Original version (written by Gainsbourg):
Duo Brigitte is back! New album in November, this is the first single:
As Sylvie Vartan turns 70, Mark Sullivan chooses five of her most interesting songs from 1980 to the present day.
By 1980 Sylvie Vartan had developed her live concerts, bringing together yé-yé pop and the stage style of the Folies Bergères. ‘Nicholas’ is a reflection of her departure from Bulgaria and no longer seeing children she had known. Its elegant performance contrasts with the sombre lyrics. See HERE
The original song is Hungarian : ‘Elmegyek’ (I’m leaving’), written and sung by Péter Maté (1976) – the best Budapest popular composer of his day. A fine song itself – see the live version here. Hungarians do warn foreigners who praise the song that ‘Elmegyek’ is so often played at funerals, as it reflects ‘departure’ so well, that it can’t be used much for anything else in Hungary !
2.‘No more tears (enough is enough)’ 1981
This great disco track by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer is a 1979 studio creation and they never sang it live. The nearest we have is Donna Summer and the Australian singer Tina Arena in 1999. Donna Summer herself is as good as one could hope for,but it is only 4½ minutes long.
Sylvie took on the challenge of performing ‘No more tears’ solo with a full dance routine, using her backing singers as dancers and completing the full-length 8 minute song with impeccable skill. Two live filmed versions exist, both performed in Paris in 1981. Here’s one. And below:
The choreography differs between them, but both are worth watching. No one has tried to match Sylvie’s live version of ‘No more tears’ since, so these two performances should stand for ever.
3. ‘Des heures de désir’ (1984)
‘Wrap your arms around me’ was written in 1983 for Agnetha Faltskog of ABBA for her solo album by British writers Michael Chapman and Holly Knight. Agnetha’s original is good but lacks glamour.
Sylvie took the French version, ‘Des heures de désir’, and made it grander and more elegant (and in the process showed women how they could aspire to look at 40).
Sylvie also made a fine job of the English original, on Spanish TV in 1987.
4. ‘Personne’ (2010)
La Grande Sophie’s success with her 2009 album ‘Des vagues et des ruisseaux’ brought her the opportunity to write songs in 2010 for both Françoise Hardy (‘Mister’) and Sylvie (‘Personne’). LGS’s ‘Personne’ is the most performed of the songs of Sylvie’s 2010 album ‘Soleil Blue’
A finer version on ‘Champs-Elysées’ in January 2010 is [on wat.tv] here. (Advertising delays the start of this film for 30 seconds.)
5. ‘Signé Sagan’ (2009)
The song-writer Didier Bardelivien wrote ‘Signé Sagan’ to reflect and conjure up for a new century the image of Françoise Sagan, author of ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ and the enfant terrible of 1950s French literature, almost as famous for her love of fast living and fast cars. The choice of Sylvie for the song is inspired. This performance at the Olympia, Paris, is perfectly sung and filmed and deserves to be preserved for future generations who discover both Françoise Sagan and Sylvie Vartan.
A bit of practising between song-writer and singer on ‘Vivement dimanche’ is here
Guestposter Adrian Arratoon on the one Vincent Liben song that almost got away:
With so much stimulus on and offline, if you close your eyes for more than five minutes it’s easy for things that would otherwise engage you to pass you by. Such is the case with this invigorating track by Belgian artist Vincent Liben, whose track Mademoiselle Liberté, guest starring Filles favourite Berry, made waves a couple of year ago. Last year he sneaked this track, Animalé, out on Soundcloud and YouTube. I know, it’s taken me 15 months to notice it; finger on the pulse, me.
It’s such a cliché to say that some music is “cinematic” but this certainly fits the bill; ominous piano chimes, sweeping strings, shimmering guitars and so on. His music, and that of his band Mud Flow, also appears on the soundtrack for François Ozon’s latest film, Jeune et Jolie. It’s about a young girl who loses her virginity then becomes a call girl: seriously, it couldn’t be any more French if it started shouting at people in a minor traffic jam while wearing a blue and white hooped Breton fisherman’s jersey and a beret. And smoking. Gauloises.
Anyway, this song is epic. Tindersticks epic. Widescreen epic. Better late than never; you’ll love it.
Ah, Fredda. How fondly we remember her smash ‘Barry White’. How we still love her Radiomatic project. And bon dieu, how great is her new album? Well, you can make up your mind about that yourself, for ’tis on Soundcloud. And our German friends of Le Pop jwill release it on cd, next week. With a bonus, a German song called Träume. Yes, Françoise Hardy aficionado’s, this song. BTW, Le Pop released Fredda’s earlier album, L’Ancolie, too. See here.
