No doubt there were many thousands of us cringing behind the sofa, as we watched Ireland being eliminated in what was a lacklustre second semi Final, with the exception of the Bearded Lady, who was brilliant and humble.
It’s tragic that this prime opportunity for a new Irish artist, is wasted year, after year, because the songs that represent us are just not good enough.
Kasey Smith sang confidently and well, but let’s face it, they could have put the whole front line from Riverdance, behind Kasey and the song would have remained a dog. Attempts to Celticise it were hopelessly naïve and the two Irish dancers were irritatingly distracting, taking away from whatever merit the song might have had.
One thing is very clear, RTE have not learnt anything from the fiasco of last year. When you enter a song that sounds like it would great in a dance club, you’re dealing with a different species. Dance music is nearly all recorded at the same speed, which is why they all sound so alike.
You’re not dealing with real songs, or a thought-out, well constructed melody and lyrics that mean something. In place of those values you get predictable drum and bass loops which are digitally generated. There wasn’t a single note of real music in Heartbeat, except for the fiddle, who God love her looked like she’d been sent to the “bold corner” for playing on the wrong song.
A robot could be taught to write dance tracks. There are loops, generic effects, various devices for altering the voice and buckets of effects, reverb, echo.
Feed those into a Robot computer and watch him turn them out.
We also need a production that doesn’t trivialize the song. Last year it was all about two big drums, this year all about two big bums, hard-shoeing it in kilts. And there was another goof by Can-Linn. To the world at large, the kilt represents Scotland and an Irish kilt, a beautiful thing in its own right, but shag all use in a European song contest.
So what’s the remedy. Well we need an overhaul of the judging system. There will be a reluctance to get rid of the phone voting. It’s a cash cow for every country, so the broadcasters will oppose any radical changes.
If we take Ireland as a microcosm, we can deduce that the same voting shenanigans go on everywhere. If we advocated getting rid of phone voting, we would probably find ourselves standing alone accused of disloyalty, but the facts are that technology gets a great run every year at this time and it would be nice if the mobile phone companies in Ireland would contribute to the contest, through sponsorship or through prizes of recording systems, Pads, Androids and Smart phones.
The young vote is the biggest menace. They can be easily swayed by the simple reward of access to the artist to take selfies and get autographs. The over-50s would, at a guess, have as little as 20 per cent that are Smart phone literate. A teenager could fire off six texts against my fumbling and foostering one.
Last year I mentored an Irish/Turkish band called Inchiquin. They were no Spring chickens, but they weren’t so old that they would be too young to join Status Quo.
We knew from the start we were doomed, but it transpired at the Eurovision proper, Inchiquin’s song , Son Kez contained a lot of similarities to the Danish winning song “Only Teardrops.”
Let’s talk about the song. The big mistake that is made repeatedly by writers, is that they set out to try to write a song for Eurosong. Stop. Write a brilliant three minute song. If its good enough it will stand up to scrutiny anywhere.
My solution to our dilemma in finding a winner is to throw the emphasis back on the songs. I think Five songs One singer is the best way to get the best songs. An accomplished singer would relish the task of singing the five songs and at very least we would “hear” the quality of the song.
Five songs One singer would also thwart the young voters from gerrymandering the votes. And the juries would have much more of a hand in determining the winner.
But for me, the greatest mistake is to use “civilians” to screen out the dodgy ones. The best writers in the land should face a three man panel. The qualities of the song will be interpreted better and songs with potential have a better chance of being picked. The original demo of What’s Another Year that I sent in to RTE was The Brush Sheils Band, backing Dj Jim O’Neill on a medium tempo country song.
Thank you fate for sending Bill Whelan my way. And of course, I mustn’t forget the extraordinary King of Eurovision, Johnny Logan.
Late Trivia flash for anoraks. “Hold Me Now” and ‘ Why Me” won Eurovision on the same date, May 9th, Johnny in 1987 and five years later, Linda in 1992.
Is that Logan fella a sorcerer or what!
Article Written by Shay Healy
First Published in The Irish Daily Mail
Saturday 10th May 2014
‘When You Become Stardust Too’ Available now on iTunes download song here