Does France love the contest again?

FranceFrance – There’s been a change in the way the contest is perceived in France. It used to be a hated contest, “for old people and gays”, more kitsch than cult; nowadays, the contest is popular, even if some people can consider it’s not a perfect way to look at the contest, it’s already a step up.

First of all, there are the signs that the country has taken a new interest in the contest. When France 3 was in charge of the contest between 1998 and 2014 (for more details, you can check my French history in Eurovision), the contest slipped into a dark age: three Top 10 results, two Top 5 more than a decade ago (2001 and 2002), when the contest wasn’t as big as it is now, that’s not much for a 17 entries run. Worse: they had an impressive run of bottom 5 placings, often three in a row: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2014. So France 2 took over, got a bottom 3 placing with a “reasonable” entry that they admitted later was an awful choice, “completely disconnected” of the reality of the contest. They indeed sent a new Marie Myriam. One year later, Amir changed everything.

Facts prove Amir’s influence on the way the contest is perceived here. He won ET’s pre-contest TEKO 2016. More importantly, Amir won the OGAE’s vote 2016 after France got only second in 2009 with Patricia Kaas (behind Norway) and in 2011 with Amaury Vassili (behind Hungary). In the contest, Amir got 3rd from the juries and 9th in televote! If France often managed to do well with juries (Patricia Kaas got 4th with the juries in 2009 and got close to the Top 10 in 2012 or 2013), it usually flopped in televote (except with Jessy Matador who got 8th from the televote in 2010). In the end, France wrapped up the 2016 season with a 6th place overall, a best result over a decade. With the good result, came more success. Amir’s song “J’ai cherché” was extremely well received in France, ending in the NRJ Music Award for “Best French Song”, a prize won by televote on competitor channel TF1!

What can explain this, if not the cult following Cyril Hanouna has gotten in France? Here’s not the place to discuss this cult following and the way it can be quite sick (even if his daily live talkshow can have its moments, and can be hilarious with some great editorials sometimes), but Cyril Hanouna has been the French commentator in 2009 and 2010 (with France being at reasonable 8th and 12th places) and has never hidden his love for “the kitsch show” that is Eurovision. His talkshow, now first in France, has been getting more and more following since late 2013 and in 2014 he pushed Conchita Wurst before the contest, came dressed as her in the following Monday’s show, invited her when she performed at Paris’ Crazy Horse. Since then, every year Cyril has talked everything issued by France 2 on the contest, invited Lisa Angell and Amir both before and after their contests and helped them get recognition never ever before an entrant has received, except for Patricia Kaas who exceeded the sphere of the contest alone.

But it’s not just Cyril Hanouna anymore. The famous (and insanely annoying, if I may say so), Kids United group has recently helped reconnect with the last French winner in the contest, 1977’s “L’Oiseau et l’enfant”. Kids United are a French group made only of kids and teenagers, put together by a producer to promote organizations who help kids around the globe. They only do reprises of famous songs about peace, and their last hit was Marie Myriam’s cult entry:

So what, it’s just pop culture! Not anymore. Great French comedian Isabelle Huppert, nominated this year for a Golden Globe in Paul Verhoeven’s masterpiece “Elle“, former Cannes president in 2009 (her jury gave the Palme d’or to Michael Haneke’s “White Ribbon“), features in a new film about… an Eurovision former singer trying a late comeback! Here’s the trailer:

The film, entitled “Souvenir” has an interesting cover done by plastician artists Pierre & Gilles, who are known for revisiting iconic figures through the grotesque and the kitsch. Which of course rises more questions: is the contest now popular, but only for how its perceived, as an old fashioned “bad taste” contest? Now anyway, the new France 2 team seems more likely to bring more good results for France, and seem to be on par with what is popular in the contest and in the country, as Amir’s success, both domestic and in the contest, proves.

29 comments on “Does France love the contest again?

  1. I really enjoyed this article. Thank you, Morgan.

    Isabelle Huppert is a fantastic actress (I still remeber her in “The Piano Teacher”) which makes me anticipating “Souvenir”.

  2. Good read, thank you Morgan.
    I wish France all the best, and please go electro!
    UK, take notes. The other Sweden of yesteryears is obviously waking up!

  3. Great article Morgan, hopefully some of the other countries such as the UK and Germany follow suit.

  4. It’s always good to know that ESC seems to be more popular in France. Let’s hope the trend is here to stay.

    P.S. the other day, I listened to ‘La Source’ while driving around Lisbon and I wondered when France would bring great songs to the table again. ‘La Source’ has exquisite lyrics, for instance.

  5. Thanks for the update Morgan. The funny thing and good news from Germany is that even the dismal results we have got ever since Stefan Raab decided to resign haven’t damaged the contest’s popularity here. And there was none of that nonsense talk we can hear from the UK year after year, even though Germany got two consequtive last places in 2015 and 2016. Everyone agreed that the songs were nice but not strong or memorable enough. The consensus is that we need to try harder again.

  6. Will they try an Amir vol.2 or will they opt for something more original?
    As we’ve witnessed with Netherlands lately, a successful recipe tends to get repeated (country music).
    Greece did it durings the noughties too…

    • And Finland with rock, though they apparently didn’t get that it was Lordi people primarily voted for, and not “Hard rock hallelujah”.

      • well Finland does love rock, besides Eurovision

      • And Sweden with Abbaesque songs till they moved into a more MTV approach 2011 onwards :P
        The list goes on :D

        • Nah, Sweden sending Abbaesque songs has more to do with the idea that “that’s how Melodifestivalen / Eurovision is supposed to sound like” rather than a success recipe. Yes, traditionally we often denounce ESC entries from other countries because “that’s no schlager!” :p

  7. Thanks for the insight, Morgan! It’s interesting to watch the shift of interest toward the contest in France and get an idea of the changes happening there that might be propelling it. Do you think the shifts in direction by the EBU toward the contest in general have helped it gain legitimacy in France, specifically (like producer draw, more graphics, etc.)?

    • yes, for instance the juries getting back in 2009 was strongly requested by France, and in general France 2 approved almost all recent changes, which maybe helped France TV in general trying a little harder!

      • Well I guess that’s a nice benefit of the changes! And if it means that we get better quality songs and it makes broadcasters care more, then hopefully it’ll be worth the questions they raise.

  8. Indeed it is an important shift towards France and Eurovision becoming more let’s say “user friendly”, I have no idea what next step France would be re ESC. it is always an enigma

  9. I always sense (and many of my eurofriends) opinion is that France will always be caught between 2 stools 1/France tries to resurrect its success yesteryear with such songs in the 20th century 2/France has opted to continue in ESC but 1/couldn’t care less 2/let’s see what happens

  10. such would be a typical French song IMO.-)

  11. that french people would eventually relate to in terms of Eurovision

  12. Interesting article !
    Amir deserved an even better result imo in May but if even this 6th place can revive the french interest in the contest then I am super glad and super excited to see what the future holds for France in esc !

  13. A bit ironic that the French song I was not so fond of would bring the interest back, while both 2013 and 2015, which I love, flopped.

    Interesting article. I discovered a review of “Souvenir” out of a coincidence, and was pleasently surprised by a French movie story like that.

  14. I really liked the french entry this year, very fresh and straight-forward with a powerful hook to it! I do however love the more artsy entries from Latvia 2015 for example, but these ”easy-access” kinda songs from France 2016 really gets me going ^_^

    I think its really great that France gets more hyped towards Eurovision, but hopefully we will see something completely different next year from France as to stray from the more mainstream entries thats starting to dominate Eurovision atm! :)

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