Saturday, 26 June 2010

Heroes of Eurovision 2010: Jessy Matador

After years of sending a parade of willowy chanteuses warbling out much the same song each year to diminishing returns, the French suddenly shifted gear four years back and started actually thinking about who they sent to Eurovision. They finally twigged that as they were always going to be in the final, they could take a risk and start sending stuff that would show off some of the massive range of music that regularly litters their charts - some of the most cosmopolitan in Europe - rather than a succession of casting show runners up that the rest of the West has been sending of late.

Four years back they held one of the most unhinged finals in years and selected the fabulous Les Fatals Picards. 2008 saw the sublime Sebastian Tellier, singing one of the coolest (and some would say strangest) songs the contest has ever seen - and one of the few from the last few years of the show that you'll still hear in the outside world today. And last year, of course, saw the spinetingling chanson by the veteran torcher Patricia Kaas. But 2010 saw them surpass all of that and parade the explosively fantastic ball of fun that was Jessy Matador in front of the Saturday night TV viewers of Europe. And what a performance he gave.

It had been rumoured for a while that the French were going to go for something a little more uptempo this time round. Indeed, acts like big-name David Guetta and Christophe Willem had been mentioned under a few Gallic breaths for a while. But when Matador's name was announced, all but the most sussed shouted "Who?"  They clearly hadn't heard his huge summer hit of 2008, Décalé Gwada - a gloriously shouty fusion of African, Carribean and urban French grooves - and something entirely new to Eurovision.


If his Eurotune was even half as good as that he'd either sail gloriously or crash spectacularly in the contest - but either way he'd be remembered.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early eighties, Jessy Kimbangi began his career as a dancer, before joining the group Les Cœurs Brisés (The Broken Hearts), and later starting up his own mob, La Sélésao. After getting signed to Wagram Records in early 2008, their album Afrikan New Style harboured three hits - all of the massive club faves, and every one blending as vast array of styles and flavours, from Zouk to Dancehall via Reggaeton and Hip-Hop to Coupé Décalé, while still forging out a very recognisable groove of their own.

Of course, when the song was announced, the traditionally rabidly conservative Eurovision fans were up in arms. Rumours that the song, Allez Ola Olé, was also to be the anthem for the French World Cup coverage insensed some even further, and after early rehearsals the odds on it coming last came in massively, as old-time fan boys who simply didn't get it bet the farm on it propping the table.

But how wrong could they be. It was never going to win the contest, as voters to the east of Poland and the south of Austria are famously uneager to vote for a singers of a darker hue. But enough people around the rest of Europe tapped into the happy-go-lucky insane aerobics of the performance to vote it into a respectable 12th place - a position the UK would be glad of in this day and age.

Furthermore, it subsequently went on to become an instant download hit across Europe and had hopefully set the Matador up for futher big things in the future. Take my advice - buy Jessy's tunes, bung them in the car, wind the windows down and play them at full volume as you cruise down your regional high street. You will get admiring glances for sure!

Now what the heck are the French going to send next year?

Tout Le Monde!

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  1. ..and the stats released earlier today by the EBU reveal that this actually came 8th with the televoters of Europe, but a pitiful 22nd with the juries.

  2. I have to take exception with your comment about people 'not getting on it' betting on it coming last. I didn't bet on that, but I fully expected it. Not because I don't get it (I like it a lot, and did beforehand too), but because that first rehearsal was an unholy mess, with out-of-tune singing coupled with an awful balance that meant only the shrill woman could be heard, and with missed cues, no camera-finding and no personality - in short, none of the fun that it had on the Saturday night.

    As soon as I saw it on the night, I immediately took back my comments as I could see that they'd really sorted it out during the week, changing the mix, and making Jessy sing less and concentrate on being a personality. And obviously, it worked.