“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that“. I could easily adapt Bill Shankly’s legendary quote by replacing football by music. I had in mind never to write bad things in this blog, whose aim was to share my enthusiasm and love of music and make friends or readers discover new sounds and records. However, writing about things one does not like can also be an interesting exercise.
As a French citizen and considering myself as attached to my country for what I am and to the UK for my pop culture tastes (music, movies, literature and football between others), I have weirdly faced difficult times recently. I will try to explain these feelings below and write a few thoughts about it…
- Johnny Hallyday’s recent passing
“Le Rock est mort” (eg “Rock is dead”) is one of the things you could find in magazines a few weeks ago in France. For those not familiar with the guy, Johnny Hallyday (real name Jean-Philippe Smet) was a superstar in France and considered as THE French rocker. He acted in a few movies as well and was overall a celebrity everyone was aware of in France. He passed away in early December from lung cancer at the age of 74 and the whole nation mourned for a few days. It looks there was more than 1 million people in the streets of Paris to celebrate and give him a last farewell.
Although I had nothing against the man who had his flaws but no more no less than all of us, I felt really not at ease with what happened after his death. Once again, I do respect people mourning his leaving this Earth and to be more precise, there is nothing more sad than seeing all these people dying from cancer. The issue was not there: to make it short, Johnny Hallyday’s music is for me the enemy and I remember having put his name on the black list given to the DJ of my wedding’s party twenty years ago… I guess his music is everything I do not like in music: no subtlety in words which are piling up layers after layers of clichés, strong and “in your face” voice which does not give room from compromise (hate or love it), very poor music which is neither rock nor pure French chanson. I do recognize his importance in giving a bit of blues and rock culture in France in the early 60’s and this is amazing to realise that The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix opened shows for him or that Jimmy Page played on a few of his records, knowing that this was during his pre-Led Zeppelin golden age and that he was basically playing with everyone. But having said this, Johnny Hallyday is to me the epitome of what is not cool in music especially when I was younger: how could you love The Jesus and Mary Chain, Marvin Gaye, John Coltrane or again The Clash and find a drop of interest in Johnny Hallyday’s music? With age, and having learnt to have a different view of what is cool or uncool (cf. my recent gig’s review of Daryl Hall & John Oates), I still think his music remains very poor in a world where one could listen to thousands of good records. And to me having a Harley Davidson bike and wearing a perfecto does not mean you have a “rock’n’roll attitude”… Eric Cantona is certainly much more rock’n’roll in his behaviour.
I guess I made my point here. In a nutshell: can we respect such a national event whilst having a different opinion as well? The madness felt on social networks was really symbolic of our current age and to me did not allow any different views…
- Adele: good or bad?
Once again, not sure if a) I can give a clear answer to such a reply b) my contribution will an impact bigger than that of a micro fly… Anyway, let’s give it a try. Adele has been seen as the saviour of the music industry in the last ten years as she has been selling millions of records, especially in the UK and the USA. I do not want to be snobbish but I had never heard one of her songs (maybe portions of a song called “Hello” on the radio a few months ago) so I thought it was the right moment to use my streaming service and listen to her records without prejudice. One of my closest music buddies with excellent taste is a fan of hers so I thought that it could not be that bad a moment to spare.
However, I must say I was quite disappointed overall. I quite enjoyed her first record (“19” – released in 2008) as I found a certain freshness and originality in songs and musical structure. A bit boring sometimes but a great voice indeed and not a cliché in sight. Rating of 6.5/10.
This is on the second album (“21” -released in 2011) that things started to be a bit more difficult for me as a listener. One can feel in this record a certain lack of innocence, probably coming from the huge success of her first record and the pressure on her artistic and social life. There are a few good songs (“I’ll be waiting“), a few boring ones (“Lovesong” The Cure cover, really?) and a few awful ones (“Don’t you remember“) in the atrocious Celine Dion / Whitney Houston style. Rating of 5/10.
The least one could talk about her latest album (“25” released in 2015), the better. There is no musical personality in this record anymore and she sings as if she would like to prove us she has deep lungs. A few songs are really atrocious (“Hello“, “I Miss You” and “Sweetest Devotion“) and a rating a 4/10 is quite generous.
…but once again, who am I to judge? Her music is considered complex and full of soul by many and I can recognize this. This is just that I personally do not like singers and musicians who overstate so I guess this is not for me.
- Celine Dion: can a singer be less cool?
..well, I guess not but once again all this is relative. Johnny Hallyday was a good and generous guy, Adele is probably a good person and mother and Celine Dion is a very good person.
At least, this is what this book reveals and what a shocker for an indie rock / deep soul / hip-hop / free jazz fan! “Let’s talk about love” by Carl Wilson is part of the great 33 1/3 series (cf. a post done a few years ago about this fantastic book series).
Carl Wilson is the kind of person who has similar taste as mine I guess and in particular a found adoration for the late great Elliott Smith. The starting point of the book comes from the infamous Oscar ceremony of 1998 when a very awkward Elliott Smith played on stage his beautiful song “Miss Misery” from Gus Van Sant‘s movie “Good Will Hunting“. What made this performance difficult to watch was the unbalance between Elliott in a weird and too large white suit, alone on stage, very frail, in front of all these very rich and successful Hollywood moguls who were thinking “What the heck?…”. As expected, bad taste and power won that night and Celine Dion was the winner with the “Titanic” horrendous song.
What is more interesting is what happened backstage. The only natural, warm and friendly person of all with Elliott was actually Celine Dion. This simple fact gave to Carl Wilson the envy to go further and discover more about Celine Dion, her past, her family stories, what made her songs so successful, etc… At the end of the day, this is probably one of the best music books I read and I must say I would not have envisaged it while reluctantly buying it.
- What next?
Well,…nothing I guess and these few thoughts probably did not add anything to this debate. But as The Byrds once said, I’ll probably feel better after writing this post.
See you soon to talk about (hopefully) good music!