The RTÉ Choice Music Prize is always a wonderful occasion every year, a chance for the Irish music community to bask in the glow of all the great work that is being done in the previous twelve months. One of the most strongly contested awards on the night is the Song of the Year shortlist and is made up of ten different songs by Irish musicians across the previous year, with three being selected based on radio play on 2fm, three chosen the Choice Music Prize judges themselves, and four by the people in 2fm themselves.
As with every year, the list features a wide and varied range of different songs by a host of musicians, with some established names on the list and then some up-and-coming artists also. The winner will be chosen by public vote, with the announcement happening at the live event in Vicar Street on 7 March. There is an argument that having this category selected via public vote can often lead to some disputable results as the award effectively comes down to which act has the strongest or most fanatic fan base – which ultimately means that it will be a massive surprise if the winner of this year’s vote doesn’t come from two of nominees.
Anyway… Without further ado, let’s have a look through the nominees.
Wild Youth – Can’t Move On
Easily one of the stand out Irish songs of the year, and one that marked a path forward for the Dublin four piece. Undeniably catchy and danceable, it dominated radio play across 2018 and thoroughly deserves it’s place on the list.
Saint Sister are continuing to build on the reputation that they have as the curators of some of the most haunting beautiful music coming out of Ireland at the moment. The duo consisting of Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre, released one of the stand out albums of 2018 Shape of Silence and Causing Trouble always felt like one of the best songs to come off it. Already perfect, this collaboration with the incredibly talented Jafaris and Kormac brought it to another level again.
Pillow Queens – Gay Girls
Pillow Queens are excellent, let’s just agree on this now. Unashamedly Irish in their singing style, with some properly incredible instrumentation across all their tracks and Gay Girls, a stunning celebration of sexuality and identity, helped to bring all these attributes together.
Picture This – One Drink
I don’t get Picture This, I’ll just say that now. So much of their discography sounds the exact same to me and there is nothing that I find interesting or inventive about their music. They strike me as the definition of an event band for the casual music fan, but sure look, fair play to them. Anyway, credit where it is due One Drink marks an instrumental departure by the band and it does sound more interesting than what has come before, even if the lyrics still leave a lot to be desired. This will likely be the winner, but it’s more a reflection on what music is most strongly promoted by the Irish media than a reflection of the quality of the song.
LAOISE – Again
This is my winner. I remember hearing LAOISE perform this at last years Electric Picnic festival and thinking that it was going to be one of the standout tracks on radio once released. This is just fantastic and marked a departure from the typical tone of songs by the talented songwriter.
Gavin James – Always
There is no denying that Dublin singer/songwriter Gavin James has one of the best voices in Irish music at the moment and this was showcased to its fullest on his 2018 album Only Ticket Home. For me, the standout track was easily the single, Always, another demonstrate of James’ ability to write touching and emotional love songs. One of my favourites on the shortlist.
Fontaines DC – Too Real
These lads are going to be huge. One of the most exciting new bands to come out of Ireland in the last eighteen months, Too Real is the perfect culmination of everything that Fontaines DC are about.
Again, I’ve never been as taken by the music of Andrew Hozier-Byrne as others. I can’t deny that he is a phenomenal songwriter who tries to do something different with every release. For me, there were better tracks on the 2018 Nina Cries Power EP, but this was definitely the one that got the most traction across the year.
The inclusion of this track is one of the reasons why awards like this are so important to Irish music, they give an opportunity for songs that would normally remain in a more niche place reach the ears of more of the population.
Niall Horan – On The Loose
And this, I think, is the second most likely candidate to win the award simply because the Niall Horan fan base will be so quick to vote in the poll. In fairness, I really enjoyed the Flicker album and I’m enjoying the direction that Horan is taking his solo career, so fair play.