Ask French Eurovision fans what they think about Jessy Matador’s entry “Allez! Ola! Olé!” and you’ll likely hear that it’s nasty, tacky, cheap, uncouth, and annoying. Many critics say that that it bastardizes the French language, a suggestion born out by this rather saucy excerpt:
Darling, you must get up and move your butt. Dancing, squeezed tight for a salty kiss. Take me by the hand, make me weak. Lala, it will heat up, I feel the stuff up.
That the song induces booty-shaking is a good thing. Matador, born Jessy Kimbangi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mixes zouk, dancehall, reggae, and hiphop, building on American, African and Caribbean influences. He’s essentially taking Eurovision outside of Europe and that, he says, is really something:
Ola, beautiful people who want to move. Surrender to the rhythm of the year. Go, go, go, you should make the most of this. It’s a good day and we will celebrate.
Far from jubilant, the French public responded with a collective “Mon Dieu!” when broadcaster France Télévisions announced they had selected the little known Congolese singer. The collective thinking is that France should send its most celebrated singers to Eurovision—or languish at the bottom of the results table. Last year, France pulled itself up to eighth place (from 19th in 2008) by selecting Patricia Kaas, one of the most successful French-speaking singers in the world. You don’t have to speak French to figure out her song made no mention of “butts” or “salty kisses.”
Jessy’s official preview video opens with playful conflict between the old world—a toothless Rastafarian who apparently lives in an old bus—and the new—Jessy and his posse arrive in an SUV and want to know where the party’s at. After choreographed dancing on the deck of a boat, the group takes the party ashore.
Dambadam badabadam badambadam badam dam, everyone! Dambadam badabadam badambadam badam dam, everyone! Dambadam badabadam badambadam badam dam
Frenchies have questioned why the American flag features so prominently. On one level, it’s a demonstration of how trendy youths the world over have adopted American hip-hop culture as their own. On another, it suggests that African-Americans provide inspiration to marginalized communities everywhere: they’ve fought their battles, obtained equal rights and, as with Oprah and Barack Obama, achieved international respect and celebrity. Okay, maybe Jessy is just trying to convey that he’s on holiday abroad. Either way, French fans think the stars and bars need to go. This is France’s video after all….
France Télévisions has said that it deliberately chose a song with a “summer sound” so that it could feature during this summer’s World Cup in South Africa, which begins just two weeks after Eurovision. Regardless of how “Allez! Ola! Olé!” does in Oslo, Jessy should keep his fingers crossed that it becomes a summer anthem.
Along with Britain, Germany and Spain, France receives an automatic bid to the Eurovision final because of its financial contributions to staging the contest. Given France’s dismal record of late—it didn’t finished higher than 15th between 2003 and 2008—that saves the country the embarrassment of being eliminated in the semi-finals.
Love it or hate it, the song will stand out during the drawn out two-hour broadcast. It has an infectious beat: it’s like a hip-hop version of the “Macarena.” And officials say the stage performance will have a very “African mood” and will be unlike anything ever seen. If done well it could be this year’s dark horse. Will it win? Unlikely. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’ll finish somewhere between 10th and 15th.