Friday 21 October 2016

Five things RTE need to do to return Ireland to Eurovision glory

Published 13/05/2016 | 10:54

Nicky Byrne and team Ireland in the Green Room waiting for the result
Nicky Byrne and team Ireland in the Green Room waiting for the result

WITH Nicky Byrne's elimination, Ireland has now entered its worst phase of results in Eurovision since joining the competition in 1965. Here are five things RTE need to change.

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Go back to Eurosong

There is no excuse for internal selection in Eurovision - if an act can't win the public vote in their home country how can they be expected to win a public vote in 45 others? The public need to have their say and become invested in an entry. We also need a good range of song choices (10-12) and it needs to be held in a proper venue with proper staging - not the Late Late show set in Montrose. The Helix is rented out for the Voice live shows annually, how about just renting it a week earlier and holding Euosong?


Jury for song selection

Who actually picks the songs that we get to hear on Eurosong? Last year a panel of five - Three men and two women, all over the age of 30 took up the task. Now I'm all for age diversity - but how can a panel all well over the age of 30 (and many well north of 40) pick a diverse selection of songs? The average age of Eurovision winners over the last four years has been 25.

44.8% of TV-watching 15-24 year-olds tuned into the contest last year - and with winning songs doing well in contemporary charts it's clear the results are being decided by Europe's younger population.

How can RTE really stand over a jury panel for Eurosong which has no one under the age of 30 on it? How can that be an accurate reflection of all cross sections of music tastes?

Five people is far too small a jury, regardless of age. It should be increased five fold and a more diverse panel age-wise introduced. 


Lose the chip on our shoulder

Eurovision owes us nothing. Yes we may have won it more than any other country (for now - Sweden may well take the crown on Saturday), but that wasn't by chance - we wanted to win it and we delivered excellent songs. Any of our Eurovison winners would do well today. 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids' could very well still win the competition, despite being over 20 years old. Can anyone honestly say we've sent a song anywhere near as good as any of our Eurovision winners in the last decade? Not even close.

Blaming "political voting" is a lazy, and borderline xenophobic excuse. Australia qualified last night and they have no neighbors. Belgium - who have a worse qualification record than us - qualified with no Netherlands or France voting in the semi.

There is also the bizarre contention that because Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark all didn't qualify there's a conspiracy against western countries. It's funny how when the above countries qualify and we don't they're part of a Scandinavian block, but when they don't they're back to being Western countries. This also ignoring that Finland, Denmark and Norway have all won in the last decade - so they have somehow overcome the "eastern conspiracy".

It's a knee-jerk reaction to blame Soviet sabotage spoiling our fun - our song and performance wasn't good enough, simple as. How did we manage to qualify in 2006,2010,2011,2012 and 2013? The facts don't back the political voting claim. Nicky did a really good job with a mediocre song, but it just wasn't enough.


Music industry involvement

A lot of blame is aimed at RTE over Ireland's recent run of poor form, however the state broadcaster is just that, a broadcaster - not a music producer. Record companies need to become more involved in the process of song selection. Ireland's glory days were delivered by music industry professionals - Louis Walsh, Brendan Graham and Noel Kelehan were all heavily involved in our hay day. It's not just the performer, it's the back room team who select and produce the songs and have a vision for their staging.

Our best result this century was Jedward in 2011, who had the full force of a record label behind them - which showed with slick staging and a well produced song.

In Sweden, the new rulers of Eurovision, record companies aggressively compete with each other to have their acts compete in their national selection, with over 3,000 songs submitted annually. Big US record labels are now recognising the potential of Eurovision as Justin Timberlake gets set to perform in front of the TV audience of 200m.

The final ten songs in Sweden this year could all have placed in the top ten of the Eurovision final.



Triple S

Eurovision isn't rocket science. There are three key components to victory - Song, Singer, Staging. This year we got about 1.5/3.

The singer was a good choice - Nicky is an experienced and charismatic performer on camera, despite unfair criticisms about his vocal ability.

However the song was mediocre, and while the staging was very decent, it couldn't ultimately mask a below average song.

The process is a simple one: Get the song first, find the singers who can deliver them on stage, then come up with a stage show around them.

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