For the first time ever a song written entirely in English is to represent Spain at the Eurovision song contest after viewers of state broadcaster RTVE and a celebrity jury earlier this week picked 33-year-old Madrileña Barei’s Say Yay! as this year’s Spanish entry.
But the choice is already stirring up controversy at the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (RAE), the institution responsible for overseeing its use.
“I understand that a country with a language that has few speakers would try to use a language understood by many, but this is disgraceful”
“Bearing in mind that Spanish is a language spoken by 500 million people, presenting a song in English is surprisingly stupid,” said academy member José María Merino.
“I understand that a country with a language that has a limited number of speakers would try to use a language understood by many, but this is disgraceful,” continued the Spanish expert, who believes state broadcaster RTVE has a “moral and cultural obligation” to safeguard the national cultural heritage.
This is not the first time that the RAE has expressed its concern over a Spanish Eurovision entry. In 2014, then-academy director José Manuel Blecua sent a letter to the board of RTVE to complain about the fact that part of that year’s song, Dancing in the Rain, sung by Ruth Lorenzo, was also in English.
“I don’t think anyone has to alter their work for a specific competition,” argued Say Yay!’s author and performer Barei, AKA Bárbara Reyzábal González-Aller, to defend her decision not to rewrite her piece for the contest, which will be held on May 14 in Stockholm.
The artist said she was proud of her native Spanish language, arguing that it was “much richer” than English. But she said she also believed that certain styles do not go with certain languages, as is the case with the funk and soul elements she uses in her tune.
English version by Nick Funnell.