European and French flags flying high in the air were a common sight during the French presidential campaign of 2017. But tonight, with Destination Eurovision, the flag waving is all about choosing the French contestant for the Eurovision Song Contest. The two semi-finals were recorded earlier this week and tonight, from 20:55 CET, France 2 will broadcast the first semi-final (which you can watch on the Eurovision France Facebook livestream here).

Producers from France 2 kindly invited us to attend the recordings and gave us access to the contestants back stage. We exchanged words with all of the singers, and also important officials from France Télévisions and ITV. We’ve kept our lips sealed — we’re not going to reveal the results in this preview. But we’re more than thrilled to share our report from the scene, where we found a France inspired by the world.

Destination Eurovision: Semi-Final 1 Recording

During the recording, the Canadian singer Garou asked the public to applause warmly “for Queen Marie” —  Marie Myriam, the last French winner of ESC some 41 years ago. “For 40 years I am waiting for a prince or a princess to replace me as the Queen of Eurovision!” she confesses to us backstage. “Every year I say publicly that it is my last year as queen because we will win, but nothing happens, so this year I will say nothing, and perhaps it will work!”

And while there is no guarantee, surely the groundwork has been laid. France Télévisions has, for the very first time, dedicated three TV shows in prime time to choosing its Eurovision act — replete with two semi-finals and an international and national jury, with a final decided by the televote.

Marie Genest, head of entertainment at France 2, and Matthieu Grelier, Programme Director for ITV, hope the public will share their enthusiasm: “We are experiencing something very new with Destination Eurovision and we hope that our public will enjoy the show as much as we have preparing it.”

Will this end the tradition Eurovision-bashing in France? We asked France 2 deputy director Antoine Boilley.

“The hiring of Edoardo Grassi and Nathalie André two years ago has been the starting point for the modernisation of our management of the project,” he says. “We know that our public is waiting for the show: we had first place in market share with Amir and Alma. We want to keep our efforts this year. And, observing that every winner of ESC is initially chosen through a national selection that includes jury as well as televote, that is what we do this year.”

“For France 2, Eurovision is the Europe of the people. We hope that the selection process will create some pride about our candidate: pride in choosing a candidate that will represent France as well as Europe with modernity.”

“Once the winner of the national selection will be known, every channel of France Télévisions will promote her or him, and, thanks to our collaboration with the ministry of Foreign Affairs, we will also play on the network of cultural institutions abroad and our expat community to strengthen the momentum.”

Surprises in store

While both semi-finals are rather strong when compared to most Eurovision national finals, expectations varied significantly ahead of the recordings. Ahead of the first show some of the singers came off as more amateur than Eurovision-ready…but some totally delivered. On the contrary, some of the second semi-final artists generated a great deal of hype — but couldn’t always deliver. The point is this: Clear your mind and get ready to embrace surprises in both shows.

A majority of singers in the contest are French, but able to draw on other cultural influences and fusions: French and Portuguese, French and Australian, French and Italian and more. This mirrors the diversity of French society, and is also a good sign of a national selection deeply rooted in the world and not just in the traditional French clichés.

Semi-Final 1 contestants

Masoe, born in a Portuguese family, sees his participation as a dream come true as he follows Eurovision every year already. For me, his performance didn’t quite match expectations. “Have you already performed onstage before?” a kindly Amir asks in a soft way to underline the questionable choreography.  Back to basics, we then turn to Noée and her very classical entry “L’un près de l’autre” — a romantic song. It’s a lovely interpretation, but doesn’t take off as we would have liked it to. What does the jury think? You’ll have to wait and see.

With his song “EVA” Lisandro Cuxi offers one of the most complete performances: great choreography as well as singing. It’s dedicated to every single mother working hard for her children. With his roots in Cape Verde, the 18-year-old Portuguese-French star takes on the challenge with plenty of emotion: “I haven’t been in Lisbon for four years — going back there as the French candidate would be so great!”

