ESC 2017 Review: France – It’s No Amir

France is using Amir to promote this year’s single and I think that says a lot about how well they think it can do on its own.

These are my own PERSONAL rankings of what I think of 2017’s Eurovision songs but I’m also going to make some bold predictions about the eventual fate of the song. These will probably be very wrong for a variety of reasons including I have no idea what almost half the artists sound like live or what type of staging and song changes could be made. There’s plenty of songs that have been let down by their staging (2016 Spain for example) so in the end they’re just guesses in the dark.

Country: France
Artist: Alma
Song Title: Requim
My Ranking: 15th (out of 43)
Semi Final: Auto qualified for the final as part of the Big 5
Final placement prediction: 10 of 26

France! They’ve slowly been creeping in to a solid country with decent songs at Eurovision, what is that? This from the country that sent Mustache and whatever that WWI thing was in 2015. Last year France blew me (and a lot of people) right out of the water. They made me eat my words about Top 5 countries becoming too complacent. This year only Spain really disappointed me out of the Top 5 and even Germany rises out of last place hell (I think they will at least). France hasn’t won since 1977 and it’s not a total shock I suppose as French falls out of the spotlight of lingua franca and desired location but a few years in last place seemed to get them scrambling and they brought out Amir last year and nabbed a solid 6th place. It is entirely possible with this song for France to see another top 10 I think.

Alma, a relatively unknown 28 year old born in Lyon, France is the singer this year. She’s only had two singles before this and was (naturally) internally selected by France’s TV station this year. Whatever method they used last year worked and this year appears to be working again as Alma is well liked and the song is generally well received among fans. Despite having very little prior experience and a helpful degree in economics, Alma is actually a fair singer. She’s already improved since we saw her first live version of this song in Ukraine and she will probably continue to smooth out some of the vocal issues up until the final.

The song itself is a little catchy after a while. It took me a long while to come around on “Requiem”. The beat itself is slightly off-kilter invoking an almost bohemian or Turkish feel to it but because of that it’s hard to get in to the rhythm. The chorus and verse also blend together very closely so much so that it took me a few listens to remember what I assume is supposed to be the hook of the song. Originally this song was completely in French but on the coattails of Amir’s success with a dual language song they added in a verse in English (I assume this is because bilingual songs do better on average but who knows why people do anything these days). I don’t say this lightly but I think it did a huge disservice to the song. The English part is choppy and strange, Alma has trouble transitioning in her singing between languages, and the whole thing feels quite rail roaded together.

Alma is quite attractive and the staging will no doubt play this up but in the end I feel like her voice falls a lot short of what this song could be. I saw a duet of her and Amir singing and he was crushing her vocally and he wasn’t exactly the world’s greatest vocalist either as well as the fact he’s deaf in one ear so he has a harder time adjusting tone and volume on average. Alma won’t quite be a disaster like Anggun (2012 France) whose live version was a meltdown of the tallest order but I’m thinking we’ll see something more along the lines of last year where there was still a lot of room for improvement in the vocal department on “J’ai CherchĂ©”.

Despite all that, being a favorite means getting votes if you get anywhere close to delivering and that earned France 6th place last year so I’m thinking that will be a heavy weight on Alma’s shoulders. As for the staging, I think it can really only help her. It would be difficult to make staging that outshines what is clearly one of the most attractive people at Eurovision this year. If they even get close to the idea of the video with the tango-esque dancers it’ll probably be a grand slam. While the dancing makes almost no sense with the lyrics or tempo of the song, it is a genuinely interesting effect if they can make it sideways or stage it to look like it’s dancing on buildings (which we know they can, it just depends if the TV station is willing to spend money or not).

I’m really looking forward to the live version of this song and while I would knock it down a couple pegs now (I did my rankings before the English verse was added), it wouldn’t fall far. It’s quite a nice tune.

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