À quoi je sers...
|"À quoi je sers..."|
|Single by Mylène Farmer|
|from the album En Concert|
|B-side||"La Veuve noire"|
|Format||CD maxi, 7" single, 7" maxi,
digital download (since 2005)
|Writer(s)||Lyrics: Mylène Farmer
Music: Laurent Boutonnat
|Mylène Farmer singles chronology|
"À quoi je sers..." (English: "What good am I...") is a 1989 song recorded by French singer-songwriter Mylène Farmer. The single was a new song when it was released in July 1989, being not available on Farmer's studio albums, but only in a live version on En Concert. Marking the end of Farmer's first period of work, it hit a moderate success in France.
Background and writing
In May 1989, Farmer began her first tour throughout France, which was a great success. Farmer would probably wrote the lyrics of "À quoi je sers..." during this tour, as she was incredibly surprised by her success on stage and she expressed doubts about the direction of her musical career. The singer and her partner Laurent Boutonnat decided to record this song as new single, with another unpublished song on the B-side, "La Veuve noire", whose music is very similar to that of "À quoi je sers...". Both songs were recorded fairly quickly. However, due to the success of the previous single "Sans logique", "À quoi je sers..." was not released before July 1989. Little broadcast on radio, the song appeared as a synthesis of the singer's work and marked the end of the first period of Farmer's career.
Lyrics and music
|— Beginning of the chorus|
French author Erwan Chuberre said "À quoi je sers..." is "a song with desperate lyrics but a dance rhythm that incorporates one of the favorite phrases of depressive people". The pessimistic song is about madness, the "desire of suicide and the impression of the futility of the life". The theme, as well as the beginning of each verse ("Poussière vivante") and other words in the lyrics ("Chaque heure demande pour qui pour quoi se redresser") were inspired by 1942 book L'Apprentissage de la ville by French writer Luc Dietrich, whose books are known to have a morbid tone. About the writing of the song, Farmer said in an interview: "I wrote "À quoi je sers..." shortly after the beginning of the tour. Because it was the question on my mind. (...). About this : to scream out loud what others will not dare do." According to the biographer Bernard Violet, the song which tackles "a new fantasy, self-destruction", is "filled with a special symbolism describing the passage from life to death" and "illustrates the strange torpor in which the singer seems to take refuge in the real life".
According to some observers, this song could summed up by itself, the entire universe, atmosphere and themes evoked in Farmer's work. The name of the song ends with three suspension points - not a question mark - suggesting "the singer had doubts about her usefulness on Earth". The black and white cover's photograph shows Farmer in her dressing room after one of her concerts at the Palais des Sports (Paris) drying a tear with a handkerchief. As a result, the song could refer to the "loneliness that invades an artist after his exit from the stage".
For the only time in Farmer's career, Laurent Boutonnat directed the video and wrote its screenplay (usually, it is Farmer who composed the latter). It is a Requiem Publishing production which was shot for two days in August 1989 on the Lac de Grand-Lieu (Loire Atlantique, France), with a budget of about 30,000 euros. Moreover, it is the first Farmer's video to be in black and white. All characters from previous singer's video appear in "À quoi je sers...", however, as the actors who first performed the roles were not all free for the shooting, the characters are in fact body doubles in this video, except the toreador from "Sans logique". According to some sources, Farmer would have been seasick during the shooting. The actor who plays the boatman is Farmer's guitarist, Slim Pezin. During the shooting of the video, the weather was warm with a morning mist; however, Farmer did not remove her wool coat.
At the beginning of the video, Farmer stands at the side of a pond, with a suitcase in her hand. A man with large dark circles around eyes appears on a boat through the fog and Farmer climbs aboard, sits down and seems to be very sad and thoughtful. Using a long paddle, the man rows to move the boat among the rushes. After a while, five silhouettes appear, walking on the water (these characters are Rasoukine ["Tristana"], the rival ["Libertine"], the puppeteer ["Sans contrefaçon"], the English captain ["Pourvu qu'elles soient douces"] and the torero ["Sans logique"]). Farmer joined them, while the boat goes away.