Malo’, like Lisandro, has also competed in televised talent shows prior to competing in Destination Eurovision 2018. He is also a mix of culture, singing his song “Ciao” in three languages: French, English and Italian. French for his dad, English for his Australian mother, and Italian for his memories of a love story. “My song is about a first love that ends,” he says. “When you live something for the first time, like the end of love story, it is hard, but it is also a new chapter you have to write in you life. This song is about that, and I hope that it can help inspire people in such situations.”

Be prepared for a shock: Emmy Liyanna rocks the stage with a powerful song “OK ou KO” written by the popular singer Zazie. Her strong performance onstage contrasts with her shy personality. But to understand her, you need to go beyond her words. “I have always been very, very shy, and my look as well as my interpretation are a way to express who I really am,” she says. “Singing this song for Eurovision is a symbol of being accepted just the way I am. When I am on stage, I just feel myself being accepted without limits.”

A member of the national jury, Isabelle Boulay, recognises her strength, delivering a line that could have come straight from a psychotherapist: “Your song says that your are the sovereign of your life and your existence.”

PhenoMen give a bit of an embarrassing performance: old-fashioned men’s groups never work for ESC. Try again, but don’t complain Pheno Men — “we have got some technical problems” is the typical excuse for not singing with the right tone. Will their charm and poise be enough to help them move past it and rebound their way to the final? Our lips are sealed.

After Pheno Men, another singer who, like Malo’, plays in French as well as in Italian: Louka. The guy-next-doors sings “Mamma mia” a song that he says “reflects my personality”. And for Elha, who ends the show with the song “J’ai cru”, Destination Eurovision is not a classical talent show. “Here, it is not about your personality,” she says candidly. “It is all about your song and that’s what I like the most.”

Who will be the four acts to qualify from this first semi-final of Destination Eurovision? It’s a nail-biter — and you’re going to have to wait until the very last minute to find out…

Read more Destination Eurovision news

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Weißbrot
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Weißbrot

Some off topic comment: I’ve noticed some issues with Wiwibloggs, it might just be me (I’m actually sure about that…). So since the 8th January new articles won’t Show up when I’m on the home page.I at first thought, that wiwibloggs just didn’t upload any new stuff. I started to try clicking on ”by country” and saw, that there actually were new articles, which I wasn’t shown. But the next day new articles also stopped showing up at the ”by country” section… Now whenever I want do read articles like this, I have to click on every Country manually to… Read more »

William Lee Adams
Admin

Ah, this is a caching issue. My apologies. If you try a new browser or delete your cache it will work again. We fixed the issue on our home page and so once you clear they will show up again. So sorry for this!

Weißbrot
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Weißbrot

Okay, thx for responding. I’ll try it, because I can’t miss any wiwibloggs news ^^ <3

Purple Mask
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Purple Mask

Ah, thanks William. This advice also appears to have solved my issues with viewing via mobile as well. 🙂

Mark
Guest
Mark

Yes, Wiwibloggs in my first ‘Destination’ for all news Eurovision.

Pun indeed intended.

Andrés Jakob Gudjonsson
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Andrés Jakob Gudjonsson

It was a great first semi final. Loved all the three first who are going to the final. I loved Emmy and I hope she will do well. Lisandro had a classic but powerful ESC song and Malo’ was good as well. I didn’t like Louka somg very well but he has ,the people on higher places’ behind him so he will do great. But I would have liked to see Ehla in the group that was selected to the final. Thank you France for a fab show and I am so stunned by to see that you have two… Read more »

Mark
Guest
Mark

Lisandro, Emmy and Malo really pulled out ahead so they secured their positions in the final real quick; with Louka, Ehla and Noee all competing for that fourth position in the final.

Sad Enea and Pheno Men didn’t receive any points. I understand that they were the two weakest performances of the evening, but it’s good to see everyone having some love.

PP
Guest
PP

Lisandro Cuxi prediciton for Eurovision in TOP 10 from 7 to 10 place, maybe TOP 5 with televote but not in TOP 10 with juries. Emmy Liyanna prediciton for Eurovision , place from 20 to 26 in final, 15 to 20 with juries , 21 to 26 with televote. Malo , very hard to predict it can be dark horse this year and maybe be in TOP 3, my prediction in TOP 10 from 5 to 8 place , TOP 5 with juries and TOP 12 with televote Louka ,prediciton for Eurovison place from 10 to 14 place in final,… Read more »

xup
Guest
xup

LOOOUKAAAAAA!!! Give me Louka or give me nothing.

desfolhada
Guest
desfolhada

Malo was the only that gave me chills.

