Anti-Thatcherism, Eastern Bloc Conspiracies, Revenge for Brexit. For more than 20 years there have been countless theories as to why the UK failed to make a (positive) impression at the Eurovision Song Contest.
But then, over the weekend, Sam Ryder came second in the 66th Eurovision Song Contest – first in the jury vote and fifth in the audience vote – and all those theories were debunked as utter bullshit.
“All these people making fun of Europe hating us,” said BBC presenter Graham Norton. “I kept saying, ‘No, with the right song and the right artist in the right year, we can do it.’ And we have.”
Brits aren’t the only ones who tend to lean on defeatist – sometimes even paranoid – rhetoric when Eurovision doesn’t go their way. We are also to blame for that.
When Dustin the Turkey flopped in Belgrade in 2008, it was because the other voting countries just didn’t get our sense of humor.
When Nicky Byrne failed to qualify in 2016, he suggested it was partly down to political votes and that “Western European countries” were at a disadvantage. And when Brooke Scullion didn’t make it through this year’s semifinals, viewers were outraged. “We’ve been robbed!” they cleared their throats. Some even said it was pointless to try again. We peaked in the 1990s – why bother? We’ll never win anyway!
Look, I understand the collective national frustration; which one of us didn’t exclaim, ‘Ah, damn it!’ when Serbia took last place? But also, let’s get started. It’s so rude to whine about fairness when we’re not getting the exact result we want.
Instead of spending yards, maybe we should be asking why since last place in 2013 (with Ryan Dolans Only love survives), we only qualified once for the finals with Ryan O’Shaughnessy Together 16th place in 2018?
Which of these three hypotheses seems more likely:
— The rest of Europe (and Australia) is biased against Ireland and unable to appreciate our profound musical genius.
— The Song Contest is biased (a misconception proven wrong countless times). Being an island with no land neighbors apart from Northern Ireland puts us at an immediate disadvantage.
– There is another possibility. Maybe, just maybe, RTÉ didn’t campaign effectively.
Eurovision has grown massively in size and scope since 1990 and our strategy doesn’t seem to have evolved at the same pace.
Broadcasters from other countries, such as Italy and Sweden, approach national record companies to find artists and hold televised national singing competitions to select a winner. That means the act they send has a following, a hit song, and tons of buzz.
It’s hard for Ireland to compete with that – sometimes it feels like these acts have a 200 meter head start on us. But it’s not impossible.
The BBC changed course this year. On its website, it describes the secret of its success as follows: “A great song, an artist who could sell it, an eye-catching production”, but above all “a diplomatic tour lasting months”.
Picking Sam Ryder, the most popular British musician on TikTok (with 12.5 million followers), was a smart move. The Beeb also enlisted the help of TaP Management (who work with Ellie Goulding) to get involved in the promotion and Ryder embarked on a European promotional tour before arriving in Turin.
“It was both a political and a musical campaign,” said TaP’s Ben Mawson The guard. “One of the things I learned about Eurovision was that San Marino and Malta have as much voting rights as Germany and France. And it’s easier to advertise in Malta… than trying to win over the whole of Germany.”
The UK received one of its highest combined scores from Malta: 12 points from the Televote and eight points from the Jury.
While Brooke and the Irish delegation did promotional appearances and interviews, it was not on the scale of Britain.
Her campaign was a strategic and thoughtful campaign, in addition to having a brilliant singer in a chic, dazzling pearl jumpsuit.
Ryder’s co-author Amy Wadge believes that shedding the defeatist attitude was key to her success.
“For a long time as Brits we’ve built this thing out of ‘well, we’re only going to lose’.
A fatalistic Eurovision outlook is a downer and also leaves broadcasters like RTÉ off the hook instead of holding them accountable.
So maybe next year we should stop complaining that the competition isn’t going our way or remember past successes.
Who knows, maybe the success of the UK will put some Eurovision fire back in our bellies. God knows we need it.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/lets-stop-whining-ireland-and-rte-can-learn-the-secret-of-the-uks-eurovision-success-41655314.html Let’s stop whining – Ireland (and RTÉ) can learn the secret to Britain’s Eurovision success