First Published February 2022
NIGHT OF GLORY FOR BROOKE
Last Friday was a night of glory for BROOKE SCULLION as the charismatic Derry singer/songwriter emerged triumphant from this year’s selection process to become Ireland’s Eurovision entry with THAT’S RICH. Brooke will now set her sights on Turin where she’ll represent Ireland at the 66th edition of the EUROVISION SONG CONTEST. Brooke will take part in the second semi-final on May 12th, performing That’s Rich – a song she’s also a co-writer of, along with Izzy Warner and Karl Zine – in the second half of that show.
And, for my money, more nights of glory are on the cards for Brooke. For the first time in a long, long time, I believe we have a genuine chance of adding an eighth title to our collection. Given that our last win was with Brendan Graham’s almost mystical The Voice, so superbly performed by Eimear Quinn back in 1996, it’s well beyond time that we put up a serious challenge for the crown again. And in saying that, it is, of course, both important and only right to note that Marc Roberts – one of Irish music’s truest gentlemen – took Mysterious Woman (from the pen of John Farry, another gent) to a well-deserved second-place finish in 1997.
But since then…well, since then we’ve even sent a puppet, in the shape of Dustin the turkey back in 2008. That’s a moment that should – as a nation ever brimful of culture and creativity – still shame us. And yes, it’s true that his God-awful song, Irelande Douze Pointe, won the public vote, and part of the problem – a huge part of the problem – is that the ‘powers that be’ in RTE allowed a song like that to even participate in the National Song Contest final. And those problems continue to this day. Last Friday night’s Late Late Show Eurosong ‘Special’ is all the evidence that’s needed to prove that.
For a start, selecting our country’s song for the Eurovision Song Contest deserves a show of its own, and not just being reduced to yet another Late Late Show ‘special.’
There’s a truth about The Late Late Show that has been glaringly obvious for years and years now. The show is still in existence only because of the reputation it built, and the place it secured for itself in Irish life, when Gay Byrne was the host. A presenter of rare skill – albeit not without certain flaws in some circumstances – he was, nevertheless, a once in a lifetime talent. Once he retired, The Late Late Show soon became a pale imitation of what it had been for so long. If it was a show that had come into existence with Pat Kenny, then it would have ended with him too. In more recent times, however, the show has become more of a parody than anything else, with – to be fair – some exceptions from time to time. And again, if this was a show that had first hit our screens with Ryan Tubridy at the helm, it would also have sunk long ago.
The influence that The Late Late Show has today is afforded it by two factors: the reputation it built during Gay Byrne’s time as host, and it’s prime-time Friday night slot.
But back to last Friday’s show. Of the six finalists – selected from 330 entries – the RTE connections among some of them are something else. How anyone could even note this in passing and not be left scratching their heads, beats me.
Patrick O’ Sullivan, who performed One Night, One Kiss, One Promise, was the winner of RTE’s recent show, Last Singer Standing. That show, incidentally, was basically karaoke. It had a panel of judges who, on the face of it, and given their own careers and achievements, should have been able to contribute so much in terms of feedback. But the contributions of Nadine Coyle, Joey Fatone, and Samantha Mumba – as far as offering anything constructive or insightful went – were not even weak, they were almost non-existent. Anyone watching that show would scarcely have learned anything about the music business from listening to what that panel contributed on-screen each week, and that’s a crying shame. I honestly didn’t think that I’d ever see a panel on any TV show ever contribute in such a meaningless way ever again. But, Friday night proved me wrong on that score.
Anyway, One Night, One Kiss, One Promise had Nicky Byrne as one of its co-writers. And Nicky, of course, as well as hosting one of RTE’s best shows in the shape of Dancing With The Stars, was also the presenter of Last Singer Standing. Nicky was also internally selected by RTE – so there was no National Song Contest, no public vote – to represent Ireland at Eurovision in 2016. He finished 15th out of 18 in his semi-final.
Now, I actually like Nicky, and I think he’s a fabulous presenter. In fact, he would have been an ideal host for a proper National Song Contest show.
Janet Grogan, who sang Ashes of Yesterday on Friday night, was also a finalist in Last Singer Standing. And Janet was also part of the RTE team in 2016, when she sang backing-vocals for Nicky. Janet was on duty again in 2018 when she filled the same role for Ryan O’ Shaughnessy, who – would you believe – was also internally selected by RTE.
Brendan Murray, who sang Real Love on Friday night, was internally selected by RTE in 2017, when he sang a song that had British and Swedish songwriters. That’s something else that needs to be addressed, and which I’ll also come back to. Brendan also failed to qualify from the semi-final in 2017.
I, for one – although I would imagine that I’m far from alone – find it remarkable that out of 330 entries, so many of RTE’s final six had so many RTE connections. I mean, really?
Just to be very clear on something, however, let me repeat something I stated on social media last Friday when I wished all of the performers and writers involved the best of luck for the night that was to come. They can only go along with the process that’s in place. But man, that process has some gigantic issues with it.
