A singer representing France at next month's Eurovision song contest said Thursday that he is ready to add French lyrics to his mostly English-language tune to calm an uproar. ( AP )
But Sebastien Tellier also said he doesn't really agree with critics who suggest that English lyrics slight France or its language, and said the controversy was overblown.
"The baguette won't taste any worse tomorrow morning if I sing in English," he said. "I'm not going to fight it. I just want to please people."
Language purists and even the government are upset that Tellier's song "Divine" has mostly English lyrics.
The Eurovision song contest is watched by tens of millions of people each year. Its 2008 edition, to be held May 24 in Belgrade, features contestants from 43 countries.
France's minister charged with defending the French language, Alain Joyandet, asked Tellier in a statement Wednesday to try to honor the French language.
"When one has the honor of being selected to represent France, one sings in French," Joyandet said. He urged Tellier and public TV station France-3, which picked the French entry, to consider changing the song.
Tellier, speaking Thursday on RTL radio, put blame on France-3.
"If I had been asked to do a song expressly for Eurovision, I clearly would have done something in French," he said.
However, Tellier suggested he is ready to compromise.
"If it makes everyone happy, of course I'll make an effort," Tellier said. "I'm not dense."
Eurovision statistics show English holds sway in the contest, in which viewers pick the winner by phone and text messages. English or mostly English songs have won 22 times, compared to 14 times for songs in French. More than half of this year's Eurovision contestants - 25 - will sing in English.
As it stands, Tellier's "Divine" has only two lines in French. That is not enough for officials wary of the encroachment of the English language in France, which they see as a wider threat to French culture.