Friday, March 07, 2008

Holy Euro-mackerel!!

France has just announced that it's sending Sébastien Tellier to the Eurovision Song Contest. That, my friends, is earth-shaking news. Apparently Tellier is going to perform "Divine," a song from his latest album, Sexuality.

Two huge things here: First of all, "Divine" (which can you hear streaming here) is performed in English, which is a humongus departure for France, one of the last countries to stubbornly stick to English at the contest. In fact, it may well be the very first time the French entry will be in English.

Second, Tellier is that rare case of a totally odd bird that's also rather commercially successful—meaning he already has both a good critical reputation and a viable commercial career. The fact that France 3, the public-TV channel that runs the contest in France, went for him shows that it fully realized a drastic move was needed to both make the contest meaningful again at home and make a statement about what French music means in 2008.

With Sexuality, which is produced by Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homen Christo (!!!), Tellier said he wanted to make an unabashedly, well, sexual album. (The cover will give you an indication.) The songs I've heard so far are really, really good, mixing a traditional French-pop songwriting approach—Tellier often refers to Gainsbourg and Christophe in interviews—electronics.

So it's clear why France 3 picked him. Why he chose to go is another matter, and I'm curious to see how he rationalizes that decision. My guess: He's nuts (in a good way) and he's going precisely because it's such an unexpected move for him.


Birdseed said...

I think last year's French entry might have been the first one that was (partly) in English. Obviously the difference between the two is that this one is a fairly serious attempt...

One thing I find interesting about "Divine" is that the Eurovision bloggers generally like it. They generally deride most alternative-styled entries but "Divine" works somehow, perhaps because its slightly electroey musical costume fits in with the general musical profile of a hardcore Eurovision fan. (They all tend to be gay men, and usually know more about music than one would give them credit for.)

Mind you, I still see it failing miserably in the voting because it's neither the critics or the hardcore fans who decide the winner. The rare times something fairly critically acclaimed makes it to Eurovision it usually bombs, and I definitely see this sharing the fate of the somewhat reminiscent "Euro-Vision" by Telex, the 1980 Belgian entry that finished last. If any indie entry is going to succeed this year I'd probably put my money on the Bosnian Entry instead, which is actually high quality pop as well as being seriously alt-oddbally.

Elisabeth Vincentelli said...

The Bosnian entry is indeed very good but I think it takes too long to get going: the first minute and a half (ie fully half of its alloted three minutes) is a dirge and the really catchy part comes in way too late, and then ends abruptly.

As for Tellier, it's the kind of song that will be either in the top 3 or the bottom 3--no middle ground for it. For the first time in years, I do think the French entry has a decent chance. Now we need to see what kind of staging they're going to choose. In their shoes, I'd follow his album's theme of sexuality and do something steamy.

Finally I love Telex in general but at the context it was sunk not so much by the quality of the song itself than by the fact that most meta-entries (songs about Eurovision or winning it all, etc) tend to flop.