Laurent Amir Khlifa Khedider Haddad was no newcomer to televised competitions when he entered Eurovision for France this year. Going by one of his middle names, the Paris born and Herzliya raised Amir first entered a televised competition in 2006 when he made a brief appearance on Kokhav Nolad, Israel’s equivalent of Pop Idol. Five years later he released his debut album, Vayehi, and three years after that took to French television where he appeared on Team Jenifer on The Voice: la plus belle voix. Finishing in third place, he became celebrated as the singing dentist and enjoyed limited success with the single Oasis in the immediate aftermath of the contest. While many in his situation fade into obscurity, a series of chance meetings and happy coincidences lead to him being invited to represent France. Wanting to test the song ahead of it’s selection, his entry J’ai cherché was released ahead of the announcement that he would be taking the song to Europe.
An instant hit in France, Amir approached the stage in Sweden safe in the knowledge that he was seen by the bookies as one of the favourites for the contest. After delighting the audience with a stripped back, vocal centred performance of J’ai cherché, the bookies proved right to have backed him as he finished in sixth place with a more than respectable 257 points – France’s highest ever score in the competition. With the pressure on to capitalise on the success in the immediate aftermath of his appearance, Amir has released his sophomore album Au Coeur De Moi.
Au Coeur De Moi consists of 12 original songs, 9 of which Amir has co-written. Recorded principally in French, with fleeting moments of English thrown in for good measure, Au Coeur De Moi delivers exactly what anyone who has heard J’ai cherché would expect – well-written, alarmingly catchy pop delivered with heart and soul. While J’ai cherché is the most immediately infectious of the album tracks, it is fair to say that it is not the only song that would have stood strong chances in an international song competition.
Unlike many albums released these days, Au Coeur De Moi is not structured as four singles supported by fillers – each and every song stands up on its own to feet and has its own identity. While the album is without doubt targeted at the French pop market, the subtle undertones of Eastern influence bring to the fore the mixed heritage of the performer delivering the material.
With has echoes of album cuts by former Eurovision entrants Jonatan Cerrada (France) and Roberto Bellarosa (Belgium), the infectious I Know is a stunning bilingual frenzy. The anthemic On Dirait is begging to be released as single and could easily dominate radio waves the world over. Lost is a trippy affair that has a 90s pop hook to die for.
Although it is easy to be immediately drawn into the more upbeat numbers on offer, Amir proves himself a compelling balladeer. The emotive A ta manière is delivered with a distinctive Eastern edge and will have you attempt to croon along on the first listen. However it is the stunning mid-tempo title track, Au Coeur De Moi, that will have you begging for more.
While the overblown Broken Heart, a duet with Abi, misses more than it hits, overall Amir does not disappoint on his post-Eurovision effort. Strong production values, a real pop sensibility and an honesty in his lyrics ensure the album shines.