How many times has France won Eurovision?

Posted by Josh on 10th May 2024 in the blog in the french culture, french media category

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It’s that time of year again. People across Europe and the wider world are placing bets, getting ready to gather round TV screens with friends and family, or traveling to one of Sweden’s largest venues to watch the great event in person. That’s right — Eurovision is coming up!

On 11 May, musicians representing the different nations of Europe (and beyond) will compete to win the Eurovision Song Contest 2024. Last year saw Sweden’s Loreen take the crown for her song ‘Tattoo’, which is why the Grand Final will be hosted in Malmö this year.

The nation that produced Abba, Sweden has won Eurovision an impressive seven times, making it the country with the highest number of wins, alongside the Republic of Ireland. But it might surprise you to learn that, at five wins, France comes joint second place, alongside the UK, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. However, France has only hosted the Eurovision song contest three times, twice in Cannes and once in Paris. The 1963 contest was held in London, as the French couldn’t afford to host it at the time, while the 1969 contest had four winners (the other three were Spain, the Netherlands and the UK; the Netherlands ended up hosting it).

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As you can see, France had a great deal of success in the early days of Eurovision. But the country hasn’t won since 1977, when Marie Myriam stole the show with her song 'L'Oiseau et l'Enfant'. Only 18 countries took part in that contest, while more than double that number (37) are due to compete in this year’s contest. Eurovision’s steady expansion over the years might well explain France’s declining fortunes.

France has taken part since the very beginning, in 1956, and since the country provides funding for the European Broadcasting Union, it’s considered one of the ‘Big Five’ — a name which refers to the largest contributors to the EBU, comprising France, the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy. The rules stipulate that the contest must be hosted in English and French, meaning at least one of the presenters must be fluent in both languages. That said, the French contestants have sung in French, English and even Breton in the past.

Eurovision has a reputation for flamboyant performances, but France’s contestants have often taken the show more seriously than most. Their contestants are often solo singers performing romantic, heartfelt songs, such as Mathé Altéry’s ‘Le Temps Perdu’ in 1956, or Jonatan Cerrada’s ‘À Chaque Pas’ in 2004 — although the songs were, perhaps predictably, a bit more energetic in the ‘80s and ‘90s. France’s contestant this year, Slimane, looks set to continue this tradition with a slow, plangent love song titled ‘Mon Amour’. (You can listen to it here.) Having risen to prominence after winning Season 5 of the French version of The Voice, Slimane has released four studio albums to date. However France performs this year, his career is sure to climb to higher success.
Could this year see France claiming its sixth win? If so, it would be the first year France hosts the Olympics and wins Eurovision in the same year. No pressure, Slimane!

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