It’s fast approaching that time of year again, which many music aficionados dread. The Eurovision Song contest takes place on May 24 and already some French are getting their knickers in a twist over their entry.
For the first time since the competition started in 1956 the song representing this fiercely proud country will be sung in – horror of horrors - English.
France 3, one of the country’s national public television channels, chose the 33-year-old electro-pop singer, Sébastien Tellier, to defend the nation’s colours in this year’s annual jamboree to be held in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. The song, “Divine,” is entirely in English apart from the chorus
And already, even before the competition has started, there’s been an outcry from some quarters over his decision to abandon the time-honoured tradition of warbling his way through the entry in French.
François-Michel Gonnot, a member of parliament from the ruling centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party even went as far as writing to the minister of culture, Christine Albanel, asking her to comment on the choice.
A clearly outraged Gonnot said the it sent out the wrong signal to the whole of the worldwide francophone community and went against the grain of all official statements of the importance of protecting and promoting the French language.
Albanel admitted that she thought it was shame the song wasn’t in French, but said the whole country would still be behind Tellier when he took to the stage.
Gonnot was joined by another equally indignant UMP parliamentarian, Jacques Myard, who has urged France 3 to reconsider the decision to allow Tellier to sing in English.
Perhaps though the two men are a little befuddled over the importance of the choice of language and the impact it will have on France’s international reputation.
Few would insist that the Eurovision Song contest is a platform for culture of any sort. Indeed the yearly knees-up is generally considered to be a celebration of the very worst that each nation has to offer musically and it comes in for a fair amount of ridicule.
It’s a competition in which television audiences are subjected to one another’s singing non-entities for more than three hours before each country takes its turn to vote. And recent trends have shown that the whole contest has turned into something of a farce with political and more importantly geographical blocs forming to ensure the “right” country wins.
Under the rules of the competition, countries are free to choose in which language their entry will be sung and almost half of this year’s 46 entries have chosen that of Shakespeare – or at least something approaching it. So France will not be alone.
While giving the song a trial run in the studio, Tellier tried it out some French lyrics, but apparently they didn’t work too well so he abandoned the attempt in favour of English, which will help him, in his words, achieve his artistic goals!
And just for the record, those fabulous goals include the following lines:
Looking for a band today
I see the Chivers anyway
Through my eyes
OH oh oh I'm
I’m alone in life to say
I love the Chivers anyway
Cause Chivers look divine
Sounds like a winner.
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