All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.
For the second year running, France will use “Eurovision France, c’est vous qui décidez!” as its method of selection for Eurovision. And considering the winner of the first version got France second place at Eurovision 2021, you can bet it’s a popular format.
Giving our thoughts on France’s selection of Eurovision hopefuls is our “expert” panel from across the globe. “Across the globe” is as good as it gets for this motley bunch, and here is our panel:
- Tyler Griffith: Our far-flung Alaska correspondent.
- James Maude: Our Los Angeles based correspondent.
- Boris Meersman: Our Belgian correspondent.
- Roy Postema: Our Dutch correspondent.
We will give each act a score out of ten, and our individual thoughts, such as they are, on each. At the end, the act with the highest score will earn the not-at-all coveted ESC United recommendation for whom France should send to Turin, Italy.
In alphabetical order, here are out thoughts on the dozen hopefuls for France.
Alvan & Ahez – “Fulenn”
Boris – 9 – “Tan d’i!
“Fulenn” instantaneously turned into a healthy obsession for me and it’s not difficult to see why. New Age Rave song in BRETON??? Featuring a hilarious gimp choreography by a Hot Guy??? Flanked by two stoic and stone-faced druidesses in cowls??? With lyrics that speak of a sparkle (a metaphor for a pretty girl) dancing in a clearance beguiling the woods to with her moves??? It’s endearingly incompetent. Sure you can downvote this if you’re COMPLETELY HUMOURLESS and/or have ZERO IMAGINATION (William and Roy, I AM onto you!!!), but what we saw here was a lowbudget showcase with no staging whatsoever. With an act and staging “Fulenn” will be a delight to see, and I’ll be very sad once it gets robbed for the sake of the Very Adequate “Seule”.”
James – 9 – “What is this Celtic New Age EDM tomfoolery? I don’t pretend to know much about Breton and the heritage, but I am curious to check it out and learn. As for this track, lyrics about dancing with the devil in a forest clearing appeal to my inner metalhead, and I hope they really bring that imagery to the forefront in their staging. The guitar and percussion at the bridge really slay. Personally, the guitar and the bass could do with a bit more juice, but this would be an interesting entry for France, and certainly garner enough attention for another left side finish.”
Roy – 7.5 – “Mixing traditional sounds and singing with a modern production. Wonderful! The drop is insanely fun, but could be a tad difficult to bring over well live. This song definitely shines in its unicity. I do fear the live performance a little bit for this song though. A lot of things could go wrong and the song would fall a bit flat and could end up costing them a lot. Still love the song as is though!”
Cyprien Zeni – “Ma famille”
Boris – 6.5 – “Cyprien continues down the paradigm established by the previous entries: He’s likeable, his song’s pretty pleasant and yet, none of it sticks. Even the title feels bland on this one, compared to even Captain Joanna and Elliott, Whisperer of Storms. Cyprien loves his family, cool, tell me something new? I will however note that I almost fell out of my chair when Cyprien busted out the dance moves. An obese guy from Mauritius executing a dance break with significantly more rhythm than f’cking Liamoo is both hilarious (for me) and tragic (for Liamoo).”
James – 7 – “Like Finland’s Aksel, there’s a wholesomeness to Cyprien that is very compelling to watch. To a degree, as a foreigner who lives far from family, one can easily identify with the sentiment of “Ma famille,” the central drama of which is the cost Cyprien has to pay to achieve his dream. It is a dear one, as it results in separation from his home and family, but it is also the thought of them and the pain of being apart that drives him even harder. Musically, apart from the Afro drums at the bridge, it’s not a particularly interesting composition, but because of its sentiment and Cyprien’s charm you can’t help but like it.”
Roy – 5 – “This song is just really nice to have in the selection for diversity purposes. Cyprien seems to be having an absolutely amazing time with it as well. Bless him! The song just misses some impact though. The choir is cool, but the backing track really needed to be more rich to make it shine. The live-performance will likely do wonders for this song though so I can’t wait for that!”
