Florent Nouvel: Le Nouvel Album

July 2, 2018

True Lies

Listening Post 157. Florent Nouvel has a child’s sense of wonder and a director’s flair for composition. He simultaneously reveals and fabricates—his Facebook bio describes him as “le plus grand chanteur” of France (6 feet, 6 inches, or 1.99m)—and in fabricating he illustrates larger truths with fine details. He writes catchy French chanson melodies, with deft touches of swing, bossa nova or jitterbug rock, that animate his scene-building characters, insights and humor. Though renowned for satirizing former President Nicolas Sarkozy, Nouvel’s mockery is typically more enlightening than injurious. Le Nouvel Album (The New Album) takes an amused, optimistic look at humanity and, like the artist’s stature, is also a play on words—his name really is Nouvel. In Professionnel (Professional), he plays a boyfriend so self-effacing that he loses the “I” in “I love you” and ends up jilted (video 1). With La vélib’ération (Bike Liberation), the Parisian bike-sharing craze becomes an opportunity to lampoon both smug and smog (video 2). Caricature gives way to tenderness in Toutes les vies qui passent (All the Lives That Touch Us), about the stories that become part of our story (video 3); while La dame d’Amsterdam (Lady of Amsterdam) is a heartbreak tale that views nostalgia through a window but also leaves a door open for a rebound. Random particulars: Water aerobics and a granny’s hug, an empty bed and a girl in the school cafeteria who sees a nerd’s beautiful soul, the nerd’s dialogue with his hamster and the orgasmic pleasure of a cotton swab. If there’s a root text in this delightful Nouvel univers, it’s Petit et grand (Little Big Man), the ballad of a boy who dreamed of becoming a singer, with the ability to reflect reality by making things up. Maybe that’s new only with a capital “N.” Maybe it’s the world’s truest lie. (F2B/L’autre distribution)


In the morning I stack her toast/With layers of spread jam
I set everything up in the kitchen/Perfect table diagram

I give her the weather, her horoscope/The headlines in a cheeful tone
Her morning lacks for nothing/I’m a regular Patrick Cohen 

I love her/Like a professional
I love her/I’ve made her my profession

Water aerobics at Noon/I’m the only guy in the pool
Who accompanies his girlfriend/And one, two, three we wade

Next we’ll nibble/From a wok of vitaminized veggies
Yogurt zero/I’m all in on her permanent regime
I turn on the TV/Pretend to love the show
It’s the dashing Doctor House/I’m afraid my breasts will grow

At night before bed/I take a shower at 100 degrees
To be her hot-water bottle/No way she’ll ever freeze

And the next morning/There’s a message on the desk
In her beautiful script/She says “End of the adventure”
We had a fixed-term agreement/You can now get dressed
I want a guy, not a doggie/You’re fired, all the best


La Vélib’ération/Bike Liberation
A bike for all/All for the bike
Spread the word/It’s the biker’s lib credo

Are you doing vélib?/No, I prefer my car
I’m not going to share/With a bunch of bobos
A saddle is personal/What were they thinking?
They don’t supply the handy wipes?/That’s what’s stinking 

And then it’s almost free/One seat for all?
Aristocrats and proletarians/Everyone in the same stall
I’m sorting for myself/Recycling and cyclists

It’s nice to be green/But it’s not good for my ego
I feel so much more powerful/Behind my steering wheel
I heat the engine/I’ll spend a lousy 15 minutes without a care
Polluting all those/Who sing this little happy air!


Toutes Les Vies Qui Passent/All the Lives That Touch Us
All the lives that touch us/That pass by and unfold
Those we find normal/Or really disgusting
All those lives we embrace/But that, in the end, separate
Those whose trace we cherish/When they fly away

They who make our lives/Who watched us being born
Who cradled us with tender words/And turned to dust too soon
They come back in the air/In photos, on our way
They echo in nursery rhymes/Ding, ding sounds the morning

They are beautiful/They are eternal
Love defies chance/But with no thought of sunset
They have wings/Of angels or swallows
Believe in God or not/Spring will return

These lives are our story/Our wounds, our hopes
We wouldn’t trade them/For anything else in the world


La Dame d’Amsterdam/Lady of Amsterdam
Just some words for you in the heart of this city/Whose long arms tap into frozen arteries
Your reflection remains in the still ice/A fragile witness of our bygone love

Only these few words/Float on the canals/Of Amsterdam
Only these few signs/Under the curvature of the lines/Of this great lady

In the hotel room where you took your bath/I wash my wounds by rubbing them with your scent
From the corner of this big bed where your breast rested/I see again the garden from which we watched the sky 

And if you don’t come when the night falls/I’ll find someone else’s arms and no longer join you
I’ll cross all the bridges that lead me away from you
If you don’t love me I have nothing more to fear



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