France hasn’t won the Eurovision song contest in nearly 40 years and, I’m sorry to say, it’s unlikely to return to glory tonight.
The last time France proved victorious at the pan-European pop fest was in 1977. Back then, 19-year-old unknown Marie Myriam charmed the international juries with L’Oiseau et L’Enfant. Performed last, the song was the perfect antidote to a slew of throwaway ditties and dance routines in the style of Brotherhood of Man, who had won the previous year.
Myriam faced stiff competition – including from acts such as former yé-yé girl Michèle Torr, performing for Monaco, German disco outfit Silver Convention and Italy’s Mia Martini. The UK fielded Lynsey DePaul and Mike Moran, and the pair finished a close second with Rock Bottom.
Her winning song was a simple ballad that built and built.
This year’s French entry, N’Oubliez Pas by Lisa Angell, also builds, but, sadly, with far less gusto.
Its lyrics about rebuilding a community after war – the anniversary of the First World War has been big news, remember – may garner it a few extra points. However, the song isn’t overly memorable. It has every chance of being overlooked when it comes to calling in the points at the end of the night.
Linguistically, the odds are stacked against it too. Céline Dion’s entry for Switzerland, Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi, was the last French-language winner, and that was back in 1988.
“Céline Dion’s entry for Switzerland, Ne partez pas sans moi, was the last French-language winner, and that was in 1988”
Since the introduction of the free-language rule in 1999 – whereby countries are no longer obliged to sing in their own tongue – almost every winning song has been performed in English.
This hasn’t helped the UK, mind you. Now that our natural linguistic advantage has been taken away, we almost invariably end up in the bottom third of the scoreboard at the end of the night.
Tonight, France and the UK will almost certainly be keeping each other company there. C’est dommage.