Vanessa Paradis – Love Song
I don’t know about you, but I’m not always in the mood for passionate pop. There are days, now and again, when boundless enthusiasm gets a bit wearing and I have to turn off How Will I Know? because I can feel myself thinking “ooh, give it a rest, love”. On occasions like these I often find myself turning to French pop, because if there’s one thing the French are good at, it’s sounding a bit bored and non-commital. Unlike many of their British and American counterparts, French pop stars aren’t like excitable puppies bounding up and down demanding your constant attention – they’re more like Siamese cats who don’t really give a toss about you but will occasionally curl themselves around your legs in a brief, but never to be discussed, moment of affection.
Of course the best French pop star ever is Mylène Farmer, but for ennui-tastic anti-thrills you really can’t beat Vanessa Paradis. She’s been sounding a bit fed up of things since 1988’s totally amazing Joe Le Taxi – a masterclass in apathy, that one. I’m also particularly fond of it because I was able to fool my high school French teacher Madame Stout into thinking I’d done a perfect translation of the lyrics. She was quite unaware that Smash Hits had handily printed one, and I got a rare “très bon” from the lady who never tired of telling us that she knew Annie Lennox in her Aberdonian days (the first sentence I learned in French was in fact “Vous conaissez Annie Lennox?”)
In Britain, Vanessa suffered the usual fate of the continental pop star, which is complete indifference after one big hit. So despite releasing the just-as-good-in-fact-arguably-better Marilyn et John as the follow-up, we would have nothing further to do with her until she teamed up with Lenny Kravitz in 1992 and unexpectedly made one of the decade’s best singles in the form of the glorious Be My Baby. The transformation was quite astonishing – considering we’d last seen her shuffling awkwardly in an over-sized sweatshirt like the last girl to be picked to dance at the school disco, her emergence as a come-hither sex siren in the Bardot mould ought to have jolly well taught us a lesson not to write off these novelty chanteuses too quickly in the future.
But of course, being British, we did it again, and Vanessa disappeared from our radar for twenty-one years, finally surfacing in 2013, sounding more indifferent (and therefore more fantastic) than ever with the bilingual single Love Song.
Things to note about Love Song:
- Everything about it sounds slightly drunk
- It also sounds a bit like it was recorded underwater
- Thanks to those faintly sleazy jangly guitar bits, it’s rather like a slowed down Pull Up to the Bumper isn’t it?
- No-one bought it
This is the kind of song that demands to be under-performed. Can you imagine someone prone to melisma attacks doing this? It would completely undermine all the lovely furtive shadowy aspects and drag it into the light where it would not fare nearly as well. Far better that it’s sung by someone who can both properly convey a sense of lost innocence and pull off industrial quantities of eyeshadow. Vanessa Paradis – by now a veteran pop icon who has surely seen it all – is just the person for the job. And she pulls it off brilliantly, delivering a lyric like “Love, I don’t know / Nothing about love, you know / Hold me till the day is done / All night long let’s have some fun” with all the intensity of a sputtering tea-light. Which is exactly how it should be done.
Entered chart: did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Someone who understands that less is more, won’t try too hard, and can also convey corrupted innocence convincingly. I’ve just talked myself into Emma Bunton!