“Je veux”

September 2, 2022 • 1:15 pm

Usually readers send me links to music videos when I contend that the Beatles were the best group ever, and the music of my youth was the best music ever. The videos are intended to either disprove my assertions or to introduce me to music as good as that of my youth. But the videos invariably disappoint me—let’s face it, there are no new Beatles in the offing. Rock is on the skids, autotuned to death and embroidered with the most tedious lyrics ever.

But reader Thomas sent me a video I really like, one by a French singer named Zaz, whose real name is Isabelle Geffroy. Malcolm said this:

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the fabulous Zaz, but when I need to be mentally back in Paris (several times a day of late) walking along the Seine at twilight I turn to this video.

I was hooked immediately; I’d never heard of her, but apparently she has quite a following. She wrote this song, “Je veux” (“I want”), her debut single.  At times it sounds as if she’s scat-singing through a kazoo, but I think she’s actually singing through her hand. Whatever it is, it’s great.

It’s a lovely song, bouncy and jazzy, lots of scat, and, as you see from the lyrics below the fold, abjures material possessions in favor of love and freedom. That’s hardly a new subject for a song, but the lyrics are secondary (and at least hers rhyme).  (The original music video is here, a good version performed in Spain is here, and there’s a nice duet with a young girl here [ignore the obnoxious mime].)  I adore her voice, which is powerful with a bit of Edith-Piaf-like nasality.  Of all the European languages, I find French the most appealing in a song like this.

I expect I spend some of the weekend listening to the rest of her oeuvre.

Click below to see the French and (translated) English lyrics.

JE VEUX

French (links are to annotations)

[Couplet 1]
Donnez-moi une suite au Ritz, je n’en veux pas
Des bijoux de chez Chanel, je n’en veux pas
Donnez-moi une limousine, j’en ferais quoi ? (Papala-papapala)
Offrez-moi du personnel, j’en ferais quoi ?
Un manoir à Neuchâtel, c’n’est pas pour moi
Offrez-moi la Tour Eiffel, j’en ferais quoi ? (Papala-papapala)
(Cha-lapapa-dapa-papa-lapa-lapa-ladee-dada-papa)

[Refrain]
Je veux d’l’amour, d’la joie, de la bonne humeur
C’n’est pas votre argent qui f’ra mon bonheur
Moi, j’veux crever la main sur le cœur (papala-papapala)
Allons ensemble, découvrir ma liberté
Oubliez donc tous vos clichés
Bienvenue dans ma réalité

[Couplet 2]
J’en ai marre d’vos bonnes manières, c’est trop pour moi
Moi, je mange avec les mains et j’suis comme ça
Je parle fort et je suis franche, excusez-moi
Finie l’hypocrisie moi j’me casse de là
J’en ai marre des langues de bois
Regardez moi, toute manière j’vous en veux pas et j’suis comme ça J’suis comme ça (Papala-papapala)

[Refrain]
Je veux d’l’amour, d’la joie, de la bonne humeur
C’n’est pas votre argent qui f’ra mon bonheur
Moi, j’veux crever la main sur le cœur (Papala-papapala)
Allons ensemble, découvrir ma liberté
Oubliez donc tous vos clichés
Bienvenue dans ma réalité
Je veux d’l’amour, d’la joie, de la bonne humeur
C’n’est pas votre argent qui f’ra mon bonheur
Moi, j’veux crever la main sur le cœur (Papala-papapala)
Allons ensemble, découvrir ma liberté
Oubliez donc tous vos clichés
Bienvenue dans ma réalité
Je veux d’l’amour, d’la joie, de la bonne humeur
C’n’est pas votre argent qui f’ra mon bonheur
Moi, j’veux crever la main sur le cœur (Papala-papapala)
Allons ensemble, découvrir ma liberté
Oubliez donc tous vos clichés
Bienvenue dans ma réalité

English translation:

Give me a suite of rooms in Ritz hotel, I wouldn’t want it
Chanel jewellery, I wouldn’t want it
Give me a limousine, what would I do with that?
Pay a staff for me, what would I do with them?
A manor-house in Neufchatel, I’m not meant for that
Buy me the Eiffel Tower, what would I do with that?

I want love, joy and cheerfulness
Your money won’t buy me happiness
I just want to die with a hand on my chest
Let’s go together discover my freedom
Let you forget all your stereotypes
Welcome into my reality

I’m sick of your good manners, they’re more than I can take
I eat with my hands – that’s just the way I am
I’m loud and straightforward, pardon me
Down with hypocrisy, I’m outta here!
I’m sick of their wooden language
Just look at me, anyway I don’t bear a grudge and that’s the way I am!

I want love, joy and cheerfulness
Your money won’t buy me happiness
I just want to die with a hand on my chest
Let’s go together discover my freedom
Let you forget all your stereotypes
Welcome into my reality

And a line-by-line analysis of the lyrics is here.

27 thoughts on ““Je veux”

  1. Ah. The exuberance of youth! Clever with the hand kazoo, and she has a beautiful but subtle vibrato as well. She has fun written all over her!

  2. … the lyrics are secondary (and at least hers rhyme).

    If you can’t rhyme in a Romance language, you’ve got no business being a lyricist.

