Last weekend Ireland had yet another “Why Me?” moment at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö. Unfortunately it was of an entirely different nature to the one experienced 21 years when Linda Martin won the contest with “Why Me?”
Despite being a favourite of fans and pundits alike, with the bookies anticipating a top 12 finish, Ryan Dolan and his song “Only Love Survives” limped into last place with a miserable five points. In the days following the event there has been much confusion among fans, the media and the Irish in general. Ryan was unable to offer an explanation. “We really can’t understand it,” he said afterwards. “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 country’s bookmakers are equally baffled, with Paddy Power refunding all bets which had been placed on Dolan to win.
Surprisingly, the perennial issues of political and block voting haven’t come to the fore as possible reasons for the disappointing result. Perhaps this is due to the relative success of Jedward in recent years. However, former winner Paul Harrington has blamed the European public. “We won back in 1994 with juries’ votes,” he told The Herald. “Unfortunately, anything can happen with public votes. You get great singers beaten on Britain’s Got Talent by dogs spinning plates.” Obviously he didn’t see the split jury/televoting results for last year’s competition or else he would have noticed that Ireland finished 10th in the televote, whereas they only came 19th after jury votes were added to the tally.
A popular view is that performing last in the running order may have hampered Ireland’s chances. Certain aspects of the performance, especially the drummers and Celtic theme, had already been seen in several of the previous acts, including Denmark. After two hours the audiences may have simply found the Irish act to be formulaic and derivative. There have also been suggestions that Dolan may have put on a poor performance during the jury final. Fans present at the Friday night show have commented that he appeared “nervy” and “shaky” for the first 30 seconds of his routine, something which the juries may have picked up on.
However, in an interview with The Herald, Johnny Logan, the most successful performer in Eurovision history, said that Dolan shouldn’t be blamed: “I would tell Ryan to hold his head up because he pulled off a brilliant performance. He did us proud.” Logan also rejected the idea that singing last contributed to Ireland’s dismal placing, as other winning acts have appeared towards the end of the show.
Instead he feels that RTE, the Irish national broadcaster, are the ones responsible. He accused the station of “sidelining” the Irish Eurosong competition by having it incorporated into the Late Late Show, a Friday night chat show: “I don’t think it’s the correct setting to pick our Eurovision song … they had an interview with Danny DeVito in the middle of this year’s contest. How can that be right?” He contrasted this with the approach taken in Denmark at the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix where Emmelie de Forest was chosen: “It was a huge live TV show in front of 15,000 fans…. You get a much better idea of how a song is going to translate to a massive audience at an event like that.”
Speaking on RTE 2FM, Michael Kealy, the head of RTE’s Eurovision delegation, acknowledged that a performance review would have to take place with regards to the Irish selection process. Under the current system RTE appoints 5 mentors every year who are each responsible for finding a suitable artist and song. The 5 chosen acts then perform in a special Eurosong episode of the Late Late Show where the winner is determined by a mixture of public and jury vote. “We will look at having mentors, though that has worked quite well for us in the last three years. We have got out of the semi-finals in all three years. Maybe it is time to go back to an open system where people just send in songs and acts and we sift through the hundreds that come in and get an expert panel together and select five or six for the Late Late Show.”
Kealy also discussed the possibility of integrating the process with the Voice of Ireland: “We have done it before with You’re a Star – I think Mickey Joe Harte came through that system and he did very well.” If RTE were to take this option it would mean that the Voice would have to be rescheduled to earlier in the season, which is very unlikely as it would result in an unnecessary ratings war with the X Factor which is broadcast in Ireland on rival station TV3. It should also be noted that while Harte may have enjoyed some success, fellow You’re a Star alumni, Chris Doran and Donna and Joe McCaul, flopped at the Eurovision.
Furthermore, Kealy was adamant that RTE would not be staging a separate show to select a Eurovision act, citing a lack of resources as the reason.
When asked by The Irish Times whether RTE was trying to plug into a Eurovision formula, Kealy replied “formula implies that it’s a science and if it were a science we’d get it right every time. It’s not a science, it’s a black art.” It’s unclear whether Kealy and his colleagues at RTE will ever master this supposed “black art”, however, one thing is definite, Ireland will be back in 2014, hoping to get that elusive eight win. RTE have already confirmed participation in next year’s event with Kealy saying “I think it gives the country something to look forward to. I think it would be unfortunate purely on the basis of poor sportsmanship – not liking the results – to back out of it”. Hear, hear!
Photos: Thomas Hanses (EBU)