"The Voice" was the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 1996, performed in English by Eimear Quinn representing Ireland. The music and lyrics were composed by Brendan Graham, who also composed "Rock 'N' Roll Kids" the Irish winner from the 1994 Contest. The victory, which was Ireland's fourth in five years, was their seventh Contest victory, which remains a record for the most contests won by a single country.
Brendan Graham had originally submitted "The Voice" for consideration to represent Ireland in Eurovision 1996 via a recording made by the neo-traditional Celtic band Dervish. However after "The Voice" had been advanced to the final for the Irish National Round for Eurovision 1996 - known as the National Song Contest - Graham attended a performance by the Anúna chorale at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin and was struck by the voice of Anúna member Eimear Quinn. Graham recruited Quinn to perform "The Voice" on the final of the National Song Contest held at the Point Theatre in Dublin on 6 March 1996: of the eight songs in the final "The Voice" was the clear winner with the participating ten regional juries awarding the song 105 points, 21 more points than the runner-up.
Eurovision 1996 featured a pre-qualifying round in which audio tapes of each nation's Eurovision 1996 entrant were sent to juries in each of the twenty-nine nations who'd submitted Eurovision 1996 entrants: from these tapes each jury deemed ten songs worthy of competing in Eurovision 1996 and the resultant tally allowed only twenty-two of the prospective entrants to advance to the Eurovision 1996 final to compete with the Norwegian entrant for Eurovision 1996: "I evighet" by Elisabeth Andreassen (fast-tracked to the Eurovision 1996 final by virtue of Norway having won Eurovision 1995 with "Nocturne" by Secret Garden.) "The Voice" was the second highest vote getter in this pre-qualifying round its 198 point tally being bested only by Sweden's "Den vilda" by One More Time whose point tally was 227. The specific placings in the pre-qualifying round were confidential and only leaked some time after the Eurovision 1996 final: however "The Voice" was viewed as a strong contender going into the final for Eurovision 1996 with a Top 5 placing predicted.
Quinn performed "The Voice" seventeenth on the night of the Eurovision final (following Belgium's Lisa del Bo with "Liefde is een kaartspel" and preceding Finland's Jasmine with "Niin kaunis on taivas"). "The Voice" placed first in a field of 23 with 162 points, easily besting both "I evighet" and "Den vilda" whose tallies of 114 and 100 points earned Eurovision 1996 final placings of respectively second- and third-place. "The Voice" was awarded the maximum douze points by seven countries: Turkey, Switzerland, Estonia, Slovenia, Netherlands, Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The jury decision 1996 Contest was greeted with dismay amongst the public opinion of the audience, which began to leave the arena once the count had become a foregone conclusion. As a result of the differences between public and jury opinion, partial televoting was introduced for the following year's contest.
"The Voice" reached #3 in Ireland but failed to become a major international hit with its only other evident Top Ten showing being in Belgium where it reached #9 on the Dutch-language charts. "The Voice" also charted in the Netherlands at #21, on Belgium's French-language charts at #30, in Sweden at #31 and in the UK at #40.
Lyrically "The Voice" is a very Celtic-inspired song, with the singer portraying herself as "the voice" which watches over the world, describing "her" effects on the elements, such as the wind, the seasons, in a similar way to Mother Nature. It is of a folk style and is sung at a very high pitch. Quinn was accompanied by traditional Irish percussion, woodwind and string instruments.