France - One song per day. - Page 51 (2024)

Benjamin Biolay - À l'origine - 2005
Nouvelle chanson française, Pop, Chamber Pop

Album: À l'origine (RYM: 3,55/5)

Benjamin Biolay Biography by Kathleen C. Fennessy

Often compared to the legendary Serge Gainsbourg, singer/songwriter/arranger Benjamin Biolay is less apt to call on a Brigitte Bardot or Françoise Hardy to sing his songs when he can do it just as well himself, although Gainsbourg did often duet with his protégées, most notably Jane Birkin on the scandalous international hit "Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus." Not that the handsome, honey-voiced Biolay hasn't worked with a few female vocalists on occasion; for instance, his younger sister Coralie Clément, who has at times been compared to Hardy and Birkin. Biolay arranged and wrote most of the songs on her 2001 debut Salle des Pas Perdus (which was released in the U.S. in 2002). Biolay is also a renaissance man of French chanson, whether he is extending the tradition as a songwriter, as on his 2007 Trash Yeye, paying tribute to the great singers and songwriters of the past as on 2015's Trenet, and 2018's Songbook with Melvil Poupaud, or re-visioning tango and Latin American cumbia as 21st century French pop on the smash Palmero Hollywood. This former enfant terrible of French song evolved into a respected, award-winning producer without compromise. As such, he possesses a keen ear for showcasing the talents of iconic singers such as Coralie Clément and Keren Ann, while adding previously unheard dimensions to the music of others (Vanessa Paradis). Biolay showcased his rocking take on nouveau chanson on 2020's runaway European hit, Grand Prix, and stayed there for 2022's chart-topping Saint-Clair. In 2023 Biolay released the live albumÀ l'auditorium.

Biolay was born in Villefranche-sur-Saône, France in 1973. His father was a clarinet player and member of the local orchestra. Biolay played the violin as a young man, going on to study the instrument at the Lyons Conservatoire. Over the years, his musical interests would grow to encompass classical (Mozart, Beethoven), American pop (Chuck Berry, the Beatles), and traditional French music (Trenet). From the violin, he moved on to the tuba, trombone, guitar, and piano. When he was 13, he discovered Gainsbourg's "Histoire de Melody Nelson," which would have a big influence on his own concept recording (2001's Rose Kennedy). From his teens through his early twenties, Biolay was a member of several groups, including Wind? and Mateo Gallion. The latter released a CD in 1994, which had little impact. In 1996, he was signed as a solo artist to EMI, but his initial singles met with little success. Then, in 1999, he met Keren Ann Zeidel (aka Keren Ann), with whom he composed the 2000 French hit "Jardin D'hiver" for Henri Salvador's comeback album Chambre Avec Vue. He would go on to collaborate with Keren Ann on Biographie de Luka Philipsen (2000) and La Disparition (2002). In some form or another, Biolay has also worked with Hubert Mounier (aka Cleet Boris), Isabelle Boulay, Françoise Hardy, and Jane Birkin.

In 2001, Biolay released his full-length debut, Rose Kennedy, a concept album full of hushed vocals, lush strings, and lyrical musings about the Kennedy family -- and Marilyn Monroe -- mostly from the point of view of family matriarch Rose. The recording features audio excerpts that evoke those golden years when JFK was in the White House, brother Robert was attorney general, and Monroe was on the silver screen. Other than the English samples (from Some Like It Hot, Monroe's "River of No Return," etc.), Rose Kennedy is in French and wasn't released in the U.S. Also in 2001, Biolay issued the Remix EP, featuring new versions of seven Rose Kennedy songs. The album sold more than 75,000 copies, achieving gold status.

