Bilal Hassani wins Destination Eurovision and represents France
France has decided! After two semi finals and one big final of Destination Eurovision, Bilal Hassani took the victory with the song ‘Roi’. Although ‘Roi’ only placed fifth out of eight with the international juries, Bilal managed to win the televote by an absolute landslide. It was the second time in the past few years that the French delegation opted for a national final, after duo Madame Monsieur won the selection last year and finished midtable, in 13th position at Eurovision. Madame Monsieur makes a comeback for Eurovision 2019 as co-writers of Bilal’s winning song. But does ‘Roi’ have the potential to top last year’s result?
The strongest feature of this year’s French entry is probably the message of the song. The 19-year-old French-Moroccan Bilal Hassani performs the anthem about self acceptance in drag. The song’s message is that it does not matter who you are and that no matter what others will say about you, you can still feel like a king in your dreams. Bilal has received a lot of hate online and in his daily life for the way he looks and dresses and this is his answer to each and every single one of them. When listening to this entry, it is almost impossible not to compare it to Austria’s winning performance in 2014, by Conchita Wurst. The bearded drag queen took the stage with the song ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ which had a similar message and shot right to the top.
Does Bilal’s ‘Roi’ have the same potential? The French tune definitely sounds more contemporary than what Conchita came up with. ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ sounded like a classic James Bond soundtrack, while Bilal’s ‘Roi’ seems to be produced with the style of Sia in mind. The midtempo pop song has a powerful chorus with a decent hook, although the switching between French and English inthe lyrics, does take a while to get used to and might distract slightly on first listen. Having said that, it probably helps to get the message across which is essential for a song like this.
And what about the performance? The French delegation has quite some work to do before May… Bilal has enough stage presence and knows where the cameras are, but vocally it simply is not always good enough. ‘Roi’ has quite some big notes, especially in the chorus, and these need to sound better to convince Europe to vote for France this year. They might have to get rid of the dancers and let Bilal perform with five backing vocals who can make the vocals sound more powerful. France has a contemporary entry that has the potential to stand out, but the act and vocal performance need work to fully take advantage of the potential of the song and artist.