Once more with feeling: Ireland hunts sure-fire Eurovision smash

Only professional songwriters and performers wanted to break dismal losing streak

Eurovision song contest: Ireland has failed to qualify for the final on the last four occasions. File photograph: Getty Images

Eurovision song contest: Ireland has failed to qualify for the final on the last four occasions. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Ireland’s Eurovision experiences over the last decade meet Samuel Johnson’s definition of second marriages being the “triumph of hope over experience”.

Ireland has failed to qualify for the final on the last four occasions, despite, for instance, having one of the most successful singers the country has ever produced (Nicky Byrne from Westlife, in 2016) and the most successful pop impresario (Louis Walsh, 2017) both involved.

Everything has been tried and nothing has succeeded in breaking Ireland’s dismal record in recent years.

This year has been a particular nadir, with Brendan Murray’s Dying to Try dying a death and finishing 13th out of 18 songs in the semi-final.

RTÉ’s Eurovision executive producer Michael Kealy says there is “nothing worse than sitting in that green room knowing your song has not got into the final”.

Unrealistic expectations

Undeterred, he is back for a sixth year at the helm. Ireland’s previous successes, he believes, have bred unrealistic expectations.

He points out that the last time Ireland won, in 1996, only three countries, Ireland being one of them, were allowed to sing in English - the language of pop music.

RTÉ are looking for professional songwriters to produce a “killer song”. That’s easier said than done - going on past results.

The national broadcaster has issued an open call for songs with a deadline of November. Theoretically anybody can enter, but in reality only professionals can apply.

“The Eurovision is a professional music competition. It is part of the global pop industry,” he says.

“It is not a place for amateurs or have-a-go heroes. It is not a place to kick-start a music career. It’s a place for seasoned professionals.

“I admire the amateur songwriting community and the amateur performance community, but this is not the place to begin your career. Just because you can play pitch-and-putt doesn’t mean you can take part in the British Open.”

Insufficient seriousness

At its heart, he says, Ireland doesn’t treat the competition with sufficient seriousness. He compares Ireland to Sweden, which mobilises its music community every year around getting the right song for the competition, and has the results to prove it.

Only songs that have been released or publicly performed for the first time after September 1st, 2017, are eligible to be entered.

Once the song is chosen, the performer will be selected. Mr Kealy said RTÉ is speaking to well-known Irish performers about singing the winning song.

The closing date for submissions is 5pm on Monday, November 6th, 2017. The 63rd Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Lisbon, Portugal next May, with semi-finals on the 8th and 10th and the final on the 12th.