Is there a bigger non-sporting symbol of national pride than our (at time of writing) role as the most successful Eurovision nation? It’s an accomplishment we all take an unreasonable amount of pleasure in really, but nearly half of it is down to one Johnny Logan, whether as a singer or songwriter. We liked this song so much we made it number one for six weeks in 1980, and Europe liked Logan so much they put him 15 points clear of the opposition that year. In a way he’s not that far off of Jack Charlton level: a guy who showed that Ireland could compete and win in competitions with other nations, at a time when the country itself wasn’t doing so hot. And this isn’t even his best Eurovision entry, though I’ll always rank “Rock ‘N Roll Kids” as the highest of our winners. Fight me.
But even if “Hold Me Now” is better, “What’s Another Year” actually is still a very good song. It’s so soft in its music for the most part that Logan’s seductive crooning is able to make an even bigger impact than you might think, this mournful regret that stays ahead of meaningless and stops short of whining, remaining always lodged in the sweet spot where the singer can really deliver. But the music itself is actually pretty good too. “What’s Another Year” is one of the only non-jazz tunes that manages to find two worthwhile uses of a saxophone in one song, with that soft intro that sets things up nicely and then the more banging variety as we head into the final chorus. Long before the conclusion you’ll be swaying along, no matter how many times you hear this repeated in the run-up to the contest.
I think I can call “What’s Another Year” a Hallmark movie in song form: it’s so warm and safe. I mean that seriously: Logan is able to come across as just despairing enough that your heart reaches out to him, but also approachable enough that you want to give him a hug and tell him he needs to get out there and live again. That sentiment is helped by the song’s original intention, that of a widower mourning his deceased wife, more than the common interpretation of it being a break-up tune (not many of those win Eurovision, making this stand-out even more: I’ve always thought it telling that we last made the final with another break-up song, 2018’s “Together” by Ryan O’Shaughnessy). It’s a really lovely song, the kind that will make anyone not made of stone ache just a little bit. It’s easy to see why the viewers of Europe gravitated to this. It’s the same reason they tend to go with most winners: a simple tune, simple (but not lazy) lyrics that most with a cursory understanding of English can get and a committed performance. Between that and the leather trousers Logan sports on the song cover, you can’t lose.