Category Archives: France
Various ESC websites are reporting that France’s representative, the 21-year-old tenor Amaury Vassili, will be singing his song not in French, but rather in Corsican! If these rumors pan out to be true, it will be only the second time that this Romance language (which is more closely related to Italian than French) will have been heard in a Eurovision performance. The first appearance of the tongue was in 1993, when Patrick Fiori sang the bilingual “Mama Corsica”. His fourth-place result remains the highest placement for a song in an actual minority language in Eurovision History (and I’m not counting 2003’s “Sanomi” from Belgium…imaginary lexicons don’t count!!!)
Here’s Patrick and “Mama Corsica”:
As soon as we have information on Amaury’s song, I’ll pass it along to you!
(Edit/Update: Yep, it’s been officially confirmed by the EBU…it’s “Sonniu (Dream)”, a Corsican-language Bolero for Amaury!)
It looks like we have our second name out of the Big Five for Düsseldorf! As we already knew, defending champion Lena Meyer-Landrut will be representing her homeland again this year (her new album “Good News” will be released in February, with all of the songs considered for her participation on it). Today we got news of France’s choice for the ESC: 21-year-old tenor Amaury Vassili. Here’s a clip of one of his earlier live performances (details on his song for Eurovision have not been released yet).
Vassili, despite his young age, is already an accomplished performer; he has released three successful albums that have made some significant impact on the charts in France and Wallonia (the French-speaking portion of Belgium). His style tends more towards “popera”, and while his song has yet to be announced, it’s more than likely that he’ll stay in this general genre. One minor caveat: Amaury tends to sing in either Italian or English, and France, more than any other nation, tends to be a stickler for their language to be featured in their Eurovision entries. (Some ESC fans might remember the uproar back in 2008 when Sebastien Tellier wanted to sing “Divine” entirely in English; the French Parliament basically forced him to include at least a few lines in French!) We’ll see what Amaury decides to do when his song is presented to the public.
More after the jump!
“Popera” has become more popular in Eurovision over the past few years, with middling results. Generally, songs in this style will often qualify for the final, but rarely have a massive impact on the scoreboard in the end. Here are a few examples…let’s hope Amaury will break the trend!
“Cvet z Juga (Flower of the South)” by Alenka Gotar (Slovenia 2007) – Placed 7th in the semifinal, but only 15th in the final in Helsinki (this, however, has been the only time that Slovenia has made it out of the semifinals since they created the system).
“Questa Notte (Tonight)” by Bonaparti.lv (Latvia 2007) – The same year as “Cvet z Juga”, “Questa Notte” placed 5th in the semifinal, but only 16th in the final.
“Pe-o Margine de Lume (On the Edge of the World)” by Nico and Vlad (Romania 2008) – This bilingual performance came in 20th place in Belgrade, despite a 7th place finish in its Semifinal.
“Nomads in the Night” by Jeronimas Milius (Lithuania 2008) – This one didn’t even make it out of the semis, placing 16th out of 19 entries (and, frankly, that might have been a bit generous…).
“Lijepa Tena (Beautiful Tena)” by Igor Cukrov featuring Andrea Šušnjara (Croatia 2009) – This operatic ethno-ballad barely made it out of the semifinals that year, coming in 13th place in its semi (it was saved by the jury’s vote). It eventually came in 18th in the final.
“La Voix (The Voice)” by Malena Ernman (Sweden 2009) – After coming in a respectable 4th place in her semifinal, this accomplished mezzo-soprano only came in 21st place out of 25.
“Illusion” by Krassimir Avramov (Bulgaria 2009) – Don’t even get me started on this one…it ended up with only seven points in its semi, in 16th place out of 18.
“My Heart is Yours” by Didrik Solli-Tangen (Norway 2010) – Despite a good vocal performance and the natural goodwill of being the representative of the host nation, Didrik only came in 20th place in the final. This was one of the lowest placements for a host nation in years.
Opera and opera-infused pop walks a tightrope in Eurovision. Even if a performance is technically skillful and beautifully presented, it might not be as naturally catchy as more traditional rock, pop, or ethnic songs. A casual Eurovision viewer may only see these songs once; a contestant has to be able to capture a potential voter’s attention in only three minutes. Otherwise, their moment in the spotlight becomes a viewer’s convenient bathroom break.
I genuinely wish Amaury the best in Düsseldorf, and I look forward to hearing his song. He has the luxury of being automatically qualified to the Grand Final on May 14th, but he (and his songwriters, producers, and delegation heads) should not rest on their laurels.
Ah, France. One of Eurovision’s Grande Dames, she truly has the reputation of one of the competition’s greatest Divas. Her highest heights were reached in the faded glory days of the earliest years of the contest, and almost entirely by big-voiced and powerful chansons and ballads. She also takes a diva-ish attitude towards the ESC, alternating between adoration and disdain. And, oui, France might not have raised the trophy high since the 1970s (although they lost the 1991 Contest on a technicality), but merde, they’re still here! Their regional and linguistic allies Luxembourg and Monaco have both dropped out (since 1993 and 2006, respectively), but France’s love-hate relationship continues. Back in the 1980s, a network head described Eurovision as a “monument to drivel”, but instead of withdrawing from the ESC, the nation simply switched networks, and after a 1-year absence, they resumed participation.
Another interesting point about France’s relationship with Eurovision is that of linguistics. Traditionally, the ESC uses both English and French as its official languages (as in, the hosts will present the contest bilingually, and points are announced in both languages), and nations are allowed to pick whichever language they’d like to sing in. As time has progressed, more countries have sent songs in English, and hosts only seem to use French nowadays as a ceremonial tool. France has held incredibly steadfast to their focus on their language’s representation in Eurovision. Back in 2008, when offbeat singer Sebastien Tellier was the nation’s choice, there were shocks felt all over France when it was realized that his song “Divine” was almost entirely in English. One member of Parliament made such a fuss that Tellier eventually changed a few lines of his song into French, just to appease his compatriots. (And, to tell you the truth, Tellier’s lyrics were basically unintelligible anyway. He could have been singing in Malagasy, and I wouldn’t have been able to tell much of a difference. But he put fake beards on his backing singers, drove on stage in a golf cart, and sucked in helium onstage. That automatically makes him awesome.) France has dabbled in other languages, however, besides just traditional French. In 1992, “Monté la riviè (Go Up the River)” was sung partially in Hatian Creole. 1993 brought Corsican to the ESC stage for the first time (“Mama Corsica”), and 1996’s entry, “Diwanit Bugale (May You Blossom, Children)“, was sung entirely in Breton.
Anyway, back to what France does best: big songs with bigger voices. One of France’s five victories was the disputed contest of 1969, when four countries actually tied for the victory (it hadn’t occurred to anyone to come up with a tie-breaking method!). France shared their victory with the United Kingdom, Spain, and the Netherlands that year, but Frida Boccara’s “Un Jour, Un Enfant (A Day, A Child) was my favorite of the four. Interestingly, if today’s tiebreaking rules had been in effect back in 1969, France would have won anyway! In 1977, France won its most recent title, sending Portuguese-born Marie Myriam with “L’oiseau et L’enfant (The Bird and the Child)”. Another big, beautiful performance, and another victory.
Last year’s entry tried to follow this beautiful old paradigm. France picked the renowned jazz-pop singer Patricia Kaas to represent them with “Et s’il fallait le faire (And If it Had to Be Done)”, a lush chanson that might have been lovingly lifted from a film noir’s soundtrack. However, despite the beautiful song and emotional performance from Kaas, the song only placed in 8th position.
If Patricia Kaas, a well-known and respected singer who has sold an estimated 16 million records worldwide, couldn’t bring the competition back to Paris, maybe it was time for a change from France’s old wheelhouse. And that’s where 2010’s French representative, Jessy Matador, comes in.
Jessy is a multi-talented performer of Congolese descent, and the network who’s sponsoring his participation in this year’s Eurovision is actually getting a bit of a two-for-one deal: because this song is so upbeat and summery, it’s also going to be used to promote this year’s World Cup, being held in South Africa. “Allez Ola Olé” is undoubtedly different from almost anything else that France has sent before, and it’s also very different from anything else in the 2010 competition. This might work to France’s advantage or not; it’s difficult to tell. But, fortunately for Jessy, France automatically qualifies to the Final (along with Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and reigning champion Norway), as major donors to the EBU. To tell you all the truth, I personally didn’t love this song the first time I heard it. However, in all fairness, the first time I heard it was in the middle of winter in a frigid-cold Minnesota, and the only thing I was really interested in was a cup of hot chocolate and making sure my car was running properly. Now that the weather’s more comfortable, I find myself warming up to this fun soccer chant. Bonne chance!