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France's album prize 2009: shortlist

Nov 4

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009  RssIcon

The Prix Constantin, France's equivalent of the Mercury and Choice music prizes, will be presented at a ceremony in Paris on 9 November. The winner will be selected by a jury chaired this year by icky-voiced chanson française singer Olivia Ruiz.

A quick recap of the rules: to qualify, an act must have made their album in France and never have attained gold sales status, which in France is currently 75,000 units. (No fear of that these days, says you the cynic.) You don't have to sing in French or even be French: Asa, last year's winner, is Nigerian and sings in English and Yoruba. That said, her victory bucked past form: the winner is usually a solo artist performing a rather unadventurous album that's mostly in French. And this blog's favourite artists never win - non-runners this time round include Emilie Simon, General Elektriks and Kim, while the disappointing albums by Phoenix and Plastiscines didn't get a call-up either.

So, here's a look at this year's shortlist of ten, in reverse order of likely winner.

Sorry, Birdy Nam Nam and Diving With Andy - there's more than one of you, you don't have a word of French on your album and you got great praise from us. Don't go clearing space on the mantelpiece. Facetiousness apart, the pleasant '60s pop of Diving With Andy might be a good long-odds bet but it's hard to see this prize going to BNN out on left-field.

Controversial rapper Orelsan made international headlines during the summer festival season. Local politicians objected to him performing his track 'Sale Pute' (which translates as 'dirty whore'), allegedly glorifying violence against women, at events supported by public funding. His name on the shortlist will gain media attention for both Orelsan and the Prix Constantin and that'll probably be that.

This leaves us with the depressing fact that seven of the ten shortlisted albums for the Prix Constantin can be filed with the coffee-table folk-pop that's popular these days among the Paris bourgeois bohemian set.

Amazingly, there are THREE male English singer-songers on the list. The likeable Fredo Viola brings electronica and a slight indieness to the table. Piers Faccini, drawing on world sounds, also has his charms, while Hugh Coltman's acoustic jazz-pop is fairly bland. But the French will hardly give the goodies to an Englishman... right?

Back to the home contenders: Babx and Yodelice - it must have been a windy day at the baptism font - are up-and-coming male artists in the chanson française genre that prizes wordplay over melodies. Their more established peer Dominique A, familiar to Stephin Merritt fans from his appearance on The 6ths' 'Hyacinths And Thistles', ploughs a deeper furrow of dark, poetic expression that does without fripperies like catchy tunes. Hugely popular and respected in France, he's worth a few bob down the bookies.

And so we come to the only other woman included, besides Diving With Andy's singer Juliette Pacquereau, on a list featuring a rapper accused of misogyny. Now, Emily Loizeau is someone your blogger has raved about fairly often so you'd think she'd be a no-hoper. Ha! In a move of daring ingenuity, she made 'Pays Sauvage' - a rather ordinary album of bandwagonesque folk-pop mostly in French. Solo artist; mainstream sound; lyrics mainly en français - isn't this exactly where the Prix Constantin tends to go? Genius!

So, Emily Loizeau for the win, which would make up for her fantastic 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde' losing in 2006. Each way bets to cover your derrière: Diving With Andy and Dominique A. But we'd really like to see Birdy Nam Nam somehow win this.

The full list of runners and riders, with MySpace links for each, is:

Babx  - 'Cristal Ballroom' [sic]
Birdy Nam Nam - 'Manual For Successful Rioting'
Hugh Coltman - 'Stories From The Safe House'
Diving With Andy - 'Sugar Sugar'
Dominique A - 'La Musique'
Piers Faccini - 'Two Grains Of Sand'
Emily Loizeau - 'Pays Sauvage'
Orelsan - 'Perdu d'Avance'
Fredo Viola - 'The Turn'
Yodelice - 'Tree of Life'

And here's Emily Loizeau, the favourite in the parade ring, with 'Sister':


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Aidan Curran, based in Paris, has been writing for CLUAS since 2004. More info about Aidan...

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