Tyler – 6 – “Ma famille” is a bit too Disney for me, but that’s okay. I get a fun vibe that is distinctly non-European, and any sort of sounds outside the continent that makes its way to the contest is always something I can appreciate. I don’t think the song is really saying anything new, but the performance is quite cute and it feels quite earnest, so at least it hasn’t had time to feel jaded later. The song isn’t the best, but it is different enough in a good way for me to mildly like.”
Total: 24.5 points (Average = 6.125)
Elia – “Téléphone”
Boris – 7.5 – “You’ve got to credit the French. ‘Téléphone’ is a very current r&b pop song which was obviously written for France’s pop scene and not for Eurovision. Such songs always come with a bit of extra charm for me, and I can forgive the pandemic-inspired message (although I guess Generation Wordle living on their phones is a natural evolution I guess). Elia is an engaging performer as well. I just hope the jury is out there for her, because after LMK’s DISGUSTING televote robbage last year, I really wouldn’t trust the French audience to give an attractive woman with an r&b banger the spotlight she deserves.”
James – 7.5 – “A surprisingly engaging mid-tempo club banger. I can take or leave the lyrics, which can best be summed up as “Gen Z doth protest too much” about the stereotypes others have about them. And it’s not just Gen Z obsessed with the phone – wait in line at Starbucks and you’ll see gormless folks of all ages playing Word Anal or whatever that stupid guessing game is called and then still not being able to figure out their order when they get to the barista. Anyway, this is a fun track though I do think the vocal hook in the chorus is perhaps a little weak for a song contest. I’ll check out Elia’s other songs, though.”
Roy – 8.5 – “Elia’s voice fits this type of EDM so so well! I absolutely adore this tune and added it straight to my playlist when I first heard it. It’s been a blast to listen to and I love this song to pieces. The issue is, this song also needs to work for a television show.. That’s where things get a bit tougher. Moving to a song like this, live on stage, will be really difficult and would more likely turn out being underwhelming than amazing. I will cling onto this studio cut though, just an absolutely stellar piece!”
Tyler – 7.5 – “”Téléphone” is a hip electro song that sounds quite pleasant to me, but I must admit that I found myself wandering during the performance, and it didn’t hook me as much as I would have liked it to. The performance for “Téléphone” is fine, could have been better! Feels a little gauche to mime dialing on a telephone, but the message came across loud and clear there. I think there’s some room for improvement in the performance to make this something for people to pick up their phones and vote.”
Total: 31 points (Average = 7.75)
Elliott – “La tempête”
Boris – 7 – “A few years back me and my friends used to joke about Eliot Vassamillet’s resemblance to LaRoux, so imagine my amusement when I first saw *this* Eliott walk on the stage. Eliott looks like LaRoux, sounds like Brendan Murray and spends his three minutes hiding behind a synthesizer that’s bigger than he is. His song, “La Tempête” has the unfortunate quality of being easily labelled as “just fine” although I think it actually deserves better. This uplifting pandemic anthem is free of the usual cliché’s and far from an unpleasant experience (knowing French helps, and I certainly appreciate lines such as “I seduced the thunderstorms, the future will be wild” as a metaphor for embracing the situation and moving forward with hope.). I just wish the whole was a bit more memorable.”
James – 6.5 – “What sort of storm is coming if Elliott is asking me if I will be his pirate? Okay, I spent years honing my Blackbeard look but that doesn’t mean any floppy-haired blonde lad in a bronze lame jacket can just assume I am going to step in on his behalf should the going get rough. Well, it turns out he don’t need me as he’s just going to seduce the thunder anyway! Anyway, this soft rock ballad about overcoming the metaphorical storms in your life is fine, even if it is a bit lightweight. For a song referencing storms, it could really do with a lot more “Sturm und drang.””
Roy – 6 – “This song is an interesting one and I feel like a live-performance could elevate and benefit this the most from any of these songs. I totally get where they were going for here, but I am not fully sure if they fully achieved their goals. A decent song that might turn to good with a good live, but I wouldn’t pick this one out from the studio’s”
Tyler – 5.5 – “The music is breezy and there’s some instrumentation in “La tempête” that I also like and enjoy, but this is getting a lower score from me because, I don’t really care for the sound of Elliott’s voice. Sorry! I’m sure this is other people’s thing and thinks it sounds nice, but it doesn’t to me. I think this song has potential, but I think I would like it better with a different artist perhaps? I hope the staging is at least better for the live, as being behind a keyboard is just too boring for me, next!”
