Manel Navarro likes Ed Sheeran, Hawaiian shirts and playing the guitar. The 21-year-old singer with skater-boy appeal will represent Spain at next week's Eurovision Song Contest, with an easy-breezy reggae-tinged bilingual pop tune called "Do It for You Lover."
Beach scenes and surfboards will be the backdrop for Navarro when he sings on the Eurovision stage in Kiev. The contest semi-finals take place May 9 and 11; the final nail-biting night of famed Eurovision glitz and musical flag-waving is May 13. Navarro heads to the Ukraine tomorrow to start rehearsals.
"My song is fresh and I think my performance will be something different," he tells Billboard, explaining that the other contestants -- there are 42 in total -- tend toward the dramatic ballads and synth-flavored songs that the Eurovision contest has been serving up for decades.
"I think the contest could be a little more modern," he says, before quickly back-tracking: "It's good the way it is; they're doing it right."
If Navarro seems careful not to offend anyone, it's not surprising. His reign as Spain's Eurovision representative started off with him flipping off the audience on national television.
When he made the obscene gesture known in Spain as a "corte de mangas," Navarro, who is from Sabadell, a city just outside of Barcelona, had just emerged as the winner of Television Española's Objectivo Eurovision, a reality singing competition created to determine Spain's Eurovision contestant. Navarro tied for first place in public Internet voting. In a tie-breaking vote, the public selected a singer named Mirela as the winner. But the audience choice was over-ruled by a deciding vote by a three-member jury of radio program directors.
As Navarro stood onstage to claim his title, some members of the audience started yelling out that the contest was rigged. The singer responded by subtly giving them the fist. He later publicly apologized.
The Navarro naysayers, which have included members of the press, claim his connections got him the Eurovision slot. Jury member Xavi Martínez, of radio powerhouse Los 40 Principales, had publicly supported Navarro as his Eurovision favorite, and revealed they had gone out to dinner together before the contest.
Navarro is not an industry newbie. He started promoting himself in his teens, putting up YouTube videos of his covers of songs by Sheehan and other artists. He was signed to Sony Music Spain after winning another competition, called Teen Star, and his recently released EP on Sony features several versions of his Eurovision song.
"Do It for Your Lover" was the first song among Spain's Eurovision entries to make the Los 40 chart prior to being selected for the international contest. Navarro recently wrapped up the largest ever promotional tour by a Spanish candidate for the competition. He has since moved to Madrid to better focus on the demands wrought by Eurovision on his career.
Is "Do It For Your Lover" a winning song? Watch Navarro's Objectivo Eurovision performance and the video for "Do It For Your Lover."