Sunday 22 April 2018

Comment: Eurovision gimmicks may take our crown

Kirsty at large...

Robin Bengtsson performs the song
Robin Bengtsson performs the song "I Can't Go On" during Melodifestivalen 2017 at Friends Arena
Douze points: Italy's entry features a man in a gorilla suit, breakdancing
Aoibhin Garrihy and Dayl Cronin pictured when the nominees and host for this years Peter Mark VIP Style Awards were revealed. Photo: Brian McEvoy

Kirst Blake Knox

A treadmill.

This year we will lose the Eurovision Song Contest to a treadmill or a man in a gorilla suit.

The gorilla suit I can live with, but not the Swede on the treadmill.

The Eurovision has been crowding my mind for the past week for several reasons.

First came the release of Irish entry 'Dying to Try', then the news that RTÉ spent €337,000 sending Nicky Byrne to Stockholm last year.

Just to give you a frame of reference, RTÉ spent €332,000 going to Rio for the 2016 Olympics.

A lot of people were aghast, especially when they heard the Eurovision entry fee is around €88,000.

But for me the Eurovision is worth every red cent. With 204 million viewers, more people watch the camp song contest than the Superbowl or the Olympics opening ceremony combined.

A 30 second ad during the Superbowl goes for around $5m so comparatively the Eurovision is actually great value for money - providing you get to the final.

And that's what really stings about the €337,000 sum - knowing that Nicky Byrne and his 18-strong entourage were probably watching the final on a TV screen in a hotel room in Stockholm while downing glögg.

Many people saw it coming and this year I feel it could happen all over again.

I have listened to 'Dying to Try' and regretfully inform you that we will not be reclaiming our Eurovision glory.

I should make it clear that this is no reflection on Brendan Murray or his mentor Louis Walsh (who definitely knows his onions when it comes to the song contest). But Eurovision is no longer about sweet, evocative, and inoffensive ballads.

There needs to be a statement, or some original and audacious piece of staging.

When I rang RTÉ asking who was choreographing Murray's stage performance, the national broadcaster said it "won't be commenting on staging".

This is cause for concern.

The spectacle at this year's competition is fierce. Sweden has Robin Bengtsson, a 2008 Swedish Idol champ and a man who quite possibly moonlights as an underwear model.

His song 'I Can't Go On' is solid stuff, but his routine sets him apart.

It starts backstage (a Eurovision first?) and involves an elaborately choreographed dance routine on five giant black treadmills.

It's like a very slick version of that OK Go video for 'Here It Goes Again'.

The other hot favourite to win is Italy.

Its number 'Occidentali's Karma' is a glorious pop song; over 35 million people have watched the official video online and it has topped the charts in Malta and Italy already. Singer Franceso Gabbani is charismatic and he has launched an aggressive social media campaign to boost the song's popularity.

But more importantly than all of that, it features a man in a gorilla suit breakdancing.

And there is simply no way we can compete with that.

Especially if our show stopper is looking soulfully into a camera - a la the Backstreet Boys circa 1999.

I hope Italy wins because if Sweden is victorious, then we will have basically handed our Eurovision crown and spectre over to them.

It will also have seven wins and we can no longer lord our 'Most Eurovision Wins Ever' USP over the rest of Europe.

And Sweden really doesn't need another thing to be brilliant at - have you seen its population's bone structure and height?

Eurovision glory was Ireland's thing.

We should have guarded our it with a little more pride.

Instead, we have let it flitter away in a sea of mediocrity.

Comment: Ireland's 2017 Eurovision entry fits RTE's recent run of musical mediocrity 

VIP launches awards in fine style but MOD a no-show

peter_mar (13).jpg
Aoibhin Garrihy and Dayl Cronin pictured when the nominees and host for this years Peter Mark VIP Style Awards were revealed. Photo: Brian McEvoy

Something was amiss at the launch of that cultural bastion - the VIP Style Awards - this week.

Organiser and raconteur Michael O'Doherty couldn't make the gathering.

Many reporters were sorely disappointed to discover he wouldn't be making his annual speech.

Perhaps MOD was still reeling after last year's launch when the seam of his trousers dramatically burst open before he took to the podium?

"No, no," one of the PR girls said. "He's been held up in court - practising law," she added quickly.

A rake load of the nominees gathered at the top of The Marker Hotel and posed for pictures while discussing their hatred of up-dos.

Darren Kennedy will return as host for the third year running.

"I think I've done it more often than anyone in the history of the VIP Awards. Stephen Fry does the BAFTAs every year and Graham Norton does the National TV Awards and I do this," he said modestly.

Darren is currently deciding whether or not to get a tuxedo custom made for his dog Harry - who he intends on bringing to the show.

"I'll decide closer to the night," he said. Actress and Foxtrotter Aoibhín Garrihy was there and talked about Dancing with the Stars. "The ghosts of previous contestants are floating around the studio," she said. "It feels very strange with just four of us left."

She was joined by Dayl Cronin (above) who was dumbfounded by his Most Stylish Man nomination. "If the lads back home knew I was wearing these loafers I don't know what they'd say," he said pointing at his shoes.

Breakfast Republic star Keith Walsh, Al Porter and Miriam O'Callaghan are also up for a gong.

"It's just a good laugh for everyone," Darren said. Bar the losers of course.


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