The song that will represent Spain at the Eurovision music competition in May was the object of feminist controversy recently. Ultimately, no decision could be made to reconcile freedom of expression and women’s empowerment in the song.
The singer, dancer, and actress Chanel Terrero Martínez, known by her stage name Chanel, won the Benidorm Music Festival, Spain’s qualifying competition for Eurovision, at the end of January with her performance of the song SloMo.
Following her win, criticism of the song emerged in Spanish media, as commentators questioned whether the lyrics degraded women. The question became the subject of political debate at the end of February when the president of RTVE, the public television and radio station and organiser of the Benidorm Festival, had to go before the Spanish Parliament for a regular control session.
The centre-right Partido Popular queried RTVE’s costs for selecting Spain’s Eurovision representative; the governing leftist PSOE questioned whether the selected song was appropriate.
MP Lidia Guinart, PSOE, said the song promoted “sugardaddy-ism” which she considered “a form of prostitution,” working against the goal of the complete equality of women in society.
“That’s one interpretation of the song,” RTVE President José Manuel Pérez Tornero replied, though he assured parliament that he had read over the words thousands of times and that there were other interpretations. He also defended the company’s record on promoting the equality of women.
SloMo is a typical Latin pop song. In the Benidorm Fest performance, Chanel took the stage to the click of cameras and strobes of light evoking a crowd of paparazzi poised to capture the arrival of the celebrity of the moment. Wearing a black and white unitard full of sheer cut outs, she stepped coyly around three male dancers—bare chested under black jackets—and started singing about her ability to arouse and keep the attention of men.
Born in La Habana but raised in Spain, trained in classical ballet and experienced in professional theatre performance, Chanel’s dancing was clean and precise, even if at times the movements themselves seemed more appropriate for a strip club than for general audiences.
As the song continues, she explains that after she goes “boom, boom” with her “boom, boom” everyone around Miami goes “zoom, zoom” to her. She then reminds her audience that “only one exists. There are no imitations,” and she’s “always ready to break hips, break hearts.”
The second verse of the song is full of lewd references to sex and the desire to pleasure her partner with her body.
At the beginning of March, Ignacio Elguero, director of RTVE, stated that the words of the song would be changed “if there was a suggestion from the Equality Observatory.”
A few days later, Concepción Cascajosa, member of RTVE’s administrative counsel and president of its Equality Observatory, a consultative organ for gender equality issues, made its decision on the song, condemning it as perpetuating “sexist stereotypes in the representation of women and men. Particularly stereotypes about the sexualization and full sexual availability of women.” Nevertheless, it also stated that “freedom of creation should prevail,” and that the controversy was badly timed. It also recommended that more feminist criteria be included in the competition rules in the future.
But the Equality Observatory is only a recommending body and, in the end, RTVE decided not to change a single word of the song.
Chanel didn’t write the song herself, but she said that as soon as she heard it, she made it hers, and her performance at Benidorm Fest was, indeed, convincing. She also said she had no other pretensions with the song than to give the audience a good time, perhaps like the song’s protagonist. RTVE hopes, no doubt, that the good time translates into more televisions turned on for Eurovision.
Latin pop in general leaves much to be desired in the image it projects of men and women and their mutual relationships. Still, a song about a beautiful woman who walks into a party in Miami but remains unnoticed would be either sad or boring, and probably wouldn’t win any contests.