Page last updated at 21:24 GMT, Sunday, 18 January 2009

French kisses for 'magnifique' stars

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News, Cannes

Chris Martin (library photo)
The Coldplay frontman was cheered for his efforts

It is the classic dilemma for English-speaking rock stars at foreign award ceremonies - try your acceptance speech in the local language and risk looking foolish, or stick to English and look arrogant.

Chris Martin stopped worrying about looking foolish long ago, so did not hesitate to attempt to show off his language skills at the NRJ Awards in Cannes - the French answer to the Brits or the Grammys.

He began by saying something along the lines of: "Ma Francais est comme voiture cassee" - which could be taken to mean: "My French is like a broken car".

Luckily for him, the French aren't averse to a good abstract metaphor, and they lapped it up.

"Je voudrais dire a vous un grand merci (I want to say to you a big thanks)," he continued. "C'est fantastique."

Coldplay were given the NRJ Music Award d'honneur - an honorary outstanding contribution prize, and Martin took the unusual step of giving a solo performance of the band's current single.

"Desole je suis seul - mes amis sont sur la plage et mange la glace (Sorry I'm on my own - my friends are at the beach and eat ice cream)," he then told the crowd.

He stopped short of ordering a return second class ticket to La Rochelle and asking the way to the train station, but got huge cheers for his efforts.

The NRJ Awards, celebrating their 10th birthday, attract an impressive array of homegrown and foreign talent.

The attempts by Anglophone acts to speak French down the years is obviously a bit of a running joke, as clips of some of them were played in an anniversary video montage.

At least Chris Martin was slightly more convincing than Geri Halliwell, who one year managed: "C'est formidable et vive la France!"

The language barrier was also a source of humour for the French presenters.

Mylene Farmer
Mylene Farmer was among the homegrown stars who turned out

When US singer Katy Perry presented an award with a DJ called Mikl, he posed a series of rambling questions, after each of which her prompt on the autocue was simply to reply "yes", which she did looking rather unsure about what she was agreeing to.

Predictably, it seemed to relate to whether she liked to kiss boys as well as girls, and whether she would like to kiss that one in particular.

When Perry earlier accepted the award for best international album, her response was to paraphrase actress Sally Field by saying, in English: "You love me, you really love me."

She had only just been up to collect the award for best international single for her hit I Kissed A Girl. Perhaps the fact that Rihanna's song Disturbia was playing when she climbed the steps to accept that prize should have set an alarm bell ringing.

They did not love her as much as she thought after all - the best single award should have really gone to Rihanna and the presentation to Perry was a mistake.

The NRJ show was a bit more intimate and informal than some music awards, and the screaming French crowd and unpredictable performances made for a lively atmosphere.

Christophe Mae
Christophe Mae ended up the biggest winner on the night

A high-spirited Enrique Iglesias set pulses racing during his performance when he clambered up a steep tier of seating at the side of the stage, teetering precariously above the stalls as he was mobbed by fans.

A misjudged lunge by one overenthusiastic devotee could have sent him flying and left his future hip-thrusting activities severely curtailed.

Akon, meanwhile, invited a girl on stage for a spot of dirty dancing, before ceremony host Nikos Aliagas waved dozens more on for a stage invasion.

Ethereal chanteuse Mylene Farmer was one of the biggest homegrown stars on show, and seems to be a bit of a legend in France.

She won the award for best French album, taking her total tally of NRJ trophies to eight - more than any other artist.

During her performance, she stood atop clouds of dry ice, looking serene as a heavenly ensemble of musicians, dressed all in white, played around her.

Singer Christophe Mae - the French James Blunt - was the biggest winner of the night. Picking up best French male and best French song, he was the only person to take home two awards.

That is unless Katy Perry decided to look after Rihanna's gong.

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