Fourteen years ago, Ira Losco graced the Eurovision stage with a performance that changed her life and made her Malta’s sweetheart. Now she returns, pulling out all the stops to give us something back: the title we’ve coveted since she made us believe we could win it.
The Maltese didn’t have very high hopes for Ira in 2002, and the polls were even less promising. But clad in a now-iconic lace catsuit, Ira captured the hearts of everyone watching, cementing her place in Eurovision history with 7th Wonder. Since then, Ira has gone from strength to strength and the Maltese have watched with excitement (and devotion) as the shy girl from the Eurovision evolved into a local icon.
We first heard of Ira Losco in 2000 when she became a regular on the hit TV show Tista’ Tkun Int. A year after that she released her first single Butterfly (a modern take on Claudette Pace’s 1996 Maltasong entry). In 2002, she won the Malta Song for Europe and the public’s love for Ira was instantly obvious. She won the competition with a staggering 60-point lead. In spite of this, many still held reservations about the lyrics of the winning song.
Undeterred by the negativity surrounding 7th Wonder, 20-year-old Ira jetted off to Tallinn, where Europe got its first taste of her incredible charisma and talent. The song may have been frivolous, but Ira’s captivating stage presence rocketed her into second place, blowing her competition away like they were no more than glitter in a secret bra-pocket. Malta’s love for Ira Losco exploded.
Many were thrilled at her amazing success. Many more were outraged that she hadn’t won. To this day, Maltese and foreigners alike hold fast to the idea that Eurovision 2003 should have taken place in Valletta. Regardless of this, Ira Losco returned home a hero in the eyes of the Maltese, and has stayed this way ever since.
From the minute she was back from her Eurovision triumph, the public has repeatedly begged her to take part once more, but she steadfastly refused.
Instead, she chose to evolve her artistry, releasing five studio albums (and 43 singles) in as many styles as she had albums: pop, rock, indie, dubstep, and RnB.
Two years ago Ira finally addressed the public’s eagerness with a Facebook post: “What if I had to return,” she teased, “with a song I wrote?” Her online musings drew in a staggering 13,000 likes, and the people’s overwhelming support sealed her decision.
Her management probably warned her against a return to the Eurovision stage. After a decade of building herself up as an artist and collaborating with some huge names in the industry, entering a competition like this would be a massive risk. But her taking part would be a reflection of Malta’s Eurovision ambition. Entering the competition again is a risk, but it’s one we’ve practically forced her to take.
In the eyes of the public, she would have to build on her 2002 success. Her return wouldn’t simply be a chance to give a sweet performance and remind everyone in Europe that she still existed. She would need to claim back a win that was snatched from her. If she took part, Ira would have to rank higher than second place.
True to her word, and in proper Ira Losco style, she entered 2015’s Malta Eurovision Song Contest with two songs. Unsurprisingly she stole the show with Chameleon, a song that everyone knew wasn’t actually good enough. But Ira’s strategic brilliance quickly kicked in, as days after her win she announced that she would be changing her song ahead of the competition. The new song would be chosen by herself and her team alone.
The public outcry was immediate, and the criticism harsh. After 15 years of adoration, it seemed like Malta’s love for Ira was shaken for the first time. Contrary to what most people believed, this ground-breaking decision took a lot of humility on Ira’s part. She had written Chameleon herself, and accepting to change it took a lot of foresight. Surrounding herself with all the right people to work on the new song, Ira knew that once the public heard the finished product they’d quickly change their tone.
And she was absolutely right. Walk on Water was a hit the moment it was released, and all of Malta was once again united behind her, belting out the lyrics to our new national anthem for the next few months.
As a nation we are programmed to automatically criticise any big decision that is taken without endless public consultation (and even then, we’re very rarely happy with the outcome). We are also prone to attacking people who make it, a fact evidenced by our rejection of celebrity culture. But somehow, Ira Losco has broken through this barrier.
She’s everything we could want her to be: talented, hot, and 100% dedicated to getting the job done right. The reason she appeals to so many people (from the pervy old man watching her on TV, to his church-going wife and their children) is that despite her being all these things, she’s also used her platform to make a difference. Throughout her career Ira has used her fame to speak out against bullying, animal cruelty, injustices against the LGBT community, unlawful distribution of private photos and many more causes.
With just over a week to go, Ira is in Sweden carrying all the nation’s hope with her. If we’re to ever win the competition we are so obsessed with, this is the year for it to happen.
For Ira the risk is huge, but the reward could be greater still. Finally a chance to be recognised as the smart and stunning world-class performer she has always been.
Of course, she knows this and has done everything in her power to achieve the success we’re all expecting. Her team of writers, singers, stylists and producers is airtight. The song has been blasted on the radio across Europe.
The pressure is on for her to beat second place, and she’s very aware of it.
If the rumours are to believed (update: they have since been confirmed), another factor could be piling on the pressure. But in true Ira style, she’s intent on keeping this all about the performance. A little mystery never hurt anyone, after all.
Make us proud, Ira.
You always have.