From Tinteán‘s Eurovision correspondent, Genevieve Rogers
Ireland’s Nicky Byrne, with his mid tempo song ‘Sunlight’, has failed to progress to the Grand Final
of Eurovision 2016. Last night’s Semi Final 2 in Stockholm, labelled a ‘minefield’ for tipsters by some commentators, saw eight more countries leave the competition. Ireland, unfortunately, was amongst the eight, making 2016 the third year in a row that Ireland has failed to qualify.
So what went wrong?
Semi Final 2, which was regarded as the weaker of the two Semis, was also the harder to predict. At least six of the 18 entries were widely tipped to be certain qualifiers leaving a dozen to fight it out for the last four places in the Final. The issue for Nicky within that dozen was the company he was keeping. It was not that the quality of those entries was poor. On the contrary, they were good entries of roughly the same standard. That was the problem.
His obvious competition for one of those four places came from Denmark and Lithuania.
Denmark’s ‘Soldiers of Love’, written in response to the Paris terror attacks, was performed by three singers bearing an uncanny resemblance to Nicky himself in his Westlife days so it was, in a sense, three Nicky Byrnes for the price of one.
Lithuania’s Donny Montell, occupying roughly similar musical ground with a more modern feel, was a younger, hyper-active version of Nicky – and threw in a cartwheel from a trampoline to make the point.
With such overwhelming similarities these three entries were always going to be a competition within a competition – and it was Lithuania that prevailed.
Nicky’s own performance was as expected from a seasoned professional. His vocals improved throughout the rehearsal period and his arena experience showed. But his song was lyrically formulaic in a field in which there were more adventurous offerings and, while he did not stand out for any particular negatives, neither was he able to find a unique selling point in the positive range. His was ultimately a good performance in a field of better ones. At modern Eurovision, that’s fatal.
What should RTE take away from Eurovision 2016?
It is hard to be critical when they have sent a competent entry. RTE has, at least, moved away from the Late Late Show for its selection process. That’s a positive. It has also abandoned the mentor scheme. Another positive. Internal selection ( as this year) can work but will not have the long term effect of stimulating large numbers of local songwriters and singers, one of the many benefits derived by other countries from their Eurovision participation.
Like the United Kingdom ( though not perhaps to the same extent) Ireland has lost contact with the modern contest and the speed at which it is moving in the direction of radio-friendly contemporary chart music. There is too much reference to Ireland’s glory days at the Contest ( last century, no less!) and not enough focus on where it is going rather than where it’s been.
Like the BBC, RTE needs re-education about modern Eurovision. Nicky was a step in the radio-friendly direction, but both the BBC and RTE in recent times have lurched from one short term response to another. What is needed is a process of building respect for Eurovision in their own constituencies which, in turn, will make the Contest attractive to both emerging and established local artists.
That’s where success at the Contest will come from.
Over to you, RTE!