Australia has spoken! Out, gay singer Sheldon Riley, will represent the country at the 66th Eurovision Song Contest, in Turin, Italy.
Riley will perform his self-penned song Not the Same (co-written with Cam Nacson and Time Temple), at the competition, scheduled to be held May 10-14.
Riley nabbed the coveted spot after competing against 10 other finalists at Eurovision – Australia Decides, held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday night.
With a grand total of 100 points, Riley beat out his nearest rivals Voyager, from Perth (who took 97 points), and Jaguar Jonze, from Brisbane (with 91 points), to take the hotly contested spot.
Riley, who is noted for his dark and emotional performances, cut an imposing figure in the competition dressed in a voluminous and edgy black gown accompanied by a metallic face mask. Riley is the second Queer artist to represent Australia at Eurovision, following Montaigne in 2021
‘I Won’t Be Waking Up To Watch Eurovison’
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“This year will be the first year that I won’t be waking up at 4.55am to WATCH EUROVISION!’” wrote an overjoyed Riley on Instagram.
“For me Eurovision is so much more than a contest, it was a dream that made me believe ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. I promised myself if I ever doubted that, I would let go of my dream… EUROVISION pushed me to work harder and promised me that THE WORLD WILL CHOOSE DIFFERENCE WHEN GIVEN THE CHANCE TO SEE IT.”
“Thank YOU for giving me the chance and for making my dream a reality. This is more than an honour and I’ll never be able to completely express how grateful I am. I PROMISE I will make you all proud!”
A “Guilty Pleasure”
Such an honour. ♡⚔️ https://t.co/lpg1aPUYsj
— SHELDON RILEY (@SheldRiley) February 27, 2022
After his encore performance of Not the Same at Eurovision – Australia Decides, Riley told the audience, “I come from a very religious and reserved family, and Eurovision was kind of my guilty pleasure.”
“It’s like the little world – it’s the family that I kind of created for myself that would understand who I was, and it means the world.”
In an interview with DNA, Riley said, “I wrote the song myself. It’s a storytelling song. I haven’t looked into what sort of success people have had writing their own song, but I didn’t want anyone else writing it for me. It’s dark, it’s orchestral, it has this big moment. I’ve been telling people to just… be prepared. It builds… and then visually there’s this massive thing that happens, that gives an answer… and helps people understand me.”
A Jury & A Public Vote
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The Eurovision – Australia Decides competition is decided by a mix of public votes and jury votes, each weighted at 50 percent. Public voting began on Friday for a 24 hour period. This tally was added to the jury votes which were cast following Friday night’s preliminary performance.
This year’s Eurovision judging panel consisted of Alexandra Rotan, Darren Hayes, Paul Clarke, Emily Griggs, and Millie Petriella.
Emily Griggs, the Head of Entertainment for SBS said, “Eurovision – Australia Decides 2022 had a wonderful sense of camaraderie among the artists but onstage, competition was fierce. With such an impressive line-up there was no clear winner which was exciting. I am thrilled that Sheldon Riley will be heading to Turino in May. His performance was mesmerising and his passion for Eurovision is undeniable. I can’t wait to see Sheldon continue on the road to Italy.”
Australia Making Sixth Trip to Eurovision
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Australia has been previously represented in the competition by Guy Sebastian, Dami Im, Isaiah, Jessica Mauboy, Kate Miller-Heidke and Montaigne.
Australia’s highest finish in the competition was in 2016 when Dami Im placed second, with Sound of Silence, though the country has placed in the top ten four times since it began participating in 2015.
Riley, originally hails from the Gold Coast and is now based in Melbourne. Riley, originally took the spotlight when he competed on season eight (as Sheldon Hernandez) of X-Factor Australia. Riley competed in the14-21 category and was mentored by Adam Lambert.
Riley was eliminated during the bootcamp portion of the competition but later returned when the judges formed groups and Riley made the lineup for Time & Place, mentored by Iggy Azalea, along with three other previously eliminated contestants.
The group finished in ninth place after being eliminated during the first week of the live shows.
‘The Voice’ Finalist
In 2018, Riley competed in the seventh season of The Voice Australia. During his audition, he sang Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, winning the attention of all four coaches, however he ultimately chose to join Boy George’s team.
Riley made it to the final and finished in third place. During his time on The Voice, Riley performed Diamonds (Rihanna), Creep (Radiohead), Born this Way (Lady Gaga) and Young and Beautiful (Lana Del Rey).
Riley again returned to The Voice in 2019 during its all-star season. Singing Madonna’s Frozen, Riley again got all four judges to turn. Riley chose Delta Goodrem as his coach, but was ultimately eliminated during the semi-finals.
In 2020 Riley competed on season 15 of America’s Got Talent, and was eliminated during the third quarter-final.
Russia Banned from Competing in Eurovision 2022
Eurovision has also announced that Russia is now banned from competing in the competition reversing an earlier decision. The European Broadcasting Union, which produces the competition, had initially announced on Thursday that Russia would still be able to take part but following an outcry from European broadcasters, the Broadcasting Union announced Friday that Russia was now banned.
In a statement the Union said, “The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s contest would bring the competition into disrepute.”
“Before making this decision the EBU took time to consult widely among its membership. The EBU is an apolitical member organisation of broadcasters committed to upholding the values of public service.”
“We remain dedicated to protecting the values of a cultural competition which promotes international exchange and understanding, brings audiences together, celebrates diversity through music and unites Europe on one stage.”