Who the hell watches the Eurovision?
Last time I heard about the Eurovision song contest was in 2014, when bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst rightfully won representing Austria, with a masterfully sung “Rise like a phoenix”. Before that, it was probably 2008/2009, when Russian pop star Dima Bilan won as I was still living in Moscow, then saw the city host the show the next year. For a Norwegian — with Belorusian roots — to win, with the help of a violin. Of course.
And that’s where I stayed at with the Eurovision, because a) that particular brand of pop music is not necessarily my default playlist choice on Spotify, b) there were no bearded women, or Russian winners or other equally interesting characters for me to follow since, c) France has repeatedly been failing at the contest, both in their choice of contestants (conceptual artist Sebastien Tellier in 2008 being a prime example) and, consequently, ultimate success in the final tally. So I was not even aware that we’d selected our candidate for this year’s edition last Saturday. Until someone shared the youtube video on Facebook and I actually listened to it.
The name is Bilal Hassani. The age is 19. The style is electro-pop, the kind they actually play on the radio, for a change. Granted, it’s a little mellow — just as they like at the Eurovision. And the guy has a truly beautiful voice. And a story to match.
The song of Moroccan immigrants, he broke out on TV with a stint on French The Voice Kids a few years ago. Although he didn’t win that one, he still had a rather remarkable first audition, performing… Conchita Wurst’s “Rise like a phoenix”. Talk about vision.
In the years that followed, the young man started carving out an interesting solo career, with highly stylized, very contemporary electro-pop-rnb productions (and accompanying videos), as well as coming out as transvestite — and gay. A man of his generation, he also perfectly understood how to leverage Youtube and Instagram to grow his justifiably soaring fanbase. In other words, he was hitting all the right notes (pun intended).
Then came the selections for the 2019 Eurovision contest, with rather prominent singers like French pop star Chimene Badi in the running. Then, just as swiftly, a win and a ticket for the actual contest next May. Beyond the astute strategizing, Hassani’s music and persona are authentically noteworthy, and his voice is a proper jealousy inducer for all those who fancy themselves as good singers — this writer obviously not being one of them.
For a change, here’s to hoping France actually wins this sing. Now that we have a shot…