In the weeks leading up to the Eurovision Song Contest 2014, I’ll be reviewing each of the 37 entries competing this year. Today I’m looking at Ireland, who are drawn ninth in the second semi-final with ‘Heartbeat’ by Can-Linn feat. Kasey Smith. 

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Ireland: Can-Linn feat. Kasey Smith – Heartbeat

When it comes to Eurovision, Ireland in many ways a victim of their own success. Their modest fortunes in recent years can’t help but contrast sharply with the record seven victories they achieved between in 1970 and 1996, while the spectre of Riverdance – the Irish dancing craze that first came to global attention as the interval act to the 1994 contest – still seems to hang over practically everything they do. The idea of which elements make for a ‘classic’ Irish Eurovision entry (tin whistle, bodhrán, faint whiff of the Titanic OST) combined with a habit for recycling ideas that worked in the past more often than not leaves them looking like slightly tragic faded stars, still hung up on long-forgotten former glories.

Ireland: Can Linn feat. Kasey Smith - Heartbeat | Eurovision 2014They were maligned by many at the time, but the Irish actually got it entirely right with Jedward. Marginally talented they may have been, but the irrepressible duo provided a shot of youth and zest that more than made up for their vocal shortcomings. Alas, sending them again a second year running smacked of desperation, and Waterline fizzled accordingly. Last year, Ryan Dolan’s combination of classic celtic sounds with modern dance elements was a neat idea in theory, but the song wasn’t up to much and proved another bomb, putting Ireland firmly back on the defensive.

As it happens, last year’s winning song by Emmelie DeForest was widely compared to the Irish winners of the nineties. Not always flatteringly, but even so it must have chaffed the Irish pride to be beaten at their own game so comprehensively. It’s little surprise then to find that Heartbeat by Can-Linn and Kasey Smith comes very much from the same stable as Only Teardrops. It ticks all the same boxes – strong female vocals, folky instrumentation, driving, insistent chorus. What it lacks, unfortunately, is any kind of spark of life or creativity.

There’s nothing especially wrong with Heartbeat, it just feels very, very by the numbers. Everything about it is solid, competent and professional. It has a memorable-enough hook that it’ll probably get Ireland into the finals again. But it’s no fun whatsoever, and two weeks after the contest I can’t begin to imagine that anybody will still be playing it. If Ireland want to be serious contenders again they need to get a lot more ambitious; I’d take Jedward over this dreary filler any day of the week.

Prediction: Qualifier