21 juin Le Duo, whose name translates as The June 21 Duo, isn’t just a musical act: it’s the story of Manon and Julien — a couple in both life and on the stage. June 21 celebrates their partnership, as that’s the date they met. A few years ago neither seemed poised to break through in music: he worked in finance and she worked in events. Now, as they prepare to sing in the final of Eurovision France: C’est vous qui décidez, they could very well have their moment. But, as we found out in our interview with the pair, they’re driven not by the thought of fame, but by a wish to raise awareness about protecting the environment.
The couple met during a professional encounter nine years ago. Manon, then an events planner, organised a concert where she happened to meet Julien. Julien, who trained at the Cincinnati Conservatory in the United States, soon found the courage to embark on a musical career while working as a financial consultant in Paris’s La Défense business district. With Manon by his side, he left it all behind to pursue his artistic career.
Manon: “I met Julien on June 21, 2011. The company I was working for was organizing a music festival on the shores of Lake Annecy and Julien came to play. I didn’t know him…three months later, I moved in with him. Five years later, I had set up my own events company, but I finally decided to go on stage with him… I changed jobs out of love.”
Julien: “I’ve always wanted to make music, but it takes courage to follow your path (or your voice!) and I found it a bit late. I first made a detour to the La Défense district, near Paris, as a financial consultant. I was slowly wasting away in spite of great colleagues and friends. Luckily, I always continued to compose and sing and when I had the idea of this duet with Manon, I was ready to change my life radically! She supported me in this difficult choice to give up everything to try to live from my passion. Living this dream with her is even more intense. We are very lucky and we are aware of it.”
After five years of living together, 21 juin Le Duo was born. Their name celebrates more than their meeting, as many French people will understand already. June 21 also marks the country’s Fête de la Musique and the first day of summer.
Julien: “We liked the idea of having a date as the name of the band and it was very symbolic. We met on June 21… It’s also the first day of summer, the longest day… a lot of symbols of celebration, sunshine and positivity! And of course, as you mention, this date relates to our common love for music.”
Manon: “It’s also a very effective way for Julien to remember the date of our meeting all his life. For gifts, it’s practical (laughs)!”
Beyond their good mood and natural ease, 21 juin Le Duo intend to seize the opportunity to represent France at Eurovision to address a subject that is particularly close to their hearts: ecology.
Julien: “We’ve been dreaming about Eurovision since the beginning of our project, four years ago. We thought, ‘Peux-tu me dire?’ had a very special meaning for this edition, after a particularly difficult year because of the global pandemic: it carries a topical message on ecology, but it speaks about it with a lot of light and benevolence. So we tried our luck!”
Manon: “It’s a chance to be able to represent our country with a song that we wrote with a lot of sincerity and a message that is close to our hearts.”
21 juin Le Duo’s “Peux-tu me dire”
“Peux-tu me dire”, literally meaning “Can you tell me?”, was written under the August sun, and has a double message. Firstly, it is the story of a couple bickering and taking the audience to task. But there’s also a message about the environment. The duo, who live in the countryside, represent a France that is less urbanized and more rooted in tradition. Thus, they see themselves as the privileged observers of climate change and are concerned about initiatives they consider slow and ineffective.
Julien: “We live in La Clusaz, a mountain village in Haute-Savoie. We are very close to nature and see climate change first hand. It’s part of our daily life and it affects us, like many people. We have the impression that things are moving too slowly and we wanted to talk about it. Questioning the environment, but we like the idea of approaching it with a festive and danceable song. It’s interesting to make the body move: in the movement, there is already the beginning of action!”
They don’t want to preach to people, but they do want the public to ask themselves difficult questions.
Manon: “Eurovision offers the chance to highlight important subjects, in its own way, with its own sensitivity. There are thousands of ways to talk about ecology today. We wanted to approach this subject without lecturing, with a lot of hindsight and in a joyful way. We just ask one question and invite those who want to think about it with us.”