DyGh
Guest
DyGh

Did Wiwibloggs just crash?

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

It might have.
Sort of related to this: I have experienced technical problems with viewing Wiwibloggs comments on mobile browser for the past week or so, but I do not seem to have had the same problems with Desktop view.

Purple Mask
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Purple Mask

Sorted now. Thanks William. x

Charli Cheer Up
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Charli Cheer Up

Yeah I’ve been browsing this site for the last 3 days and the top article was from Jan 8. Maybe its a geo block thing?

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

From William (above):
“Ah, this is a caching issue. My apologies. If you try a new browser or delete your cache it will work again. We fixed the issue on our home page and so once you clear they will show up again. So sorry for this!”

Safiya
Guest
Safiya

Generally speaking all songs were good in my opinion. I’m from Poland and I’m honestly jealous because we usually don’t have anything to choose from… These French songs may not be perfect for Eurovision, but still they are likeable and the singers can achieve success with them. And no matter who would represent them, France won’t be ashamed. However, I don’t see the winner here. Lisandro has beautiful voice, but I don’t find his song very memorable. I feel that Louka’s live vocals are not the best and somehow he misses the energy of the song. Malo’ is good, but… Read more »

Dew
Guest
Dew

Emmy or Malo! What a shame that Louka couldn’t deliver live. If he had done, he’d be my favorite.

Phary
Guest
Phary

Wow, what a show ! Sadly a lot of comments on the Facebook live stream were very negative… Je crois qu’on aime juste râler ^^ I’m sad for Noée , as her performances was great, and I really like her song. On the other hand, Louka’s voice didn’t impress me (I don’t really understand Amir on this point)… Malo’ was a very good surprise, what a performer ! However my favorite is hands down Emmy Liyana: she’s a very powerful singer and really carries well the energy of her song, whose lyrics are amazing and very well-constructed. Hâte d’être à… Read more »

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

I am happy with the results.

A pity Amir mimed.

eurovision6
Guest
eurovision6

So happy for Malo, best performance of the night

Weißbrot
Guest
Weißbrot

So Ciao, Mamma Mia, Eva and OK ou KO made it to the final and I totally agree. These are exactly the Songs I would have chosen. Well done! 🙂

Weißbrot
Guest
Weißbrot

Looking back at this comment I’d rather have Noees song in the final instead of Mamma Mia tbh…

Rile
Guest
Rile

me too, Noee was soo good

Colin
Guest
Colin

You and me both. But it could have been worse, I guess.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Same here. (I picked Noée instead of Louka).
Gonna be an awesome final though. 🙂

Rich
Guest
Rich

Totally agree with you, my top four in that order aswell.

PP
Guest
PP

Thank to Amir 10 points Louka (“Mamma Mia”) go to final . He didn t deserved to go to final. Good song, but Louka have not good live vocals.
Malo is suprise for me this evening.
Lisandro was one of my favorite before show. He deserved to go to final. Song is good, but for me in some part song is not that good.
We saw that Malo get 2 time 12 points from juries from France and Amir gave him only 2 or 4 points.

oli
Guest
oli

OK ou KO is a good sound, but sounds like Top 26 in the final. Same for Eva, is not bad but definitely a bottom contender. My vote goes to Ciao

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Wow. What a show, and what a Semi Final!
The French final is likely going to be incredible. 🙂

Colin
Guest
Colin

Yes for Emmy and Malo! 🙂
Noee was robbed, though. 🙁

NickC
Guest
NickC

We agree Colin! I would have picked Noee instead of Louka.

Colin
Guest
Colin

Absolutely! I mean, Louka’s song is okay, but Noee was outstanding. She really touched me with her performance.

NickC
Guest
NickC

Louka was off key, and song was nothing special. Noee also touched me.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Lisandro Cuxi, Emmy Liyana, Malo et Louka vont au final… 🙂

Copyi
Guest
Copyi

Who qualified???

