Welcome back to Eurovision, Ireland!

A News Item by Genevieve Rogers, Tinteán‘s Special Eurovision

Molly Sterling

Molly Sterling arrives in Vienna for Eurovision (from Eurovision site)

Correspondent

Well, Ireland. That’s more like it! Welcome to 21st century Eurovision, a completely different beast from the old contest. It has taken a while but RTÉ has, at last, got the message. The modern contest is well and truly over its faux-ethnic phase and is looking towards more mainstream, quality songs and production. No more bodhrans or Riverdancing! That time has passed.

The first rehearsals for the Semi Finals of the Contest have taken place in Vienna. To the delight of many in the Press Centre in Vienna, Ireland’s entry, ‘Playing With Numbers’ performed by 17 year old Molly Sterling, has arrived on the Eurovision stage, restrained but almost perfectly formed. The first rehearsal performance has won many hearts and Molly has endeared herself to the press pack in the many interviews the contestants are required by the rules to give. This Irish entry is winning a whole lot of respect from the commentariat.

Respect is one thing, though, and winning the contest quite another. First, Ireland must qualify for the Final. A note of caution: Ireland is competing in the Second Semi Final for one of ten places ( from 17 contenders) in the Final.  The second Semi Final  – known affectionately by the commentators as the ‘bloodbath’ Semi – is the harder of the two Semis in general, and Molly is competing from the Number 2 spot in the running order, very early in the piece. Although all songs are video-recapped at the end before voting, songs earlier in the running order can get lost or overwhelmed by what comes after them.

In this case, Molly is up against the contest favourite, Sweden, and a number of impressive Top 10 contenders, all of which are performed later in the running order. On the strength of Ireland’s rehearsal performance though, some commentators are now suggesting that qualification is a distinct possibility. That is especially so at Eurovision Ireland – where last year’s non-qualification cut deep. (They are biased though – just a little bit!)

Molly accompanies herself on piano – something which should win her some support from the juries, but whether televoters will fall for her quiet charms is another question. She must capture hearts and votes across Europe – and don’t forget, Australia this year – and she has just three minutes in which to do that. Her song improves on a few listenings – and the issue will be whether it’s a Grower rather than a Grabber.

Whether Molly qualifies or not, though, this is the best Irish entry for years, and suggests that RTE is at last starting to read the modern competition as it is, rather than as it was in Ireland’s glory days. For that, someone at RTE should be applauded!

Good luck, Molly. Good luck, Ireland. And welcome back to Eurovision cred!

 

Genevieve Rogers has a special interest in the geopolitics of Eurovision and has been studying its cultural significance for many years.