Monday, January 30, 2012

Mylène Farmer

Mylène Farmer, French singer, songwriter, actress and author.

Some say she is France's Lady Gaga, bien sur, before the latter was even born. Others say she is a sort of Madonna with more substance, imagination and artistry (la French touch), some compare her to Michael Jackson as, like Thriller, her music videos changed the way music clips were being made. What is certain is that Miss Farmer is a mega-star.

Mylène Farmer has sold more than 30 million records, is one of the most successful recording artists of all time in France and holds the record for the most #1 hits in the French charts with 12 to date, 8 of which were consecutive. She is the only French singer to have a #1 hit throughout four consecutive decades.

Pretty impressive.

Born in Quebec in 1961 to French parents, she moved to France when she was 8. At 17, she discovered acting and changed her surname name to Farmer in tribute to her idol, actress Frances Farmer. In 1984, she met 17-year-old film student, Laurent Boutonnat, after responding to an ad for an actress in a small film he was working on. They became friends, writing and producing music together, with Boutonnat being the force behind Mylène's music videos--a collaboration that still survives today.

It was with the release of the single "Libertine" on her 1986 album, "Cendres de Lune" that the tone for Mylène's musical style was set, the lyrics  are sensual and romantic, inspired by 19th century literature. Boutonnat, who directed and produced the video, was inspired by Stanley Kubricks film "Barry Lyndon" and the novels of the Marquis de Sade. It is the very first video in which a French female singer appears full frontal naked. 

Here is part one of two of Mylène's richly decorous erotic epics set in 18th century France. They are certainly more films than music videos, carrying the watcher back to another époque


Her second album, "Ainsi soit je" (a play on the French expression "ainsi soit-il", or "so be it"), has a much darker ambiance, and is more sexually ambiguous than her previous album. Its songs are inspired by Mylène's favorite authors, including French romantic poet Charles Baudelaire and American horror writer Edgar Allen Poe. 

The first #1 hit of her career from her second album, "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces"is the suite to "Libertine". 

Pourvu Qu'elles Soient Douces

Mylène Farmer notoriously shied away from the public eye, and hesitated to tour in concert. Finally she agreed in 1989 to a full scale 52-date tour in Europe; her costumes were designed by Thierry Mugler.

The release of her 3rd album in 1991, "L'Autre..." made her an icon with its single "Désenchantée" (the best selling French single of all time according the Guinness Book of World Records). Unfortunately, a man who had been stalking her entered Polydor Records in Paris and held employees at gunpoint demanding to speak with Miss Farmer. He murdered the receptionist. Mylène fled to Los Angeles to live for a short while. 


In 1992, her album "Dance Remixes" was releases which included a new song, "Que mon cœur lâche", a song dealing with AIDS and sexual relations, and directed by the amazing French director, Luc Besson (I will blog about this director soon as his films are absolute masterpieces).

During her time in California, she wrote her forth studio album, Anamorphosée, again, a huge success.

In 1999, her fifth studio album, Innamoramento, was released, and later that year she toured, the Mylenium Tour, which set the record for the highest grossing tour by a non-English speaking artist.

In 2001, her first greatest hits collection came out, "Les Mots", whose title track and single, a duet with Seal, became a huge hit.

After a long period of silence, in December 2004, Mylène held a press conference to announce her new album "Avant que l'ombre" with her new single "Fuck Them All". The album went multi-platinum. This was followed by a 13-night concert engagement in Paris in 2006. There was little to no promotion, marking a new level of reclusively for the icon (to date, nothing is known about her personal life). This show was designed by Mark Fisher, and featured two stages connected by a mobile bridge and a curtain of words written with water.

She recorded a duet with Moby entitled "Slipping Away", to which she translated the lyrics into French.

Mylène then worked on Luc Besson's film "Aurther and the Minimoys", doing the voice of Selenia whose character was voiced by Madonna in the international version.

2008 marked the release of her electro-driven album "Point de Suture". Mylène Farmer beat her own record of having more #1 hits in France than any other artist with 5 singles from the album at #1.

"Bleu Noir" was released in 2010, produced by Farmer, RedOne, Moby and Archive with collaborations with Line Renaud and Ben Harper.

Her single "Oui mais... non" was produced by RedOne who co-produced "Poker Face", "Bad Romance" and "LoveGame" and who has worked not only with Lady Gaga, but with Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull.

Mylène Farmer performed this last Saturday at France's NRJ (pronounced energy) Music Awards.

So, my big question is... what is she going to surprise and astound us with next? En tout cas, well done, Miss Farmer, chapeau (hats off)....

Groses bisous de musique original et a bientôt.

Love, Charley


  1. Great post Charley. I enjoyed reading about Mylene's career in recent years as I stopped following her music when I moved to the US in 1996. Very interesting. She is certainly unique, and a gorgeous woman still. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Thanks, Veronique! Yes, I only knew the work from the beginning of her career as well, it was so interesting to see how much more she has accomplished... amazing. I just love the movie/music videos she did: Libertine and Pourvu Qu'elles Soient Douces, they just take you away on a voyage, so rich and intriguing....

  3. Charley you are now the recipient of the Versatile Blogger Award! Hooray!

  4. Wow Thanks for posting this. I absolutely adore Mylene. I've only known her for about 6 months so reading about her whole career in the way you described it makes me love her more.

    1. So happy you enjoyed the read! She is an amazing icon of confidence, power and expression. Her music and videos are so original and artistic!! :-)

  5. I've been a big fan of her, just 4 months! But voila! I love her music & she herself! She's a Fire Ox just like me! I love the way you presented her short music timeline! :3
    I'm also learning Français for 3 years now in highschool! For one time, we had to do a Personal Best Homework, I sang her song "Lonely Lisa"! Everybody even cheered before showing the video, knowing I'm a local singer at school, haahaha! I just love her! Thanks so much!