12 July 2004

Insert Jerry Lewis joke here

From Bérubé, who also has some wry observations about soccer.
French popular music sucks. It actually sucks in so many ways, in so many genres, that I could not keep proper track of its promiscuous modalities of inadequacy. A friend suggested to me that the French never made the categorical distinction between "rock" and "show tunes" that is fundamental to Anglo-American popular music, so that French pop sounds more or less like Barry Manilow. But that doesn't explain the travesty that is French hip-hop. Nor does it explain the curious fact that although experimental French art and literature have in fact rocked almost continuously for the past 175 years, no French music of any kind has really mattered to the rest of the world since the mid-thirteenth century, when the hot new musical form known as the "motet" took Europe by storm. I welcome your theories about this. (Before anybody gets all weird with me about Berlioz and Satie, all I have to say is, two exceptions in 750 years prove the rule. And the incomparable Django Reinhardt wasn't French, he was Manouche.)
But hey: what about MC Solaar, who raps in French? If that's not a mutant superpower, what is?


Anonymous said...

Then there is one of my all-time favorite bands: "Les Negresses Verte". The one time I saw them play in concert, the show was so great I was ready to buy a ticket for the next show. Wow. Real carny-types complete with striped shirts, accordians and missing teeth. And great music to boot. Who can forget "Zobi la Mouche" ?

- yezida

Anonymous said...

D’eauh! No French music of any kind has mattered since the 13th century? Setting aside issues of taste, who hasn’t been hit over the head with Bolero or music from Carmen since childhood? And Debussy and Ravel (and, to a lesser extent, Poulenc, Fauré, Gounod, etc) had far-reaching impact for their orchestrations and revolutionary harmonic language. Plus Mlle. Boulanger and the Paris Conservatoire influenced many significant American composers (Copland, Carter, Glass, Quincy Jones) throughout the 20th century. And Boulez and IRCAM, along with a couple other centers, pretty much have a stranglehold on current electronic music synthesis and research.

[And a quick note regarding issues of taste: Messiaen’s Quatour pour la Fin du Temps mattered a lot to a lot folks (both its haunting music and its astounding creation in a Nazi war camp). And, though it’s been hijacked and overplayed by the advertising industry, the Flower Duet from Lakmé is probably one of the most gorgeous pieces of vocal music you’ll ever hear.]

Don’t know enough about the French popular scene (except for MC Solaar) to say one way or another, and I have a sneaking suspicion Bérubé really doesn’t know all these genres all that well. But I do understand the power of hyperbole. It’s just that he’s gone and made me both rant and defend the French.

-- aj

Jonathan Korman said...

I definitely have to agree with AJ on Debussy. I lack even a pale shadow of an informed opinion about any of my commentators' other examples.

On the other hand, I have to say that in my limited experience, European pop does generally stink, and French pop is the worst on the continent. Never mind comparisons to Elvis or the Beatles --- precious little French pop measures up to the better local acts you'll find selling CDs after their show in a bar in any major city in the US.

And I'm fairly sure it should be spelled "D'eaux!" Non?

Anonymous said...

Technically, "d'eau," I believe. The h was purely a Homerian nod, bien sûr. ;)


Anonymous said...

I don't know from French popular music, but Les Nubians are quite good.