Barnacles
Guest
Barnacles

Who qualified???

Alex
Guest
Alex

Just from the samples (I only saw Ehla’s full song) I would go with Lisandro. I was blown off my feet by just that short amount of song.

M_K
Guest
M_K

My OWN top 9:

1) OK ou KO
2) Mamma Mia
3) Eva
4) L’un près de l’autre
5) Paradise
6) J’ai cru
7) Ciao
8) Jamais sans toi
9) I’ll Be There

My PREDICTION:

1) Eva
2) Mamma Mia
3) OK ou Ko
4) Paradise
5) Jamais sans toi
6) Ciao
7) J’ai cru
8) L’un près de l’autre
9) I’ll Be There

Colin
Guest
Colin

I wouldn’t like to be on the place of the jury, as most of them were really great. For me, it’s Noee, Malo, Emmy and either Louka or Ehla. Noting that I didn’t hear Lisandro in the whole, as there were some loading issues.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

P.S. Lisandro was outstanding.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Elha (J’ai cru) – A hypnotic four-chord song sung very well. The actual four chords are more interesting than in some of the other songs tonight. However, I was left rather underwhelmed by this one, I’m afraid. There is “elegance”, but there is also “sleepiness”. Sorry Elha.

M_K
Guest
M_K

09 – Ehla – “J’ai cru”

Performing in English is not really for her so thank God her potential Eurovision entry is entirely in French. It’s a good song even though it reminds me too much of 1980s French pop music. Ehla’s voice suits the song very well; she’s a confident performer. I like this entry, but I’m not overwhelmed by it.

Alex
Guest
Alex

I just tuned in. Not so sure how I feel about her vocals, but it’s not a bad song. I really like the simple ending. I hope the earlier 8 songs had something better though haha

Safiya
Guest
Safiya

For me Mamma Mia is a typical Maitre Gims’s song and it would sound great if he sang it. But for me Louka doesn’t really deliver…

eurovision6
Guest
eurovision6

Ehla is the best one tonight with Malo for me

Dew
Guest
Dew

Louka’s vocals are such a letdown but the song is really good in my taste.

DyGh
Guest
DyGh

I thought Louka’s snippet was nice but hearing him live was not… good

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Louka (“Mamma Mia”) – The singer is good. The song is completely based on the melody and rhythm, so it yet again falls into the “repeating harmony” category. I counted five chords in the entire song. It’s very modern, and that’s probably why it irritates me so much. People will buy this, and it’s only five chords (grrr). I noticed some Italian in the lyrics, which was interesting. This could win, but I really hope it doesn’t.

Soy
Guest
Soy

Wait, when will the show end? I thought it was only two hours, and I think it has been two hours already now.

M_K
Guest
M_K

No, according to the France 2 schedule it lasts two and a half hours.

Alex
Guest
Alex

not sure why you’re measuring the quality of a song by the number of chords…

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Are you asking about song content? There are lots of criteria for this, and I did also mention the rhythm and the melody in this song, which are very good. Harmonic progression is also something that can be looked at, though.

M_K
Guest
M_K

08 – Louka – “Mamma Mia”

Beau gosse. Based on the title I expected something cheap but I’m pleasantly surprised. Great rhythm, great performance. Very modern. I really like it.

Nickc
Guest
Nickc

Louka has the looks and voice to be Amir version 2.0

mad-professor
Guest
mad-professor

Am I the only one not enjoying the actual show itself? I don’t know if it’s the flip-flopping between covers and entries that’s doing it. It’s just all too much.

M_K
Guest
M_K

I think it’s a very good show. However, I do agree that having all covers first followed by the potential Eurovision entries would bring more structure to the show. But to hell with it, let’s just enjoy the show.

mad-professor
Guest
mad-professor

At around 90 seconds, it doesn’t feel like the covers add much beyond the sort of padding that made Germany’s NF last year a nightmare. I feel that if they got rid of the covers and saved the jury comments for the end, it would run much better.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Pheno Men – Great group, great song. I agree with the feedback though; I was expecting the group to sing together a bit more – all those solo spots were a bit of a let down. But still, this could do very well. 🙂

Nickc
Guest
Nickc

They were super off key. It was painful to watch

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

A little off, yes. Not “super” off, in my opinion. 🙂

M_K
Guest
M_K

07 – Pheno Men – “Jamais sans toi”

There is nothing wrong about this entry, but I’m not really into soul vocal groups in general. Retro stuff usually doesn’t do too well at Eurovision so France should think twice before sending Pheno Men to Lisbon if their mission is victory. I’m still quite sure they will go far in the French national selection.

