Nov 15, 2010
The Yé-yé girls were a breed of popular singers in the Sixties, primarily in France, but later in other parts of Europe, Canada, and even Japan. They all shared a few common traits: they were young, they were pretty, they had long straight hair, and they couldn't sing very well.
Among the most popular were France Gall, Françoise Hardy, and Jane Birkin (who was English but best known for singing in French).
This is France Gall.
This is Jane Birkin (with Serge Gainsbourg)
And this is Françoise Hardy:
The voice was almost always breathy and child-like, without vibrato, and their recordings were produced to sound echo-y. The Yé-yé girls were also hip in an understated way, before the more dramatic Swinging London explosion.
Cathy and I both love the Yé-yé girl look and sound. Some of the songs have stood the test of time. The lyrics may often be banal, but our French isn't good enough to know the difference.
The yé-yé (the name is derived from the English, yeah, yeah) sound never really caught on in America. American audiences, raised on trained popular singers like Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Patty Page and Connie Francis, were used to a bigger, more adult voice. A few American non-singers attempted the yé-yé sound (since you didn't really have to sing, anyone could do it) but with little success (Patty Duke singing "Funny Little Butterflies" comes to mind.)
In their mini skirts, knee socks, newsboy caps, and long flowing hair, the yé-yé girls embodied a kind of casual, youthful chic that has proved timeless. Is it any wonder Cathy (and I) love them so?
Have a look -- and a listen. They all sound the same: it's not your ears.
Here's France Gall singing Christiansen:
Here's Françoise Hardy singing Mon Amie la rose:
And here is British Jeanette (a personal favorite, who sang only in Spanish and was popular in Spain in the mid-Seventies):
Jane Birkin's biggest success was no doubt Je T'aime Moi Non Plus with then-husband Serge Gainsbourg. (This is the Birkin who inspired the Birkin bag, btw). It's hot!
And that's the condensed version of Yé-yé! What do you think: Yé-yé ? Or non-non?
Readers, has there ever been a pop singer(s) who influenced your style?
If so, who? (Please don't say Britney.)
Is it someone Cathy should know about? Do tell!