Poupée de cire, poupée de son  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Poupée de cire, poupée de son" (English: Doll of wax, doll of bran/sound) was the winning entry in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1965. It was performed in French by French singer France Gall, representing Luxembourg.

Composed by Serge Gainsbourg, it was the first song to win Eurovision that was not a ballad. It was nominated as one of the fourteen best Eurovision songs of all time at the Congratulations special held in October 2005.

As is common with Gainsbourg's lyrics, the words are filled with double meanings, wordplay, and puns. The title can be translated as "Wax doll, Bran doll" (a bran doll being a floppy doll stuffed with bran or sawdust) or as "Doll of wax, Doll of sound" (with implications that Gall is a "singing doll" controlled by Gainsbourg).

Sylvie Simmons wrote that the song is about "the ironies and incongruities inherent in baby pop"--that "the songs young people turn to for help in their first attempts at discovering what life and love are about are sung by people too young and inexperienced themselves to be of much assistance, and condemned by their celebrity to be unlikely to soon find out."

This sense of being a "singing doll" for Gainsbourg reached a peak when he wrote "Les Sucettes" ("Lollipops") for Gall.


Summary of the lyrics

The central image of the song is that singer identifies herself as a wax doll (poupée de cire), a bran doll (poupée de son), and a fashion doll (poupée de salon). Her heart is engraved in her songs; she sees life through the bright, rose-tinted glasses of her songs. Is she better or worse than a fashion doll?

Her recordings are like a mirror where anyone can see her. Through her recordings, it is as though she has been smashed into a thousand shards of voice and scattered so that she is everywhere at once.

This central image is extended, as she refers to her listeners as rag dolls (poupées de chiffon) who laugh, dance to the music, and allow themselves to be seduced for any reason or no reason at all.

But love is not just in songs, and the singer asks herself what good it is to sing about love when she herself knows nothing about boys.

The two concluding verses seem to refer to Gall herself. In them, she sings that she is nothing but a wax doll, a sawdust doll, under the sun of her blond hair. But someday she, the wax doll and sawdust doll, will be able to actually live her songs without fearing the warmth of boys.

Puns, wordplay, and double meanings

Puns, word play, and double meanings are integral to Gainsbourg's style of lyric writing. This factor makes it difficult for non-French speakers to understand the nuances of the lyrics, and even more difficult to translate the lyrics.

At a young age, France Gall was too naïve to understand the second meaning of the lyrics. She felt she was used by Gainsbourg, most notably after the song "Sucettes", which was literally about lollipops, but with multiple references to oral sex.

Poupée de son - can also mean "doll of sound" or "song doll", a doll that has a string on the back. France Gall could be said to be the doll through which Gainsbourg channels his sounds.

Today France Gall has disassociated herself with the Eurovision Song Contest, and refuses to discuss it in public, or perform her winning song.

Poupée de cire, poupée de son

In a literal sense, poupée de cire means "wax doll".

Son in the context of poupée de son means "bran" (or sawdust, resembling bran), of the kind used to stuff children's floppy dolls . Poupée de son is a long-standing expression in French meaning "doll stuffed with bran/sawdust". It is also used in the expression Syndrome du bébé "poupée de son", "floppy baby syndrome" (infantile hypotonia), and can even refer to someone too drunk to stand up.

The double meanings of these two terms come in because of the subject matter of the lyrics, which contain many references to singing and recording. "Cire" (wax) brings to mind the old shellac records, commonly known in France as "wax disks". "Son" has a second meaning--"sound".

These double meanings are amplified in Gainsbourg's lyrics. For instance, the first verse refers to the fact that the singer's heart is engraved in her songs, much in the way the sound vibrations are engraved in a wax recording. A later reference is made to the singer being broken into a thousand pieces of voice, as though she herself is made of sound.

English versions of the lyrics often translate the title as "Wax Doll, Singing Doll", "The lonely singing doll" (the version sung by Twinkle), or something similar<ref name="Alex Chabot translation">Alex Chabot translation accessed 25 June 2007</ref>--translations that are not literally correct but which capture some of the double meaning implicit in the original version.

Serge Gainsbourg said about the winning song: "The songs young people turn to for help in their first attempts at discovering what life and love are about, are sung by people too young and inexperienced to be of much help and condemned by their celebrity to find out."

Voir la vie en rose bonbon

"Voir la vie en rose" means "to see life through rose-tinted glasses", while "rose bonbon" means "confectionery pink" or "vivid pink".

The entire phrase as found in the lyrics--"Je vois la vie en rose bonbon"--can then be translated as something like, "I see life through bright rose-tinted glasses".<ref name="Diggaloo Thrush website">Diggaloo Thrush website accessed 25 June 2007</ref>

Briser en mille éclats de voix

Like "Voir la vie en rose bonbon", "Briser en mille éclats de voix" is a combination of two separate phrases, put together to mean something more than either alone.

