French singer Bilal Hassani poses on the pink carpet during the closing night of the 2019 Cannes International Series festival Canneseries, at the Palais des festival, in Cannes southern France, on April 10, 2019. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP)
In a massive televote comeback, Bilal Hassani took out Destination Eurovision (France 2) to become their representative to Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv.
‘Roi’ (prod. Bilal Hassani, Madame Monsieur, Medeline for Low Wood Publishing) is a wannabe-anthem that teeters so close to greatness but ultimately misses the mark. Let’s listen!
The song starts stripped back with just a piano track to support Bilal’s vocals. We know what we’re in for with ‘Roi’ right from the get-go, with opening lines that would not be out of place in any other self-acceptance or empowerment track:
I am me, And I know I will always be. Je suis free oui j’invente ma vie, (I am free, yes I invent my life) Ne me demandez pas qui je suis. (Don’t ask me who I am)
The faster pre-chorus effortlessly connects restrained verses to a pulsating chorus of even more empowering overtures (I’m not rich but I’m shining bright, I can see my kingdom now). Before ending, the chorus turns into a delightful mini-dance break that helps to break up the song into more digestible chunks while adding a contemporary flair.
The second verse is where things start to deteriorate, in our view. For some reason, in the latter half of this verse, someone decided to make Bilal’s vocals harsher and grittier. This is to the song’s overall detriment as this is where Bilal seems to be at his height vocally.
We suspect that they might have decided to add this vocal filter to enhance the musical contrast between the second verse and second pre-chorus. This is not really needed: the second pre-chorus is a stunning masterstroke of musical restraint. It stands so strongly out on its own as the height of this song, with a well-considered mix of instruments and Bilal’s vocals.
However, this should not have been the high point of the song. ‘Roi’ fails to achieve anthem-status due to an extremely underwhelming and lacklustre final chorus. This was the time for complex instrumentation and more layered vocals from Bilal, ultimately working together to create a varied and musically interesting exit to the song.
Especially sat next to that quiet pre-chorus, the songwriters had set themselves up well for a powerful chorus that you couldn’t help but to belt out alongside Bilal. Sadly, very little else is notable about this final chorus compared to the others, leaving us wanting for a true ending that ‘Roi’ song deserves.
‘Roi’ is a contemporary and well-produced entry that sadly fails to evoke power anthem feelings, even though it feels like it wanted to. This could be overcome at Eurovision with strong staging and tight vocals from Bilal though, with regard to the latter, his showing at Destination Eurovision did not fill us with much hope.