Shelley Marsden takes a look at the annual musical cheese-fest whose grand final Ireland – despite its past success – has not qualified for…
IT’S a communal guilty pleasure – that faithful night of the year when we stock up on wine, junk food, settle down with a gang of mates on the sofa, and get ready to shout at the TV screen as some of Europe’s most weird and wonderful musical acts battle it out for the Eurovision crown.
For years, we lapped up the dulcet, ironic tones of Irish host Terry Wogan as, tongue firmly in cheek, he presented the English transmission, and now we’re equally enjoying fellow Irishman Graham Norton’s sardonic take on events year on year.
When he announced in 2009 that he was stepping down from stepping down as UK commentator after 30 years, tired of its bloc voting, Wogan told a press conference:
“Eurovision is an exciting, camp, foolish spectacle. You can’t top it. It is fun, light entertainment. It is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world. It is not about politics or asserting your place in the community, not even about national pride. It is not an opportunity to show your neighbours how much you love them. It is about picking the best popular song in Europe.”
We slam it for being tasteless and tacky, but we’re not the only ones to tune in faithfully, either – Eurovision has an estimated global audience of over 120 million viewers who relish the chance for a whole lot of countries to show off their eccentricities as generally accepted rules on style and melody seem to get thrown out the window.
This year however, Ireland, the most successful country in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest, has failed to reach the grand final for the first time since 2009.
Kasey Smith and the Irish traditional group Can-Linn didn’t iimpress with their song Heartbeat.
The collaborative act featuring Kasey, 23, from Donaghmede in Dublin was written by a team of Irish/ Swedish songwriters and features traditional Irish instruments.
It clearly failed to have enough crossover appeal to fare better than Dervish did with its poppy overtones and the inclusion of striking Kasey, a former member of Louis Walsh’s girl band Wonderland in 2010.
RTE’s Michael Kealy said he was “devastated for them, considering all the work that went in”.
The Grand Final of the 59th Eurovision to date takes place on Saturday May 10 at 8pm in Copenhagen and sees the countries of Europe – and strangely, some from outside Europe too – hoping to be crowned the winner.
The event, just 25 miles from where the competition was held last year (in Sweden’s Malmö), will take place in a former shipyard at the B&W Hallerne at the Refshaleøen.
In total, 16 countries will get to take part in the first semi final while 15 more will go head to head in the second. Six countries are automatically guaranteed entry into the grand final of which last year’s winner, Denmark, gets an automatic pass alongside the so-called ‘big five’.
These five countries are, gasp, also the biggest financial contributors to the show and are thus rewarded for their monetary input, but of the 31 countries remaining, only 20 will get to the live final.
Last year Denmark came out on top, with Emmelie De Forest’s Only Teardrops winning 281 points from the other countries in Europe – 47 more points than runner up, Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov.
Ireland did abysmally, as did the UK’s Bonnie Tyler, who came in at 19th with only 23 points ,but like dogs with a bone, we hold out each year for a miracle, knowing full well that despite the hype, the top spots will probably be snapped up by countries whose names we can’t even pronounce.It’s part of the fun.
The British entry is newcomer Molly Smitten-Downes, 26, who was chosen through the BBC Introducing initiative which unearths new talent, and she will perform her own number, Children Of The Universe. All sounds a bit serious for the likes of Eurovision.
For the full feature, buy this week’s Irish World (10 May 2014).