Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Mylène Farmer - Désobéissance

If there's one artist who defines the difference between French music and more anglocentric tastes it has to be Mylène Farmer.

The success she's had in France is genuinely staggering, with a record-breaking list of number one singles throughout her career, including 1988's Pourvu qu'elles soient douces and N'oublie pas in June. 

Along the way helped revolutionised the video clip, establishing it as more than just a means to sell records. Her new album will be one of 2018's biggest sellers in the country, and her run of shows in Paris next year are eagerly awaited. 

I've heard her described as 'The French Madonna' , but I really don't think Madonna enjoys the same status as Mylène does in France. Mylène however, remains very much an unknown figure in the anglophone world, something that I'm sure her record company would like to change.

Maybe her music confuses an anglophone ear. While she's an artist with a knowledge of philosophy, poetry and provocation, much is this is lost in the language gap, and all that remains is perhaps not  that inspiring to an audience with a more sophisticated ear.  

She's just released a video for the title track of her recent Désobéissance album, which comes out at the end of the week in a special edition that includes a DVD and an unreleased track. 

Monday, 26 November 2018

Brigitte: Debout les femmes

An interesting clip for the song Debout les femmes featuring Brigitte as well as the likes of Pomme, La Grande Sophie, Cléa Vincent, Julie Zenatti and Hollysiz, performing an interpretation of the feminist anthem Debout les femmes.

It has been released as a benefit for the charity La Maison des Femmes, hte song being originally written in the 1970s as an anthem for the feminist movement.

While perhaps a song associated with an earlier phase of feminist politics, it remains relevant with this weekend seeing demonstrations against violence against women across France.

Brigitte commented on their Facebook page: " We are of different origins, different backgrounds, different ages.

"We wanted to raise our voices together, as if there were only one, in chorus, because while we are different we are together to protect our sisters, our friends, our daughters, our mothers."

The tune used for the song is the same as the song, originally titled in German Die Moorsoldaten, known in English as The Peat Bog Soldiers. The song originated in a Nazi concentration camp for socialists and communists in 1933 where, banned from performing political songs, inmates wrote their own.

The song became popular with Germans forced abroad during the war, and was adopted by German soldiers in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. A version of the song in French,  Le Chant Des Marais, is used by the French Foreign Legion as one of their marching songs.

With the #metoo movement raising awareness of the fact that inequality remains a far too common experience for women, it is a performance that links the struggle of today with the history of the movement.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Johnny Hallyday: Pardonne-moi (and a few thoughts about Mon pays c'est l'amour...)

A new video for a song from Johnny Hallyday's final album, Pardonne-moi following the release of  J'en parlerai au diable as a single from Mon pays c'est l'amour.

Strangely there are some parallels with the video for David Hallyday's Ma dernière lettre video, directed by his sister Laura Smet. But I suppose the wolf is just too strong a visual metaphor to resist.

It's always a challenge to make a video from a star who's no longer with us. But Johnny's image was so firmly embedded in the French conscience that it doesn't take much to conjure him up. An eagle, a motorbike, a leather jacket and of course the wolf. I don't think the archive footage or the actor, supposed to be Laeticia Hallyday, are really needed.

But it's a decent late-period Hallyday performance, from an album that has made history in France as the biggest seller this year. Even in a year of particularly strong releases, despite it being a posthumous release, and one that has been at the centre of no small amount of controversy.

The posthumous album is always a difficult proposition. Few would rank the releases that came out under John Lennon's name after he died as anything like his best work - there's usually a pretty good reason tracks were not released after they were recorded. All too often the need for new product, whether demanded by fans or by record companies, results in sub-par compilations that don't do the artist's reputation any favours.

But Mon pays c'est l'amour is a different beast, more an unfinished album rather than one that was assembled from what was found on the shelf. Hallyday was working on the collection during his last months, so artistically it hangs together as well as any of his later albums. Johnny had a hand in creating it, and while it might have been finished without him, it was recorded and considered with the intention of being released as an album.

It doesn't stray from what Hallyday did best, powerful introspective  ballads and rock 'n' roll numbers like the title track, Back in LA or Made in rock 'n' roll, country and a strong blues flavour throughout. It was never going to be Blackstar or even Johnny Cash's American Recordings albums, but for better or worse it was always going to be as pure a distillation of latter-day Hallyday as possible.

