Today, two more nations have to face the wrath of my ears. A nation that won five times which is almost as unbelievable as it is for the UK when you only watch at recent stuff, and a nation who has never won, which is almost as unbelievable. Well, they kind of did win once, in 1989, but that’s not under their name. Welcome to the review court, France and Croatia.
France: Amir – J’ai Cherché
Having watched and listened to every French song since 2006, you really wouldn’t believe that this country has won the contest five times. Even when they seem to be trying, like Kaas in 09, it does sometimes come out well but never sounds anything like a contender. I personally love this very French type of music, but when the only chanson très français to ever have any success is Italy’s “re-debut”, something must be wrong with the French.
Amir’s song is probably the first time the French go for both modern and competent at the same time in a long long time. It’s a very summery, guitar-ish affair, which is of course the way to my heart, but it does it in a clever way. I’m pretty sure that being a not-100%-normal pop song is the best way to success in many years, and this is exactly that. It’s simplistic and accessible enough to be liked by many people – the melody can appeal to pop fans, the acoustic guitar approach is good for the slightly more independent and alternative minded listeners – but it’s remarkable enough to be remembered. And last but definitely not least, J’ai Cherché is insanely catchy.
The reason for this could lay at least partially in the decision of changing from full French to the language mix. While I love the French language and am somewhat fluent in it, it kind of is less instant than English for most of us. I would never place the blame for the recently bad results of France on language, but I am sure it played a role in some cases. And with the French verses they kept a large piece of identity as well. And now my “major” critic: I am overly bugged by the inconsistency of tenses in the song! He’s singing “J’ai cherché” throughout the verses, so he’s clearly singing about the past. But why is is “I’LL BE looking for you” in the chorus??? This is more disturbing than it should be. France has definitely made a comeback here, and this shall be rewarded with 7/10.
Croatia: Nina Kraljic – Lighthouse
The Croatians have one win that was not to their name, dating from 1989 as a crumbling Yugoslavia, and “crumbling” is the description for Croatian victory hopes in the latest time. After six top 10 places in seven attempts in the late 90’s, it just kind of went away until Croatia itself went away for 2014 and 2015. It’s definitely nice to see them back again, and their entry is probably the best received ex-Yugoslav entry this year.
It is kind of nice to see a ballad from this part of the world that doesn’t sound like it for once. But then, if it was from Ireland (which it defintely sounds like), I would probably not enjoy it more than your average balkan ballad. The flute things are definitely quite nice, but they also get a bit annoying quickly. It has some cool details, like that one guitar strum that doesn’t make sense at all but fits the song quite nice, but the overall impression of the thing just isn’t the best. It’s quite repetitive and tends to just flow along without leaving an impression beyond “this is quite okay I guess”, and then explodes into a dramatic sequence where the tone of her voice is oddly annoying.
Now the presentation of this in the embedded video is absolutely gorgeous. While there are some clues this is actually shot in Croatia, it once again looks pretty… Atlantic. I would again have guessed Ireland or maybe northern France if you asked about the scenery. It’s quite weird to have an entry that seems to be showing its roots until you learn it’s actually from an entirely different part of Europe… In the video above, Nina cannot be seen, and while that’s a little mean I think that’s not a bad thing. I think her voice totally doesn’t fit what you’d expect when you see her – which is fine, just another element in a row of things that don’t really fit together in this entry. And while I like the hair, she is not exactly the definition of looking charming or so, which I somewhat expect in this song when I heard it first. To be honest, I wouldn’t really wanna meet her in the dark. Well, that shouldn’t really be a reason to deduct points. There are enough others though, which is why I only give 5/10.
See you next time, with some far away love and the only entirely non-English review episode in this year: Bosnia & Herzegovina and Austria!