Song reviews - France and Croatia

Posted: 12/5/2006 in:

Song: Il Etait Temps
Artist: Virginie Pouchain
In many ways, you always know where you are with France’s Eurovision entry. For starters, you can pretty much guarantee it’ll be in French, since they seem to be one of the few countries not to embrace the ‘free language’ rule (Spain also seem to stick steadfastly to their native tongue). Secondly, with a few notable exceptions, their entry almost always seems to be a ballad sung by a winsome young thing – except last year, when they opted for something a bit more uptempo (Ortal’s Chacun Pense A Soi) and scored a major misfire as a result (only Germany prevented them from finishing in last place for the first ever time). This year’s search for a French entry hasn’t been without its problems either. An extensive talent search across three French TV networks for a suitable song and singer resulted in this year’s entrant, Virginie Pouchain, being chosen – however, her original song, Nous C’Est Vous, was ditched after TV executives declared the song unsuitable for her voice. Having been granted an extension to the deadline for submitting a song to the contest, they hastily came up with the replacement – but can we honestly say they made the right decision? Well, if this is supposed to be a better entry, then we’d hate to hear the one that was rejected, because Il Etait Temps is one of the dullest efforts in the entire contest – a bland plodder of a song which goes nowhere and is very hard to warm to even after several listens. We’re used to France sending ballads and low-key songs, and when they get it right – as in the case of Natasha St Pier in 2001 – then they get it very right indeed, but it’s a very different story when they get it wrong. Of course as one of the Big Four countries, they’re still guaranteed a place in next year’s final, regardless of where they end up on the scoreboard – but given that their fellow Big Four rivals (the UK, Germany and Spain) seem to have made a bit more of an effort this year, it’s sad to see France floundering like this. Surely they haven’t given up trying altogether, knowing that their passage into the final is safe regardless?
For It: At least it has a half-decent singer to its credit.
Against It: The odds are stacked against France making a big Eurovision comeback in 2006, from the fact it’s a weak song to its position in the running order between an unknown finalist and the very different Croatian entry. Stranger things have happened, but we’ll be very surprised if this finishes anywhere near the top ten.

Song: Moja Stikla
Artist: Severina
And so, after weeks of deliberating, debating and generally tearing our hair out, Team Eurovision comes to the final song review of this year’s contest (it’s actually on 20th in the final but the four songs that follow are semi-finalists, hence whoever they turn out to be they’ve already been reviewed). Although they’ve been consistently entertaining and done respectably, if not brilliantly, in recent years, fortune has definitely smiled upon the Croatians this year. They were all set to take part in this year’s semi-final – having finished 11th in last year’s contest – until Serbia and Montenegro pulled out, leaving a vacancy in the final which was offered to them, That said, we don’t think they’d have had too much trouble making it to the final even if they had been in the semis – for while Moja Stikla (or My Stilettoes, to give it its English title), might certainly be a love-it-or-loathe-it type of entry, and while we may have made many comments about how a song called My Stilettoes couldn’t possibly be a Eurovision winner, we’ve actually come to realise that this is one of our very favourite entries in this year’s contest. It’s fair to say that not everybody is going to agree with us – for this is a wildly offbeat affair, all shouty verses, nonsensical lyrics (just what is that ‘Afrika Paprika’ bit all about, exactly?) and chanting, backed up by an insanely catchy chorus – and it’s quite understandable that fans of more standard issue Eurovision fare might not take to it. Yet it’s a bold and daring entry, because quite simply there’s nothing else in the contest like this – even the other ethnopop entries sound positively conventional in comparison – and because every time we hear it, we get the urge to don a ridiculous false moustache (as sported by members of Severina’s costumed backing band) and indulge in a spot of manic dancing. And not only do we love it, but we seriously think this one has the potential to surprise a lot of people on the night, and maybe give the Croatians their best result for years. Silly lyrics aside, we wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see this one finish in the top five – and deservedly so.
For It: It’s totally unique among this year’s entries – and that, coupled with an entertaining performance and a late appearance in the running order, will really help it stand out. And coming right after France’s dull effort, it’ll be a real breath of fresh air. Watch this one go.
Against It: Apart from the semi-final dilemma (once again, we don’t know who’ll be on after them), this might be just a bit too offbeat for some - the fact she is not singing in English could limit the appeal. Also, there’s a hint of Ruslana about the whole thing – dark-haired East European singer shouts and chants her way through a thumping bit of ethnopop – which might work against it if viewers decide it’s too similar. Not that we think that’s a problem, of course.

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