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Who is Bilal Hassani and why is he carrying the hopes of France?

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Who is Bilal Hassani and why is he carrying the hopes of France?
12:12 CEST+02:00
You may never of heard of him, but this weekend 19-year-old Bilal Hassani will be representing France on the world stage. Here is what you need to know.

Who is he?

The teenage singer and LGBTQI activist will be representing France at the Eurovision Song Contest this year. Born in Paris to French-Moroccan parents, he is already a huge star online, with 801,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel and 414,000 followers on Instagram.

He was picked to be the country's representative following a public vote on French TV. His song Roi (king) is about self-acceptance and being true to oneself. Hassani has said he is influenced by Eurovision 2014 winner Conchita Wurst.

A flamboyant personality, Hassani is well known for his selection of different coloured wigs, all of which have names.

Will he definitely be in the final?

Yes. As one of the 'big five' countries who largely finance the competition, France is always given a free pass directly into the final (along with Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK and the host country, which this year is Israel). The other countries all have to take part in semi finals (held on Tuesday and Thursday) which will whittle it down to 26 countries for the grand final on Saturday. 

What language will he be singing in?

How dare you even ask that question?! The majority of songs this weekend will be sung in English. Until 1999, Eurovision rules compelled artists to sing in one of the official languages of their country, but since the rules was relaxed English has become by far the most widely sung-in language.

A French language song has not won since 1988 when Celine Dion took the title for Switzerland with Ne partez pas sans moi.

Not that that cuts any ice with the guardians of the French language however, and France's entries are always sung in French. In fact in 2008 politician Francois-Michel Gonnot launched an official complaint in the French Parliament, as the country's entry Divine was partially sung in English.

French and English are the two official languages of the contest, hence the famous 'nul points' lowest score (generally awarded to the UK in recent years).

(Hassani has been tweeting in English in the run up to the competition, but don't tell the Académie Francaise).

Will he win?

France's recent record in the contest is not great. After a strong early showing with three wins in the first ten years, France's last victory was in 1977 with L'oiseau et l'enfant. The French language may be a stumbling block, but a recent run of poor entries (who could forget 2014's 'comedy' song Moustache?) has not helped. Having said that though, bookies have placed Hassani as third favourite to win the contest, behind the Netherlands and Sweden.


Twin Twin's Moustache song represented a low point for France in Eurovision history. Photo: AFP

When is the event?

The grand final is on Saturday, May 18th. The contest is screened live from Tel Aviv, in the UK it is on the BBC (hosted by Graham Norton) and in France it will be screened on France 2 from 9pm with commentary from Stéphane Bern.

 
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