Interlude probably didn't need to be there, though. It would have made an interesting orchestral b-side for a seven inch of J'en parlerai au diable but in the context of the album it feels like a bid to fill the running time of the album unnecessarily.

The songs are good and while there might not be an obvious Allumer le feu, the collection stands up well alongside albums like De l'amour, Rester Vivant or L'attanteMade in rock 'n' roll would certainly have been a great song in a live setting and had they had the opportunity, other songs would have no doubt taken their place in the Hallyday fans' hall of fame.

Even the harshest critic of Johnny would acknowlege his voice as one of the best, and despite the ravages of terminal illness his voice remains as powerful and distinctive on this album as it ever was.

The album has set records for sales in France. There's a new box set edition being released, and no doubt other singles will emerge. Elsewhere, tribute albums are planned from other aritsts, older material has been repackaged and released and the Hallyday industry has become a major commercial proposition.

There's talk of more unreleased material being released as albums, although his record company has been quick to play this down. I'm sure I heard, for example, around the time of l'attente there were sessions for English language versions of some of the songs. There's bound to be some material on archive shelves that deserves a listen and some of it will inevitably surface in the years to come.

But Mon pays c'est l'amour is maybe more a post-script to his discography than a regular posthumous release. It may not be his best work, but it stands up well alongside his recent studio albums.

Johnny may have left us, on a final motorcycle ride into the sunset, but his final despatch shows an artist who made the most of his talent right to the very end.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Chris(tine and the Queens): Pictures from London show

Just some pictures from the Chris(tine and the Queens) gig at the Eventim Apollo in London last night.

Martin Smith took the pictures and gave us permission to use them. Thanks!

Les Inrocks Festival: Miossec, Terrenoire, Myth Syzer and Krisy

Today sees the start of the Les Inrocks Festival in Paris, an event run in conjunction with France's most switched-on cultural magazine.

While music is front and centre of the four-day event, there are discussions, meetings, food and film screenings all being held at the Gaîté Lyrique.

Tonight sees a performance by Miossec, whose album Les rescapés was released in September.

Also playing tonight are Manchester's W H Lung and Terrenoire, who have just released their debut EP.

Tomorrow has John Grant, who released his Love is magic album earlier this year, along with Queen Zee from Liverpool, Touts from Derry and Fontaines D.C.  from Dublin.

On Friday it's the event hosts three developing French acts, featuring Myth Syzer whose Bisous debut was released in April. Also on the bill are Lolo Zouaï and Johan Papaconstantino.

The final night features a more hip hop and rap orientated bill, with Loud, Krisy, Octavian and Duckwrth.

Add to these some showcase sets by Zed Yun Pavarotti, Mauvais Oeil and Oh Mu.

As you might expect from Les Inrocks, it's a well curated line-up. A mix of  developing acts and more widely-known cult acts, French and international and cross-genres, but all with the kind of artistic credibility that attracted the attention of from France's most respected music mag and multimedia platform.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Damien Saez: Two new albums

The news that there are two new albums in the pipeline from Damien Saez is the kind of news that gets this blog excited.

Saez never does things by half,  from his live shows that run for over three hours a night to a  back catalogue that features several triple albums including his most recent, last years Le Manifeste - Lulu.

The new albums go by the names L'humanité and A dieu, Saez releasing the inormation on social media channels. There's little other information, other than an image that could be the cover of L'humanité, a characteristic take on comsumer society.

Of course, there's plenty in this information to inspire questions. Is he referring to the newspaper in the title of the first album? Is the second really a goodbye?

Meanwhile, a new single P'tite Pute has emerged, going some way to suggest the possible musical direction of the new collection. It doesn't sound like it will be a selection of piano-centred chansons,

Saez is the kind of artist that makes reinforces my belief in French music as worthwhile. If at times it can be a thankless task persuading the anglophone listener that French music deserves a listen on its merit, a blast of Saez can be enough to make it worthwhile.

Articulate, intelligent and uncompromising, he's the kind of artist others can only aspire to. He's as poetic as he is political. It's safe to say Le Manifeste - Lulu has been getting played almost constantly here since its release.

Hopefully there will be more live dates announced before too long. I've not had the chance to see Saez live, but there are some superb full concerts from his most recent tour on YouTube. Well worth tracking these down and watching them in full.

L'humanité is released on November 30, A dieu follows in February.


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

David Hallyday: Ma dernière lettre

A new video by David Hallyday for Ma dernière lettre, a song that pays tribute to his father.

Johnny Hallyday died just under a year ago after a long illness. A final album by Johnny, recorded in the months before his death, was released just weeks ago and has already sold over a million copies in France.

David Hallyday unveiled the song at the NRJ Music awards in Cannes at the weekend, an event that was broadcast on TF1.

The video was directed by David Hallyday's sister, Laura Smet. The wolf with blue eyes might just be a metaphor for old Johnny himself.

According to the celebrity press, there's been a lot of bad blood between Hallyday's older children and his widow, mixed opinions among his family, friends ad colleagues over his new album and how best his legacy can be remembered.

How much of this is true or not is uncertain. Johnny was the subject of much overheated speculation from the francophone tabloids when he was alive, throughout his long career, and that hasn't stopped since his passing.

But I reckon the single and video is something that Johnny himself would probably approve of.

David Hallyday's new album, J 'ai quelque chose à vous dire is released on December 7.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Marking the Bataclan anniversary.

It's worth marking the anniversary of the atrocity at the Bataclan in Paris.

It may be only the third anniversary, not particularly a significant one by those who measure years in blocks of five, ten or 25. Nor is it particularly a recent event, not the year's anniversary or an event marking the re-opening of the venue.

And there have been other atrocities since. But this was an atrocity that targeted us.

Most of us were not there that night, but anyone who enjoys seeing a band was a target. Anyone who finds music the life-affirming thing that it is, anyone who dances, is passionate about music or who cares about it deeply were assessed by lunatics who found them unworthy of life.

Ninety people died at the Bataclan, 130 in total were killed across the city that night. An event has been held in Paris to commemorate them, but the real commemoration comes without fanfare or media coverage, without the need for occasion involving the great and the good. The commemoration comes every time someone enjoys a gig, a café, bar or restaurant in Paris. Because every single time this happens, it is a reminder that those who tried to destroy us ultimately failed.

Society did not fall to its knees. It rose to its feet against the intolerance that bred such hatred. France - and beyond - was united in the face of those who tried to divide us.

And they were defeated.

The Bataclan re-opened, and people go to gigs there. The cafés and restaurants of Paris are open and are still the lifeblood of the city. The stadium continues to host sporting celebrations.

History tells us that there will be atrocities to come, and while the atrocity at the Bataclan was one of the darkest moments in recent years in Paris, the city of lights remains as defiant and as bright as ever.

NRJ Music Awards 2018

This weekend saw France's pop stars taking their place on the award-winners podium alongside some of the biggest international names for the NRJ Music Awards.

It's an intentionally popular event, covering the commercial end of the music spectrum with French music represented alongside some of the biggest international acts.

It was the 20th edition of the ceremony, and it was broadcast on TF1 from the Palais des festivals in Cannes.

There's a satisfaction on seeing some of France's most popular artists rewarded for their work in the context of international acts. Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Calvin Harris might be big across the world, but here theyir nominations are on an equal standing to those for Hyphen Hyphen, Feder and Zazi.

The show included live performances from amongst others Christine and the Queens, Jain, David Guetta, Jenifer, Orelsan, Maitre Gims as well as Muse and Dua Lipa.

(NB: ensure you've got adblocker off so that the videos will load!)

Christine and the Queens didn't pick up an award, neither did OrelSan, but that didn't stop two of France's biggest acts putting on memorable performances.

Possibly the most anticipated live appearance was the debut performance by David Hallyday of his song Ma derniere lettre, his tribute song to his father.

The French group/duo of the year award went to Bigflo and Oli, who were up against Maitre Gims and Vianney, Orelsan and Stromae, Vitaa and Claudio Capéo, and Naestro, Maitre Gims, Dadju, Vitaa and Slimane.

The breakthrough Francophone act award went to Dadju, who was nominated alongside Eddy de Pretto, Hoshi, Marwa Loud, Vegedream and Aya Nakamura.

DJ Snake won the DJ of the year trophy, against competition from Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Feder and Ofenbach.

The Francophone male artist of the year was Soprano, who was up against Maitre Gims, OrelSan, Slimane, Kendji Girac and Amir.

The Francophone female artist of the year was Jain, who beat Christine and the Queens, Zazi, Jenifer, Louane and Vitaa.

The French song of the year was one of the most prestigious awards, which was picked up by Kendji Girac for Pour Oublier. Others nominated were Dadju, Eddy de Pretto, Maitre Gims and Vianney, Vitaa and Claudio Capéo and Aya Nakamuro.

The video of the year award went to Bigflo and Oli for the song Demain, which they performed at the event. Others that made the shortlist were Ariane Grande, Drake, Maroon 5, Jain and Orelsan.

Elsewhere, international awards went to Camila Cabello (international breakthrough act), Ed Sheeran (International male artist) Ariana Grande (International female artist) and Imagine Dragons (International group/duo) and to Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B (International song of the year).

There were also honorary awards to Shawn Mendes and Muse, and a 'most streamed' award for Dua Lipa.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Nolwenn Leroy's Folk: Versions Originales

With the release last week of an album of covers by Nolwenn Leroy focusing on the work of French singer-songwriters of the 1970s, I thought it was worth taking a look and a listen to some of the original versions of the songs she's re-made for the 21st century audience.

Much as I like Nolwenn, and appreciate her new versions of the songs, the originals of these songs have their own charm.  Her album inspires a dive into some of the forgotten rivers of French music, where cheesy album covers and Greatest Hits compilations congregate, along with artists who haven't had much of a media profile for years or who are written off artistically as well past their peak. But there are some gems that are worth investigation.

If you want to explore further, it won't take much expense. You'll find vinyl or CDs by many of the acts she's covered in the cheap section of pretty much any record shop in France.

Je ne peux plus dire je t'aime originally appeared on Jacques Higelin's 1979 Caviar pour les autres... album. Higelin released two albums simultaneously, Champagne pour tout le monde now combined with its partner as a double album. A later version that saw Higelin duet with actor Isabelle Adjani was probably the definitive Higelin version of the song.

So far away from LA
was a hit for Nicolas Peyrac in 1975 and helped establish his career. It featured on his debut album D'où venez-vous ? Peyrac continues to perform and release new music, and is also a successful author.

Diabolo menthe was written by Yves Simon for the soundtrack of the film of the same name by director Diane Kurys. According to legend, the song was written in the space of two hours before a concert. The film, set in the early 60s, tells the story of two young girls growing up in Paris during that time. The song was also recently covered by La Grande Sophie.

is obviously a cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, but the French version was adapted by Graeme Allwright. Allwright, a singer songwriter with a long career, covered and adapted many of Cohen's songs. It initially appeared on his 1968 Le Jour De Clarté album, along with an adaptation of Cohen's Stranger Song.

Allwright's French version was covered by Francoise Hardy in 1968 on her Comment Te Dire Adieu album. The song was also covered Alain Bashung, appearing on his final album Bleu pétrole in 2008, the year before Bashung's death.

Virages was a hit for Yves Duteil in 1972. His first single, it would feature on his 1974 debut album L'Écritoire. Duteil would go on to write the song Prendre un Enfant, a song that has been widely covered in different languages by a number of artists.

Hollywood was originally by David McNeil and appeared on his 1974 album L'Assassinat. McNeil, the son of painter Marc Chagall, has had a long musical career from his 1972 self-titled debut to his 2014 album Un lézard en septembre and his songs have been performed by artists including Yves Montand, Jacques Dutronc and Renaud.

Petite fille de rêve was a 1974 single by Jean-michel Caradec. It featured on the album of the same name, following his Mords la vie debut the previous year.  One of his best known songs, Ma Bretagne quand elle pleut was covered by Nolwenn Leroy on her 2010 Bretonne album. Caradec  died aged 34 in a car accident in 1981.

Je t'aimais, je t'aime, je t'aimerai was a single in 1994, from Francis Cabrel's Samedi soir sur la Terre. It's one of his best known songs, with previous covers by France Gall amongs others. It's a spectacularly beautiful song. Cabrel recorded an album of Dylan covers in 2012. If Dylan covered this song in English, it would be regarded as a masterpiece.

On est comme on est is the title track of the 1981 debut album by Renaud Detressan. He went on to release three solo albums, before forming the band Soldat Louis in 1988. The band took traditional Breton and celtic music and combined it with rock, with considerable commercial success. From their 1988 Première Bordée album to their 2017 Quelques nouvelles du front, they have remained one of the most prominent names in contemporary Breton music.

la rua madureira came from Nino Ferrer's 1969 album Agata, his third album. Ferrer had been active since 1959 and already enjoyed considerable success in France and Italy. A version of this song by Cali appeared on a tribute album to Ferrer - On dirait Nino - that was released in 2005. Ferrer died in 1998, five years after the release of his final album.

Marions les roses features on the second album by the band Malicorne, and came out in 1975. Malicorne were a folk act who fitten in well with the more pastoral tendancies of then-contemporary progressive rock. Manstay of the band Gabriel Yacoub had previously played with Alan Stivell on his key Chemins de terre and À l'Olympia albums anb.d founded the band with his partner Marie Yacoub. The band enjoyed considerable success in the 70s, and Malicorne 2 sold over 100,000 copies.

Jolie Louise was originally by Daniel Lanois from his 1989 album Acadie. Lanois was by then well-known as a producer, having worked with U2 and Brian Eno, and having played a considerable role in re-inventing the music career of Bob Dylan through his work on his Oh Mercy album. Lanois' debut solo album saw him explore the cajun folk sounds of  French America and did much to revive an international interest in this style of music.

Sacré Géranium by Dick Annegarn is unique in the collection, in that Nolwenn duets with the original artist. The song is the title track from Annegarn's 1974 debut album, although the album technically is just titled 'Dick Annegarn'. Annegarn has continued to record and perform, his most recent release being 2018's 12 villes, 12 chansons.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Editorial: November 2018

Another busy month for French music, with some of this year's big releases especially the new album by Johnny Hallyday setting records for album sales in France.

Whatever your opinion of Johnny and whatever your views on the album, it's the kind of event that puts French music on the front pages of the national news and encourages the kind of sales that the industry hasn't seen in a long time. But above all, it's a reminder of the importance of music, in encouraging participation and community, discussion and debate. While unquestionably a lucrative event for the music industry, it's been an emotional time for all those for whom Johnny was a part of their lives.

It was also a month where France said farewell to another legend, if anything a bigger figure than Johnny. The final curtain came down for Charles Aznavour, an artist who had for decades been a standard bearer for French music, an interntional ambassador for chanson the world over. His passing genuinely marks the end of an era.

November is traditionally a month where we remember those who have left us, whether commemorations of wars past, or ceremonies for All Saints or other souls, and this month sees a memorial for Alain Bashung, with a posthumous collection released this month. His version of Dominique A's Immortels suggests it will be more than just a collection of sub-par outtakes, hopefully an appropriate footnote to the Bashung's legacy.

Among artists who are very much with us, there are other significant releases this month, with a new album by Nolwenn Leroy at the beginning of the month, and a new album from Jean-Michel Jarre later in the month. Both worth looking forward to.

If things have seemed a little quiet on the blog over the last couiple of months, it's worth getting over to Facebook where you should Like or Follow the French Music Podcast UK page, where I'm posting links to French music videos - new and old - several times a day.

Previously I might have put a short post on the blog here if I had an interesting video, but recently I've taken to presenting them on the Facebook page instead. I'll maybe use the blog here for longer pieces instead, such as reviews and the like, and keep shorter pieces on the Facebook page. I'll see how it goes.

There will be a few reviews going up here in the next few days, so no shortage of material. It just gives us another platform to get across material we might otherwise miss.

I'm available by email at johnkilbrideAThotmailDOTcom, with a couple of obvious changes in the email address that I'm sure you can guess.

If you're a PR for a French act, label or event, just drop me an email. I look forward to hearing from you. I'm always pleased to get feedback, suggestions and inspiration.

The blog is also on Twitter as @viveleroq, so give us a follow or contact us via there. I'm also on Twitter as @karnag, and usually respond a bit quicker on that address especially when I'm out the office.

 Thanks as always to the team at Oui Love Music for all their work introducing French acts to the international audience. John K