Friday 17 August 2018

Comment: Has RTE finally got Eurovison right again with Ryan O'Shaughnessy?

Our Eurovision expert reacts to RTE's 2018 Eurovision choice

Ryan O'Shaughnessy will represent Ireland at Eurovision
Ryan O'Shaughnessy will represent Ireland at Eurovision
Ryan O'Shaughnessy will represent Ireland at Eurovision
Nicky Byrne on stage at the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm (AP)
Irish Eurovision entry Brendan Murray performing during the second semi-final in Kiev last night. Photo: Getty Images
Jedward are in the Eurovision Song Contest final in Baku, Azerbaijan
Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

While the 1990s will be remembered as our golden era in Eurovision, the last decade will more likely go down as our dark ages.

Ireland has failed to qualify for the final since 2013 - and in the last 15 years has only scraped into the top ten in the final on three occasions.

We have failed to qualify for the final in the last four editions of the contest  - a dismal record only outdone by FYR Macedonia, who have failed on their previous five attempts.

That puts us second from last in the rankings over the last five years in a competition entered by over 40 countries. It's a perennial Fr Ted and Dougal hearing their Eurovison result come in at the end of the iconic Eurosong episode. 

We used to blame an evil eastern European voting conspiracy for our woes - but we can't wear that tattered tinfoil hat anymore, much as some still might try.

Portugal stormed to victory last year on its 49th attempt, its best placing in its previous 48 attempts was 6th in 1996. Let that sink in, that's one heck of a wait.

Austria had likewise waited 48 years for a second victory when Conchita won in 2014.

RTE has been rightly criticised for their efforts over the last number of years - their choices have been stale and uninspired attempts at following the pack.

Nicky Byrne on stage at the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm (AP)
Nicky Byrne on stage at the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm (AP)

Sometimes we had a passable song but things fell apart on stage - other times we had a stage show without a discernible song to go with it.

We were hopelessly out of step - some of our recent entries were of a standard other countries had reached a decade previously, and since surpassed.

However what has become clear recently is that there is no trend at Eurovision, those who dare win.

The national broadcaster has done a lot of soul searching in relation to Eurovison in the last year - hosting a fan forum last Autumn to get fresh ideas on how to approach the competition.

The consensus was clear, in the 1990s we set the Eurovision mould, we didn't try to fit it. And so RTE set about finding an established act that would represent what the Irish music scene is about today.

Rumours were rife 62-year-old Johnny Rotten was being considered - which would have been  disaster. The BBC tried the formula of sending aging singers to Eurovision in 2012 and 2013 with disastrous results.

Irish Eurovision entry Brendan Murray performing during the second semi-final in Kiev last night. Photo: Getty Images
Irish Eurovision entry Brendan Murray performing during the second semi-final in Kiev last night. Photo: Getty Images

Ukraine's Jamala was 32 when she won in 2016, making her the oldest winner in over a decade. The competition has always been - with some notable exceptions - a young person's game. 

Ryan O'Shaughnessy is an excellent choice for modern Eurovision.

He is a young - yet immensely experienced - singer/songwriter.

He performed his original songs in front of a TV audience of millions on Britain's Got Talent in 2012 at the age of 19 - if he can handle Simon Cowell, he can handle 180m TV viewers at Eurovison.

Some performers struggle with the immense scale of the Eurovison - Ryan's TV experience will stand him in good stead and allow him to hit the ground running.

Jedward represented Ireland in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest
Jedward represented Ireland in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest

He is an accomplished songwriter despite his young age - his 2016 album displays the skill of a songwriter well ahead of his years.

We are yet to hear the song, and we are yet to see the TV production.

Jedward's 'Lipstick' in 2011 was the last time we had both a strong song and TV presentation - and while Ryan O'Shaughnessy will undoubtedly be a very different affair to the bubble gum pop track - it's still crucial that the TV presentation compliments the song.

Ryan O'Shaughnessy mentioned Ireland's classic 'Rock'n'Roll kids' as one of his inspirations for entering the competition - possibly our best ever Eurovision song.

If Ryan's back to basics approach translates into anything close to 1994 classic, we could be starting our Eurovison renaissance in Lisbon.

Online Editors

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top