Total: 25 points (Average = 6.25)
Hélène in Paris – “Paris mon amour”
Boris – 5 – “Omfg, a Moroccan-Jewish Hag in a mound of pink puffy silk gracing us with her presence? And she brings the sort of French jazz that would get played during the Valentine-themed bingo evenings at your local retirement home? And people hate this, HAVE YOU NO SOUL??? “Paris mon amour” obviously lame, sure, but it’s not like she’s going to do well? Hélène merely wishes to express her love for Paris on a big stage as I assume has been her life dream after a career of failed auditions and being told she’s not good enough. Let her live the dream! *I* support you, Hélène!
but lol @ giving her more than five though~”
James – 2 – “This jazz number is from the fever dream of an Upper East Side New York liberal and how Paris is in the heads of the likes of Carrie Bradshaw. If you want to find any British people in a room, play this song and see who froths at the mouth, stands up, and does an impression of Stephen Fry’s Duke of Wellington from Blackadder the Third. Now I have been to Paris several times and, for some reason, I do like the city. But the clichés about the place you see in American media about it makes me want to barf. And “Paris mon amour” is the distillation of the outsider over-fawning of Paris into a corny, three minute jazz standard. And I suspect the French know that and will turn out in droves to vote for this monstrosity just to troll the rest of Europe.”
Roy – 3 – “Fun to have a song like this for diversity purposes. It feels like I am about to watch some sort of show in France. The song isn’t strong enough to really do well in this competition and not at Eurovision either. It is way too loungey for that.. Again, cool that it is here, but this shouldn’t go further.”
Tyler – 8 – “We stan a camp queen in Hélène in Paris. “Paris mon amour” may not take the world by stage, but the song itself feels like a song used during a montage of someone exploring and taking in the city of lights. The song is quite lovely, even if it feels outdated. But I love the outfit used, I love the performance that’s being done here, and there’s a charm to it that I also like that I think could endear the act to voters. I’m not expecting much from this though, but can’t wait to see the live!”
Total: 18 points (Average = 4.5)
Joan – “Madame”
Boris – 2 – “You think you’re in for a fun selection, and here enters Stankface with her Come-Come-DIE bullshit. *Sigh*. If “Voilá” was a tribute to the French chanson, then “Madame” is the gross edgelord parody. Fortunately, this selection is between the Malagasy siblings and the Breton druids, so I can just memory-hole Madame without ever needing to worry about its victory chances. ^_^ ”
James – 6 – “This is how France does break up songs, apparently. On the plus side, there’s drama but without the eyeball roll inducing melodrama you see in the bad songs. And the piano plays a major role in this drama, discordance when Joan drops lines about hurrying up in her ex making up their mind. That stop / start aspect does ruin the flow a bit, though, like we’re watching three dramatic minutes in the middle of a play rather than a cohesive, self-contained three minute track.”
Roy – 8.5 – “If France goes for this wonderfully quirky and authentic song, it would complete the start of a new era of French ESC entries. Just an extremely charismatic performer who knows how to capture an audience singing a well written and thought through piece. I love this more than I probably should, but out of all songs, I think this is the one that France should go for!”
Tyler – 5 – “”Madame” feels like a grand song, but it also feels quite generic to me, especially in the instrumentation. I’m not totally sure what Joan is trying to push for here in this overdramatic performance, but I’m not buying this at all. The song itself is serviceable, it’s fine, it’s just not that special to me. I don’t think the performance would save it for me, but it would be a pleasant surprise considering that I don’t care for this song.”
Total: 21.5 points (Average = 5.375)
Joanna – “Navigateure”
Boris – 6 – “I’m not quite sure why everyone took over the faulty spelling in the title of this one. The banner spells it without the extra e? Also, the female equivalent of “navigateur” is navigatrice? Anyway you would expect a coral-haired black girl with a trippy indiepop song to entice me more, but it’s Just Fine to me (spoiler: a running theme with this French selection). “Navigateur” is a bit too middling to stick around in the mind once it has finished. Besides, I can’t afford getting too attached however because, as Alesia Michelle was happy to point out, the sonic quality of CQVD is this year is amazing. So amazing that the liberal autotune during Joanna’s presentation completely covers up what can only be absolute disaster vocals.”
