It’s something I can’t stop thinking about. Whenever RTÉ talks about the license fee, or Irish production companies refer to diminishing budgets, or RTÉ’s Eurovision boss says there needs to be more financial investment in the Song Contest. I hear these things and think of the elephant in the room; Toy Show The Musical. Since RTÉ’s Christmas show flopped at the box office, the broadcaster has continued to try to justify investing a reported €2m in the extravagant production (RTÉ has not disclosed the overall cost).
In fact, it seems to be doubling down. Rory Coveney, strategic adviser to the director general, told the Oireachtas Media Committee last month that the broadcaster is “looking at how we might bring it back” after a “rethink”. It’s hard not to think about how much better both that time (the musical was in development for three years) and that money could have been spent. On something, say, like the Eurovision.
We all know that our recent track record in the Song Contest has not been great; since coming last in 2013, with Ryan Dolan’s Only Love Survives, we have qualified for the final just once (Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together in 2018).
Going to the Eurovision costs money. Last year, RTÉ spent €315,000 sending Brooke Scullion to Turin. In TV terms, that’s not a huge amount of cash, but, if we constantly fail to qualify, then it cumulatively becomes questionable. If you take €315,000 as the annual spend, since 2018 (discounting the year Covid-19 resulted in the cancellation of the Eurovision), RTÉ has spent close to €1m to not qualify for the Eurovision. And that’s not good enough.
RTÉ needs to invest more time, creativity and yes, more money, in finding and funding an effective Eurovision selection process. We have had lots of iterations over the years; talent shows; internal panels; public votes; celebrity mentors; on The Late Late Show; off The Late Late Show; and new international jury contributions.
Most Eurovision fans and RTÉ Head of Ireland’s Eurovision Delegation, Michael Kealy, seem to be in agreement that to get out of the semi-finals quagmire we need to get Eurosong off The Late Late Show, and have a stand-alone Eurovision show.
There are plenty of reasons for this. As anyone tuning into Friday night’s show can attest, the acoustics in studio 4 leave a lot to be desired — at times it sounds like people are singing from 20,000 leagues beneath the sea. The stage is small and gives voting audiences little indication if the performer will be able to command a huge venue, and the inclusion of panellists is questionable. With the exception of Jedward, they don’t add anything of real value. The majority of feedback goes along the line of; ‘Well, I thought the song was amazing. And you’re amazing! But sure, aren’t they all winners anyway? Gold star!’
Having a stand-alone Eurovision show need not become a massive expense — you don’t have to hold it in the 3Arena. It means being inventive and thinking outside the box, and outside of Montrose. For example, Ukraine broadcasts its national song contest from a metro station in Kyiv, which is now used as a bomb shelter.
A Eurovision show could potentially change attitudes towards the contest by elevating its importance. And that’s key. Last year, the UK’s Sam Ryder said he wanted to ‘change the negative thought pattern’ British people had about Eurovision. He succeeded in this; he was utterly enthusiastic about the contest and nabbed the second spot. Of course, a fantastic song, a huge TikTok fanbase, and an effective international campaign tour also helped.
In Ireland, I don’t know if we have broken our Eurovision ‘negative thought pattern’. There seems to be a combination of residual snobbery, resentment about being stuck in semi-final limbo land, and a tendency to downplay the contest as ‘a bit of fun’. At the Eurosong launch one broadcaster even referred to the contest as ‘daft’. While Eurovision is undoubtedly fun, there’s a lot more to it than that.
As the head of delegation Kealy has said, RTÉ simply needs to invest more in it. Wild Youth will head over to Liverpool in May. Their odds have jumped up in recent days so hopefully they will break our losing streak, and hopefully next year RTÉ will give Irish Eurovision fans what they are looking for.
This year’s Grammy Awards were chock-a-block with emotional speeches and whoa! outfit choices. Machine Gun Kelly arrived as a futuristic tin man; Harry Styles arrived in a diamond encrusted ‘sexy clown’ jumpsuit; Lizzo as a bed of roses; while Shania Twain wore a gigantic polka dot Dr Seuss-inspired top hat.
But then outlandish outfit choices are de rigueur at the Grammys. Let’s not forget this is where Lady Gaga emerged from a giant prosthetic egg back in 2011.
To ace red carpet Grammy dressing, The Daily Telegraph says you must “go big to be seen or to become a meme”. They also recommend opting for a gúna that takes up as much floor space as possible so the paparazzi can photograph you and only you. Smart move.
There was, however, one notable absence on the red carpet. Beyoncé missed it and was also unable to collect her first award of the night as she was stuck in traffic. In fact, she didn’t arrive at the show until it was more than an hour underway.
Vogue reported that “she gave new meaning to the term ‘fashionably late’”. But maybe it was smart thinking? These awards ceremonies are lengthy affairs. There are 91 awards handed out at the Grammys and the ceremony lasts eight hours. OK, so a lot of that is done virtually in a pre-awards ceremony but it’s still a lot of sitting around and clapping politely. I wouldn’t be surprised if Queen Bey and Jay-Z wanted to cut it short.
Good news for millionaires with a penchant for aggressively noisy sports cars. Ferrari has announced that new amplifying technology means its high-performance cars’ ‘signature roar’ will survive the shift to electric.
Battery-powered electric cars tend to make less noise and carmakers have been fretting over how to maintain ‘the personality’ of expensive cars. And so they have created tech to enhance the noise of the car.
And the price for Ferrari’s fancy pants electronic roar? A snip... at just €450,000!