Uproar after Germany's Eurovision hopeful bows out
The Eurovision Song Contest has had its fair share of controversy, but a shock move on live national TV by Germany's entry to bow out even before the event sparked a media storm Friday.
Rock and blues singer Andreas Kuemmert was picked by television viewers in Germany's pre-contest Thursday evening to represent the country at the Eurovision final in Vienna on May 23.
But to all-round surprise -- and boos from the audience -- instead of celebrating his win on stage, the 28-year-old said he couldn't accept.
"I'm a small singer," the performer said, announcing he was "overwhelmed" and would cede the title to second-placed Ann Sophie, 24, who, stunned and tearful, hugged him.
"I just think that she's simply much more qualified and suited," said the auburn-bearded singer, whose soulful style has been compared to late British singer Joe Cocker.
The Eurovision Song Contest, an annual glitzy pop fest broadcast across Europe and beyond, pits hopefuls against each other in their quest to follow in the footsteps of ABBA or other past winners.
The event, decried by some for being more about politics than music, is popular in Germany, which has won it twice, with performances by Nicole in 1982 and in 2010 with Lena.
Ann Sophie, born in London and from the northern port city of Hamburg, will now represent Germany in May with her song "Black Smoke".
- Anti-popstar -
Bespectacled Kuemmert, who hails from southern Bavaria, has become popular since winning reality talent show "The Voice of Germany" in 2013, and his decision topped radio and television news Friday.
"TV uproar," said popular mass daily Bild on its front page, adding "Winner doesn't want to sing for Germany" in what it said was an unprecedented decision.
"It's the biggest effrontery in the history of the contest," it added.
News weekly Spiegel's website commented that Kuemmert certainly wouldn't be forgotten in a hurry "as the grand singer who didn't want to win".
It praised him as an "independent, headstrong, genuine artist" who chose in the end to have nothing to do with the Eurovision "entertainment machinery".
"It's just a pity for us... The man could have won."
Prestigious weekly Die Zeit said in its online edition that the "commotion" kicked up by his decision showed that "free will in show business apparently counts for nothing".
But criticism came from the Berliner Zeitung, which dubbed him the "anti-popstar", saying: "He ought not have competed at all."
- Big decision -
Some 3.2 million viewers tuned in on Thursday to watch the surprising outcome on ARD public broadcaster.
Disappointed and angry viewers took to social media, while others voiced respect for Kuemmert's move.
"Great personality and great courage are part of such a big decision. I take my hat off, Andreas Kuemmert!" read one tweet.
The singer's record label indicated that the build-up over the Eurovision contest, which was last year won by Austria's bearded drag queen sensation Conchita Wurst, had apparently become too much.
In an interview published on ARD's Eurovision Internet page, Sigi Schuller of Universal Music said he believed Kuemmert's decision had been spontaneous.
"You saw that he wanted to. Perhaps he saw a bit too late that he couldn't," he said. "The spotlight is too big."
© 2015 AFP