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French Pop Song of the Week: Sean Lennon’s French Duo

posted November 23, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature

Last month the world wished John Lennon a happy seventieth birthday. Yoko Ono invited fans to upload video tributes to John, and as if they knew him personally, many did, though some were not even born when he was shot in 1980 in New York City. And people also watched old videos of John singing and musing on topics of the day.

Those who really knew him were his friends and family, including Sean Lennon, his son with Yoko. This week’s French pop song of the week, “L’éclipse,” is a French remix of Sean Lennon’s song “Parachute.” Sean, who speaks French, collaborated on the remix with French singer M (Matthieu Chadid), and the video below has a kind of offbeat humor Sean’s father was known for. Sean is wearing glasses and a hat.

Also below is a translation of the French lyrics (which differ from the English version). “Sauter du coq à l’âne” (”to jump from rooster to donkey”) is a French expression meaning “to jump from one subject to another.”

Sean Lennon & -M- l’éclipse
envoyé par LodanDruid. – Clip, interview et concert.

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French Pop Song of the Week: In Arabic, from Souad Massi

posted October 6, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music


France, as a center of wealth and culture, has for many years been a destination for immigrants, allowing it to absorb outside influences and, as a result, continually reinvent itself. Although some immigrants, especially those of North African origin, have had difficulty integrating into French life, there is a more hopeful side to this story. As in the United States, many people in France are committed to their country’s tradition of human rights and being a safe haven for foreigners. And France benefits economically and culturally from the energy and talent of its foreign-born citizens, as well as those who, despite being born in France and thus being French, are sometimes seen as other because of their family origins.

Such is the theme of this week’s featured pop star, Souad Massi. Born in Algeria in 1972, Massi had an eclectic musical background. Her parents loved traditional Algerian, French pop, and American soul music. Several of her family members played jazz. She learned guitar at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Alger and soon became known as a modern, passionate singer—a politically dangerous image at the time in Algeria. After an artistic director of Universal Music discovered her in 1999 at a French festival of Algerian women, she moved to France. Her music—usually in Arabic, sometimes in French, and occasionally in English—has been described as a blending of Algerian, French, and “Anglo-Saxon” musical traditions.

Below is a video of Massi singing “Talit El Bir.” It’s a longer, more developed version of a song that appears on her third Album, Mesk Elil (“Honeysuckle,” 2006). The lyrics are in Arabic, and she begins by saying in French, “Vous nous aidez un peu si vous avez envie. Je force pas.” (“Help us a little if you feel like it. I’m not forcing anyone.”)

French Pop Song of the Week: The Jealousy of Mademoiselle K

posted September 2, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature

mademoiselle k

Once upon a time, back in the ‘80s, Katerine Gierak was just a young girl in Paris. At five years old she enrolled in her first music class. Soon she started playing the flute and studying music theory. Then she took up the classical guitar, followed by the electric guitar. From 1999 to 2005 she studied music at the Sorbonne, hoping to become a music teacher. But she failed the CAPES, a French exam for teachers, and instead of accepting the failure as a temporary setback, she changed careers. She became a rock star.

Now heading the band Mademoiselle K, Katerine Gierak is a popular and distinctive voice in contemporary French rock. Here is a clip of her 2006 song “Jalouse” (”Jealous”) from the album Ça Me Vexe (”That Upsets Me”). Below is a translation of the lyrics.

Clip : “Jalouse”, Mademoiselle K. Roy Music
envoyé par roymusic. – Regardez plus de clips, en HD !
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French Pop Song of the Week: 1969 French Hit in the U.S.

posted July 27, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature

In the summer of 1967 American songwriter Paul Anka was visiting France. One day, as the story goes, Anka, already a huge success in the United States, was glancing at a television, and by chance he saw the French pop star Claude François singing “Comme d’habitude” (”As Always”), which had just been released. Taken by the melody, Anka found an album of Claude François’s, returned to the United States, and eventually wrote English lyrics for the song. The words are those of a man reflecting on life at the end of his career, and Anka wrote them with Frank Sinatra and Sinatra’s image in mind. In 1969 Sinatra released Anka’s English version, called “My Way.”

Thus were the origins of one of the most successful pop songs in American history. Popularized by Frank Sinatra, “My Way” has since been recorded by more than a thousand other singers. But as explained on this French television program, in France it wasn’t initially a big hit for Claude François, who cowrote the song with Jacques Revaux and Gilles Thibaut. The French lyrics are also completely different, expressing a weary routine in a relationship.

Below is a video of Claude François and Mireille Mathieu singing “Comme d’habitude” in 1973. By this time even Elvis had a version of “My Way.” François and Mathieu end this short version of the song with lines from Anka’s English lyrics.

Following the video is a translation of the original French song. (For a video in which Claude François sings all the French lyrics, click here.)

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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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