    Zaz swings.

  3. I was born in 1976, so firmly a GenXer, but I admit that I keep coming back to classic rock music from the late 60s to early 70s. For example, I’m now re-listening to CSNY obsessively…can’t seem to get enough of songs like “Lee Shore” and “Judy Blue Eyes”. People will still be listening to those songs in 100 years.

    As for the 80s, I will defend some of that music, but I agree that there was also a ton of garbage produced in that era. The years 1987 to 1990, other than perhaps standouts like Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album or Def Lepard’s “Hysteria”, were particularly atrocious. When it comes to 80s music, I often gravitate to stuff from bands such as Rush, the Cure, REM, and the Pretenders…bands that achieved some mainstream success but were usually considered “alternative”.

    The early 90s grunge movement was a welcome antidote to over-produced late 80s rock/pop, and I loved it as a rebellious teenager, but now a good portion of it is unlistenable to me now.

    The mid-90s to early 2000s was fairly innovative for hip-hop, which I am generally not a fan of but can still appreciate.

    For me, 2010 and onward is just one large blur of autotune, crass and simplistic lyrics, and repetitive and unimaginative mass-produced music. This is probably not a totally fair assessment, as there has been some good music produced in the last 10-15 years, but very rarely does it touch me at an emotional or technical level. And since I have 10 and 12 year old girls, I hear a lot of this stuff! In fact, the only “recent” released song that I really like is “Running Up that Hill”….which of course was written in 1985!

    1. Steven Wilson / Porcupine Trees is really the only artist from the 90’s and active today that I consider on par with music from the late 60’s and 70’s. I agree the era is the pinnacle of Rock Feats and Bands, and the Beatles are the best pop band of all time, and it’s a one-off of genius, but that doesn’t mean they have a monopoly on music greatness.

      Happy that “Running Up that Hill” got a reboot…obvs from season 4. Stranger Things. Happy Kate got a kick, good for her! Fun song…trading gender places, dontcha know, and in ’85! At least God was involved. lol.

  4. She is a great jazz singer as well. Listen to her interpretation of ‘J’aime Paris au mois de Mai’ (singing along with Charles Aznavour!).

          1. I have just got her most recent album, Isa ( 2021 ), as a 24-bit download. Alas, Warner France are lazy and don’t include a digital booklet. The cover photograph is quite different to Zaz’s debut — she now looks like a boho-bourgeois. The album is more homogeneous, rendering her into the long line of Francophone chansonniers.

            But the most affecting album I bought last month is this : https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/john-luther-adams-houses-of-the-wind/

  5. Zaz is terrific, and it was good to listen to that.
    Of course its the popular music heard over and over again on the radio that lends impressions about the music of today. Today that music is pretty much awful. Simplistic, minimalist electronic instruments and auto-tuned singing. The artists get fabulously rich without effort or talent (or at least it seems that way to me). I do like some of the alternative types of music today, but you have to hunt for it, and what I like isn’t necessarily what another person would like.

  6. I can hear the chord progression and a number of melody notes of Happy Together by The Turtles in the opening verse.

    That is not a criticism. It’s just good harmony and melody.

      1. It is well nigh impossible not to produce something that has an overlap shall we say with something already produced. There have been lots of high profile plagiarism cases recently, but the palette is limited! I always think it shows a song is very good if it can work in a completely different style. For example – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MZtL5LRka80

        1. Note that I made no accusations – it’s just good harmony and melody.

          Maybe of interest : a lawyer who had someone calculate every possible melody (TedX Talk) : https://youtu.be/sJtm0MoOgiU

          … he includes many of the famous ones, like My Sweet Lord (G. Harrison) / He’s So Fine (The Chiffons). Solution : co-authorship (if I recall).

            1. YES!
              I was astonished by that one! Only heard of it recently – the melody is there – but what can you say? Pfff…

  7. Pretty good.

    “Music” is such a strange category that has no coherence, as music has so many purposes, facets and functions. It’s impossible to make recommendations. With that in mind, check out King Gizzard & Lizard Wizard. They are probably the best rock band today — and one of the most prolific, and versatile bands, probably ever. In their 12 years of existence, they have put out 20 albums (!) plus EPs and other stuff, each different (they are vaguely retro/rock/psychedelic but range from funk to folk, and from disco to metal). You can‘t judge them by one album, or song. Here is an “official bootleg” of a concert, which goes right across.

    King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Live at Bonnaroo ’22 | Pro Shot/Official Bootleg (Aug 12, 2022)

    1. “Music” is such a strange category that has no coherence, as music has so many purposes, facets and functions. It’s impossible to make recommendations (close quote). Amen.
      But like you, I’m gonna do it anyway. IMHO the best rock ‘n’ roll today–with a heavy R & B influence, is performed by the Black Keys. I only wish they were coming to my town on their current tour. In the meantime, thanks You Tube!

      1. I also like the Black Keys. My current favorite, though, is The War on Drugs. I can listen to their songs “Under the Pressure, “Red Eyes, “Ocean between the Waves, “Burning Man”, “Harmonia’s Dream, and others over and over. Better live than recorded IMHO. For the record, I’m 70 and you will find me cranking them up and dancing along.

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