No, thou art not dreaming: the 2018 season is already upon us! Seems like only yesterday that Salvador wiped the floor with everyone in Kiev, but my thirtysomething self can confirm more than ever that time does indeed fly. So onwards and upwards it is, and what better way to start the season than with a bit of French Finesse?
Those of you/us who thought the French had lost their interest in Eurovision about two decades ago: think again. Sure, their curriculum since 1998 only shows four top 10 results. But since Amir came sixth in 2016, things seem to have turned. Like many of their Big 5 colleagues (bar Spain, perhaps), they look like they’re eagerly awaiting their next win. And so it came to be that we got another go at holding a National Final, rather than an internal selection. And a more than decent one at that!
After two semi-decent semis, eight finalists lined up to not only bring their own entry but also a duet with an artist of their choice (or whoever was willing slash available to drop by and share the stage with them). A bit of an odd approach, but hey: that’s the French for ya! Odd has it may have been, as some of the duets completely outshone the actual entries in this NF, it provided for some spine tingling moments. I especially got swept away by Emmy & Slimane performing Viens On S’Aime, and the drop dead gorgeous harmonies provided by Nolwenn Leroy & Lisandro Cuxi in their polished tribute to Dolores O’Riordan with Zombie. I was so touched I literally had to get myself back together for a couple of minutes.
But it was all about the eight hopefuls and their entries in the end. Here are a couple of stray observations I had while watching:
- Louka – Mamma Mia: Vocally OK-ish, with only limited possibilities to show off what he’s capable of in this superficial attempt at a summer hit. It’s a bit on the empty side, and not even the neon lit flamingo in the backdrop could ever make this even remotely interesting enough to write something substantial about, let alone vote for.
- Igit – Lisboa Jerusalem: Following in Salvador’s footsteps, this slightly peculiar poet attempted going for the ‘timeless classic’ approach. It sounded VERY old skool French, yes… But something about the lyrics didn’t really follow suit. Citing a couple of cities across Europe, it doesn’t really feel like an actual poem – rather a weak attempt at charming a European audience. Trickalicious, especially combined with the heart shaped gimmick at the end. Too strategic, which heavily influences the authenticity he tried so very hard to get across. LOVED the stage act with the three ladies and the wooden dummy though.
- Emmy Liyana – OK ou KO: Kick. Ass. Emmy was a bundle of nerves in the semi, and she was only slightly less terrified in the final. But she (and her team) sold the song extremely well. Could I have done with a bit more Girl Power during the verses? Perhaps. But this was all shades of awesome, and I was kinda flabbergasted at her low televote score. LOVED those powerful lyrics and the understated production. This will remain in my personal playlists for a long time to come.
- Madame Monsieur – Mercy: I have been absolutely positively OBSESSED with this song ever since the semi, and I admit I was dreading the live version yesterday. Those low verses were really…fragile in terms of vocals. Thank heavens that simple yet catchy chorus made up for A LOT. The sound is very ‘now’ and instantly hummable, and the entire thing is really clever in set-up. The play on Mercy/merci is only underlined by those (admittedly borderline cheap) final thirty seconds, and the lyrics are very touching. One could argue they’re squeezing money out of a serious problem, one could also be less cynical and give them the thumbs up for putting a pan-European social problem in the spotlights in such a way that it really makes you think twice. The understated performance only underlines the message, and the only thing that didn’t cut it are those pictures on the screens in the latter part of the song. Too schmaltz for a non-schmaltz concept.
- Lisandro Cuxi – Eva: Picking up where Kristian Kostov left off, Lisandro was really going for gold. Combining French and English isn’t always the best approach, and ‘Eva’ was a bit too different in vibe between verses and chorus to really nail it. Lisandro is a fantastic singer though, and he really did as well as he could. I’ll gladly see him back one of the years to come.
- Max Cinnamon – Ailleurs: Cute and adorable enough in all aspects, and that lingering ‘Under The Sea’ vibe made for a cheerful atmosphere. BUT. Again the mixing of English and French did not really work, especially because there even were a couple of weird attempts at making them work in one and the same rhyme. It’s cute to want to make ‘fire’ rhyme with ‘ailleurs’ (instead of that good old ‘desire’) but one has to acknowledge when something simply won’t work. I had to look up what that last sentence in the chorus was, apparently he sings ‘ensemble on peut s’en aller ailleurs’. That’s at least two syllables too many, which they solved by combining a couple of words. The principle of ‘killing your darlings’ clearly hasn’t reached Max’s team yet. Pity. (Yes, of course I am nitpicking. Are you new to this blog?)
- Nassi – Rêves de gamin: It’s cute of the ever positive jury (no really, were they explicitly forbidden to say anything remotely negative?) to compare this to Stromae, but it’s the Aldi-version of my beloved compatriot. It was a nice enough attempt, but every single element was just a bit short of really nailing it: the staging, the singing, the instrumental chorus… Dunno, it left me a bit uninterested.
- Malo’ – Ciao: All together now: How Salem Al Fakir was this? This had me feeling very conflicted. On the one hand I kinda wanted to hate the fickle composition and those floating nasal sounds in the chorus. On the other hand it made for a slightly bewildering and captivating entry. It’s better in audio by the way, as soon as Malo’s expressions ‘graced’ the screen, my love for the song evaporated rather quickly. A weird sensation, all in all.
Right before the exciting voting procedure started, I proclaimed I would’ve been happy with Madame/Monsieur, Emmy or Lisandro defending la Tricolore. But boy am I ever so happy that MERCY eventually got the ticket to Lisbon. There it’ll either go BIG or go home with empty hands. A bit of work on the low verses and a bit of a clever stage presentation and this might just persuade Europe. I’ve got it on endless repeat in the meantime.
Oui, je vais bien, merci. Who was your favorite? Vote in the poll below the video!