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In Defence Of: ‘Freaks’ by Jordan Clarke

Looking back on You Decide 2019, being perfectly blunt you’d be hard pressed to find a song worthy of the left hand side of the Eurovision scoreboard. However, years after the competition there’s still one song that remains firmly embedded in the public memory – ‘Freaks’ by Jordan Clarke.

Admittedly, my personal love for this song came shortly after the conclusion of You Decide and Michael Rice’s win, but in my opinion that shows the true charm of the song. Relying heavily on the Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D’ score, a widely recognisable piece of classical music (and more importantly copyright free – ‘Canon in D’ has been freely available in the public domain for years), the simple melody firmly cements the track as an earworm, something that you find stuck in your head when you least expect it. Could that have benefitted at Eurovision itself with the time between performances and the voting? We’ll never know.

The biggest ‘sticking point’ of the song were the lyrics – “Why does it say soccer when the singers aren’t American?” seemed to be the bulk of the comments on social media from the moment the songs were revealed. But songs are released every day with lyrics that seem to make no sense, so ‘Freaks’ ultimately fits the pop song mould, even if it may be considered “generic”. At the end of the day, they did what they had to do to get the rhyme, something that again contributed to the overarching catchiness of the track.

But when you look at the popularity ‘Freaks’ has had outside of the Eurovision bubble, the lyrics argument no longer seems as valid. Amassing over 62 million Spotify streams at the time of writing, it’s no secret that ‘Freaks’ found its niche – comparing this to the 6 million streams of Michael Rice’s ‘Bigger Than Us’ at the time of writing truly gives you an indication of what the BBC could have had. Did they have a ‘TikTok ready’ hit before this was even considered to be part of the Eurovision strategy? It certainly seems so – the 30-second snippet of ‘Freaks’ has been used in over twelve thousand videos on the platform. A quick YouTube search also reveals the existence of a ‘Nightcore’ remix of the track (a specific genre of music where typically the track is sped up and the pitch increased, giving an effect not too dissimilar to playing a vinyl record at the wrong speed) that boasts 14 million views – other Eurovision songs to be given the ‘Nightcore’ treatment include ‘Rockefeller Street’, ‘Toy’, ‘Euphoria’ and even Sanna Nielsen’s ‘Undo’. Whenever ‘Freaks’ is mentioned, the “TikTok’s impact” comments follow soon after, but in the age where artists are getting record deals off of the back of going viral on the platform, it’s truly difficult to see this as a negative.

You also can’t talk about the song without mentioning the performer themselves. Coming from a performer’s background, from being an extra in a film alongside Johnny Depp as a child to competing in Britain’s Got Talent in the band ‘The Luminites’ in 2013, someone with a repertoire like that was always going to have the necessary stage presence, and Jordan had it in abundance. But the best part of his You Decide performance was the fact you could tell he was having pure, genuine fun – the smile on his face conveyed itself through his song in the way that only happens in a live performance. There was no sign of nerves, just the performance of someone whoโ€™d gone on record at the BBC of all places saying that performing at Eurovision would be “like representing England at the World Cup if youโ€™re a footballer” – essentially recognising Eurovision as a platform is a career boost and highlight (despite what some artists may say).

This may be easy for me to say as a fan of the song, but the numbers donโ€™t lie – with over 62 million Spotify streams and tens of thousands of TikTok views, perhaps as a fandom itโ€™s time we gave ‘Freaks’ the credit it truly deserves.

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