A friend’s post on Google+ today worked on me like a Proust’s madeleine, throwing me out on a YouTube journey in search of the French pop music of 1994.
I don’t really remember what was so special about 1994 in my life. I was in the middle of high school, so not my best period. The details are a little hazy. I did listen to a lot of new music back then, that’s for sure.
It was definitely an important year in music. Nirvana Unplugged and Kurt Cobain’s death, of course. The Britpop Wars reach a climax with “Definitely Maybe” and “Parklife”. Bernard Butler leaves Suede. Bristol Sound begins with “Dummy” and “Protection”. “Ill Communication”, “Return of the Space Cowboy”, “Mellow Gold”. “7 Seconds” starts out fun and manages to turn everyone crazy by the end of the year. “Zombie”. “Lion King”.
To me, it was the year I discovered European music outside MTV’s English-dominated scene. I must’ve been spending a lot of time at home, in Warsaw, watching cable TV. It was the heyday of cable: we had all the European channels, MTV Europe, Viva, TV5, RAI, some Spanish and Portuguese stuff I don’t remember that well… the best of those was M6 – and not just because it had certain late night shows of particular interest to 16-year old boy 😉 but because it showcased the best of French music at the time – and what music that was!
I don’t know enough proper musical terms to tell why French pop music was so different from anything else I knew at the time – whether it was a difference in phrasing, use of different instruments, or simply another tradition – but to my ears it was a shock comparable only to my later discovery of J-Pop. It was also the year after my return from school trip to Paris – my first journey “to the West”, so maybe I was just ready to be enamoured with anything French, whatever it was. That one year, 1994, spawned songs which will remain with me for the rest of my days.
And here are some of them:
Alain Bashung – Ma Petite Enterprise
(“Les lobbies en Libye” is a brilliant bit of lyrics to this day)
Enzo Enzo – Juste quelqu’un de bien
(this was for a long time my favourite song of the first half of the 90s. Here’s a brilliant version with Suzanne Vega)
Kent – Allons z’a la campagne
(the first French song I got most of the lyrics of)
Les Rita Mitsouko – Les Amants
(personal note: the girl in striped shirt looked like my French language teacher at the time 🙂
Mylene Farmer – Que mon cœur lâche
(directed by Luc Besson, in case you’ve wondered. I had no idea what this song was about.)
Mano Solo – Allo Paris
(what a video!)
EDIT: Oh, just remembered another one! Francois Cabrel – La cabane du pecheur
And one more from Cabrel – the most beautiful one: