What I love about France at the Eurovision is that they seem to remain true to their musical heritage. The French understand song, ie French chanson and, over the years, they’ve resolutely stuck to their musical guns.
Adorable Roger Bens with a twinkly in his eyes in 1985 is a personal favourite, so too, Gerard Lenorman whose song ‘Chanteur de Charme‘ (10th, 1987) oozed continental sophistication (the chord progressions in its chorus still make me go weak at the knees).
From then on, my memory of France at Eurovision was of a country seemingly committed to a distinctive sound – a strategy which seemed to resonate with the juries. ‘White on Black Blues‘ was a classy number that took Eurovision by the scruff of its neck in 1990 – such a shame it was beaten by Italy’s well-meant but uninspiring ‘Insieme‘. Equally distinctive, 1991’s ‘C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison‘ seemed to capitalise on a renewed sense of confidence, and is, to date, France’s finest Eurovision entry.
From then on, France returned to more orthodox compositions. ‘Mama Corsica’ (4th, 1993), the blisfully satisfying pop song ‘Ill me Donne Rendez-Vous‘ (4th, 1995). Even as late as 2002, Sandrine’s Celine-infused ballad ‘Il Faut Du Temps‘ secured a fifth place.
All seemed to go a bit wrong from 2003 onwards,, until 2008 with Patricia Kraas brilliantly dark ‘Et s’il fallait le faire‘ (8th). It’s not quite ‘C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison‘ but in the 2008 running order there is a feeling that France is sticking two fingers up to the rest of the continent and saying: “We know about song. Take us or leave us.”
Last year saw France return to musical form after some questionable numbers. The uplifting anthem ‘N’oubliez Pas‘ brilliantly performed by Lisa Angell, but failed to register even a wimper amongst juries and phone voters. Personally speaking that was a surprise and a disappointment.
France’s song for 2016 is a good radio number and has a good musical hook, but doesn’t do much to live up to the country’s Eurovision back catalogue. Singer Amir seems to be going down well with fans, and whilst I’d be amazed if it ended up at the bottom of the table this year, I’m not quite sure whether its especially memorable to warrant anything higher. Still, at least it’s nothing like as bad as their football chant for 2010.