A star is born: Nemo

On the night of the Eurovision festival, the young winner took to the stage of the Malmö Arena and, excited and teary-eyed, accidentally broke his trophy and injured his thumb.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
13 May 2024 Monday 05:16
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A star is born: Nemo

On the night of the Eurovision festival, the young winner took to the stage of the Malmö Arena and, excited and teary-eyed, accidentally broke his trophy and injured his thumb. Nemo had just conquered the coveted crystal microphone with The code, a song that combines drum and bass, rap, rock, and opera, and earned him the favor of most national juries and a good portion of the public televote.

Nemo received a total of 591 points (365 from the jury and 226 from the audience) with this theme that narrates a personal experience: their self-discovery as a non-binary person. In doing so, they become the first artist from this community to win Eurovision. Moreover, at their press conference in the early hours of Sunday, it became evident that a star has been born in Europe.

“I am proud to accept the trophy on behalf of people who dare to be themselves and for those who need to be heard and understood; we need more compassion, we need more empathy,” he declared. In November 2023, in an article in the SonntagsZeitung, Nemo had revealed that they identify as non-binary. Later, in a press release, they explained: “The code explores the journey I embarked on when I realized that I am neither a man nor a woman. Finding myself has been a long and often difficult process for me. But nothing makes me feel better than the freedom gained from realizing that I am not a binary person.”

In an edition of the festival politically overshadowed by Israel's participation in the midst of a deadly Israeli military offensive in Gaza, the winner turned out to be someone who, above the message about gender fluidity, had presented an outstanding song and performance. Their well-deserved victory, preceded by betting odds that placed them only as the third favorite, also saved the festival from the tangle created by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) by denying the political implications of having Israel among the contestants this year.

Like in a metaphorical interwar miracle of the 20th century, neutral Switzerland saved the day thanks to a song and a performer so excellent and deserving of the prize that their victory could not be considered controversial. A majority of national juries clung to Switzerland almost as a lifeline, showering Nemo with batteries of “douze points,” while the audience's televote revealed more varied impulses. When the popular verdict was added, the song Hurricane performed by the Israeli Eden Golan became the leader of the scoreboard, albeit for a very short time. It soon became clear that the winner would be either the Croatian Baby Lasagna or the Swiss Nemo. And ultimately, The Code triumphed over Rim Tim Tagi Dim.

Now begins for Nemo, who lives in Berlin, a continental artistic journey that perhaps he did not imagine in childhood, when his talents were already emerging. Nemo Mettler, 24, officially a rapper and instrumentalist, was born in Biel, which with its 56,000 inhabitants is the largest bilingual city (German and French) in Switzerland. Biel, located in the canton of Bern, is also the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry.

Nemo started playing the piano, the violin, and the drums at a young age, in addition to taking singing lessons to enhance his lyrical range. The City Council of his town, swelling with pride over the victory, was boasting yesterday in Swiss media that the boy Nemo studied in cultural institutions in Biel.

At the age of 13, Nemo took part in a musical, and in 2016 he went viral on social media with a rap performed in Swiss German. After winning the award for best talent at the 2017 Swiss Music Awards, he went on to win so many awards the following year that the Swiss public television humorously renamed the event as the Swiss Nemo Awards. His song in German Du (you) reached fourth place on the Swiss charts. In 2020, Nemo started releasing songs in English and began writing and producing for other artists.

“I would like to collaborate with some of the other Eurovision participants, with Bambie Thug, Marina Satti...,” Nemo said at the press conference the night before last at the Malmö Arena. Attention: when he accepted the award, he was wearing on his head the black hawthorn crown with which the Irish Bambie Thug performed her strident song, Doomsday Blue. Bambie Thug, a queer advocate, handed it to him before going on stage.

In front of the press, Nemo ventured to say that perhaps Eurovision could improve. The EBU has not managed its best festival this year, not only due to the politicization but also because of its unprecedented decision to disqualify a contestant for the final, the representative of the Netherlands, Joost Klein, due to an allegation of inappropriate behavior towards a worker. In any case, sending next year's festival to Switzerland will surely have been a relief for Eurovision's Executive Supervisor, Martin Österdahl, and for the EBU in general, which may need to heed Nemo's advice and try to improve.