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French Cuts, French music, sixties music, beat music, bubblegum pop

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

Yé-yé was a style of pop music that emerged out of France, Québec and Spain in the early 1960s. Its roots were the early rock 'n' rollers of America such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Later influences on yé-yé included British Invasion bands and American girl groups.

Notable yé-yé singers were Sylvie Vartan, Johnny Hallyday, Françoise Hardy, Jacques Dutronc, Sheila, France Gall, Frank Alamo, Eddy Mitchell, Claude François, and Chantal Goya.

Yé-yé was an influence on later musical trends, such as the Japanese shibuya-kei scene, as well as bands such as Les Wampas, Les Breastfeeders and Make-Up.


The yé-yé movement had its origins in the radio programme "Salut les copains", created by Lucien Morisse and hosted by Daniel Philippacci, which was first aired in December 1959. This program became an immediate success and one of its sections ("le chouchou de la semaine" / "this week's sweetheart") turned to be the starting point for most yé-yé singers. Any song that was presented as a chouchou went straight to the first places in the charts. The "Salut les copains" phenomenon continued with the magazine of the same name which was first published in 1962 in France, with German, Spanish and Italian editions following shortly aftewards.

Yé-yé music was unique in a number of ways: first, it was the only musical movement so far to be spearheaded by females; second, it was a mostly European phenomenon (although it grew very popular in Japan and yé-yé music is in the origins of Shibuya-kei; there is even a Japanese version of the 1965 Eurovision-winning song "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" composed by Serge Gainsbourg and performed by France Gall). Yé-yé girls were young (Gall herself was only 16 when she released her first album, 18 when she won the Eurovision song contest for Luxembourg) and innocent (most of their songs talked of finding the first love, such as Francoise Hardy's "Tous les garcons et les filles" (" All the guys and girls my age know how it feels to be happy, but I am lonely, when will I know how it feels to have someone?").

They were also sexy, in a deliberately naïve way. Gainsbourg called France Gall the French Lolita, and, wanting to check to which extent her innocence was realTemplate:What, composed for her the song "Les sucettes" ("Lollipops"): "Annie loves lollipops, aniseed lollipops, when the sweet liquid runs down Annie's throat, she is in paradise ".

Among the yé-yé girls, Sylvie Vartan played the glamourous one. She married rock star Johnny Halliday in 1965 and toured in America and Asia. But she stayed always a yé-yé, and as late as in 1968 she recorded the song "Jolie poupée" about a girl that regrets having abandoned her doll after growing up.

In 1967, teen yé-yé singer Jacqueline Taïeb won the Best Newcomer award in Cannes at the Midem awards for her contribution of the hit single "7 heures du matin".

The yé-yé movement, although originated in France, was a European one. Italy's Mina was a different yé-yé: she composed her own songs with influences from jazz and rock'n'roll, and in songs such as "Fumo blu (taratata)" she dared to sing "The way you smoke, you are irresistible to me, you look like a real man". As opposed to her, Rita Pavone was the average, childish yé-yé girl. In her 1964 hit "Cuore" she complains on how much love makes her suffer.

In Spain, yé-yé music was at first considered to be against Catholicism (during the 1967Template:Fact Beatles' concert in Madrid more than 500 girls from the public were arrested under the charge of wearing too short skirts). However this didn't stop the yé-yé culture from spreading, although a bit later than in the rest of Europe, and in 1968 yé-yé girl Massiel won the Eurovision song contest with "La La La". However she failed to remain successful and it was the sweet, naïf Karina the one to be crowned as the Spanish yé-yé queen with her hits "En un mundo nuevo y feliz" and "El baúl de los recuerdos".

Yé-yé boys

As mentioned above, the yé-yé movement was led by female singers, but that does not mean that there were not any yé-yé guys. We should, however, note the difference between the yé-yé masterminds (such as Serge Gainsbourg, who wrote most of the songs performed by the yé-yé bunch, but did not quite have a yé-yé attitude himself) and the actual yé-yé singers. These were harmless, romantic boys singing mostly ballads and love songs. Michel Polnareff, for example, played the tormented, hopeless lover in songs such as "Love please love me", while Jacques Dutronc claimed having seduced Father Christmas' daughter in "La fille du pere Noel". However both of them gained more success after the end of the yé-yé years, so maybe we could not properly call them yé-yé singers. Claude François is possibly the most famous yé-yé singer who danced with spirited energy to songs such as "Belles, Belles, Belles."

Cultural References

  • A 1964 Life article entitled "Hooray For the Yé-Yé Girls" attempted to introduce three popular female yé-yé singers, Sylvie Vartan, Sheila and Françoise Hardy, to American readers. It erroneously implies that fans shouting "yé-yé" whenever the singers perform is where the term "yé-yé" comes from.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Yé-yé" 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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