Roelof Meesters
Guest
Roelof Meesters

I really hope France ends in the top 3 this year, they deserve it after working so hard since 2016.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Enéa – She’s sweet, but the song is a basic four-chord song. It’s difficult to argue its place in a Song Contest final, musically-speaking. Sorry, I wouldn’t put this one through. Better luck next time.

Roman Vasquez
Guest

Ciao and Ok ok Ko are amazing!!! I’ll be there was underwhelming unfortunately, mostly cause of nerves. All the acts are excellent though, I wish I could sing like them. Watching now through Facebook in the US.

M_K
Guest
M_K

06 – Enéa – “I’ll Be There”

I like the verses much better than the chorus. There is some kind of surprising 1990s Swedish summer dance pop feel to it, which I find a little irritating.

Colin
Guest
Colin

Emmy, Malo and Noee were all maestral! I am already sad that some of these great singers probably won’t even see the finals, while they eclipse the whole Belorussian line-up in a heartbeat.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Emmy Liyanna – Groovy song. Clever, just like the singer’s vocal performance. Interesting that the jury’s feedback was not entirely positive for this one. I really like this song in theory; maybe in practice it does repeat a bit too much. It reminds me of a protest rally song in places, but I still really like it. 🙂

Safiya
Guest
Safiya

Emmy Liyana is a great artist but when I heard the beginning of the song I thought Hovig entered the stage…

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Haha, yes! Same here, for about 5 seconds only. 😀

M_K
Guest
M_K

05 – Emmy Liyana – “OK ou KO”

That Johnny Hallyday cover was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I’d like to buy a full studio version along with her potential Eurovision entry. Great artist. “OK ou KO” has rhythm and emotions, it’s catchy and heartfelt. My favourite so far.

M_K
Guest
M_K

The audience is going wild for a reason.

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

The quality of the songs has been, on balance, quite good so far – but that is beside the point…it is just so good to see France taking their selection this seriously! How wonderful that the eventual winner will have the full support of France Télévisions – I really hope all this effort pays off for them.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

And with the “news” of Guy Freeman (Head of UK delegation) moving on very soon, perhaps the UK will be ready to treat the contest even more seriously from 2019? One can hope. (The alternative is that the UK could leave, or take a break for a while.)

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

Leave? David Cameron promised in the House of Commons that would not happen! See here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XU-RYsw8EfE !

Isn’t Brexit enough? 🙂

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Haha! OMG yeah I remember that. David Cameron thought the UK was “safe” from leaving Eurovision. I bet he also thought his job was “safe” at the time. Oops, ah well. 😀
The February 7th UK selection evening should be interesting.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Malo’ – Surprisingly good at performance. 🙂 The song reminds me of elements of British Pop-Rock. He did make me laugh though – in a good way. He’s “funny and cute” I suppose. He takes us into his own universe, and it’s certainly memorable.

Daniel_2017
Guest
Daniel_2017

This Malo’ guy is really annoying… I mean his vocal style and how he chooses to sing…

eurovision6
Guest
eurovision6

I really like Malo, needs to go through

M_K
Guest
M_K

04 – Malo’ – “Ciao”

He’s so indie that he’s actually close to being a parody of an indie artist. I don’t think he connects as well with the audience as the other performers so far did. There is still something in this song that I like.

Nickc
Guest
Nickc

Masoe was a big disappointment. A great song wasted on a mediocre singer.

desfolhada
Guest
desfolhada

WOW MALO

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

Lisandro – An incredible artist. This song is ready-made for Eurovision. Definitely a potential winner here for France. 🙂
(I feel sorry for who is going up next!)