France & Eurovision: Why is the Gallic rooster a hoarse one?
PARIS, FRANCE – This year in Copenhagen, France hit the bottom with, for the very first time, a last place on the scoreboard. But, to be honest, France’s results have been quite disappointing for the past decades. Maybe it’s high time now to really wonder what’s wrong with the hexagon, and whether or not a reaction can be expected anytime soon?
Let’s start with a little history. France is one of the founding nations, and the second most faithful country with 58 participations out of the 60 contests (only Germany does better than us). Moreover, with its 5 victories (1958, 1960, 1962, 1969 and 1977), the country remains one of the most triumphant participants. We could add to this record the 1991 second place when France and Sweden had a tie for first place (an event that most French Eurovision fans still consider a robbery…). In addition to this, another piece of information is also forgotten: in Eurovision history, French artists have been the most successful. Indeed, in 1961, 1965, 1971, 1973 and 1983, French singers took the trophy, representing other French-speaking nations. So, with 58 entries, 5 victories, 10 laureates and a “Big 5“ status since 2000, France can definitely call itself a Eurovision key member, and believe in future victories. But the problem is underlined there…1977! No victory for the past 37 years… A few reasons could explain this sad state of things.
The very first answer to this situation could be explained by France’s low interest for Eurovision. Despite good viewing figures year after year, the contest has lost credibility. Most French watch the contest by tradition, and not by conviction. Keep in mind that mocking is a national sport over here! The contest is seen as a kitsch non-event, with low quality entries, an old fashioned format… Even though the latest editions of Eurovision were modern and breathtaking in the staging, it seems that French viewers keep the cheap editions of the 1980’s in mind. And the bad results, contest after contest, do not help! Of course some French love the contest, but even if you do, you don’t say it: being a Eurovision fan is a shameful thin in France…
The public is not the only issue here since French professionals also snub Eurovision. France has a bunch of talented and successful artists but none of them would express any interest in waving the French flag, and even if one or two would, they would never assume their will to take part. Of course, one could argue with the participations of Patricia Kaas or Anggun, but let’s face it, those women were not stars anymore when they hit Eurovision stage. To make it simple, a French Melodifestivalen would just be impossible over here!
The second reason for France’s Eurovision dry period can be the music itself. First of all, music shows have almost totally disappeared from French television screens, being replaced by Real TV contests like The Voice, Nouvelle Star (French version of the Pop Idol program) or Rising Star. And all those are broadcast on private channels TF1,M6 or W9, public broadcaster refusing to have such shows on its TV schedule. What remains on FranceTelevision is cheap “Les Chansons D’abord”, a program that was interrupted this year and replaced by a copycat called “Du Côté De Chez Dave”. If you’ve watched the French national selection last year, you can easily understand where the problem is… Moreover, pop, schlager, ethnic and dance music are, above all, the typical Eurovision music styles at the moment, and these are not fashionable in France. Rap, R’n’B and Electro “French Touch” are the most successful music types over here at the moment, and we don’t think they are compatible with Eurovision…
Another explanation could be the lack of visibility. The promotion of the contest in France is quite poor. For example, very few people know that Eurovision has become a three-day event since only one semi-final is broadcast, and on rather anonymous France Ô channel. The broadcasting of the final on France 3 (often considered as the channel for the elderly) was not a wise choice either in my opinion. Another characteristic of French philosophy could be: why promoting newcomer artists since no one is interested in them? And when the French entry is talk about in the media, it’s, most of the time, in a negative or mocking way. Well that’s hopeless… And as far as Eurovision winners are concerned, very few of them have managed to get the attention of the French public after their victory. To be honest, we must underline two notable exceptions though. In 2012, Loreen had a little success. Euphoria had some fans over here, but very few of them knew it was a Eurovision track. This year, for the first time in years, Eurovision winner, Conchita Wurst, was under French spotlights!
The last reason could be French mentality itself. Some may call us arrogant, unfriendly … I won’t say they are 100% wrong but for me the main French defect is negativity when it comes to competition. That’s the French paradox: arrogance mixed with low self-esteem. Yes, we are a complicated people sometimes and we definitely lack national pride. For example, in the field of sports, no French team takes part to an international event with public support. We always see us defeated even before competitions start. But, once the results start being positive, the country gathers behind its representatives. That’s what happened recently during the FIFA world cup or the basketball world championship. So why would it be different with Eurovision?
So, is there still hope for a Eurovision revival in the hexagon? My answer would be “bien sûr que oui”, and Conchita’s victory could help. The interest in the contest has grown bigger since the bearded diva’s victory, and FranceTélévisions should surf the wave… A new conception of this event is needed now. The last changes the French broadcaster announced recently could make us expect a new vision of Eurovision. A new broadcaster, an internal selection, a new team behind the French entry… well that could be promising. Just in case a member of the French delegation is reading this editorial, let me give my very own recipe for a French Eurovision revival:
01. A popular Eurovision winner to promote the contest over here (well, it seems like we have it already)
02. A famous artist, if not a phenomenon, to show Europe we want to be high in the scoreboard again. We have incredible artists, even at an international level, so dare to convince them! And stop with absolute newcomers. They will never get national attention so how could they conquer Europe?
03. A great song. Originality is not always the best recipe (remember Moustache…)
04. A bigger attention should be given to the staging (it’s not a radio show for god ‘s sake!)
05. A real promotion campaign before and during the contest
Who my ideal French entrant would be? Hummmm, I think that diva Mylène Farmer, or Christophe Willem performing a David Guetta track could do incredibly well. But if we stop dreaming for a second, let’s admit that Christophe Willem, Emmanuel Moire, Shym… could become Eurovision artists (they are talented but not too French). And if you consider the participation of a Eurovision compatible artist that is VERY successful at the moment, two names come to my mind: Indila (the clever mix of Edith Piaf and Mylène Farmer) and Kenji Girac (winner of the third edition of The Voice). Even though their participation is almost impossible (Indila has already expressed her lack of interest, and Kendji is a TF1 artist), have a look at their work and see what France would have to offer Eurovision if it decided to do well again…