James – 7 – “This is cool, slick, maybe a little too chill for a song contest. This does lack big moments that a contest like Eurovision begs for, though. And inserting one in a revamp or in staging would work against this song. Still, suitability for a contest and autotune (which I am sure like engine coolant in wine in the ’70s the French will deny its usage) aside, I like it and will toast its live performance with a glass of California wine. Sorry, but shortages, supply issues and Trump tariffs are just three things I have to navigate.”
Roy – 3.5 – “This song just isn’t really for me. The type of dance-song that they try to go for here is really a bit too dated. Her voice is interesting at first, but halfway through the song I already get the idea and I am ready to move on from it. The autotune doesn’t aid its case either and overall this is probably the most forgettable song of the line-up.”
Tyler – 9 – “Love the vibe of “Navigateure”, it’s not quite trance, not quite electro, but still quite engaging enough to hook me in. I need to see the live to judge this better, but this might be one of my favorites in the NF season this year. It feels unique and it still works in a good way to me. Joanna appears to be giving a good performance in the audition, but can she do it live? That remains my big hangup, and I hope this does wonders on Saturday.”
Total: 25.5 points (Average = 6.375)
Julia – “Chut”
Boris – 8 – “How to telegraph you’re French without tearing open a can of cliché’s. “Chut” is a very timeless case study on French retro-rock with lyrics that allude to that other French bob-wearing songstress, France Gall. Even the lyrics of “Chut” seem to reference “Poupée de cire” as if the titular rag doll from this Eurovision classic has grown up into one of the salon dolls that get all the boys. Get it, girl <3”
James – 9 – “Hush! I am not a baby doll! I really, really, really wonder who inspired this one. Her haircut doesn’t give it away at all. Okay, I am being a bit sarcastic there, and it’s not so much a Frances Gall lift as a modern pop take on “Poupee de cire, poupee de son.” Julia’s her own woman, and she’s out to please only on her own terms. For all the talk of French sexiness, that is not a side they bring out at Eurovision that often. They could change that with this distinctly French and distinctly modern attitude on sexy. Especially with this song’s chorus. A recent development for Junior and Senior Eurovision is that the French have recently discovered what vocal hooks are and this would be a candidate to help them carry on their current wave of success.”
Roy – 5 – “I feel like Julia is capable of so much more. She is showing the confidence in the audition and her voice lends itself well to a lot of different types of songs. This song though… Isn’t it.. The chorus is just waay too underwhelming. I hope she tries again when she has found her own style a bit more. This is just a tad too generic and meh.”
Tyler – 6 – “I want to like “Chut” more than I do, but I’m not sure what exactly it is that I dislike. I like the retro vibe of it with the instrumentation to it, but, I dunno, it feels like the performance doesn’t feel as authentic as I’d like it to feel. The one thing that stands out is the laughing midway through, but the lyrics don’t stick in my brain at all. So I guess during the moment of watching, I’m semi-onboard with it, but then it dies down quite quickly once the song is over. “Chut” is fine, but not better.”
Marius – “Les chansons d’amour”
Roy – 2.5 – “Resembles a mime outside of grime. It’s uncanny and terrifying.”
James – 8 – “Another old-fashioned French song from an unconventional singer a la “Voila!” Not surprising, as this is another Igit production. But as with Barbara, Marius knows how to start off softly and then ramp up the intensity and ratchet it back down again. He doesn’t quite come off the rails with emotion as Barbara did, with this being a more subtle and managed approach. I am not sure if Eurovision punters will award Igit’s similar approach for a second year in a row, but 2022 is shaping up to be a strange year, so why not? Among the chaos of the novelty songs, an intriguing and old-fashioned singer who can modulate his emotions like they’re controlled by a dimmer switch could very well stand out.”
Roy – 6.5 – “Marius is a wonderful singer and from the audition clip, he is a great and charismatic performer too! His voice shines greatly in this song as well. Now for the song itself. It is just a bit too much of a letdown for me. Not enough happens for quite a long time and the pay-off in the ending is perhaps not what you would hope for. Perhaps a revamp could help its chances.”