"Briser en mille éclats" means "to smash to pieces". "Éclats de voix" means "shouts" or "screams".<ref name="Diggaloo Thrush website"/>

Thus "Brisée en mille éclats de voix" could be translated as "Broken in thousand pieces of voice"<ref name="Morgan Trouillet translation">Morgan Trouillet translation accessed 25 June 2007</ref> or "Smashed in a thousand shards of voice".<ref name="Alex Chabot translation"/>

Pour un oui, pour un nom

"Celles qui dansent sur mes chansons . . . Elles se laissent séduire pour un oui, pour un nom" translates literally as "Those who dance to my songs . . . They give in to a yes, to a name".<ref name="Morgan Trouillet translation"/>

However, the phrase "Se laissent séduire pour un oui, pour un nom" sounds like the phrase "Se laisser séduire pour un oui, pour un non" which means literally "to let themselves be seduced for a yes, for a no".

This can more colloquially translated as "to give in to the slightest temptation" <ref>Diggaloo Thrush website accessed 25 June 2007</ref> or "to let themselves be seduced for any reason at all".<ref name="Alex Chabot translation"/>

At Eurovision

The song was performed sixteenth on the night, following Denmark's Birgit Brüel with "For din skyld" and preceding Finland's Viktor Klimenko with "Aurinko laskee länteen". At the close of voting, it had received 32 points, placing first in a field of 18.

It was succeeded as Luxembourgish representative at the 1966 Contest by Michèle Torr with "Ce soir je t'attendais".

It was succeeded as Contest winner by Udo Jürgens with "Merci Chérie" representing Austria.

The French public retrospectively reproached Gall and Gainsbourg for having represented [and won for] Luxembourg and not for their own country.

Two years later Sandie Shaw entered and won with another puppet themed song, "Puppet on a String".

In other languages

Versions of "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" in other languages include:

  • Arabic: دمية من الشمع ، ودمية من نخالة ("Doll of wax, and an effigy of the bran")
  • Czech: Vosková panenka ("Wax Doll"), sung by Eva Pilarová, Vosková panenka ("Wax Doll"), sung by Hana Zagorová
  • Danish: Lille Dukke ("Little Doll"), sung by Gitte Hænning
  • Dutch: De modepop ("The fashion doll") sung by Marijke Merckens (1965) and Was ("Wax"), sung by Spinvis (2007)
  • English: A Lonely Singing Doll, sung by Twinkle
  • Estonian: Vahanukk ("Wax doll"), sung by Tiiu Varik
  • Finnish: Vahanukke, Laulava Nukke ("Wax Doll, Singing Doll"), sung by Ritva Palukka
  • German: Das war eine schöne Party ("That Was a Nice Party"), sung by France Gall
  • Hungarian: Viaszbaba("Wax Doll") by performed by Toldy Mária
  • Hebrew: אל תכעסי זה לא אסון Al Tichasi Ze Lo Ason ("Don't Be Angry, It's Not a Disaster") by Haim Hefer, performed by Yarkon Bridge Trio
  • Italian: Io Sì, Tu No ("I Do, You Don't"), sung by France Gall
  • Japanese: 夢みるシャンソン人形 Yume Miru Shanson Ningyō ("Dreaming Chanson Doll"), sung by France Gall. There is also another version sung by Mieko Hirota, Minami Saori or Fumie Hosokawa
  • Korean: 노래하는 밀랍 인형/norae-haneun millab inhyeong ("The Singing Wax Doll")
  • Portuguese: Boneca de Cera, Boneca de Som (note the translation - "Wax Doll, 'Doll of Sound'"), sung by Karina
  • Russian: Кукла Восковая ("Wax Doll"), sung by Muslim Magomayev
  • Spanish: Muñeca de Cera ("Doll of Wax"), sung by Karina, Leo Dan and Juán "Corazón" Ramón
  • Swedish: Det Kan Väl Inte Jag Rå För ("I Really Can't Help It, Can I?"), sung by Gitte Hænning and Anne-Lie Rydé
  • Vietnamese: Búp Bê Không Tình Yêu ("Doll Without Love"), sung by Ngọc Lan (as well as a dance version by Mỹ Tâm)


  • The Spanish group Parchís used part of the main melody in them song Corazón de plomo (Heart made of lead), talking about a toy soldier, quite similar to the song of France Gall.
  • Montreal indie rock band Arcade Fire have sung a cover of "Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son" throughout their 2007 tour in promotion of their new album, Neon Bible. They later released a studio version of it on their split 7" single with LCD Soundsystem [1]
  • The German band Welle: Erdball covered the song on their album Chaos Total from 2006.
  • New York City band Les Sans Culottes covered the song on their 2004 album, Fixation Orale.
  • Belle and Sebastian performed a live version on the Fans Only DVD, released on Jeepster Records.
  • Anime series Sugar Sugar Rune uses an altered version of the music in its opening theme.
  • The German punk band Wizo had a cover of this song on their album "Herrenhandtasche" released in 1995.
  • The Spanish band Nosoträsh performs a cover in their album Nadie hablará de...
  • The Spanish band Nena Daconte performed a cover in the TV programme "Eurovisión 2009, El retorno" which was broadcast at TVE1 on Saturday 21 February 2009.
  • The Spanish singer La Terremoto de Alcorcón performed a cover (titled 'Muñeca de Alcorcón', meaning 'Doll of Alcorcón' in English) in the television programme "Los mejores años de nuestra vida. Especial Todos con Soraya a Eurovisión" which was broadcast at TVE1 on the 12th May 2009.
  • Norwegian band Sterk Naken og Biltyvene (SNoB)did a cover of the Norwegian version "Lille Dukke" on their 1994 album "Tretten Røde Roser"

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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