France in Eurovision: from past winners and losers to this weekend’s hopeful

The five-time winner is facing off in Europe’s famous singing contest this weekend – but could it win?

The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Malmö, Sweden this year

As Europe prepares to celebrate one of the biggest – and campest – annual nights of music, we take a look at how France has fared in the contest through the years, and what its odds are on Saturday night. 

Who is representing France in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest? 

Singer-songwriter Slimane, who rose to fame after winning the French version of The Voice in 2016, is representing France at this year’s contest, on Saturday May 11 in Malmö, Sweden, with the powerful ballad Mon amour.

He has sold over two million albums and had over two billion worldwide streams. 

As one of the “big five” countries that give the most financial support to Eurovision, France gets a free pass to the final and does not have to compete in the semi-finals, which take place on Tuesday, May 7 and Thursday, May 9. 

Read more: Former winner of TV’s The Voice to represent France at 2024 Eurovision

Mon amour is currently seventh favourite to win, according to bookmakers. But the heartfelt song risks being overshadowed by more “viral” and upbeat hits including the current favourite, Croatia’s Rim Tim Tagi Dim. 

When did France first compete in Eurovision?

France has taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest 65 times since the first contest in 1956, missing only two years – 1974 after the death of President Georges Pompidou and 1981 when the head of entertainment for broadcaster TF1 railed against the quality of the music in the contest and refused to enter. 

France was one of the seven countries to take part in the first contest. 

Has France won Eurovision before?

Oh yes. While Ireland and Sweden are tied as the most successful countries ever in Eurovision, with seven wins each, France comes a respectable second, tied with the UK, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, with five victories. 

Read more: How do the French view the Eurovision Song Contest?

Past winners 

France’s Eurovision heyday spanned the first two decades of the competition, from the 1950s to 1970s. Popular themes were, unsurprisingly, amour, and, perhaps more surprisingly, children (enfants).

1956 - André Claveau with Dors, mon amour

1960 - Jacqueline Boyer with Tom Pillibi

1962 - Isabelle Aubret with Un premier amour

1969 - Frida Boccara with Un jour, un enfant

1977 - Marie Myriam with L'Oiseau et L’Enfant

France has also come second five times, most recently in 2021, with Barbara Pravi’s Voilà

Read more: Fans celebrate France’s highest-ever score at Eurovision

Has France ever come last? 

France has only ever come last once, in 2014 with the song Moustache by the band Twin Twin. 

It avoided the dreaded ‘nul points’, however, leaving instead with a slightly more respectable deux.

The French language in Eurovision 

Unlike many other countries, which opt to sing in English over their national tongues, France has - mostly - always been fiercely proud of entering French-language songs into the contest. 

In fact, the idea of entering an English song was so abhorrent that in 2008, French politician François-Michel Gonnot filed an official complaint in parliament when France chose an entry – Divine by Sebastian Tellier – sung almost entirely in English. It marked the first time France did not send a song sung entirely in French since the start of the contest in 1956. 

There have been 15 winning songs sung in French from France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Austria, Monaco and Belgium. 

French Canadian singer Céline Dion famously won Eurovision for Switzerland with the French chanson Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi in 1988. 

It took until 2022 for no entries to be performed in French. France instead decided to showcase the regional Breton language with the song Fulenn by Alvan and Ahez. 

Read more: From France’s Eurovision entry to Harvard: Five Breton language facts

Why do the Eurovision presenters speak French?

The Eurovision Song Contest has always been hosted in both English and French, with presenters switching between the two languages and translating any votes given in English into their French equivalent (“La France… douze points!”) 

This stems from the early days of the contest, when French was one of the most popular languages of the participating countries. 

How seriously does France take Eurovision?

Unlike many countries that embrace Eurovision for its zany antics and camp aesthetic, France has often struggled with taking Eurovision lightly. 

As we have previously covered, French people see Eurovision as a festival of kitsch. But France’s strategy often sees French contestants expected to go all out to win, rather than gain the viral success many other countries covet with a more lighthearted or humorous song.