Un, deux, trois…dix! As we continue our new series, where we look at all the countries currently competing in the Eurovision Song Contest and list why we love them, it’s time to hop off at the Champs-Élysées and delve into France’s portfolio. Allons-y!
As part of the Big Five, France doesn’t have to participate in the semi-finals. Nevertheless, they have done so much in their long history to help shape the contest into what it is today. From opera to emotional ballads to straight-up French party pop, here are ten reasons why we love France at ESC.
1. They are one of the originals
France is one of the seven original Eurovision participants, so in that sense they are partly responsible for the existence of the contest. Its influence persists even today: French is one of the two official languages of the EBU, the second language of Eurovision itself, and the language of the most defining phrase of the contest: douze points!
2. They were the first Eurovision superpower
At the beginning of the contest, France was pretty much pulling the strings. From 1957 to 1970, France placed in the top five 13 out of 14 times. This included four wins, as well as two wins from French artists competing for Luxembourg. Comment dit-on “dominance”?
3. You can count on them
France has been one of the most present countries in the contest. They have only missed two editions since their debut in 1956. In 1974 they withdrew due to the death of President Georges Pompidou. And in 1982 they didn’t enter, with broadcaster TF1 claiming “the absence of talent and the mediocrity of the songs were where annoyance set in. Eurovision is a monument to inanity.” Well damn. That leads us to…
4. Their fanaticism
That 1982 decision caused an outcry so large that another broadcaster took over broadcasting Eurovision in France. New broadcaster Antennae 2 also took the extra step and organising national finals. Say what you want about the French audience, but they won’t tolerate not getting their Eurovision fix!
5. Dedication to their languages
France is one of the few countries that has sung in their national languages without exception (even if they had to twist Sebastian Téllier‘s arm in 2008). This doesn’t mean they have kept it stale! On two occasions, they have opted for regional languages — Breton in 1996 and Corsican in 2011. They also peppered other songs with bits of English, Spanish and even Haitian Creole. Mesi!
6. They always dress to impress
With friends and Eurovision fans like Jean-Paul Gaultier on their side, France rarely fails in the fashion stakes. And one thing is for sure: the fashion powerhouse has never even been in consideration for the Barbara Dex Award. Be it exquisite gowns or bright pink everything, they got that je ne sais quoi going on.
Be it ENTM winner Alma or Indonesian-born Anggun‘s not-distracting-at-all dancers, France’s reputation of gorgeous goes full steam ahead on Eurovision.
Performance art (Sébastien Tellier), classic chanson (Patricia Kaas), the bop of the summer (Jessy Matador) and popera (Amaury Vassilli) — that was just one series of genres that France sent to Eurovision! The country celebrates the many sounds of French music, and in many instances the influences that come from its global diaspora. France has not been shy in trying different genres and mixing it up, regardless of the result, keeping every fan on their toes and guessing what they might do next.
8. They symbolically win ties
In the history of the contest, ties for first place have happened just twice — and France was involved in both. The 1969 system had no defined rule to break the deadlock. And the rules that broke the 1991 edition have subsequently changed. If we go by current Eurovision rules, France would have been the winner in both editions!
9. Destination Eurovision
When France decided to introduce a new national final system in 2018, no one was prepared for how fantastique it was going to be. Every fan had their favourite they would die for, and most of the acts had great live vocals, solid tracks or both. Destination Eurovision is destined to become a staple of the national final season.
10. The Edoardo Grassi era
Ever since the new Head of Delegation took charge in 2016, France’s attitude towards Eurovision has shifted for the better. The programme graduated to France 2, attracting a larger audience, and it seemed the country actually cared about who would compete. They are arguably the Big Five country that has shown the biggest change of attitude towards the contest in recent years and, if they keep heading down this path, we’re sure we will soon see a Eurovision hosted in… Paris? Marseille? Nice? The choices are plenty and fabulous.
What do you think? What is your favorite moment from France? What made you go sacre bleu? Let us know in the comments below!