Tyler – 3.5 – “”Les chansons d’amour” is one of those ballads, that while it might be technically good, doesn’t resonate with me whatsoever. I found the performance to be overwrought and too dramatic for my tastes, to the point that I found it disingenuous and grating more than anything. I really didn’t like this entry, and while it might be impressive with how quickly this song was written, perhaps it needed more time for refinement. But I still don’t care for this entry so bye!”
Total: 20.5 points (Average = 5.125)
Pauline Chagne – “Nuit Pauline”
Boris – 9.5 – “If you had told me who the Mylène Farmer protégé was in this group, I actually would have guessed Pauline. Because “Nuit Pauline” is a beautiful retro-pearl that is RIGHT up there with my fave French songs. Solipsism be damn’ed, the second Pauline stepped on the stage with an electric harp slung around her shoulder she captivated me with her sweet dulcet tones and magnetic personality. The song may be about herself but she’s EARNED it. She makes performing appear so effortless with her nonchalant delivery and has me craving for infinitely more listens. I surely hope her siren song makes André Manoukian fall under her spell as well; the poor man is starved for another muse after the tragic robbage of “Passió” by Battista Acquaviva.”
James – 10 – “I knew we were in for a wild ride when this French woman dressed like an office manager came walking on stage with a triangular harp. And so it is, with this retro electropop track featuring some strange Laura Branigan “Self Control” type lyrics. The staging potential for this one is enormous, even if the lyrics at first listen are a little baffling and the performer herself, I suspect, is mad as badgers. Extra points go to Pauline’s vocals on the way out. I hope she can hit that procession live, because if she does it will be a triumphant ending to a quirky track. French femininity is billed as something unique, dark, mysterious and eccentric, and this is the song to celebrate that side.”
Roy – 7 – “WHAT ON EARTH IS THIS?! I should absolutely hate this, but for some reason the opposite happened. Her voice combined with the very inoffensive old-school beat work super soothing. Add a bit of portable harp to the mix and we get quite the intriguing piece! Don’t think this will win, but I love its inclusion for diversity purposes!”
Tyler – 8.5 – “Raiven wishes she could pull off the harp as well as Pauline can! “Nuit Pauline” feels mysterious enough to leave me intrigued and wanting more, and Pauline gives an equally eerie performance here as well. It feels more polished than other entries here and curated. I don’t know if this would do well in Eurovision, but it would at least be memorable with the instrument playing on stage. I quite like this song a lot, big fan of it!”
Total: 35 points (Average = 8.75)
Saam – “Il est où ?”
Boris – 7 – “So, remember last year when Barbara brought a tribute to the French chanson? Saam is bringing a tribute to Barbara’s tribute. It’s immensely funny to me that one “Voilá” wasn’t enough for Igit, so he had to try AGAIN this time with an orthodontist vocalist. It’s like when you’re playing dnd and rolled a 18 and then decided to reroll and got a 7 instead. “Il est ou?” even ENDS the same way “Voila” did. I’d like this more if this weren’t such a blatant (and sadly, WORSE) recycle. Hopefully France have the sense to give the win to SOA, Pauline or Alvan/Ahez instead.”
James – 8 – “Germany had a “when we were young” song in its selection, but this one just kicks its ass. This one works better as Saam is trying to figure out what happened to the childhood smiles of someone he knows and how he can channel that childhood feel to bring some of the joy into adulthood. Though this might irritate the piss out of Matt, the “La La La” and how Saam speeds it up to the tracks end is a cool touch. (Matt famously hates “La La La” usage in songs, FYI.) Anyway, Saam is a charmer and he sells the idea of being possessed by the feeling of child-like joy and overcoming adult malaise.”
Roy – 7 – “This has heaps and heaps of potential! The start of the song already made me picture this with some sort of cool puppet-concept staging. The chorus did ruin this a little bit for me though. The trap beat is making this otherwise cool song feel a lot more flat than it could have been. Perhaps with a revamp this could work really well though!”
