Since the release of his North American debut album “Racine Carrée,” international superstar Stromae has gone on to sell more than 3.5 million albums, performed for thousands of fans in stadiums across the globe, and for the first time in pop history, will be the first ever French spoken artist to have headlined the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York City this fall. Here, he travels around NYC to sing "Papaoutai" and meet all his American fans. [more inside]
Back in Town is a song by Izia, a French rock band fronted by and named for Izïa Higelin. Even though she comes from a showbiz family, the band initially found little favor on French radio. But after a string of blistering live performances all over France, the self-titled first album became a hit and won a couple of awards at the prestigious Victoire de la Musique ceremony, where Izia performed the song Let Me Alone. There are a bunch of live performances online, including of Life is Going Down, a cover of AC/DC's Touch Too Much and a duet with Iggy Pop. This past November, sophomore album So Much Trouble was released, featuring such songs as the title track, On Top of the World, and my favorite, Baby.
Arthur Rimbaud Documentary [via pb] is an impressionistic tour of Rimbaud's life, from a provincial upbringing, through his teenage poetic revolution, to his world travels and moderately successful business career in the Horn of Africa, featuring contemporary photographs, some taken by Rimbaud, and readings by Joan Baez. His poems (English translations, French, with some translated into English, earlier translations, with French originals) were fundamental in overthrowing the established traditions of writing and his personal story has long been an inspiration to those who chafe under the strictures of society. Ruth Franklin wrote about the whole arc of Rimbaud's life in The New Yorker, while Edmund White focuses on Rimbaud's bull-in-a-china-shop entrance into fellow poet Paul Verlaine's bourgeois existence in The Guardian. You can also read earlier biographical writings on Rimbaud, including his sister Isabelle's hagiographic account. Rimbaud's poetry has been set to music, perhaps most notably by electronic musician Hector Zazou and chansonnier Léo Ferré (links to music below the cut). [more inside]
The Music of Jacques Brel is an article by music journalist Amy Hanson about the career of pop music legend Jacques Brel and his effect on popular music in the English language. A lot of songs and covers are mentioned in the article, below the cut are links to the songs that I could find videos of online. [more inside]
Johnny Hallyday is perhaps best known to most Americans as French President Nicolas Sarkozy's BFF and "Special American Advisor" (and to younger French kids as that actor in the Optic 2000 ads), but his career started in 1960 and has only now slowed with what has been named his farewell tour. Though he began his career with many Aznavour-penned tracks, he swiftly became a household name by covering British and American hits and adapting them into French. [more inside]
Fancy a whirlwind tour of Popular Chanson? A broad term referring to contemporary French popular music, "chanson" applies to a startling array of stuff. Just how broad do I mean? Let's start with Grand Corps Malade, sublime slam poet/lyricist. Les voyages en train. Quatre saisons. [more inside]