According to some analyses, the video is based on the text La Maison des morts, composed by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. In this case, the pond would represent the death; it also may be an allegory of the Styx, one of the rivers of Hell in Greek mythology, referring to the Farmer's passage from world of the living to that of the dead. As for the walk of the characters in the pond at the end of the video, it would evoke the idea that everyone is forced to continue his own life with his memories and his anxieties without asking too many questions.
France Soir considered this single as a "miserable response to "On est tous des imbéciles" and "Sans logique"". In contrast, Spot Light qualified this song as "the more beautiful slow song of the year". Graffiti described "À quoi je sers" as "a fluid, slight and fast unforgettable song (...) which will arouse the interest of the crowds". For Jeune et Jolie, it was "one of the most beautiful texts that [Farmer] had ever sang".
The single, which was released only in France, was unable to reach the top ten. It started in the top 50 on 12 August at number 29 and reached a peak at number 16 six weeks later, and here stayed for two weeks. After this, it fell almost continuously and totaled fourteen weeks in the top 50. It remains to date Farmer's lowest peak position in France for one of her studio single.
Promotion and live performances
In 1989, Farmer participated in three television shows in which she performed "À quoi je sers...": J'y crois dur comme terre (2 September, TF1), Sacrée Soirée (6 September, TF1), Avis de recherche (15 September, TF1).
"À quoi je sers..." was performed during the 1989 tour and is available on the live album En Concert, but it was not performed at Palais des Sports (Paris) in May, as the song was not created at the time. When she performed the song, Farmer wore black and white checked trousers and a grey jacket. The song was originally scheduled to be included in the set list of the Mylenuim Tour, as Farmer performed the song during the rehearsal in Marseille, but was finally replaced by "Il n'y a pas d'ailleurs". It was also performed during her 2009 tour and was thus included in the track listing of the live album N°5 on Tour. Farmer, who wore a glittering red cape with hood, was first seated on the stage stairs when she sang the first verse, then stood up. However, for the shows in Russia, the song was replaced by "L'amour n'est rien..." which was most aired in the country.
B-side: "La Veuve noire"
The vinyl's B-side and the third track of the CD maxi contain a new song, "La Veuve noire", which was unpublished at the time. The song's title refers to a very small venomous spider that lives in the Mediterranean regions. In the lyrics, it addresses the theme of the singer's artistic death: Farmer personifies her experience of the stage in May 1989, which was her first tour, under the traits of this insect and lists some of its characteristics. In terms of music, many noises are added to the melody that actually samples the music of "À quoi je sers..." This song was never performed on stage, but appears on the compilation Les Mots.
Formats and track listings
These are the formats and track listings of single releases of "À quoi je sers...":
- 7" single
|1.||"À quoi je sers..." (single version)||4:35|
|2.||"La Veuve noire"||4:13|
- CD maxi / 7" maxi
|1.||"À quoi je sers..." (club remix)||7:50|
|2.||"La Veuve noire"||4:13|
|3.||"À quoi je sers..." (single version)||4:35|
- 7" single - Promo
|1.||"À quoi je sers..." (single version)||4:39|
|2.||"À quoi je sers..." (orchestral version)||4:39|
- Digital download
|1.||"À quoi je sers..." (single version)||4:35|
|2.||"À quoi je sers..." (1989 live version)||5:05|
|3.||"À quoi je sers..." (club remix)||7:50|
|4.||"À quoi je sers..." (2009 live version)||5:07|
|July 1989||Polydor||France||7" single||889 758-7|
|7" maxi||889 759-1|
|CD maxi||889 759-2|
|7" maxi - Promo||2029|
|Single version||4:30||Les Mots||—||1989||See the previous sections|
|Club remix||7:50||Dance Remixes||Laurent Boutonnat||1989||There are more musical bridges and, at the end, a male voice saying "Quoi" can be heard.|
|Orchestral version||4:30||—||Laurent Boutonnat||1989||In this instrumental version, all the lyrics are removed and Farmer only performs background vocals during the refrain, but without following the original melody.|
|Music video||4:58||Les Clips Vol. III, Music Videos I||—||1989|
(recorded in 1989)
|5:05||En Concert||—||1989||In this live version, similar to the original one, the introduction is slightly modified with a few guitar riffs, then the keyboard and the orchestra begin the song.|
(recorded in 2009)
|5:07||N°5 on Tour||—||2009||This is an acoustic version.|
Credits and personnel
Charts and sales
|French SNEP Singles Chart||16||120,000|
- Bee, Caroline; Bioy, Antoine; Thiry, Benjamin (January 2006). Mylène Farmer, la part d'ombre (in French). L'Archipel. ISBN 2-84187-790-6.
