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Posted October 23, 2007 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

Yelle It, Shout It

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When covering pop music from different countries like France or Japan, I often wonder whether these artists place an emphasis on melody over lyrical content in their efforts to gain overseas exposure. While the internet has made self-learning any common language in the world a privilege for those who know where to look, the lack of bilingualism is still in the majority. Sure, the lyrics in most pop music is elementary at best, but you never know when you could find a diamond in the rough. If worst comes to worst, the language barrier serves as an artist’s cloak to all embarrassing lyrical miscues. It could also hide necessary emotions that are collaborative with its backing instrumental composition, but it is often a preference to remain optimistic instead. To make my features as unbiased as possible, I usually substitute the lyrical perspective of a foreign pop song out of the equation entirely (unless I somehow have the translation in front of me). This means that the melody and flow has twice the merit. Pressure? Nah. It is not like many kids listen to the lyrics any more. It is hard to blame them too — when was the last time a Dylan or Leonard Cohen came bursting onto the scene? I doubt even my parents can remember. I still care though, as should you, but occasionally we are forced to make such aspects irrelevant.

This topic brings us to some chanteuse from France by the name of Julie Budet. If you are from France, it is likely that you know who she is already. You are probably sick of her too. Apart from a widely publicized spat with French hip-hop group TTC, she has been slowing climbing the charts with several tracks from her debut album, being a mainstay on many French radio stations. She goes under the name Yelle, being a combination of the words “Yeah” and “Elle”. I vaguely remember that “elle” translates to “she”, though my days of high school French are fortunately long gone. Anyways, her reputation for colorfully creative music videos and insanely catchy electro-pop songs is starting to take full flight. Is she the next Justice? The next Air? Daft Punk!? Not quite. While her music is hardly as complex or diverse in qualitative factor, I can nearly guarantee that several of her songs inherit an immediate urge to get up and, simply, dance your ass off. Move your feet, shake your caboose, and dance to the beat of a French chanteuse. Oh man, I am at a new low. I will leave it at this: the most concise word I could come up to summarize Budet is “fun”. Fun in the sense that, out of the thousands of quality French electronic artists, she is making a name for herself quite prominently.

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I suppose that it is appropriate that Yelle and Mika are on tour together. Both are taking the western world by storm with a hit or two, even if critics consider their flamboyant antics to be nothing more than a melodramatic attempt at individuality. Though I tend to agree for the most part, the backlash is predictably drawn out at this point. Budet’s style remains in the realm of conventional pop music; a form that most Americans are accustomed to by now. She blends dance and various form of synth-pop with snippets of hip-hop, creating a sound in which a sole purpose remains to capture an international hit. She just might do it too. “Je Veux Te Voir” and “À Cause des Garçons” are the two leading singles off of Budet’s debut, Pop-Up, and are making vital contributions in building up Yelle’s namesake. “Je Veux Te Voir” is a fast-paced track where Budet’s vocals are fastidiously spurred over a handful of varying synth lines. It is exciting and radio-friendly – but is it original? Hardly. Fun for Friday nights in a hazy club? Of course. I doubt its objective was anything more. “Dans Ta Vrai Vie” is relayed similarly, though a classification of accessibly feminine hip-hop would presumably be more appropriate. The primary beat is introduced in the first moments of the song and, barring the bridge, it is consistently prevalent throughout the entire song. The chorus sees no differentiation in instrumentation but relies on vocal samples and a change in pitch from Budet’s vocals, making the track’s diversity largely obsolete. “Dans Ta Vrai Vie” is thriving largely off of a musical style that I do not enjoy, though I admit the particular track is catchy enough to garner some legitimate hype.

I mentioned before that I usually do not take lyrics into account when describing a foreign artist. While calling my knowledge of the French language limited would be a hyperbole, I can thank a few sources for the roots of Yelle’s songs. “85A” takes its name from a breast measurement (en Francais) and explores aspects of “lesbian temptation”, while “Mon Meilleur Ami” (“My Best Friend”) provides as an “ode to dildos”. You can thank Yelle’s official web site for this information, as I would honestly have no clue otherwise. “You are all so small, my best friend, I take you with me everywhere I go,” she sings over the automated percussive claps and pulsating bass-synth, “I talk to you like you are a sweet and sensitive man; the only thing that annoys me about you is I have to change your batteries.” Yeah, a dildo is stiff competition in the game of sexual desirability. The most impressive aspect of the song remains the synth involvement, containing significantly more variation than most of the other tracks on Pop-Up. In addition to her melodic infectiousness and contemporary take on synth-pop, Budet’s carefree attitude is bringing her this odd form of national attention. French conservatives would likely cast a scowl toward her lyrical direction but, luckily for us, it is irrelevant. All that matters to me is the fact that her debut album, Pop-Up, contains some very enjoyable material. If the dialect was more approachable and she toned down her lyrics a bit, she would be a star in America.

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Yelle – Mon Meilleur Ami

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Yelle – Je Veux Te Voir

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Yelle – Dans Ta Vrai Vie

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].