Going back to the subject of the studio-jury on last Friday night’s show, I’d love to know the thinking behind how that panel of Paul Harrington (the only obvious choice as a former winner), musician Caroline Corr, singer Lucia Evans and presenter Bláthnaid Treacy, was formed. It was certainly a pretty random group. But at the end of the show, that random group had it in their power to distribute votes that would go towards determining the overall winner, so in that respect, their presence on the night was very important to how everything turned out.
This jury gave Brooke’s song, That’s Rich, just four points, while both the international jury and the voting public awarded her twelve points each, the highest mark possible. That doesn’t say much for the studio-jury’s judgement. Or, for that matter, the judgement of whoever appointed that studio-jury in the first place.
Rachel Goode’s song last Friday night, I’m Loving Me, was written by a team of Swedish writers, some of whom were also involved in Poland’s entry last year.
Surely, for Eurovision at least, where there’s a chance to represent your country on the international stage, we can find Irish performers AND writers?
We don’t lack either. Truth be known, we have both, and in abundance.
As puzzling – but maybe not surprising – as so many finalists having ties to RTE was, it’s incredibly frustrating for RTE to then, on top of that, select a song that doesn’t have a single Irish writer involved. But if you think back on Friday night’s show, you’ll be hard-pressed to recall songwriters getting any attention at all. Back in the day, an emphasis on the songwriter, and their story too, was always part of the National Song Contest, and it was the part that I most enjoyed. Arguably, when RTE brought You’re A Star to life they essentially relegated the importance of the song to a distant second place. A huge, and arrogant, mistake.
Their contempt for songwriters is also a feature of The Late Late Show’s country music ‘specials.’ But that’s an argument for another day. And I’m sure that day is probably not too far away again either.
Let me be very clear about this when I talk about having performers and songwriters who are Irish. I don’t care where someone’s passport says they’re from, that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about any performers or writers who live and work here, and for whom Ireland is home. People who may have moved here, settled here, married here, or happen to work here, but are every bit as much a part of our ever expanding, ever more colourful, ever more beautiful cultural fabric as someone who happened to enter this world in Dublin, Donegal, Galway, Cork, or anywhere in between. If someone is living with us and among us, and has talents to contribute, that’s cool with me.
And that’s a very different scenario to having a team of outside writers who have no other link to a country except wanting to represent it on one of the biggest musical stages the world can offer.
Look, not everyone cares about the Eurovision Song Contest and whether or not Ireland is involved, let alone how we select the song that goes on to represent us. But, a lot of people do care as well. Whichever camp you belong to, the Eurovision Song Contest is a massive opportunity to present our country to an audience in excess of 180 million people.
So, selecting the song that represents Ireland IS important. We need to give this selection process the standing it deserves. And the first thing it deserves to have is its own stand-alone show. On last week’s Late Late Show, you had – as you do almost every week – Ryan Tubridy offering viewers at home the chance to win a cash-prize. A show to find our Eurovision representative shouldn’t have something like that happening in the middle of it. And it definitely doesn’t need what has by now become the Late Late Show’s annoyingly condescending attitude to the studio-audience when it comes to giveaways.
The second thing this process should ALWAYS involve is the Irish public having a say in things.
And the third thing that should always be a given every year, is that Irish writers – as well as performers, of course – are the ones who are given the chance to represent their country, that should be without question. And ‘Irish’ can be a definition as simple as the one proposed earlier, or something similar.
Ahead of last weekend’s show, I stated that in my opinion the best song of the six was Yeah We’re Gonna Get Out Of It, by Miles Graham. And I thought Miles and his team put in a brilliant performance on the night. And in fairness, I was also very impressed by Janet Grogan’s performance of Ashes of Yesterday, which revealed the song in a whole new light. However, after nailing my colours to the mast for Miles ahead of last Friday night’s show, I also said that, “I’d be equally happy to see Brooke Scullion, with ‘That’s Rich’, take the glory.”
And to be honest, Brooke’s performance on the night, as with Janet’s, brought her song to a whole new level and won me over. As did Brooke’s brilliant personality. I’m delighted Brooke won, and I have no doubt at all that she’s going to do us all proud in Turin.
I fell in love with the Eurovision Song Contest because of people like Dana (All Kinds of Everything, Derry Lindsay/Jackie Smith); Johnny Logan (What’s Another Year, Shay Healy, and again with his own Hold Me Now); Linda Martin (Why Me, also by Johnny); Niamh Kavanagh (In Your Eyes, Jimmy Walsh); Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan, Rock and Roll Kids, Brendan Graham); and Eimear Quinn, The Voice, again by Brendan).
That’s a relationship that’s been on the rocks for a long time now. But, I’m putting my money on Brooke to make me fall in love with the Eurovision Song Contest all over again.
Roll on May!
~ THAT’S RICH, by BROOKE SCULLION is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. Brooke will represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin in May.