Another Eurovision season has passed; and unfortunately with Brooke Scullion’s non-qualification, it marks yet another year that Ireland has failed to qualify for the Grand Final. In the past nine years, Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together remains the only Irish entry to make it to the big night — which leaves us to ask, what’s still going wrong? Can Ireland’s long-lost successes be salvaged, and if so, how?
In an interview with the Irish Mirror (take your Mirror off the wall…), Brooke has shared her thoughts on her result and on Ireland’s future at the contest. She stresses that Eurovision was an honour to participate in, and overall a deeply positive experience for her: “It has been unbelievable. I’m not joking – I have never been happier.”
Ireland’s recent track record
However, she also confessed that she was initially terribly disappointed. Brooke admits that she felt that she deserved a spot in the Final, but stresses that she recovered very quickly from what was a “15-minute breakdown” following the result. She was able to quickly feel better by re-watching her performance, and was ultimately satisfied with all that she had done in Turin. Nevertheless, her interview expresses a notable undercurrent of worry about Ireland in Eurovision in general moving forward:
“I definitely don’t know what Ireland would have to send now to qualify because we have exhausted everything now.”
She most certainly isn’t alone — for Irish fans like myself, and Eurovision fans in general who want to see Ireland do well again, it’s certainly difficult not to despair a little at That’s Rich’s fate. For many Irish fans, it represented a step in the right direction. The track is arguably much more in-touch with modern Eurovision than other recent Irish entries — aside from being refreshingly upbeat, it was also authentic and tailored to its passionate performer. For myself, it was strongly appreciated as a step away from any Eurovision outlook rooted in the past, as it offered a contemporary sound.
Indeed, Ireland’s current state in the contest is quite upsetting when looking closely at the Irish track record over the past decade. According to this chart created by Twitter user EscPim, charting results from the past ten years, Ireland is currently the worst performing country in the entire contest:
The combined results of Eurovision 2013-2022
🥇 Sweden (6.44)
🥈 Italy (7.44)
🥉 Ukraine (8.14) pic.twitter.com/jZNS4Z5W9h
— Pim 🇳🇱 (@EscPim) May 18, 2022
Linda Martin says ballads are the key
Still, it’s always important to focus on the positives, and on what can constructively be done. Our UK neighbours have shown this year just how possible it is to turn a dire track record around. I don’t think we have exhausted everything — rather, there needs to be significant improvement in RTÉ’s approach.
Recently, 1992 winner (and 2022 spokesperson) Linda Martin commented upon Ireland’s poor track record, arguing that the key to success for Ireland lies with ballads:
“Yes, we are going to win again, but we’re going to have to revert back to the formula that we used,” Martin remarked, “which was the big ballad with the beautiful words. […] You can decorate it, you can have backing singers, dancers, whatever else […] but the bottom line is it’s a song contest and you have to have a good song. And there is a formula and Johnny Logan has that formula, he just knows it and knows what to do with it.”
Brooke disagrees- its about the song and artist
In her interview, Brooke refutes this notion that Ireland can only succeed with ballads, asserting the need for the door to be left open for artists of all genres and styles. “I think it is rather unfair to say we can only win with ballads,” she argues, “because has every other country only won with ballads? It just depends on the level of songs and the level of the artist.” Brooke hopes that the legacy of her participation is that other young Irish pop artists may put themselves forward to represent Ireland in the future.
While a good emotional ballad is always welcome, I personally agree with Brooke that ballads are not all that Ireland should, or could, exclusively look to. Indeed, a 2020 article from the Irish Times, cataloguing the wide variety of genres among Irish artists, remarks the following about the Irish music scene:
“These are thrilling times for Irish music. […] A new generation of rappers, free thinkers and pop stars-in-training has risen […]. The industry here used to be 50 shades of glum. Now it’s multicoloured and multifaceted.”
All that Ireland needs is a great song (of any genre), and an atmosphere positive enough to attract a pool of artists. In doing so, perhaps the focus should be placed less on selecting a song “for Eurovision,” and more about platforming and promoting exciting Irish talent. RTÉ does successfully highlight artists elsewhere — for example on the radio station RTÉ 2FM’s ‘2FM Rising’ series — and this spirit, if it took complete precedence over the ‘Eurovision’ of it all, could have a very positive impact. This approach worked wonders for Sam Ryder’s ‘Spaceman,’ which was played extensively on UK radio prior to being announced as the UK Eurovision entry, a move which likely helped to remove any Eurovision stigma.
Much like Germany’s national final this year, Ireland’s Late Late Eurosong special was also much-criticized for playing “safe” with the choices of songs selected. While emotional ballads and radio pop songs absolutely have a place in the consideration, perhaps next year we should also encourage the selection to include some more experimental options. After all, Serbia’s In Corpore Sano certainly would not have seemed to be a radio-friendly hit, and yet it reached 5th in Turin.
Rock, hip-hop, folk, something in the Irish language: there are countless options, and a wider variety of choices can only be good for everyone, while also providing a more inclusive picture of what an Irish Eurovision entry could be.
It may also help if RTÉ begins more actively seeking out and inviting talent to participate, in addition to their open call for song submissions. This tactic also worked excellently for the UK this year, as TAP Music approached Sam Ryder.
The importance of promotion
In her interview, Brooke criticizes the lack of large radio campaign to support Irish artists on their Eurovision journey:
“Someone pulled up a report to me when I was away of how much radio play I got and it wasn’t a lot. I heard the UK entry on radio about 100 times more than I heard my entry on the radio. I’m not trying to diss the radio. It is amazing when I do hear it on the radio but for the campaign, if Ireland wants to take this seriously, there has to be an effort on the radio side because familiarity is key. I mean, why would you back something you’re not familiar with?”
On this point, I also agree thoroughly with Brooke. In the future, if Ireland intends to seriously compete in Eurovision, a stronger promotional campaign is required on radio stations and elsewhere. Better promotion is the pathway to better momentum — again, this probably helped Sam Ryder, who appeared on television throughout Europe in an excellent campaign. Momentum is crucial to building genuine hype around an entry: indeed, if we look at the track records of countries like Italy or the Netherlands, it can be seen that the path to victory often takes place over many years of creating a consistent reputation.
In my view, promotional momentum would be vastly improved with a few key changes. An active online presence would be excellent, perhaps in place of using the Ryan Tubridy Show to reveal entries. Songs should also be available easily on major platforms like Spotify as soon as their reveal.
Most importantly, I personally believe that the use of the Late Late studio hampers the all-important first impression of an act, due to its limits. Throughout the season, I noticed fans doubting Brooke’s vocal abilities due to basing their view of her performance on the acoustics of the Late Late set. I believe that the level of engagement with an Irish entry could significantly improve if a national final was held elsewhere, with higher production value.
This is all possible. Ireland’s fortunes at the contest can be bettered — but only with significant changes in approach and attitude. As an Irish Eurovision fan who was born too late to witness the 90’s era, I hope that one year (hopefully next!), that the tides will turn around. For more on the topic of how Ireland can improve, check out Connor’s previous article on the subject!
Do #YOU agree with Brooke’s comments on Ireland at Eurovision? What do you think Ireland could do to improve their chances next year? Let us know down in the comments below, our forum, discord, or on our social media, @ESCUnited!