posted on March 10, 2008 17:04
The 23rd Victoires de la Musique, the French recording industry's annual awards ceremony, took place at the Zénith in Paris last Saturday (8 March). The awards are the French equivalent of the Brit, Grammy and Meteor prizes. Your Paris correspondent was happy to see that many of our 2007 favourites were among the nominees, most of whom performed on the night.
The big winner on the night was Vanessa Paradis, who caused a minor surprise by taking the Best Female Artist honour that was expected to go to her competitor Zazie. The latter, a former model and voiceover artist turned singer, is insufferably self-righteous and makes bland, wishy-washy pop about fashionable social concerns (war is bad, consumerism is bad, you are bad, etc).
We were happy, then, that good triumphed over evil and Zazie was trumped by Madame Depp's harmlessly catchy radio-friendliness. Paradis also won the high-profile Best Chanson/Variety Album (code for Best Mainstream Album) for 'Divinidylle', written with French rocker M, a.k.a. Mathieu Chedid.
Zazie, smiling gamely through the snubs, gained some consolation when a tune she co-wrote won the night's most prestigious prize, Best Original Song. Regular readers will recognise the tune in question, 'Double Je' performed by Christophe Willem - a fantastic slice of disco-pop that was runner-up in this blog's equally-prestigious Best Song list for 2007. Thankfully, the award is presented to the singer and not the writer, so Willem accepted a much-deserved prize on his part.
The other headline-grabber, from a French perspective, was Renan Luce. The young Breton singer-songer (left) was voted Best Album Newcomer and Best Live Newcomer on the strength of his lively 'Repenti'.
However, in doing so he defeated French Letter favourite Emily Loizeau. Nonetheless, the marvellous Mlle Loizeau gave a typically dreamy performance of the title track from 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde'.
Your blogger had a particular interest in the Best Pop/Rock Album category. Three of the four nominees were Dionysos, Keren Ann and Manu Chao - numbers 1, 4 and 7 in our own album countdown last year. Yet the prize went to the fourth nominee: bland '80s veteran Etienne Daho. Nonetheless, Keren Ann did herself proud with a fantastic rock-out version of 'Lay Your Head Down' (which you can watch at the end of this article) - and Dionysos lead singer Mathias Malzieu climbed over most of the stage set during his manic performance.
Chao, the Che Guevara of rock, didn't appear at the awards. Strangely, he wasn't nominated in the Best World Music category, where the prize went to recent French Letter featuree Yael Naim and her happy-clappy, laptop-flogging folk-pop.
Justice prevailed in the Best Electronic Music category - literally, as the duo of that name beat the David Guetta / Bob Sinclar axis of evil. The electro-metal pair were also nominated for Best Video with their memorable 'T-shirt' video for 'D.A.N.C.E.' - but the prize went to Feist for her equally-clever '1-2-3-4' (right). Veteran rapper MC Sol--
-- "Hang on a second, croissant boy" says you. "Feist is Canadian, and not even one of the French-speaking Canadians at that. And, video connoisseur that I am [this is still you talking], I know this video was made by US director Patrick Daughters. Explain me that!"
-- Well, says your Paris correspondent, Feist recorded her last two albums in France - and that, apparently, is enough for the French music export board to claim her as French for the purposes of their statistics. For instance, at the recent MIDEM music industry conference it emerged that, of the impressive total of 27.6 million units of French music shifted worldwide in 2007, the biggest individual album seller was actually the 700,000 copies of Feist's 'The Reminder'. As it's the same French music industry that organises the Victoires, voilà pourquoi Feist was nominated. Does that answer your question?
-- "Indeed it does," says you, "and I bow to your superior intellect."
Grand, so. Anyway, as we were saying, veteran rapper MC Solaar won the Best Urban Music prize - and a younger version, slam-rapper Abd Al Malik, was a surprising (yet deserving) choice as Best Male Artist.
But the real talking-point of the night came with the Best Live Show category. Among the nominees were none other than Daft Punk - and when their name was announced in the list of nominations, the camera cut to two men in rubber-fetish masks (1 min 24 sec) seated in the VIP section. A shiver of excitement went through the hall - is it really them? If they win, will they collect their prize? WILL THEY SPEAK? A theatre - a nation - was rivetted.
Of course, the prize went to another nominee (flabby '60s rocker Michel Polnareff). And thus was squandered an opportunity that we may never have again, a priceless rock n'roll moment lost forever. Will our children ever forgive us?
Apart from that might-have-been moment, here's our highlight from the 2008 Victoires de la Musique ceremony: the aforementioned performance of 'Lay Your Head Down' by Keren Ann. Lou would have been proud of her: