or harassment directed at our artists or any individuals associated with the contest. This is unacceptable and totally unfair, given the artists have no role in this decision.

“The EBU is dedicated to providing a safe and supportive environment for all participants, staff, and fans of the Eurovision Song Contest. We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to promote the values of respect, inclusivity, and understanding, both online and offline.

“We urge everyone to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue and support the artists who are working tirelessly – on what is a music and entertainment show – to share their music with the world.”

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