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Nevertheless, for non-French speaking viewers, 21 juin Le Duo is aware that it may be difficult to understand the cause in their lyrics. To overcome this, they rely on their lively and danceable rhythms. If “Peux-tu me dire” touches the hearts of the European audience, the duo hope that they will be curious enough to want to understand the literal meaning of the lyrics.
Manon: “We sing in French but it’s a very danceable song, which we call ‘up-tempo’, the verses sound like steps, a bit military, the choruses are like a flight. You can imagine people singing ‘Oh yo yo yo yo’ in the chorus. If the song touches them, we hope the audience will want to know more!”
In addition to the lyrics, the song’s tempo is intended to show optimism. As Julien reminds us, the language of music is capable of making us feel emotions beyond the spoken language.
Julien: “The message of this song is also to move forward, to remain optimistic, to be together for a cause. The melody, which is easy to sing and therefore unifying, allows this to be translated musically. That’s also what we like at Eurovision: these are songs that make us feel things, beyond language. And then there will also be a whole staging concept, which will convey our message in a dynamic and positive way.”
In this unifying vein, the duo wishes to stage their song in the spirit of the Holi, more commonly known as the “festival of colors”. This Hindu celebration celebrates spring, renewal and the victory of good over evil. This rite is also a time when social barriers are broken down, when different castes are allowed to mingle to celebrate together.
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As a consequence of the ecological commitment of 21 juin Le Duo, it seemed legitimate to ask them if their ecological fight is at odds with the ecological footprint of the Eurovision Song Contest. Julien believes that it’s the small gestures of each person that will move things forward and that it is necessary to verbalize this fight in song on one of the biggest stages in Europe to help promote change.
Julien: “For the moment, we are obliged to assume these contradictions. There is what we can do on an individual level, what we are trying to do on our own small scale, and what the different industries – especially the music industry – have to do quickly, precisely on their industrial scale, to really move things forward.”
Manon: “Like everyone else, we are caught between what we should do and what we can do. We do what we can, and we don’t try to make ourselves or people feel guilty because the ecological situation has become so serious that it requires global, large-scale changes. On the other hand, we have to verbalize our impatience, through songs, for example, while implementing small daily actions in favor of the respect of our planet but which in the end are more obvious and logical gestures than big efforts.”
At each edition of the contest, several countries choose to be represented by a duo or a group — as was the case for France in 2018 with Madame Monsieur. But the last duo to win the competition was Ell & Niki in 2011. Even so, 21 juin Le Duo still think it’s a strength to compete as a pair.
Manon: “Eurovision respects and highlights the personalities and messages of the participating artists. It’s an opportunity! I think that the public does not vote according to criteria (solo artist, duo or group) but more according to what they feel. So it’s up to us to get our message across in the best possible way.”
Julien: “And then a duo of lovers means twice as much energy, twice as much good mood, twice as many jumps on stage, twice as many smiles and twice as much love (laughs)!”
If they win Eurovision France, the duo hopes to give the best of themselves and show the France they know and love.
Julien: “We’ll try to stay true to ourselves despite the pressure and the stage fright! To present the song as sincerely as possible, with love, humor and generosity! We want it to be a party.”
Manon: “If we are selected to represent France, we absolutely want to keep all our energy, make people sing and dance with us! To show other countries that the French are not just grumblers, but a people full of conviction who make things happen with enthusiasm!”
Julien: “We hope that our message and our song will make you want to celebrate with us and move forward! And then, if you join, come on, Manon, we would dare to ask them to vote for us (laughs)?”
Manon: “Okay, we dare! And then we thank them for their support because without the public, we’re nothing… We hope that the readers of Wiwibloggs.com will follow us on the substance, our hope for ecology, and on the form, our music, dynamic and enthusiasm!”
Are you responding to the ecological message of the song of 21 Juin le Duo? Are you convinced? Let us know down below!