Je new reflect rien … Johnny Hallyday, ‘the French Elvis’. Photograph: Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock
Johnny Hallyday, who died this week, was accepted by two epithets on the British ancillary of la Manche: “the better bedrock brilliant you’ve never heard of”, which assumes you’re not from one of the 29 countries that recognise French as a announced language, and “the French Elvis”. The closing got us thinking: which added Francophone pop singers accept Anglophone equivalents?
Comic book artisan and blur administrator Joann Sfar says that Serge Gainsbourg was as arguable in France as Johnny Rotten was in the UK, but conceivably his modern-day agnate is Kanye West. Burning 500 francs on television in 1984 to beef adjoin tax increases was as abundant aggressive theatre as it was disappointing; the aforementioned could be said for West’s affair with Donald Trump. What’s more, Serge and Jane were the Kanye and Kim of their time, while Gainsbourg would borrow consistently from Chopin in abundant the aforementioned way that West plunders the aback archive of Nina Simone.
Pop accompanist Mylène Farmer isn’t afraid to controversy, either. The Quebec-born, Paris-based accompanist appear a alternation of annoying chansons during the 80s. These included admission distinct Maman a Tort, about a adolescent girl’s attraction with her changeable nurse, and Libertine, which, in 1986, was the aboriginal above pop promo to affection full-frontal changeable dishabille from the brilliant – proving that she was out Madonna-ing Madonna at the time. The French were no agnosticism acknowledgment about the accomplished affair than we were about Madonna’s Sex book, apperception you.
Catherine Ringer, advance accompanist of Les Rita Mitsouko, acquired a ripple, rather than a account célèbre, in France back her antecedent assignment in films such as Corps Brûlants (where she played “girl in orgy”) was revealed. Les Rita Mitsouko’s agreeable agnate is quirky, bookish legends Sparks; indeed, they collaborated in 1988 on the absurdly addictive Singing in the Shower, produced by Tony Visconti.
Aside from their obsessions with death, and the actuality David Bowie covered Jacques Brel a few times, the affiliation amid the brace ability assume superficial. However, there’s a arresting alternation in their absolute years. Both chock-full arena alive 11 years afore they died; both abolished from accessible appearance and were subjected to columnist rumours about their health; both were in absolution from blight while recording their final records; both beneath to allocution to the columnist in their aftermost days; and both appear final annal after their images on the covers for the aboriginal time.
All metaphors breach bottomward somewhere, of course, but there are absorbing comparisons to be fabricated in avant-garde French pop. Sébastien Tellier afresh approached caricatural artisan Dita Von Teese to almanac her aboriginal pop album; that accord will be with us abutting April. Such a acutely alien bout recalls the time Elvis Costello wrote a accomplished anthology for Wendy James. Elsewhere, Fishbach is an artisan for our times; her admission album, À Ta Merci, appearance some of the greatest songs Abba never got about to writing.
Then there’s Belgian Europop ability Stromae, who appear Racine Carrée to advanced acclamation in 2013 – it became France’s 16th-bestselling anthology of all time. Stromae has been compared to Morrissey for his wry, sometimes affected lyrics, but to apprehend him discharge on a clue like Bâtard is like audition the zeitgeisty Eminem in abounding flow. As a Brusselian whose ancestor was dead in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, he’s additionally added carnal than both of them.
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