It’s been a hot minute since we have seen France in the winning position at Eurovision, but also a long time since we’ve seen the nation even reach the Top 3 at the contest. Since their inclusion into the ‘big nations,’ France has often failed to move off the bottom of the results table, although their renewed efforts from 2016 onwards have proven to be the change that France has needed. This year a national final was once again used to select their act, and it’s Bilal Hassani that will represent the nation with the song Roi. Will this be another success for the fresher, more modern France at Eurovision?
Song + Vocals
It seems like an eternity ago that Bilal Hassani was selected through the national final format of Destination Eurovision, but despite that, his song Roi has not faded from my memory. This is a song that although it has since divided fans, perhaps solely due to the live performance, it has remained a strong entry from France in my eyes.
Keeping it in the Eurovision family, Roi was co-written by last year’s French participants Madame Monsieur in collaboration with Bilal Hassani, and I feel as if I can distinctly hear their influences through the song. Lyrically, I feel very connected with Bilal and I think it tells the story well, even if I can only understand the pockets of English throughout the song. Musically, I can hear the Madame Monsieur influence, and since I enjoy their style, I continue to enjoy this song.
In contrast to last year’s entry, however, Roi has more of an international appeal, whereas Mercy was very French based. This of course isn’t a bad thing, but perhaps in terms of voting, this could have more of a broad appeal, especially since there is the mixture of languages. This is probably one of the highlights of the song for me, as we still get the hints of the beautiful French language mixed with English, and between those two languages, a lot of people will be able to connect with the message of the song. I also really love how these languages are combined through the song, mixing from line to line rather than by verses. It makes the song feel contemporary and authentic.
Beyond the language, the melody of the song is also one that has always been memorable for me, and even if my French isn’t perfect, I’m still able to follow along with the melody. The chorus melody is simpler and is perhaps the earworm portion of the song whereas the verses are softer, also due to the piano backing Bilal. Building up to the second chorus is one of the standout moments of the song, and if this is vocally perfect on the night, it will be an impressive part of the performance.
Act + Performance
Realistically, Bilal isn’t the strongest live singer we have in Eurovision 2019, however I think there’s been a dramatic improvement from Destination Eurovision to now. This is one positive of selecting early, is that the team has now had months to really work on not only vocals, but visual concepts for the stage performance.
Speaking of stage performance, I think there’s a big potential for the performance to feature some sort of connection to Bilal and his personal story, much like in Destination Eurovision. Bringing that personal element in makes it easy to connect with Bilal and brings extra meaning to the lyrics of the song. I would still hope for some sort of choreography, but essentially a much more streamlined version of the national final performance.
I don’t think that this song will appeal to everyone, but I personally still think it’s a strong entry for France. As for hypothesising their result, I would expect this to fall somewhere mid-table, dependent on who qualifies to the final from the semi-finals. Staging will prove to be important, and I would also say that a late running order position could also prove to be important, but with the draw not yet compete this could not work out in their favour. Time will tell on this one, and it could become clearer with the rehearsal.