The EuroSong 2015 entries: The five acts in contention to represent Ireland at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest

Adrian Kavanagh, 9th February 2015

The entries for this year’s EuroSong were premièred on the Ray D’Arcy show today… Well, actually they weren’t. Instead, there were only a short snippet from each of the entries presented, with these snippets getting shorter as the end of the show got nearer and nearer. Giving less than thirty minutes of a show to the national selection just is not good enough, especially when this was bookended by a needless review of Ireland’s Eurovision history (OK, we get it, we’ve won it more times than any other country, but let’s not forget that our record since 1998 in the contest is worse than most of the other Eurovision countries) as well as comments from the panellists (let the public make their mind up on the songs!). There is a sense here of a lack of imagination and care – the only reason why the songs were released on the Ray D’Arcy show seems to have been because it was on at the same time that the Derek Mooney show was on, but Derek Mooney was undoubtedly more interested in the contest and did give the songs enough time and focus.

Overall, it is also disappointing that only five songs are put forward before the public and the regional juries, given that over three hundred entries were put forward this year. The main problem with the mentor system of the previous four years was that it effectively placed the decision over song choice into the hands of a small number of mentors, but it is questionable as to whether it is better to be leaving the decision as to reducing a large number of entries down to a small pool of five entries to an internal selection panel. It has to be seen to be preferable to be giving the public a larger choice when it comes to the EuroSong selection. A different model needs to be considered for future years – involving either a larger final (with at least eight entries) or a number of semi finals – in order to reduce the possibility of a potential winner being scratched at the pre-selection stage. There is also a serious need to move the contest away from the Late Late Show setting as the small stage on the show does not offer a good indicator as to how an act will appear on the larger Eurovision stage (as opposed to the settings that other countries use for their Eurovision selections). A song/act that works well in the most comfy and confined Late Late Show setting may not work as well on the Eurovision stage (by contrast, Jedward’s Lipstick didn’t really click at EuroSong, but worked much at that year’s Eurovision Song Contest).

This year’s selection does not figure any big name acts. This is not a bad thing, by any means, as sometimes a big act can almost win “by default” due to an established fan base ensuring a win in the televote/public vote (and a high profile does not work against acts in terms of the regional jury voting either).

While most of the public will probably not hear the songs again until the Late Late Show, the full version of all of these songs can now be found at various locations online (through Soundcloud or YouTube). This is my own personal take/opinion on these five entries, but it is based on just a few listens to the studio version of these songs, and is not meant to influence other people’s take on these songs: ultimately everyone voting on these songs must vote on what they like themselves – and that is only right! Furthermore, you can only (sort of) really judge whether an act will work, or not, on the Eurovision stage after seeing/hearing the live performed version of this at Eurosong, leaving aside of course my aforementioned issues with the small Late Late Show stage.

1. Alex Saint and the MJs – She’s So Fine: This is a very different entry, with its retro meets rap styling. Some have already dismissed this entry on the basis that rap entries never do well at Eurovision. But heavy metal never did well at Eurovision before the 2006 contest and that did not prevent Lordi from winning that year’s contest! In a similar vein, Calm After The Storm‘s second place finish in 2014 came despite the fact that country and western entries did not have a strong pedigree by any means at the contest. But I’m not sure if this entry has enough of a hook or is memorable enough to ensure it is in the running to win EuroSong. For an entry that was obviously chosen to given Eurosong a more contemporary edge, in some way this song seems somewhat more deted than any other other entries in the field.

2. Kat Mahon – Anybody Got A Shoulder?: In some ways, Kat may well be the most high profile of the acts that this year’s EuroSong given that she is currently also appearing on The Voice, while the song’s composer – Charlie McGettigan – is of course well known from winning the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest along with Paul Harrington. This sounds quite old fashioned, although that does not mean it can’t do well at Eurovision as there is always an audience for more traditional style entries there (think Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2011, Estonia in 2013), especially given that the voting juries have been given a lot more clout in recent years. Personally, listening to this the first time I thought it lacked the hook that other songs in this contest, such as Erika and Molly’s songs, have, but this song does sound better when you listen to it a few times. This could play very well with the Late Late Show audience and the regional voting juries. In that regard, it is easy to understand why this was the early favourite to win Eurosong, although with a few days left before the contest it now lies behind Nikki, Molly and Erika in the betting odds. While there are a number of entries that might fit more into the category of ballads rather than up tempo entries in Ireland’s semi final, most of these (like Malta, Switzerland and Latvia) tend to be mid-tempo ballads and, so far, Cyprus is the only country to send an song that might be viewed as being similar to Anybody Got A Shoulder?

3. Erika Selin – Break Me Up: A good song. This has been spoken of as being an out and out Scandi-pop uptempo entry, but that’s not really the case and this song has more of a country-ish feel to it and there is a delicious raspiness to Erika’s voice, particularly in the verses. As Erika and her writing team are all from Sweden, this would be likely to pick up “friends and neighbours” votes from Sweden in our Eurovision semi final, if Break Me Up was to be selected, but also from other countries in the Viking Bloc (such as Norway, Iceland, Latvia and Lithunia). This could also be – admittedly based on a precedent in which only three of other songs in our semi final have been presented at this stage – one of the few non-ballad entries in the second semi-final. Against that, the fact that Erika is not Irish may work against this song when it comes to the EuroSong public vote and regional juries, though hopefully the main factor will be choosing the best song and performer.

4. Nikki Kavanagh – Memories: As we all know from EuroSong 2011, Nikki Kavanagh is an excellent vocalist. With her Falling having narrowly missed out to Jedward’s Lipstick, Nikki returns to the national final with another R & B effort, although – as with Erika’s song – this does also have a country-ish feel to it. On first listens, I don’t find Memories to have the same impact that Falling did, but this may be a song that really comes alive with a strong live vocal and you can bank on a strong vocal from Nikki. This is now the favourite to win Eurosong, but this is very much a case where the singer is better than the song. If the odds are proven to be right on the night, I suspect this will be down to a strong vocal by Nikki and I would hope that some thought might then be put into reworking the song in the weeks leading up to Vienna. (Indeed, since the first version was released some weeks ago, the song has already been reworked somewhat and the newer version of this amounts to a notable improvement.)

5. Molly Sterling – Playing With Numbers: This is one of the two ballad/low-tempo entries in EuroSong and this is my favourite of the two. This has a very modern and contemporary feel to it and could stand out in the Eurovision field, even in a semi-final that even at this point is looking likely to be very ballad-heavy. Molly may be the youngest act in this year’s contest (and probably the youngest performer at an Irish national selection for many year), but she is an exceptionally talented vocalist. This is another very good song and could work well at Eurovision with some clever, though simple, staging.

 

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