In 2002, Biolay came into his own -- a Franco-Italian acting dynasty, that is -- when he married Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni. In 2003, he released Négatif, featuring guest appearances by Chiara and Coralie. In addition, he also contributed songs and production to Valérie Lagrange's Fleuve Congo; arranged, co-produced, and played on Julien Clerc's Où S'en Vont les Avions?; wrote a significant portion of Juliette Greco's Aimez-Vous les uns les Autres ou Bien Disparaissez, and arranged strings on Carla Bruni's Comme Si de Rien N'Etait. The following year, he was credited with writing the score for the film Clara et Moi; it featured his own songs redone by himself and friends, with a few cues from the classical canon mixed in. 2005 saw the release of his next full-length, L'Origine. The album of all-original material juxtaposed indie pop, chamber strings, and, for the first time, electronic beats and loops. It featured duets with Hardy and Michel Becquet. The album was met with international acclaim. Biolay was the subject of a lengthy feature article in the New York Times entitled Pop Star. He had no time to absorb the accolades, however, as he produced and arranged albums by Hubert Mounier, Daphne, and Marie-Amélie Seigner just after his album's release.

Over the next two years, Biolay wrote, produced, arranged, and collaborated on a slew of recordings by an astonishing variety of artists from Hardy to Elodie Frégé. (The latter's Le Jeu des 7 Erreurs sold 100,000 copies in France alone, and won Étoiles de la Musique's "Révélation Française de L'Année" as well as best song for "La Ceinture," written by her producer.) He was also feverishly writing his own music. He composed 56 songs for his final Virgin/EMI date, Trash Yéyé, and pared the collection down to 12 for inclusion. The set sold respectably, but more importantly, its critical reception paved the way for his breakthrough, the double-length La Superbe, his debut for Naïve in 2010. The album was a virtual decalogue of the sensual in French society; its songs ranged from jazzy chanson to indie rock to trip-hop, EDM, and even cabaret. The record earned double-platinum status in France, selling over 240,000 copies. He won two French Grammys that year for Best Male Artist and Best Album.

Biolay is nothing if not mercurial; he always delivers the unexpected. Instead of hitting the road and performing to promote his success, he released Pourquoi Tu Pleures? (Musiques Inspirées Du Film) -- from the motion picture of the same name -- in which he played the lead role. The set featured a host of unusual duets with actress Sarah Adler, African performers Amadou & Mariam, and Luis Mariano. He followed it in 2012 by acting and performing in the production Pop'pea, a rock adaptation of Claudio Monteverdi's Baroque opera The Coronation of Poppea, presented by the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. He also managed to produce a posthumous collection by beloved songwriter and singer Henri Salvador, and sets by Daphne, Julia Stone, and Elisa Jo. He had his own concert performance at the Casino Paris released for television and video, and wrote a song especially for Petula Clark's self-titled comeback album. Most importantly, 2012 saw the release of his own Vengeance. The 14-song set included two charting singles -- "Aime Mon Amour" and "Profite" (the latter a duet with Vanessa Paradis) -- and went gold.

