“All good things come to an end” is a lie.
The truth is, “all good things come to a slow, disappointing wet fart”, as fans of “Heroes” or Madonna will tell you. And so it goes with Ireland at the grand prix du cheesy pop, a contest broadcaster RTÉ momentarily considered an annex to its tourist board. Whilst Ireland’s entries at Eurovision these days seem underwhelming, the underlying message is “we genuinely like taking part, but can’t afford to keep this up much longer.” Perhaps it’s the greatest achievement that Irish continue to avoid novelty songs (okay, there’s the turkey. And no, I’m not linking to it.)
It took Ireland five attempts to win Eurovision, which should have given the powers that be some hint of what was about to happen. The earliest entries are very staid and safe, even for the style at the time, such as 1967 heart-wrenching “If I Could Have Choose” (up against “Puppet On A String”, so it’s not like you could get a wider contrast in the middle of the swinging 60s.)
Win number one came a few years later with “All Kinds of Everything”. Now in hindsight, it’s not particularly terrible a song, but I know it winds up a lot of people so instead here’s Sinead O’Connor covering it for Channel 4.
Now an interlude, subtitled “How ‘Orish’ can Ireland get?” There was one a song I understand is forced down the throats of every Irish schoolchild against their will. It took an entire generation or more for an out-and-out onslaught of Celtic cliche to be broken out, and that went on to win.
(And by Jeezus, did they break out the cliches again for the complete opposite result a few years later. I think this song is now called “Please Stop The Music”)
There have been moments when the good folk at RTÉ have clearly aimed for the Daniel O’Donnell route (overwrought trite which manages to out-satire Father Ted, I present to you “Millennium of Love” which genuinely asked people to imagine harvests of footprints for the children or some such dirge; and a few years later a hymn of such heavy moral expectation I expect vomit to spew from my laptop speakers. Either that or holy water.)
Ireland has enjoyed three main periods in their Eurovision life – winning all the time, having well regarded songs which didn’t quite make it, and every year since 1998. Let’s sidestep the winners for now, because there’s only so many external links WordPress permits before I get flagged for potential malware, and let’s avoid the “silver period” for now, because that would mean giving more coverage to Colm Wilkinson than is really necessary, and I would have to justify my love for their 1989 cheesefest
So let’s pick over the 21st century bones, when all good things (seven wins, numerous second places, hosting the contest in a “converted” equestrian centre) came to a crashing end (the turkey, Jedward, etc.)
The depths of Ireland’s Eurovision history recently was their one night in Copenhagen, a contest infamous for being amongst the worst by any measure, which should give everyone hope for next year. On a massive stage, in front of a largely drunk audience, a sub-sub-sub-par Michael Bolton ballad bombed and the country was barred from taking part the following year. It could have spurred them on to try writing melodies again, but a combination of lethargy and economic collapse conspired against them. The song “We’ve Got The World” was chosen by a rather cumbersome “PopStars”/”Fame Academy” selection process, as was the style at the time, and whilst the end result was okay, the song copies the 2000 Danish winner with such little subtlety or shame I’m surprised they didn’t just go for the cover version.
Okay, like the red patch on your thighs which might be spreading but you don’t know yet, let us deal with Jedward. Plucked from the X-Factor like some kind of payback for all the problems the United Kingdom ever enacted, the Irish knew their audience well when putting the twins up against hopeless starlets in two selection processes. It said “We don’t want to win, but look, it’s like we’re taking this seriously, so it balances out” Of the two songs – both single title, I think to help the lads remember the words – “Lipstick” remains the strongest of the two, although that is a “toilet paper verses rice paper” strength comparison. When “Waterline” turned up in Baku, the joke had worn off a bit, and the song needed an on-stage fountain to distract attention from the sorta-kinda-Avril Lavigne punk-pop thing going on.
Perhaps the choice to go all out this year – shirtless men! traditional instruments! three different melodies in one song! the kind of beat you only hear in gay clubs at 2 in the morning! – was a rush of blood to the head. Whatever it was, the producers of the Final chose “Only Love Survives” to end the whole show, and with unfortunate synchronicity, they finished rock bottom last. I remind you that better songs this year, according to the voting and who argues against that, include an operatic Romanian and the very drunk Bonnie Tyler.
Okay I’ll link to one of the winners, “Rock n Roll Kids” from 1994, with the additional bonus video footage of the now late Gerry Ryan presenting whilst (it’s now almost certain) topped up on some extra-curriculum medication of some kind or other. *Sniffs*
I want to end with a bit of Father Ted turned real. Having won three times in a row, Ireland could not afford to win (by any measure). So what do you do when faced with bankruptcy? Choose a complete turkey. Keep dreaming, Ireland…