Thursday, October 27, 2011

ESC Wish List: France 2012

Since 2008, France has chosen their Eurovision representatives and songs via an internal selection.  Over these past few years, broadcaster France 3 has given us genres ranging from ambient electronica to jazz chanson to afro-dance-pop to operatic bolero, with results generally bouncing around the middle of the scoreboard (often despite expectations or critical acclaim).  One thing is for sure: over the past few years, variety has been key.  You can't expect France to offer up the same thing twice in a row anymore, which leaves us with the question: what should we expect them to serve up in Baku next year?  Well, as a fan with way too much time on her hands during the off-season, allow me to come up with a few suggestions.  (Again, as I said when I did this series last year, these are only my opinions, and I do not intend to start any rumors.)

1) Caravan Palace: Following Raphael Gualazzi's surprisingly high result for Italy on 2011's scoreboard, I wouldn't be shocked to see a rise in the usage of jazz or other unexpected genres in future Eurovisions.  Continuing on with that trend, might I recommend taking a look at Caravan Palace, an electro-gypsy-swing combo:

They seem to be masters at crafting jazzy earworms that sound both classic and updated at the same time, and any band that can claim both Django Reinhardt and Daft Punk as influences is more than fine with me!  It's hard to find music that you can both dance to and chill out with, but this Parisian group has found a nice balance.  Plus, considering Baku's surprisingly avid fondness for jazz, this might be an interesting option for France 3 to consider...

2) Julien Doré: I have been a fan of Julien since blogger Perez Hilton featured him on his site a few years ago.  The winner of Season 5 of "Nouvelle Star" (the French equivalent of the "Idols" series), Julien is quirky, sexy, and unabashedly talented.  Here's his first single, post-"Nouvelle Star" (and. for the record, he's the one dancing in the background, not the one clutching the chicken):

The 29-year old singer from Languedoc-Roussillon has released three albums, including 2011 release "Bichon".  In all honesty, I've been unable to get that album's first single, "Kiss Me Forever", out of my head, and his oddly dark and twisted cover of Alizée's "Moi...Lolita" (which he performed on "Nouvelle Star" itself) raises the hairs on the back of my neck in the best possible way.  Having Julien representing France would hearken back to the lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek entries of 2007 ("L'Amour à la française") and 2008 ("Divine"): flirting with parody, but without delving into full-on Verka Serduchka territory.

3) Phoenix: Ok, now I know this one is a long shot.  One, they're a globally-known act (even in that ever-elusive American crossover market), and Eurovision might be an unexpected step for them.  Two, they sing almost exclusively in English, which as we might remember from Sébastien Tellier's "Divine", might have the potential to raise the hackles of many.  And finally, they're currently working on the follow-up to their highly successful 2009 album, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix", so they've got a bit on their minds at the moment.  But lead singer Thomas Mars is currently married to Oscar-nominated film director Sophia can you imagine the promotional video we'd potentially have on our hands, people?  An upbeat alt-rock smash like "Lizstomania" or "1901" might be just the trick to get France to the top of the leaderboard for the first time since 1977.

(Plus, a participation by Phoenix might raise more interest in the ESC in the United States, a personal hope of mine...a girl can dream, right?)

Who would you like to see for France next year?  Let me know in the comments below, on Twitter (@escinsider), or on the ESC Insider's Facebook page; I love to hear from my readers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Switzerland has already kicked off their 2012 National Selection Process, and will be picking their official Eurovision entrant on December 10th (only a week or so after Junior Eurovision wraps up in Yerevan, so there's no time for withdrawal).  The country, however, being a land of four official languages, isn't making their selection process a simple one.  There are four official pre-Preselections representing German-language radio station DRS3 (who picked three songs via an internal jury), German-language television SF (who will pick six finalists via a 50/50 jury/web vote), French-based station RTS (who will pick 3 songs via an online/jury split vote), and Italian-speaking RSI (who is currently holding a Pre-Pre-Preselection...the public can vote on the two songs that will join five others already selected by an internal jury; only two of those seven will advance to the united Swiss Preselection).  Many of these voting windows will be closing over the next few days, so feel free to check them out soon!  (Non-Swiss votes are accepted, but the Italian and German polls require registration.)

Nearly 250 songs have been submitted to the four pre-preselections, and it's quite a lot to slog through!  Plus, some of the songs have been submitted to more than one selection in the hopes of making it through to the nationwide-rounds.  Adding to the confusion is the fact that Switzerland is one of the few places where non-Swiss singers can submit entries, regardless of citizenship, residency, or family history.  This year, singers from South Africa, the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Malta, and other nations have submitted entries, hoping to be 2012's answer to Céline Dion.

Are you confused yet?  Yeah, me too.  In the hopes of clarifying the process, let me point out a few standouts, with a special eye on artists coming from abroad:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 8)

Ok, we're winding down to the end of our country-by-country list of 2011's also-rans: the songs that should-have/would-have/could-have gone to Germany if the people had voted differently/if the juries had taken their bathroom breaks at a different time/if the networks had been bribed by a different record company (just kidding!  I think...).

Sweden: As almost any self-respecting Eurovision Fan would know, Sweden's Melodifestivalen is considered one of the biggest events of the National Final calendar.  Its position in recent years as the last of the national selections means that it's basically the final stop before the big event in May.  It tends to get higher viewership numbers in its homeland than Eurovision itself does, and ESC fans the world over flock to the Globen each year in order to watch the final firsthand.  This year's Melodifestivalen certainly did not disappoint, with 32 songs competing over four semifinals and an "Andra Chansen (Second Chance)" round for the chance to redeem Sweden's Eurovision hopes after a tough crash-and-burn last year.  As we all know, Eric Saade not only came out on top this year with "Popular", but he gave the Swedes their highest placement on the ESC scoreboard since their victory back in 1999. 

Eric faced some stiff competition, however.  Danny Saucedo's runner-up "In the Club" got quite a bit of attention.  The track ended up as #2 on the Swedish Singles Chart, and Danny even got to read out Sweden's votes this year at Eurovision.  (Eric had that honor last year; maybe it's an omen of good things to come for Danny?):

In third place was the impossibly sunny "Oh My God!" by The Moniker (real name: Daniel Karlsson).  It's like Daniel stepped off of the Magical Mystery Tour, into a Hare Krishna robe, and started hanging out with the backup singers from "Čaroban".  I'll admit, I thought this song was absolutely ridiculous the first time I heard it, but it became an complete earworm, and I'd often randomly sing it with my friends in the Press Center, choreography and all.  (I feel incredibly fortunate that no video footage of those moments exist, as far as I can tell...):

Monday, October 3, 2011

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 7)

Romania: Romania's National Selection was an hours-long affair that also doubled as a New Year's Celebration, with 2010 representatives Paula Seling and Ovi co-managing hosting duties. Guest stars Chiara and Niamh Kavanagh even stopped by to join in the fun.  At the end of the night, Hotel FM won the ticket to Germany with the peppy, optimistic "Change".  (British-born lead singer David Bryan provided quite a bit of fun for my friends and I at the Press Center, whether he knew it or not...David, if you're reading this, thanks for being so good-natured about all of it!)

The Romanian National Selection was pretty even-keeled, in the sense that none of the songs really strayed too far from the melodic pop mold.  Unfortunately, that means that it's somewhat difficult to point out a unique entry for the purposes of this blog!  That being said, I consistently smile whenever I hear "It's So Fine", the 7th-place finisher from the Blaxy Girls:

...and I was more than a little amused by the country tinge I heard from Dalma in "Song for Him", which came in 11th place:

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