Ireland: Nicky Byrne – Sunlight
Despite their position as Eurovision’s most decorated participant – for the time being at least – the Irish are typified by a diffident streak that seems to be holding them back from being truly competitive in the modern era. True to form, a matter of days after Nicky Byrne was announced as the country’s representative for 2016 he was already talking down his chances to the local press.
This unassuming quality almost certainly contributed to their success in the 90s. Hold Me Now, What’s Another Year, Rock N Roll Kids, Why Me… these are songs written by life’s losers, not the heroes of our time. But Eurovision in the 21st century is all about aspiration and triumph over adversity. If you can’t channel that self-belief convincingly, you’re likely to end up watching from the sidelines, as Ireland have found themselves doing all too frequently in recent years.
On the surface, Byrne’s song makes all the right moves. It’s modern, uptempo and packed with affirmative platitudes about seizing the moment and reaching higher ground. He is, of course, an experienced and well-recognised performer thanks to his Westlife days, but crucially he’s still young enough not to scan as a heritage act on the Eurovision stage.
On the other hand, as much as this song ticks a lot of boxes for the sort of thing that does well at Eurovision, it appears to have no aspirations beyond serving that purpose. Yes, I could conceivably hear it on the radio alongside Coldplay and The Script, but I can’t imagine myself or anyone else rushing to download it afterwards. Nicky’s song has good intentions, but there’s no passion, no real hunger or belief behind it, and it shows. Ireland were wise to scrap their dismal national final format, but they’re still entering Eurovision with a losers’ attitude. Until that changes, they’re only marking time until Sweden steals their crown.
Middling. For failing to offend anybody in any way whatsoever, this can count on landing somewhere in the middle of the jury rankings. The UK and Australia are voting in Ireland’s semi, and should push some points Nicky’s way, as should residual Westlife fans across Europe. At this point, it really depends how much more inspiring the competition is, particularly for the uptempo vote. If – as is widely expected – Donny Montell wins in Lithuania with the similar but much more dynamic ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night‘, it could spell another year in the semis for the Irish contingent.