My favourite track of Fredda’s new album, that has hints of Marianne Dissard, Calexico and La Hardy, is this song.
This is the first single:
Sylvie Vartan is 70 today. Guestwriter Mark Sullivan looks at her unusual origins and early career:
Sylvie Vartan was France’s first true pop star, the first female singer of the rock-and-roll era. She has been performing ever since, having been in the public eye since 1961. Before Sylvie there were no teenage girl singers, just as before Johnny Hallyday there was no rock-and-roll in France.
In a short interview in English in Los Angeles this April, Hallyday explains how he was the first French rock singer, that he modelled himself on Elvis Presley, and that at first he and his writers translated American numbers; then started to write new songs in French.
When record producers looked for girl singers to perform the new music and appeal to the youth market, Sylvie fitted the bill exactly. Born in Bulgaria on 15 August 1944, Sylvie Vartanian was the daughter of a Bulgarian Armenian and a mother, Ilona Mayer, who was Hungarian by descent. In her on-line biography is her description of how she started in entertainment as a child. In 1950, when she was six, “A friend of my father, a director, was making a movie….He gave me a small part as a schoolgirl. I was very young but it had a lasting impression on me. It made me want to work in the entertainment industry. After that, I often dreamed of becoming an entertainer”.
Communist rule in Bulgaria led the family to leave for France – which was possible because her father worked for the French embassy in Sofia. Despite the family living in some poverty in Paris in the mid-50s, Sylvie was successful at school, but wanted to sing and act. Her older brother Eddie had gone into the music business and gave her the opportunity to sing with Frankie Jordan. Film of her first appearance on TV in 1961, ‘Panne d’essence’ with Jordan, survives.
This led soon to more recordings – her first solo recording ‘Quand le film est triste’:
and ‘Est-ce que tu le sais’, the French version of Ray Charles’s ‘What I’d say’:
These very early Sylvie performances now remastered for Youtube show her talent from the start. Then in 1962 Daniel Filipacchi, who ran a radio show by that name, founded ‘Salut les Copains’ as the first French teenage magazine. This gave Hallyday, Sylvie and others the publicity they needed to sell records. One success was the French version of Chubby Checker’s ‘Locomotion’, here in an INA archive recording of a live performance on 27 October 1962, during the Cuba Crisis.
Another example is ‘En écoutant la pluie’ (The rhythm of the rain) in 1963 here, followed by a TV interview.
Then, in 1964, at the height of her success, for the film ‘Cherchez l’idole’, Charles Aznavour wrote for her the song that has accompanied Sylvie ever since : ‘La plus belle pour aller danser’:
The equally well-known classic video of the recorded track, with shots of her meeting the Beatles, is here.
The low, breathy voice, the fine diction, the fashionable dresses and the blonde hair all created an image that put Sylvie ahead of any competitors in her heyday. Sylvie Vartan was the right young woman in the right place when modern pop began.
Everybody has to start somewhere. Benjamin Biolay started with a revolution, that never saw the light of day. Until now. His former record company all of a sudden threw the video for La Révolution online, a song dating back to 1997 that was never released. Maybe for the better, considering the ponytail and the outfits. And the odd voice.
Can’t embed the video, so you have to click HERE to see it.
The Boulay sisters, Stéphanie and Mélanie, are, in their words, «de vraies sœurs, mais ni filles, nièces ou cousines d’Isabelle Boulay». But when Isabelle was made one of the ‘coaches’ for the competitors in the 2014 ‘La Voix’, the producers asked the sisters in as guest stars to sing with her their popular hit ‘Mappemonde’ during the final programme:
This unique live performance has the feel of a handover from the old-style 20th century Quebec chanteuses, represented by Isabelle (now 42) to a new and very creative 21st century style represented by Stéphanie and Mélanie.
I have posted the lyric of ‘Mappemonde’ below the Youtube film of the three Boulays, along with an English translation. As we all know now, thanks to Coeur de Pirate’s explanation of her second album title, in Quebec French ‘blonde’ means ‘girlfriend’.
Other recent live performances by the sisters:
* An instant street performance of ‘Cul-de-sac’ in a Montreal alley at Francofolies in June 2013 here
* High up on a Montreal roof overlooking the city this spring here
* And making a parachute jump in matching jumpsuits in May
followed by ‘T’es pas game’ live on landing: