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Blog Posted in avatar   Johnny Summerton's Blog

Les Victoires de la Musique - the "French Grammys"

By Johnny Summerton
Posted Feb 20, 2011 in Entertainment
We all know that when it comes to music and film, only the United States and a handful of other English-speaking countries really count.
Sure there have been "foreign" Oscar winners across categories (usually the less well-publicised ones) over the years but by and large it's a collective slap on the back from Hollywood to itself.
The same can be surely said for the Grammys. Even though there are awards recognising reggae, Latin and World Music, the international headlines are made by the likes of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and co.
Just take a look at those nominated in the category Best New Artist this year.
There were five them; Esperanza Spalding, the winner, Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence and The Machine and Mumford & Sons.
Notice anything?
Here's a hint: United States, Canada, Canada, United Kingdom, United Kingdom.
Yep. That's where this year's Best New Artists came from!
But of course there's a whole world beyond North America and other native English speaking countries - really.
And there's plenty of music around that never reaches the ears of those most attuned to the language of Shakespeare in all its many forms, simply because...well who knows? But it probably has something to do with it not being in English.
So to redress the balance - just a little - here's a selection of what was on offer this past week in France as the award for Best Newcomer was handed out at part one (it's complicated) of Les Victoires de la Musique, this country's equivalent, if you will, of the Grammys
First up, Ben l'Oncle Soul
Ben l Oncle Soul (screenshot from YouTube video)
Ben l'Oncle Soul (screenshot from YouTube video)
Ready to groove? Then how about tuning your ears into Benjamin Duterde, better known under his stage name of Ben l'Oncle Soul,.
The 24-year-old from the city of Tours in central-western France first came to the attention of a wider audience in 2009 after the release of a six-track EP which included his remake of White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army"
Over the past year though his self-titled album has won critical acclaim with what is described as a sound influenced by the "old school of artists such as Otis Redding, Al Green and Aretha Frankin."
Yes, Ben l'Oncle Soul is French "SOUL" writ large very much in the style of all those US greats and, as if to drive home the point, he's signed to Motown France.
Camélia Jordana
The second nominee was 18-year-old Camélia Jordana Aliouane.
Camélia Jordana (screenshot from YouTube video)
Camélia Jordana (screenshot from YouTube video)
French television talent shows have thrown up a number of fresh faces over the years.
Some have gone on to become household names, others have disappeared whence they came.
Camélia Jordana (she dropped her surname for professional purposes) falls into the former category.
Largely expected to win the now defunct Nouvelle Star (the French version of Pop Idol) in 2009, she was in fact knocked out in the semi-finals.
But "talent will out" and after signing with Sony music, she released her first (self-titled) album in March last year and has already had three hit singles.
No matter what you think of her voice, it's certainly one few can forget.
Now here's a coincidence - another artist hailing from Tours - Isabelle Geffroy or "Zaz" to use the name under which she performs.
Perhaps there's something in the water.
Zaz (screenshot from YouTube video)
Zaz (screenshot from YouTube video)
Her music is a truly eclectic mix of blues, jazz, variety, rock, reggae, rap and the kitchen sink combining with her distinctive sound to produce a singer, who in the words of critics, "Beyond dispute has been blessed with a unique vocal ability as well as a power and vibrato."
Her debut album was a best seller in France last year, hitting the number one spot for six weeks and has so far produced two enormous hits; "Je veux" and "Le long de la route".
Lilly Wood & The Prick
Last - and, by no means least as the saying goes - Lilly Wood & The Prick.
Lilly Wood & The Prick (screenshot YouTube)
Lilly Wood & The Prick (screenshot YouTube)
Formed and fronted by Nili Hadida et Benjamin Cotto[ back in 2006 - the group perhaps puts paid to the idea that Myspace no longer has any role on the Net, because that's where they were first "discovered".
They sing in English and their music is described as a pop, folk, electro.
There you go. Proof that music is alive and well in France with four artists whose styles are refreshing judge.
Now you're probably wondering who won.
Well, after all that lengthy introduction about the Grammys and the overall lack of recognition for acts other than North American or British ones because of the overwhelming linguistic bias...blah, blah, blah.
Yes you've guessed it. The French gave the award of Victoire de la Musique in the category "Best Newcomer" to the only act that sings exclusively in English: Lilly Wood & The Prick.
Oh well.

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