Saturday 21 September 2019

How Ryan's Eurovision chutzpah outfoxed us all

Eurostar: Ryan celebrates in Lison. Photo: Andres Poveda
Eurostar: Ryan celebrates in Lison. Photo: Andres Poveda
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Rihanna arrives at the Met Gala
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Didn't the heart nearly burst out of my chest when the Portuguese gals chimed in unison "Ireland!"

We'd done it! We'd made it out of the 'semi-final of death', aka the 'Eurovision bloodbath', aka 'Glitter Genocide', aka the 'All-Singing All-Dancing All-Killing fields'. (This is the Eurovision - no room for subtlety).

Ryan O'Shaughnessy had defied the odds and got us into the Grand Final. For the first time in five years. At this stage, that seems almost as good as winning.

I was beside myself as for the first time ever I am at the annual jamboree of camp songs and glitzy dance routines.

I decided last spring it was time to head over as I watched my father hack down a beech tree in our back garden.

The tree was interrupting our TV signal. And as a consequence, we were missing out on the most important televised entertainment of the year - the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest.

The interference had started as Italy's Francesco Gabbani jumped on stage. We hoped it would pass but when Azerbaijan's song 'Skeleton' was replaced by static, we were all starting to panic.

"That feckin' tree!" my father cursed bitterly, as he moved towards the garden shed. "It has to come down before 'Yodel It!'"

A moment later he emerged - a hatchet in one hand, some rope lassoed around his neck, and a wild glint in his eye. I think he imagined himself as some sort of Indiana Jones figure, but in truth he was more Groundskeeper Willie.

Dad began wildly hacking at the base of the tree, while my sister kept us up to speed with the state of the TV reception.

A lot of thoughts were swirling round my head as this action unfolded. 'Is Dad on glue?' being the main one.

However, as the tree began to topple, it dawned on me how close my experience of the 2017 singing contest had been jeopardised.

A sapling had resulted in me missing a man in a gorilla suit breakdance. That could never be allowed to happen again.

So, several months ago, I decided to give the Eurovision the commitment it deserves, and booked my flight to Lisbon for the 63rd Grand Final. I didn't think too much about our chances of making it through.

Up until Tuesday night, I just wanted to knock about the Eurovision village, talk about Abba reforming, and see Marty Whelan do the mash potato at 4am while swigging from a bottle of Baileys.

When Ryan made it through - most of us were shocked. And, perhaps, so was RTÉ.

The national broadcaster's attitude towards the Eurovision in recent years has been a little lacklustre. In fact, it has mostly traded on nostalgia.

It's like some of the suits have resigned themselves to the fact we will never regain our former glory, or even the hysteria that was once called Jedmania. Nowhere was this more evident than on this year's Late Late Show Eurovision special where excellent performers like Paul Harrington, Charlie McGettigan and Linda Martin played a ropey Eurovision quiz in front of a set that cost around a tenner.

But O'Shaughnessy has shown steely determination from the get-go. Perhaps that's down to his background on seriously competitive reality shows like Britain's Got Talent.

"We have been the underdogs since we came here, and no one thinks Ireland has what it had," he said this week.

"But we made the Eurovision what it was and we are going to make it what it is in the future. We are going to win it on Saturday. Dublin for 2019."

It might be his first Eurovision but this ain't his first rodeo.

I don't know if Ryan will bring the Eurovision home, but it seems that there's more to him than meets the eye.

He has presence on stage as a solo artist, and is able to command the space. His song 'Together' may lack original lyrics, but it is emotive and that tends to go down well in Eurovisionland.

And he's been placed in the latter half of the final - always a good thing.

On top of this there are the gay dancers twirling around lampposts, and hanging out on park benches.

It's irritated the Russians and Chinese but it has worked a treat with diehard Eurovision fans. Whichever way you look at it; Ryan has given us the shot in the arm we needed. So - prepare to party like it's 1996.

Does the Met Gala really need a #MeToo moment?

Rihanna arrives at the Met Gala

It was a throwback to Medici level of opulence this week at my favourite annual fashion freak show - the Met Gala.

Rihanna dressed as a sexy Pope in a bejewelled mitre and mini skirt, Katy Perry arrived in towering Archangel Gabriel wings, Cardi B was the blessed virgin, and George Clooney looked dazed and confused.

The theme, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, caused consternation online. There were those (such as Piers Morgan) who said the organisers were guilty of religious appropriation. Had it been any other faith, they fumed, and there would be total uproar. On the left leaning side of the fence, others complained there was no stand out #MeToo or #TimesUp moment.

We'll deal with the religious appropriation issue first. It's worth remembering that the Vatican signed off on this exhibition and shipped over 50 items from its archive to the Metropolitan Museum.

It also sent the Sistine Chapel choir to sing, and NY's Cardinal Timothy Dolan joked, "I'm the only one who didn't have to buy an outfit." He continued: "Church and the Catholic imagination are about three things: truth, goodness and beauty. That's why we're into art, culture... and, yes, even fashion.''

Embracing the ostentatiousness of Catholicism is acknowledging part of its history - like admiring stained glass windows, or flying buttresses.

Now over to the other camp which is cross there wasn't enough #TimesUp talk. This crew felt an opportunity for protest had been lost - overlooking Lena Waithe's LGBTQ pride rainbow cape. Their irritation raises the question - does every red carpet event have to become an opportunity for political grandstanding?

At the Golden Globes, I got it. We all did. But this is the Met Gala, it's all about ludicrous display. This is the place Rihanna showcased her pizza meme dress, and where Zayn Malik accessorised a Bullingdon suit jacket with C-3PO sleeves. Everything about it is utterly ridiculous. Perhaps we could stop taking mortal offence - even for one night.


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