Zut alors! French chanter draws flak over English song
Thursday, 17 April 2008

AFP, PARIS - Frenchman Sebastien Tellier is in the eye of a growing storm for planning to sing in English in the upcoming Eurovision contest, prompting political outrage and suggestions that he is a turncoat.

The 33-year-old electro sensation sparked ripples in his country -- fiercely proud of its traditions and language -- by deciding to perform his song 'Divine' with almost exclusively English lyrics in the competition.

It will be the first time a French participant has done such a thing since the contest was launched in 1956. Two lawmakers from President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party lambasted Tellier as a sellout.

"Many of our citizens will not understand why France has chosen not to uphold its language before hundreds of millions of television viewers around the world," said Francois-Michel Gonnot on Monday. He called on the boss of state-owned France Televisions, Patrick de Carolis, to take steps to "review the choice" of Tellier in order to respect his mandate to defend the French language.

Culture Minister Christine Albanel took a softer line, saying the country should be "solidly behind" the singer but added that "it is a shame that there is no French song" to represent France. "I am however convinced that one can very well combine talent, international fame and French," she told AFP.

Tellier, whose Eurovision song is taken from his latest disc 'Sexuality,' is unfazed and will not change his decision. "Sebastien is defending the colours of France," said his producer Stephane Elfassi. "Out of the 40 countries participating, at least 25 will present a song in English," he told AFP.

Several young French singers and groups regular perform songs in English or have English names such as The Do, HushPuppies and French Cowboy. Mark Daumail, a singer from the folk duo Cocoon, defended Tellier, saying: "We are anglophiles before being anglophones.

"My trips to England really threw me: the writers, the films, the culture," he said. "I cannot relate the same things in French or play with words in the same manner," he said.

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