By Cathal Donovan O’Neill – Music Editor
This year’s RTÉ Choice Prize is coming up soon, with both the album and single shortlists having recently been released. Here’s the lowdown on who’s up for the prize, what they can win, and how you can help your favourite.
The RTÉ Choice Prize has been going since the mid-Noughties, and is a valiant attempt to get the best Irish music attention and airplay. All shortlisted acts get an award from RTÉ, with the winner receiving €10,000, national media coverage and some good airplay.
The album award is judged by a panel of music journalists and broadcasters ranging from national newspaper critics to journalists at music websites. Their selections are fairly spot on – past victors include O Emperor’s swan song Jason and Rusangano Family’s instant-classic Let The Dead Bury The Dead.
The list of shortlisted albums for the 2020 prize is as follows:
• Staring at Clocks, Bitch Falcon (Reckless Records, rock)
• Go Bravely, Denise Chaila (NaroLane Records, rap)
• A Hero’s Death, Fontaines D.C. (Partisan Records/Universal, rock)
• 2020 DIvision, JyellowL (JyellowL Records, rap)
• All The Leaves Are Falling, Nealo (Diffusion Lab Records, rap)
• In Waiting, Pillow Queens (Pillow Queens Records, rock)
• Personal History, Ailbhe Reddy (Friends of the Family, folk/rock)
• Hemet, Niamh Regan (The Black Gate Label, folk)
• Fad, Silverbacks (Central Tones, rock)
• Roisín Machine, Roisín (Skint/BMG, disco)
While the selection’s a bit Dublin-focused, it’s great to see recognition for Ireland’s independent and local-label artists. Many of our country’s best musicians are unsigned by big labels; it’s good to see them get their flowers. More Irish hip-hop is nice to see, also, with Denise Chaila, Nealo and JYellowL getting deserved nominations – the last couple years have been a flashpoint for Irish hip-hop breaking the mainstream, and we’d be delighted to see it get bigger and bigger in the future.
The list of individual songs, meanwhile, is awarded by public vote on RTÉ Choice Prize’s website. It’s well worth checking out some of the songs you mightn’t have heard before; there’s some real gems there, like Gemma Dunleavy’s ‘Up De Flats’ and Denise Chaila’s breakout hit ‘Chaila’’.
• ‘Chaila’, Denise Chaila (NaroLane, rap)
• ‘Up De Flats’, Gemma Dunleavy (independent, rap)
• ‘Televised Mind’, Fontaines D.C. (Partisan Records, rock)
• ‘No Judgement’, Niall Horan (Capitol Records/Universal Music Group, pop)
• ‘Haunted’, Jafaris (Diffusion Lab Records, rap)
• ‘Boxes’, Gavin James (Sony Music, pop)
• ‘Giants’, Dermot Kennedy (Interscope Records/Universal Music Group, pop)
• ‘Winona Ryder’, Picture This (Republic Records/Universal Music Group, pop)
• ‘Holy Show’, Pillow Queens (Pillow Queens Records, rock)
• ‘Survive’, True Tides (Temple Records, pop)
The singles list is more pop-focused, with talented independents like Dunleavy going up against the pop behemoths of Niall Horan, Picture This and Dermot Kennedy.
We’re hoping that the public competition doesn’t end up getting brigaded by Niall Horan stans. The megafans showed up en masse earlier in the pandemic to curse Dustin The Turkey, after the puppet cut short an RTÉ appearance of Horan whilst yelling ‘We wanted Harry Styles, you only get a minute and a half.’ It was a whole thing on Twitter for a couple of days and, as with most things on Twitter which become whole, it was embarrassing.
The winners of both awards will be announced over RTÉ 2FM’s Tracy Clifford show and the RTÉ Player on March 4, with highlights next week on TV’s RTÉ 2.