Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grace Jones - La Vie en Rose

Part One of what I'm sure will be several parts of "What the hell was I thinking?"

I raise my eyebrows quite a bit on my drives to work. My iPod (more about that in my next entry) is hidden from me when I drive, but connected to my car stereo so that I can skip tracks. That's about the only level of control I have: If I don't like the song, I can skip it, or if I want to hear it again, I can take it back. And the joy of having access to 10,000 songs at any given time means I never know what's coming, since I have it on full shuffle.

Murphy's Law goes into effect with my iPod when I have passengers...whatever song you don't want to hear, will indeed come up. "This song is on your iPod?" or "Wait, you own this?" are questions I often get while driving. I'm not ashamed of my taste in music, but that doesn't mean I am not without clunkers in my iPod.

Sometimes I'm the one asking, "Wait, I own this?". Today was one of those days. And today's song was Grace Jones' cover of "La Vie en Rose".

Just saying that and posting the video above doesn't do the song justice. No, the version of the song I have isn't the 3:33 version you see above. The one I have is like seven minutes long, with a bossanova-like intro that lasts for more than half the song.

So there I am, bopping along to a bossanova beat along I-280, not exactly knowing what I'm listening to, because I honestly don't remember ever buying this song, downloading this song or adding this song to my collection, when about three minutes in, someone muttering/mumbling/singing in French whispers into the mic for about a minute. At about this point, I'm wondering, not in a bad way, "Who the hell is this?". I'm taking guessess: Roxy Music (the opening sounds a bit Avalon-era Bryan Ferry)? Donna Summer? Labelle? Donna and LaBelle qualify as possible candidates in my mind because of the production style of the song (sounded late-70s to me) and I guessed Labelle, thinking the French thing was a shout out to Lady Marmalade (also known as the "Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi?" song).

From the look of the video, it appears Lady Marmalade hung out with the Spiders from Mars or KISS:

But, I was wrong. Thanks to Shazam and some post-driving research, I discovered it was the Divine Miss Grace singing in 1977 was her first hit.

So, where do we put Grace Jones into the context of musical history? Those of you who know me know that I have a mind full of useless trivia. Sadly, I don't have much in the data banks on Grace Jones, but here's what I knew going into hearing this song this morning.
  • She covered the Police's "Demolition Man" (I'm not saying here whether or not she did a good job of it...I just knew she covered it...that's all I got)
  • She shared a haircut with Carl Lewis
  • She sang what was probably contained the least subtle innuendo in a song about sex ever written ("Pull Up to the Bumper" makes Prince's early work look like something you'd find on Sesame Street)
  • She was one of the bad guys in the James Bond "A View to a Kill" movie, the worst Bond movie I've watched repeatedly (for reasons many of you know).
It looking over her career, one might say she paved the way for Lady Gaga (extreme looks combined with danceable hooks). One might also say she's the George Hamilton of late-70s/early 80s music: famous for being famous, but no one's really sure why. I might put her somewhere in the middle of that. She had a few hits and style-wise, she did make an impact (she had the 'do long before Carl Lewis did).

As for "La Vie En Rose", you'd be hard-pressed to top the Edith Piaf original, but at least musically, it's an interesting interpretation of the song.

I'm still wondering how in the hell this ended up in my music collection, but I'll keep it.

No comments:

Post a Comment