The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


The shortlist of ten albums has just been revealed for the 2008 Prix Constantin, France's equivalent of the Mercury and Choice prizes. The prize will be awarded at a concert/ceremony in Paris on 17 November.

Prix ConstantinAs we explained in our coverage of the 2006 and 2007 editions, the Prix Constantin differs slightly from its international counterparts. The award is meant to recognise a 'breakthrough' act, and so any singer or band who has ever attained gold record status in France (sales of 75,000 units) is ineligible. Also, the nominated act doesn't need to be French - their record just has to have been made in France and released on a French label. (This is an industry prize, after all.)

This year's shortlist doesn't feature any R n'B, rap, pop or electronica, even though these are by far the most popular genres in French music. But the Prix Constantin is quite conservative. Even last year, when iconoclastic rai-rocker Rachid Taha chaired the judging panel, the winner was the insipid balladry of Daphné.

So, ten runners go to post. Notable non-runners include Camille, Sebastien Tellier and The Teenagers. Who do we fancy? Who can we write off? And who may be the dark horse? Let's inspect the field.

[Two important tips for the wary punter: (1) the Prix Constantin tends to favour solo artists, and (2) despite there being many English-language nominees in the past, no English-language act has ever won.]

One nominee, familiar to our regular readers, jumps out at us immediately. Cocoon, the boy-girl acoustic duo from Clermont-Ferrand, have deservedly made the shortlist. Their charming debut album is called 'My Friends All Died In A Plane Crash' and it's released on Sober & Gentle Records - how could it not be great? We can't hide our love for this album, which means we've put the hex on it. And they're not a solo act and they sing in English. Sadly, we don't see it winning.

You should also know a bit about Yael Naim by now, either through her happy-clappy ethno-pop in general or her song 'New Soul' from a recent computer advertisement. And we've also featured The Dø before - their single 'On My Shoulders' was a huge airplay hit in France this year (also used in a commercial ,for stationery) and their album 'A Mouthful' is quite good. Of those two, Naim would be a smarter bet for the win. Both acts sing in English, though.

A slightly surprising nomination is the American-sounding alt-trad-country of Moriarty - but with one French member and on a French label, they are eligible for consideration. Their version of Depeche Mode's 'Enjoy The Silence' has gained them some attention here, but it's hardly enough to see them win the prize. Again, an English-language act, so punters beware.

If English is a disadvantage, what about English and Yoruba? Those are the chosen languages of acoustic soul singer Asa (pronounced 'asha'), born in Paris but raised in Lagos. As with Naim, her slightly drippy ethno-pop has been relatively successful with the bobos of Paris, but her music's probably not traditionally-French-sounding enough for her to win the Prix Constantin. A long-odds shot.

We now come to the business end of the shortlist; the safe, French-sounding acts who don't scare the horses. From the following five, our winner will most likely come.

Thomas DutroncWe hope it's not Julien Doré, the talent show winner who irritated us with his "ironic" rock version of the fantastic 'Moi Lolita' by Alizée. The singles from his debut album, 'Ersatz', are just as awful. Neither are we keen on the tuneless indie droning of Joseph D'Anvers, but he sounds a lot like 2003 winning group Mickey 3D, the only band so far to win the prize. Barbara Carlotti and Arman Méliès both make harmless chanson française that could quite likely win.

But, having studied past form, we reckon the best value for punters is Thomas Dutronc (left). If that surname sounds familiar to Francophiles, it's because Thomas is the son of iconic singer-turned-actor Jacques Dutronc (namechecked on the original version of Cornershop's 'Brimful of Asha') and the wonderful Françoise Hardy, France's ice-cool '60s pop princess.

Young Dutronc looks like his father and sings energetic acoustic songs in the familiar French style. His album, 'Comme Un Manouche Sans Guitare' ('Like A Gypsy Without A Guitar'), and wry single 'J'Aime Plus Paris' ('I Don't Like Paris Anymore') have won him as much attention as his parentage.

So, we say that Thomas Dutronc is the short-odds favourite for the 2008 Prix Constantin, and we wouldn't mind too much if he got the award. But in our hearts we want Cocoon to win. Here's the video for their gorgeous 'On My Way'. Prix Constantin judges: don't break that cartoon panda's heart!

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