Nouvelle Chanson (French pronunciation: [nuvɛl ʃɑ̃sɔ̃], meaning "New Song"), sometimes anglicized as New Chanson, is a recently coined buzzword used to define a "new" style of music emerging in France, one which takes inspiration from such forefathers of French Chanson as Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens or Barbara (notably none of them recognize in mastermind Léo Ferré's legacy), albeit in a more soft-pop music style. However, the principal influences appear to be rockiers artists as Serge Gainsbourg or Brigitte Fontaine. Principal French exponents of Nouvelle Chanson include artists such as Benjamin Biolay, Émilie Simon, Coralie Clément, Keren Ann, Francoiz Breut, Olivia Ruiz, and Camille. The term Chanson Nouveau is also used, and as a developing genre, there is considerable disagreement even in France about who belongs in this genre and how it is to be described.
Well-known contemporary English speaking artists who might also be termed New Chanson, in that their musical style is clearly traceable from this same Chanson lineage can be seen in artists such as New York based Rufus Wainwright, his sister Martha Wainwright (who recently reprised Barbara's song 'Dis, quand reviendras-tu ?' -, Regina Spektor (showing French influence in songs such as 'Après moi' and 'Ne me quitte pas'), CocoRosie (originally American, now Paris-based) and London-based singer-songwriter Ana Silvera.
Characteristics of Nouvelle Chanson
Nouvelle Chanson, whilst influenced by the forefathers of French Chanson (cited above) has developed through modern influences such as rock and electronica. There is a tendency for theatricality and the adoption of personas, alongside intensely poetic lyrics incorporating surreal and metaphorical elements. Wry, intelligent humour is also often prevalent. However the defining characteristic of Chanson, both old and new, is that it focuses on the French language as vehicle and instrument. There is an emphasis on craftsmanship with many of the artists classically trained and/or having studied music academically (cf. Benjamin Biolay studied at the National Conservatoire, Lyon, Emilie Simon studied musicology at the University of Montpellier, and Ana Silvera has performed with the English National Opera and Royal Opera House) giving an intellectual aspect that sets this style of music apart from other genres such as pop, rock and 'anti-folk'.
Subgenres of Nouvelle Chanson
Nouvelle Chanson artists could be divided into the following genres:
- Trip-Hop/Electronica influences
- Emilie Simon and Francoiz Breut belong in this group, and Camille, though she uses few electronic effects.
- Updated Traditional Chanson
- The second group seek to refine traditional Chanson, usually accompanied by a solo guitar or piano. This includes Anais (Croze) and Pauline Croze
- Bossa Nova and Samba influenced musicians include
- Olivia Ruiz, Coralie Clement, Benjamin Biolay, Emily Loizeau, and Les Blaireux.
- Nouvelle Vague
- Artists such as Cibelle and Amel Bent are examples of the chanson form with Latin and/or African influences.
- Keren Ann, Vanessa Paradis, and Les Blaireaux represent the chanson form mediated through pop/rock sensibilities.
Literary And Artistic influences
Nouvelle Chanson takes its inspiration artistically from Dada and Surrealism. Lyrically, inspiration is also drawn from fairy tales, contemporary poetry, and magical realist literature. It is also theatrical, and draws on the adoption of various personas.
- Françoiz Breut — her voice is often referred to as 'moody' or 'smoky'.[according to whom?]
- Amélie-les-crayons — is one of the longer-established artists in this genre, but whose work has only recently[when?] attracted international attention.
- Camille (Dalmais) — referred to[according to whom?] as the 'French Björk' on account of her experimental style.
- Emilie Simon — her music is theatrical and atmospheric, her voice generally a fragile child-voice.
- Keren Ann — is a singer originally from Israel, now living in France, who also performs mostly in English, though her work is strongly associated with the New Chanson movement.
- Nouvelle Vague — a duo who add various guest singers, their first album was considered Bossa Nova, but they have recorded in a huge variety of styles, even including covers of middle-of-the-road and easy listening tracks.
- Anaïs Croze — her approach is personal, humorous, and folksy.
- Benjamin Biolay — is closely associated with Keren-Ann and his sister Coralie Clement among others.
- Coralie Clement — is the sister of Benjamin Biolay, who is prominent in the movement and also works with Keren Ann.
- Emily Loizeau — the instrumentation is similar to Olivia Ruiz, sounding rather eccentric to an Anglo audience.
- Christina Goh — whose music is between blues and chanson while the djembe is the rhythmic point of the presentation.
- Jeanne Cherhal — has recently emerged with an unusual, usually acoustic, style.
- Pauline Croze — has a style which is close to traditional French Pop and Chanson, or to Folk.
- Olivia Ruiz — the main instrument seems to be a ukulele. Humour is an important part of her approach. "What's yours is mine", she sings on La Petite Voleuse ending with relish "and what's Mine is Mine, too".
Note: Outside France, there are a number of artists who, although perhaps not Chanson artists as such, seem to fit in with demonstrate an affinity with the movement, such as French-born Marianne Dissard working from Tucson in Arizona (USA).
- (Leslie) Feist — (originally from Canada, now resident in France) came to international attention[when?] through her song "1234" which was used to advertise the iPod nano.
- CocoRosie — is an unclassifiable duo from Canada. Originally formed in 1996 and now resident in France and performing again, these two sisters can be very experimental, incorporating into their music the sounds of toys and other unusual effects.
- Ane Brun — has subtle and metaphysical music based around daily life.
- Anna Ternheim — has a more traditional folk style and sings complex songs, often focusing on relationships. Songs: "My Secret", "Halfway to Fivepoints".
- Emiliana Torrini — is an Icelandic performer. Her work has artistic and avante aspects and she has associations with both Trip-Hop and Nouvelle Chanson.
- Ana Silvera — her lyrics draw inspiration from literary work and are complex in style. She also covers the work of Jacques Brel, and Barbara, a nod to the forefathers of Chanson.
- Cibelle — (originally from Brazil, now a resident of London) has recently come to attention with her prize-winning second album, The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves, which includes songs in Spanish, English, and French, in a wide variety of styles.
- Imogen Heap — whilst coming from a rock perspective is influenced by poets, such as Sylvia Plath.
- Jason Kouchak — Vocal interpreter of Classic French chansons inspired by Aznavour,Gainsbourg and Barbara.He performs in both languages with modern instrumentation.
Artists such as Rufus Wainwright, Beirut (band), Regina Spektor, Marianne Dissard and Antony Hegarty could be classified as "Nouvelle Chanson". Their work is usually highly literary and may employ classical techniques as well as utilizing the waltz style.
NB: Rufus Wainright is Canadian.
- Cynthia Alexander — affinities with Nouvelle Chanson as well as with the Freak Folk genre into which CocoRosie are also often classified.
- "Interview with Benjamin Biolay". Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- "Martha Wainwright Discography". Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- "Time Out London Review". Retrieved 2008-11-25.