Tyler – 4 – “I’m very curious to see what “Il est où?” sounds like and looks like live, as at this point, it just feels like a knock-off Amir performance, from the outfit to the forced smile throughout the performance. It feels unnatural, and the song itself feels juvenile to me, particularly with the carnival-sounding ending where everything swells. It feels like something that’s supposed to tie everything together and be nice, but I’m just glad the song is over. I don’t care for this song at all, and haven’t been impressed by this at all.”
Soa – “Seule”
Boris – 8.5 – “In this mildly pleasant selection, this Malagasy brother-sister duo has quickly morphed into the resident fan fave darling. Honestly, I’ve seen worse faves. ( :glares at Sweden: ) “Seule” is a bit too trope-y message-wise with its ‘you’re not alone, don’t feel anxious’ lyrics, and I’m not too sure about the poo-brown overalls, but these are minor gripes. For those fortunate enough to see the live on this (which includes most people on the internet as the Wiwibloggs Exclusive link to the Vimeo leaked on Discord lmfao), Ludy and Nathan NAILED the high notes and spitfire rapping respectively, possess tonnes of charisma, on top of having a song with strong immersive instrumentation that NAILS its message without needing to understand what they’re singing. A good act will be paramount to see Europe, or they risk underdelivering in Turin, in the same way Madame Monsieur did.”
James – 7.5 – “To be frank, this outsider anthem would work a lot better at Junior Eurovision. Whatever the result of this selection, these two should consider being on the writing team for the French at that contest. Now this is not meant as an insult or to belittle their chances at this contest. As well as being a cracking songwriting team, they are both strong vocal and dance performers. It won’t take much effort to get them ready for Turin. Or failing that, take this spirit of outsiders not being alone and being able to find themselves a place in the world with the French kids team to Yerevan.”
Roy – 7 – “This chorus is very catchy! The way they lay so much emphasis on the word ‘place’ is incredible and really gives it a lot of bonus points. I am just mostly worried. Worried about the rapping part, which has quite the autotune over it, whether it will be executed well in the live performance. Another concern is that this song is very suited for Eurovision, but perhaps not in 2022. A song like this wouldn’t misstand in an edition between 2015 till 2017. I don’t know, I guess I’m just not as hyped about this one as the odds tell that I should be.”
Tyler – 8.5 – “I quite liked the performance from Soa! I liked the rap elements to the performance and could work really well if nailed live, and the vocals from both members were pretty good. “Seule” does feel to me like a co-opted song meant for Junior Eurovision though, but it feels mostly aged up well enough. I don’t know if this would do well since Eurovision feels rap-averse, but this is another gem of an entry. This selection is quickly becoming my favorite of this year, congrats! Really liked this.”
Total: 31.5 points (Average = 7.875)
And totaling all our scores, the winner of ESC United’s endorsement for France is Pauline Chagne, who comes in with a whopping average of 8.75. When we do our best of national selection round-up, surely 8.75 would be enough to top all of Europe let alone France. All the more remarkable as the reviewers here rarely have much in common.
Below is our final ranking. If you compare the average score, you will see that our four reviewers, two of whom have been shellacked on social media for being overly negative, view France’s selection as one of the best on offer this season.
1.) Pauline Chagne – “Nuit Pauline” – 35 points (Average = 8.75)
2.) Alvan & Ahez – “Fulenn” – 34.5 points (Average = 8.625)
3.) Soa – “Seule” – 31.5 points (Average = 7.875)
4.) Elia – “Téléphone” – 31 points (Average = 7.75)
5.) Julia – “Chut” – 28 points (Average = 7.0)
6.) Saam – “Il est où ?” – 26 points (Average = 6.5)
7.) Joanna – “Navigateure” – 25.5 points (Average = 6.375)
8.) Elliott – “La tempête” – 25 points (Average = 6.25)
9.) Cyprien Zeni – “Ma famille” – 24.5 points (Average = 6.125)
10.) Joan – “Madame” – 21.5 points (Average = 5.375)
11.) Marius – “Les chansons d’amour” – 20.5 points (Average = 5.125)
12.) Hélène in Paris – “Paris mon amour” – 18 points (Average = 4.5)
Do #YOU agree with our ESC United writers’ panel? If not, who do #YOU think should represent France at Eurovision 2022 in Turin, Italy? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum and Discord server.