Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Shout Out Loud: Yelle's Pop-Up
This review appears in this week's Wireless Bollinger, which also contains a fine piece on Tegan and Sara from Joe.
2007 has been a French electronic renaissance. With House godfathers Daft Punk playing in steel pyramids to huge crowds and newcomers Justice emblazoning their cross motif across the world, it’s apparent that the 4/4 beat is as popular as ever. The release of Brittany native Yelle’s Pop-Up seems perfectly timed, but it’s probably more of a coincidence than some sort of marketing ploy.
Yelle’s rise to prominence came about in a manner that’s become almost routine in a grassroots digital environment. After posting a vulgar song entitled "Short Dick Cuizi," which insults a member of the Parisian group TTC, onto MySpace and garnering thousands of plays, Yelle would eventually be signed by Source etc, a French division of EMI. That song would eventually become "Je Veux Te Voir," a song that borders on absurdity, with allusions to everything from Hummers to French Fries, but one that remains thoroughly entertaining.
The title itself (trans. "I Want to See You") reinforces the fact that Yelle is a singer, not an introverted pair of producers, and capable of injecting personality into each track. Instead of relying on obscure vocal samples or a rotating list of collaborators, Pop-Up is anchored by Yelle’s voice. The album is not merely another anonymous dance party soundtrack, but the work of a single singer, albeit one that doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Despite lyrics sung entirely in French, Pop-Up’s straightforward song titles provide even a rudimentary Francophile with a general impression of each track’s meaning, which is generally some reiteration of boys, girls and love. Those looking for deeply insightful songwriting should look elsewhere; it is apparent that the album’s resonance will come from its basslines, not its lyrics. Yelle’s mantra seems to be that sheer catchiness trumps subject matter, and she has the production to back it up.
"Ce Jeu" (This Game) begins the album on a pretty note, as Yelle sings winsomely over a recurring synth hook; "A Cause des Garçons" (Because of Boys) adds a snarling bass to the mix, and it’s unsurprising that the Parisian electronic label Kitsuné recently released a remix EP of the track. "Tristesse / Joie" (Sadness / Joy) begins in melancholy form, with a restrained, regular beat, but Yelle’s vocals eventually build to an anthemic chorus, courtesy of overdubbing. "Tu Es Beau" (You Are Beautiful) might be guilty of cliché, but its delicate arrangement and swooning effects are notable as one of the more emotional moments on the album.
Yelle seems comfortable in the role of chanteuse, and it’s unfortunate that the role isn’t fully explored throughout the album. But notions of sentimentality dissolve with Yelle’s breakthrough single "Je Veux Te Voir," which is as effective as ever in reminding the listener why she’s releasing an album at all. The song’s eviscerating synth lines and militant percussion fit well with Yelle’s chants, and the beat’s only interruption occurs when her voice is chopped up into sample sized pieces.
"Amour du Sol" (Love of the Ground) embraces sunny Europop, while closer “Jogging” is a cheerleader-style house track that, although fun, isn’t the most impressive finale. Still, it’s a fitting way to end an album that won’t appeal to everyone. Yelle is a solid pick for fans of singers with a healthy dose of the electronic, but it's unlikely that she'll persuade anyone who's wary of her style to embrace it.
Ultimately, Pop-Up is like a piece of multicolored candy: hardly nutritional, but definitely sweet.
MP3: Yelle - A Cause des Garçons
MP3: Yelle - Je Veux Te Voir
Official Site: Yelle