Irish fail in ‘black art’ of Eurovision hits

Ryan Dolan last in contest final with five points


So what happened? Though expected by bookmakers and fans to finish in the top 12 of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Ireland’s act ended up finishing in last place, with only five points.

Singer Ryan Dolan said yesterday that this result was “a big shock” for the Irish delegation. “We really can’t understand it. The track is charting in 17 countries. If people are buying the song and liking the song, I don’t see how this works that we ended last.”

The fact that Ireland’s was the final performance in the running order may have contributed to its poor score. Some of the act’s performance and design elements – in particular drummers and a Celtic theme – had been seen several times before in other countries’ entries (including in the winning act from Denmark) and viewers may have found them derivative or repetitive by the end of a long show.

‘Ryan looked nervous’
While praising Dolan’s performance in the grand final on Saturday night, Ewan Spence, editor of Eurovision fan website, noted problems in Dolan’s performance during Friday night’s jury final, which counts for 50 per cent of the results.

“Initially in the jury final, Ryan looked nervous and shaky and it did not sound quite right. Though he recovered, it was a very nervy first 30 seconds. This may have stuck in the mind of the jury because he sang last.”

Dolan and RTÉ’s head of Eurovision delegation Michael Kealy, however, say that they were happy with the jury final performance. “I didn’t hear any vocal problems,” says Kealy, “and Ryan never mentioned any. It’s possible that people just didn’t like the song.”

It will be interesting to see if there is a marked divide in the scoring of the two performances when organisers release the full scoring results this summer.

Was RTÉ trying to plug into a Eurovision formula with its combination of an upbeat club dance song, some sexed-up ethnic elements (the shirtless, body-painted dancers) and some futuristic elements (Dolan’s shiny leather suit)?

“Formula implies that it’s a science,” says Kealy, “and if it were a science we’d get it right every time. It’s not a science, it’s a black art . . . I don’t think ours was as formulaic as some of this year’s songs. And remember Ryan wrote that song for himself, with Wez Devine. It wasn’t created in a lab by some Swedes.”

For Spence, a key element leading to Denmark’s victory with Only Teardrops was the appeal of lead singer Emmelie de Forest. “If you don’t make a strong, visceral, emotional connection with your audiences, people won’t be compelled to pick up the phone. Ryan is a great singer, but he didn’t have that tiny bit of something that sparks through televisions across Europe. ”

Whatever the result, Dolan says he enjoyed his Eurovision experience. “This has done for me what I wanted it to do. If I hadn’t entered it, I’d still be sitting at home writing songs and doing the odd gig. This has given me amazing exposure all over Europe.”

He is planning gigs in Russia, the UK and Ireland and says he’s been approached by several international record companies.

Kealy hopes that this result will not deter artists from putting themselves forward for the Eurovision. “It’s the biggest entertainment contest in the world. The unfortunate thing would be people looking at what happened last night and saying ‘we’ll only come last’. It’s a setback for Ryan, but it’s a minor setback. He has a huge career ahead of him.”