Monday, July 20, 2009

After Hours

Françoise Hardy. Comment te dire adieu?

I love this song - from the analog shimmer of the drums to the trumpet that doubles with the vocal line to the soaring strings during the verses. It's probably the best that French pop music has to offer. Believe it or not, it's a cover version of an overblown ballad in English. Serge Gainsbourg wrote the French lyrics, the very lovely Françoise Hardy sang them, they made this very cool video and that pretty much brings us to the present. Tell me I'm not the only who notices this, but doesn't this video seem a little, I dunno, contemporary? Doesn't the audience seem passive in that immediately-recognizable 21st century way? It's like everybody's checking their Facebook status or texting and the music is just there by accident. Sure, a few of the friskier audience members are dancing (in a really embarrassing way), but almost everybody else appears to be a zombie. This would be quite understandable if this were something new, but this performance is 40 years old. I know, it's very weird. This is almost like an outtake from Logan's Run or something - it's vaguely futuristic, but also looks fairly dated.

Just a few words about Serge's lyrics... He took a sappy torch song called "It Hurts to Say Goodbye" and turned it into this compulsively listenable tune by his own peculiar brand of wordcraft. You don't even need to know French to recognize that he employs the not-too-common "ex" sound throughout the song. He also structures the words so that the chorus represents a complete thought, not just a bunch of little thoughts that happen to rhyme. For that I say, bravo, Serge, you big, scary legend.

And Françoise, she's quite the babe, plus she can sing. Like in this clip, she doesn't do a lot of moving around. She just stands there and looks stunning while she's lip-synching. Expect many more videos from her in the future.

For the purposes of comparison, however, let's listen to something closer to the original. This is actually a cover of the 1966 Margaret Whiting version. Your singer is Vera Lynn (no relation to porn legend Ginger Lynn, I'm guessing), your tune is "It Hurts to Say Goodbye" and your year is 1968. And the English lyrics are right there so you can sing along.

See what I mean? French good. English bad. At least this time out.

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