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French Pop Song of the Week: “En tête à tête” by M

posted June 23, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature


Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be at a French rock concert? Well, here you go: Matthieu Chedid, better known by his stage name M, singing “En tête à tête” (about five years ago in Paris). One of France’s most extravagant and innovative rock stars, M combines the driving, rhythmic motion of rock with the elegant evenness of the French language.

Below are the lyrics and a translation.

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French Pop Song of the Week: “Respire” by Mickey 3D

posted June 8, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature


France has an environmental movement of its own, and in the last European legislative elections, in 2009, Les Verts (“The Greens”) won 16 percent of the vote in France. Today the country is aswarm in things écolo (“environmental”) and bio (“organic”). It even has a kind of “Al Gore” in the writer and television producer Nicolas Hulot, who has been successful in pressuring French politicians to address environmental issues and is well known for his book and film Le Syndrome du Titanic (click here for the trailer).

If France had an environmental anthem, it might be “Respire” by the French trio Mickey 3D. Led by singer and songwriter Mickaël Furnon (whose nickname is Mickey), the group released its biggest hit, “Respire,” in 2003 on the album Tu vas pas mourir de rire (”You’re Not Going to Die of Laughter”). This simple, upbeat, but gloomy song blends eerily with the animated video the group made for it.

Below are the video, the lyrics, and a translation (note: in France baby boys are said to be found in a cabbage patch).

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French Pop Song of the Week: “Mystery Train,” La Féline

posted May 18, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation uncategorized world literature


According to its MySpace page, La Féline is “a trio that likes pop, epic folk, beauty, strangeness, instrumental music, and B movies” (“un trio qui aime la pop, le folk épique, le beau, le bizarre, la musique instrumentale et les séries B”). But I prefer this description that lead singer Agnès Gayraud gave in an English-language interview.

We’re three people. A dark-haired girl, Agnès. who sings and plays guitar, gently leading the band, a grey-haired boy, Xavier, who plays keyboards, and a brown-haired boy, Stéphane, playing drums. We all live in Paris. We’re all looking for something—without knowing exactly what. We only agree on the fact we’re looking for it.

La Féline’s music is sometimes in French, sometimes in English. This song is in both, creating a Franco-American mélange in which French pop tradition wanders freely in the folksy, Wild West.

Below are the lyrics and a translation of the French.

HibOO d’Live : La Féline “Mystery Train” from on Vimeo.

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French Pop Song of the Week: “Dans mon café,” by V. Paradis

posted May 6, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature


Rare among contemporary French singers, Vanessa Paradis has a following in the United States, partly because she is the longtime partner of actor Johnny Depp, with whom she has two children. Paradis and Depp divide their time between Los Angeles and the south of France and also have property elsewhere. Depp was the cover artist for Divinidylle, her 2007 CD.

Paradis, now 37, has been famous for years as a singer and actor in France. Her first hit, “Joe le taxi,” was released in 1987 when she was 14 years old, and it became a number one song in 25 countries. She was instantly a kind of French Lolita, adored and scorned by the French public. Years later she is now often seen as a chic French rocker.

Here is Paradis doing an acoustic version of “Dans mon café” (“In My Coffee”) from her album Bliss (2000). The concert took place on November 22, 2009, in the historic Parisian theatre La Cigale. Before singing, Paradis says,

Vous me donnez soif . . . [from someone in the audience: “à ta santé] . . . merci . . . Cette chanson est dédiée à tout ce qu’on le sait . . . l’incendie prend dans leurs cœurs. On va laisser le feu les envahir, sans faire des dégats, sans extincteur, sans eau.

(You make me thirsty . . . [from someone in the audience : “to your health”] . . . thank you . . . This song is dedicated to everything we know . . . the fire takes hold in our hearts. We’re going to let the fire invade us, without damage, without an extinguisher, without water.)

Below are the lyrics and a translation.

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French Pop Song of the Week: “La Corrida” by Francis Cabrel

posted April 18, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music poetry translation world literature


Although Francis Cabrel has been one of the best-selling songwriters in France since the late 1970s, he’s hardly had the typical life of a celebrity. Raised in the village of Astaffort, in the southwestern French department of Lot-et-Garonne, he still lives there with his longtime wife, Mariette. His first hit, “Petite Marie” (“Little Marie”; 1977), was dedicated to her.

Below is a video of Francis Cabrel performing “La Corrida” (“Bullfighting”), a song from his 1994 album Samedi soir sur la terre (“Saturday Night on Earth”), which sold three million copies. I love the tall, French windows at the back of the stage.

The lyrics describe the horror of bullfighting from the point of view of the bull, and the song shares with Cabrel’s other music a dreamlike quality and a yearning to say something that feels essential. Andalousie (Andalusia), mentioned below in the lyrics and translation, is a region in southern Spain known for bullfighting. The French expression “dormer sur ses deux oreilles” (“to sleep on both ears”) means to sleep deeply. In the song it’s used as a pun. After killing a bull the bullfighter is sometimes given its ears as a gift.

Francis Cabrel – La corrida
envoyé par dimigardien. – Regardez la dernière sélection musicale.

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