- Cachin, Benoît (2006). Le Dictionnaire des Chansons de Mylène Farmer (in French). Tournon. ISBN 2-35144-000-5.
- Cachin, Benoît (2006). Mylène Farmer Influences (in French). Mascara. ISBN 978-2-35144-026-1.
- Chuberre, Erwan (2007). L'Intégrale Mylène Farmer (in French). City. ISBN 978-2-35288-108-7.
- Chuberre, Erwan (2008). Mylène Farmer, phénoménale (in French). City. ISBN 978-2-35288-176-6.
- Chuberre, Erwan (18 June 2009). Mylène Farmer: Des mots sur nos désirs (in French). Alphée. ISBN 2-7538-0477-X.
- Hemmerlin, Brigitte; Pontet, Vanessa (26 August 2009). Mylène Farmer: La star aux deux visages (in French). L'Archipel. ISBN 2-8098-0196-7.
- Royer, Hugues (2008). Mylène, biographie (in French). Spain: Flammarion. ISBN 978-2-35287-139-2.
- Violet, Bernard (2004). Mylène Farmer, biographie (in French). J'ai lu. ISBN 2-290-34916-X.
- Royer, 2008, p. 123.
- "Mylène Farmer - "À quoi je sers..." - History". Mylene.net. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
- Chuberre, 2008, pp. 120-22.
- Royer, 2008, p. 165.
- Bee, Caroline; Brunet, Océane; Thiry, Benjamin; Bernard, Katia (2000). "Le bonheur des tristes". Instant-Mag (in French) (Pantin: Tear Prod) 4: 23–24.
- "Mylène Farmer: "J'ai enfin appris à sourire"". Télé 7 Jours (in French) (Mylene.net) 1540. 27 November 1989. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
- Violet, 2004, p. 118.
- Cachin, 2006 (2), pp. 8-9.
- Cachin, 2006, pp. 21-24.
- Bee, Caroline; Brunet, Océane; Thiry, Benjamin; Bénard, Katia (2001). "Errare farmerum est (2)". Instant-Mag (in French) (Pantin: Tear Prod) 6: 14.
- Hemmerlin, 2009, p. 152.
- Chuberre, 2007, pp. 22-23.
- ""À quoi je sers...", music video" (in French). Sans-logique. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
- Hemmerlin, 2009, p. 153
- Chuberre, 2009, p. 97.
- Bee, Caroline; Brunet, Océane; Thiry, Benjamin; Bénard, Katia (2001). "Ne crachez plus sur Marcus". Instant-Mag (in French) (Pantin: Tear Prod) 6: 20.
- Bee, 2006, p. 314.
- Tredez, Florence (1 August 1989). "Le Disque du jour". France Soir (in French) (Devant-soi). Retrieved 19 March 2008.
- "À quoi je sers...". Spot Light (in French) (Devant-soi). September 1989. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
- "À quoi je sers...". Graffiti (in French) (Devant-soi). September 1989. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
- "À quoi je sers...". Jeune et Jolie (in French) (Devant-soi). September 1989. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
- ""À quoi je sers...", French Singles Chart" (in French). Lescharts. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
- ""À quoi je sers...", television performances" (in French). Sans-logique. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
- "Mylène Farmer - "À quoi je sers..." - TV" (in French). Mylene.net. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
- Cachin, 2006, pp. 262-63.
- "Mylène Farmer - "À quoi je sers..." - Supports" (in French). Mylene.net. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
- "Mylène Farmer - "À quoi je sers..." - Versions" (in French). Mylene.net. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
- "Mylène Farmer - "À quoi je sers..." - Crédits" (in French). Mylene.net. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
- Royer, 2008, p. 352.
- Cachin, 2006, p. 22.
- (French) Mylène Farmer — "À quoi je sers..." All about the song, on Mylène.net
- "À quoi je sers...", official lyrics