Eurovision – a review and why Ireland needs to grow up
Eurovision is over for another year and while Irelands result was disappointing, the reaction of people is even more so. The thing about Eurovision is that it has many actual fans who like it and follow it like any show, then it has people who only tune in out of some nationalistic pride and take insult if their country doesn’t do well and then it has people who hate it and never watch it but jump at any chance to say ‘Oh give up forget about it.’
The Eurovision was as successful as ever. Over the last 20 years the show has grown and attracted new countries and contestants. What people don’t seem to get however is why it’s possible to predict the top 5 or the top 10? This is possible because in any given year that is the number of songs that are actually in with a shout of winning. After that the others are all along for the ride.
If your song is not lets say top 5 material then it gets harder to say how it will fare on the night. If it’s not top 10 then you are entering a lottery where you are hoping to pick up votes but might not necessarily do so. Ireland was a perfect example of this. Ryan Dolan put in a great performance and there wasn’t much more that could have been done with the song. However, it was never really in with a chance of winning. Now, we all like to put on the green jersey and get behind our team but when things are over perhaps we can see things in a better light. In any of the respected predictions of Eurovision I saw from the many genuine blogs and comments that follow the contest, Ireland was well received but anything above the top 15 would be a surprise. This meant you are entering that ‘lottery territory’, where you are expecting 5 points here and there from countries, and the odd good score. But in reality it’s also quite possible to get squeezed by the bigger songs, the ones people actually want to see winning. There is always the chance you get forgotten about. Ireland got a good draw coming last based on statistics but having already sung in a semi final it was also possible people were tuning out by the time Ireland took to the stage with a song they had heard before.
Getting through the semi final was quite an achievement and Ryan Dolan should be proud of this, there was no shame in his position. Of course we are now into the myriad of people shouting about ‘bloc voting’ and this really gets my goat up. Ireland as part of the increasingly successful ‘Nordic/Viking bloc’ has been as much part of this as anyone down through the years. There are people in the Balkans and Azerbaijan who will claim to have been robbed by all of us here voting for Denmark. They too will ignore the facts. Eurovision has one objective, to find a winning song. No prizes for second or 26th. A winning song is not victorious because of bloc voting, it wins because it draws votes from far and wide. It wasn’t long before we could see that Denmark, Ukraine and Azerbaijan were the heavy hitters as they began to pick up consistently good scores from every bloc there is. Bloc voting can affect where you end up in the final table if you are among the also rans, but it wont be the decider for the winning song.
The idea that Ireland should pull out of Eurovision simply because we don’t like our scores or because we don’t win is the most infantile load of tosh I have ever heard. I have two kids that love winning but I spend my days convincing them not to get upset when they don’t, that you have to keep practising, competing and learning. I mean, lets face it I’m never going to play for Liverpool, I’ll never get to pull on the Longford Town jersey competitively, but that doesn’t mean I don’t show up to a five a side match when someone is stuck for numbers. It’s about enjoying something, taking part and trying.
However, there are lessons to learn. It is clear that countries like Sweden and Denmark, or like Ukraine and Azerbaijan are very consistent. Why is this? Well, for me it’s the same reason we used to be consistent. We used to take it seriously. These countries search for songs and enter a very high standard every single year. The Danish Song Contest was almost on a par with Eurovision itself. On the other hand we waste our time moaning about the competition, the voting and whether we should bother. Instead we need to start looking for better songs, encouraging young songwriters and broadening our national competition.
Our national contest lacks transparency. It does appear a cheap and good value way of getting a song but it may not find a winner. Jedward did well and had a decent performance; however it did fall short of really challenging, mainly because it was a lot to do with the image and the brand alone. The problem with Jedward was that Like Dustin, once their name was mentioned there was not much point in many songwriters really entering, better wait for another year. Dustin had the same effect. John Waters is a journalist I actually like but his consistency in getting songs to our national final has to be questioned.
Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s a closed shop. The ‘mentors’ who find the final 5 songs for the late late are not chosen out of any discernable set of criteria, how they come up with their song and how many songs they actually listen to is a bit of a mystery.
We do need an open and national contest that is far more transparent in selecting our final entry. It must offer much greater choice to the public than just 5 songs and it must focus on attracting new, young and even unknown songwriters to the contest rather than scaring them off. It must be bigger and yes, it will cost more.
Wherever we come in the end should not be our main point of concern though, it should simply be to enjoy it. The best song does win (Don’t tell Cliff Richard I said that) and there are few who will argue that once you heard the Danish entry you knew you were listening to a potential winner, Ukraine, Russia, Norway and Azerbaijan were also in that category. Malta and Hungary surprised people, not me, I thought both songs deserved a great score and personally must admit would listen to both over our own entry (its safe to say that now!). However, Ireland tried something a bit different, we got out of the semi final and Ryan Dolan showed that you don’t need to be a big star to give a flawless performance. Unfortunately, the song just wasn’t strong or catchy enough for voters who are looking to tap their feet, nod their head or sway in time to the music on that very first time they hear it.