J'ai Cherche dominated my top for most of the 2016 pre-season and I prayed this was not a fluke from France. I have never disliked a French entry, but hadn't seen them sniffing my top 10 since the days of Jesse Matador... and then came Amir! Allez Ola Ole! And enter Alma. FRANCE ARE BACK AND HERE TO STAY (...hopefully).
I was so happy France smashed into the top 10 last year, and finishing 6th is their highest since forever...and long overdue! And I know I'm not the only one digging Requiem either. I think that Alma has the potential to do better.
I won't start going into how disappointed I was with the revamp since the revamp was necessary in order for Alma to continue competing with the song, but I think pretty much everyone agreed the original was better. However, Requiem is still a rocking song. It is all around mature, enveloping a rich lyrical craftsmanship, while still boasting an upfront anthemic beat which is both easily gripping and something we all love to strut to!
Starting with almost darker tones, the build-up to the chorus is swift and melodically more uplifting. This introduces early a thematic disposition of beauty during troubled times, and imperatively, viewers do not need to understand French in order to engage with the lyrical story. Quite literally, the definition of a requiem is "a Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead" or "an act or token of remembrance" - yet you would hardly argue that the melody to Requiem reflects the semantics. By the time Alma is singing in English and the chorus hits, our hips are already swaying and the percussion introduces a beat that is very accessible. The song repeats itself in a steadfast manner when building to the second chorus, evoking solid structure, and allowing a bridge at two minutes to introduce a sufficient contrast and keep the listeners engaged.
Overwhelmingly though, the best bit about this entry is Alma herself. She oozes an elegant confidence, sings with great conviction, and has an infectiously sweet personality. Additionally, isn't she just stunning? It's hard not to see her delivering something special at the Grand Final in May.
BUT... I do recall saying something very, very similar about Amir last year. With hindsight I was perhaps too eager to get excited by J'ai Cherche, possibly because it was so easy to grasp, had such a fun melody and I couldn't see how audiences wouldn't love it. And in all fairness, they did love it. The juries ranked France a solid 3rd, and despite performing just before televoting faves Poland and Australia, J'ai Cherche still managed to sneak into 9th to give an overall 6th. And many think this is a just deserveds place... because the staging was, well to put it bluntly, rubbish! There was nothing exciting about the staging, and while other countries were maximising the potential of the terrific light show on offer, Amir brought just his charm and charisma. While I undoubtedly think Alma will also do well on the song and her own personality alone too, Requiem offers the potential to introduce stark lighting contrasts, and build a choreography around the contrasting tones offered in the lyrics. The chorus demands more than a simple hook to enjoy it, and this is unfortunately where I can see Requiem slipping up... because if the staging isn't done better than last year, Requiem has the potential to fall flat on it's face.
Alma brought Requiem to glorious life at the London Eurovision Party, and there are signs that this is more than just a great studio song. The performance of this song is the difference between top 10 and bottom 5, and I wish Alma and her team all the luck in the world!
My initial score: 11 (out of 12)
My current score: 11
My final prediction: 6th* (Will score higher with JURY)
(*if staging is nailed)