Biolay returned the favor. In 2013, he produced, arranged, and sang on her comeback album Love Songs, and was part of her concert band for Love Songs' Tour. Over the next couple of years, he was in the studio almost constantly, producing recordings by Charlélie Couture and Karen Brunon, among others. In late 2014, Biolay signed to Barclay. He issued Trenet, his debut for the label, a year later. Uncharacteristically, it was a stripped-down, reverential covers tribute to the legendary French songwriter, with Belgian guitarist/bassist Nicolas Fiszman and drummer Denis Benarrosh. Reception and sales were middling, but Biolay seemed not to notice. He spent the next year in a somewhat notorious neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, writing and recording. In spring of 2016, Palermo Hollywood (named for a neighborhood in Buenos Aires) was issued. Biolay described it as "...the impression of two cities and two hemispheres." The 16 new songs, recorded in Argentina and France, intersect, according to their composer, with Ennio Morricone's soundtracks, French chanson, electro cumbia, chamamé, modern big-band jazz, pop/rock, loops and beats, tango, and his love of futbol. The set's title track lead single landed in the Top Five on the French charts and in the Top Ten on various global charts. Still deeply under the sway of his adopted home in Argentina, Biolay followed it with the full-length Volver less than a year later. The album's 15 tracks reflected a mix of neo-cumbia, electro, rock & roll, and classic nouveau chanson. Regarding the latter, the artist claimed in interviews leading up to the release that it was "dead." The full-length offered a number of guest spots, including ex-wife Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas, Sofia Wilhelmi, and Ambrosia. The album's first single, the retro-disco ballad "Roma (amoR)" went to the top of the French pop charts, as did the album. The following year, Biolay teamed with countryman, French actor, musician, and film director Melvil Poupaud (brother of Yarol Poupaud, guitarist for FFF) for a live touring show titled Songbook. The longtime friends share a love of cinema and historic chanson and wove them both together with a flair for humor and theatricality. They took it on the road before committing it to tape in a studio. It was comprised of covers of classic French and international songs by writers ranging from Gainsbourg and Georges Brassens to Julien Clerc, Quincy Jones, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. In addition, the set included well-known songs from Biolay's original repertoire; it was issued in November of 2018.

Biolay had been obsessed with the Jean Graton comic book series Michel Vaillant since he was nine years old. The series reflects the life and (mis) adventures of a lonely Formula 1 driver, as much an existential figure as he is a hero. He has also been a lifelong fan of actor and racecar driver Steve McQueen. Formula 1 (aka Grand Prix) racing is a national pastime in his native France and indeed, after futbol, across Europe.

Biolay paid it homage on 2020's Grand Prix. Issued in the early summer, it marked the songwriter's return to "French rock." He wrote 12 songs, and co-composed "Virtual Safety Car" with guitarist /bassist Pierre Jaconelli. Biolay produced, sang, played bass, programmed synths, and arranged. In April, first single and video, the Marta Bevacqua-directed "Comme Est Ta Peine?" metaphorically addressed loneliness and separation imposed by quarantine during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The album topped the French charts.

In 2022, Biolay released the score for director Andre Bonzel's Et j'aime à la fureur (Flickering Ghosts of Loves Gone By), wherein, after inheriting a relative's collection of home movies, the director recounted his life and loves while investigating family secrets hidden among the images. He also released Saint-Clair, another exercise in rocking chanson that spent 18 weeks at number one in France, landed at seven in Switzerland, and charted across Europe. The deluxe edition carried a bonus disc with three more originals, a cover of Daniel Lanois' "Jolie Louise" and live versions of "Jingle Bells and George Michael's "Last Christmas." The following year, Biolay released À l'Auditorium, his first live album, backed by the Danish Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Dirk Brossé. Among its 16 tracks were striking covers of Ervin Drake's Frank Sinatra vehicle "It Was a Very Good Year" and Cole Porter's "It's De-Lovely" (as "C'est Magnifique").

Live at Lyon Auditorium:

À l'origine on était pas des sauvages
À l'origine on habitait pas la cage
Au premier signe on libérait les otages
À l'origine on faisait pas l'étalage
De nos racines on n'avait pas d'héritage
À dix centimes, on n'était pas si volages
Dieu que c'est loin

À l'origine on n'était pas des esclaves
À l'origine on quittait pas son enclave
D'origine la vie n'était qu'une seule phrase Sybilline on mettait pas les plein gaz
Les mandarines avaient un gout de betterave Citadines on attendait dans la cave
Mieux que bien

À l'origine on n'avait pas des prothèses
À l'origine on disait moins de fadaises
À l'origine on avait moins de facettes
De temps d'usine
Et pas besoin de prophètes
À l'origine les poules étaient des nuggets
Et pas d'usine
Et les poupées des puppets,
Dieu que c'est loin

À l'origine on avait pas des pétards

De carabines
Mais les cheveux en pétards
Dans le dressing
On cachait pas des cadavre
À l'origine on n'était pas si macabres
À l'origine il n'y avait pas les images
Les speakerines faisaient encore des massages
C'est mieux que rien

Je ne sais pas si nous étions les pires
Et si déjà nous rêvions d'en finir
À l'origine tout n'était qu'un mystère
Pas de fadas
D'intifada naguère

À l'origine on passait pas les messages
À sa voisine on faisait pas de chantage
À la cantine il n'y avait pas de potage
De carabine, de messagers de passage,
À Colombine il va y avoir un carnage
En haut des cimes
Il n'y avait que les nuages
Dieu que c'est loin...

À l'origine on n'était pas des occases
À l'origine on faisait pas dans l'oukase
À l'origine on faisait dans le détail
À l'origine on n'était pas du bétail
À l'origine on faisait pas des entailles
Longilignes on n'ouvrait pas les entrailles,
Lieu commun

À l'origine on n'était pas des minables
À l'origine on piratait pas le câble
À l'origine il y avait moins de vocables
Entre les lignes on n'était beaucoup moins stables
À l'origine il n'y avait pas de Mossad
On s'y résigne on n'était pas si maussade
Dieu que c'est loin

À l'origine on avait peur de l'anthrax
De la famine de la famille de Karl Marx
À l'origine on n'avait pas des Rolex
Ou des Longines on avait des solex
À l'origine tout n'était pas si complexe
À l'origine tout n'était qu'un prétexte
Crois moi trois fois rien
Je ne sais pas
Si nous étions les mêmes
Les mêmes en pires
Comment ça va finir
À l'origine
Il n'y avait qu'un soupir
Et pas d'éclair sur ta poupée de cire

In the beginning we weren't savages
In the beginning we didn't live behind bars
At the first sign the hostages were freed
In the beginning we didn't show off
In the beginning we didn't have our legacies
With ten cents we weren't so fickle
God it's far

In the beginning we weren't slaves
In the beginning we never left our enclaves
From the beginning life was just a single obscure phrase we didn't step right on the gas
Mandarines tasted like beetroot
City-dwellers, we waited in the cave
Better than okay

In the beginning, we didn't have artificial limbs
In the beginning we had less idle chatter
In the beginning we had less facets
Less factory time
And no need for prophets
In the beginning chicks were nuggets
And no factory
And the puppets' dolls,
God it's far

In the beginning we didn't have the bangs

From rifles
But bangs of bed hair
In the dressing room
We didn't hide the bodies
In the beginning we weren't so sinister
In the beginning we didn't have images
The newswomen still gave massages
It's better than nothing

I don't know if we were the worst
And if already we were dreaming of ending it all
In the beginning everything was just a mystery
No nutcases
From the past uprising

In the beginning we didn't pass messages
To our neighbours we didn't blackmail
In the canteen there wasn't any soup
Rifles, messengers in passing,
At Colombine there's going to be carnage
At the highest peaks
There were only clouds
God it's far

In the beginning we weren't bargains
In the beginning we didn't have ukases1
In the beginning, we didn't pay attention to details
In the beginning we weren't just cattle
In the beginning we didn't take chunks out of each other
Gangling we didn't open the gashes,

In the beginning we weren't wretched
In the beginning we didn't hack the line
In the beginning there were less words
Between the lines we were a lot less stable
In the beginning there was no Mossad
Let's admit it, we weren't so bad-tempered
God it's far

In the beginning we were scared of anthrax
From the hunger, from the family of Karl Marx
In the beginning there was no Rolex
No Longines, we had powered bikes
In the beginning things weren't so complicated
In the beginning everything was just a pretext
Believe me it's next to nothing
I don't know
If we were the same
Or even worse
How will it finish
In the beginning
There was just a sigh
And no light in your wax doll

Thanks to jaimepapier on LyrcisTranslate.

France - One song per day. - Page 51 (2024)


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