Mylène Farmer  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Mylène Jeanne Gautier (September 12, 1961), born in Montreal, Canada, better known by her stage name Mylène Farmer is a French singer, songwriter, occasional actress and author. She has sold 25 million records and is among the most successful recording artists of all time in France.

Contents

Biography

Mylène Gautier was born in Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada, a suburb (now borough) of Montreal. Her parents moved from France to Canada in the late 1950s as Farmer's father, Max, pursued an engineering contract on a dam. Her family returned to France when she was eight, settling in the Parisian suburb of Ville d'Avray. In her teenage years, Farmer was passionate about horse-riding, going on to qualify as a riding instructor at the equestrian centre in Saumur. At 17, however, Mylene Farmer discovered her other passion, acting, and she abandoned the stables to take a three-year course at the Cours Florent, a drama school in Paris. Changing her name to Mylène Farmer (after her favourite American actress Frances Farmer), she began to earn a living as a model in several TV ads.

In 1984, Farmer met Laurent Boutonnat, a young film student also enrolled in Cours Florent, when she replied to a newspaper ad for an actress for a small film he was working on. Farmer and Boutonnat became friends and forged a creative partnership, writing and producing all her music. Boutonnat, whose ambition was to become a film director, was also the driving force behind Mylène’s videos. Much of Farmer's fame and success can be attributed to elaborate and theatrical music videos which are often eight minutes or longer. Her concerts and videos are often compared to those of Michael Jackson and Madonna (Pourvu qu'elles soient douces lasts 17 minutes, while "California" was directed by Abel Ferrara and cost $700,000).

Farmer gained fame with songs featuring ambiguous or shocking lyrics, and somewhat explicit music videos: "Maman a tort" was about the love of a young girl for her female hospital nurse. "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces" was about a man with an obsession for the buttocks of his lover, with hints of sodomy; the video, set in the 18th century, featured a caning. "Libertine" is said to feature the first full frontal nudity appearance by a singer on a major music video. "Que mon cœur lâche" was about love with condoms in the age of AIDS; the video for the song features a scene in which God tells Jesus he won't send him to Earth again because the last time "it was a disaster."

Farmer is the most successful and provocative female French recording artist, the only artist to have each of her studio albums sell over a million copies in France. She is also popular in the French-speaking countries Belgium & Switzerland and is also liked in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe.

Among her best-known songs are "Désenchantée", "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces", "Sans contrefaçon", "Libertine", "C'est une belle journée", and "Rêver".

Debut

Boutonnat teamed up with the young songwriter, Jérôme Dahan, and the pair went on to write Farmer's first hit, "Maman a tort" - a single which rocketed straight to the top of the French charts as soon as it was released in March 1984. The video which accompanied the single release, cost the modest sum of 5,000 FR, but it would cause a veritable stir in the music world. Boutonnat cast Farmer as a kind of provocative Lolita figure, and the singer would deliberately cultivate this image in the early days of her career, especially on her début album, Cendres de Lune. This album, released in January 1986, proved to be an immense success, selling over 1 million copies.

"Libertine", the first single released from the album in March '86, set the tone for the whole Mylène Farmer style. Farmer’s sensual, romantic lyrics (which she wrote herself) were very much inspired by the great figures of 19th century literature and set to sophisticated melodies (written by Boutonnat). Boutonnat also took charge of directing Farmer’s videos, imposing his distinctive style on them. The video which accompanied "Libertine", for instance, is heavily charged with 18th century eroticism (conjuring up images of the film Barry Lyndon and the novels of the Marquis de Sade). Farmer, lit only in the glow of soft candlelight, is shrouded in an aura of mystery and sexual ambiguity. (This mysterious erotic ambience would continue to be the singer’s trademark throughout the rest of her career, infusing the following videos "Tristana" and "Sans contrefaçon").

In 1988, Boutonnat & Farmer began recording their second album, Ainsi soit je... (a play on the French expression "Ainsi soit-il", meaning "Amen"). This album, infused with the same dark, erotic atmosphere as the singer’s previous work, featured songs inspired by Mylène’s favourite authors, the French romantic poet Baudelaire and the American horror writer Edgar Allan Poe. Upon its release, the album soared to the top of the French charts and sold a staggering 1.8 million copies on the back of the million-selling hits "Sans contrefaçon" and "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces", the latter becoming her first #1 single. At the time it was the best-selling album ever by a female artist in France.

In spite of all her drama courses, Farmer still found it difficult to overcome her natural shyness and perform in front of an audience. It was only after much hesitation that the singer finally agreed to do a live concert in 1989. After singing at a small venue in St Etienne, as a kind of test run, Farmer finally arrived in Paris to perform at the Palais des Sports where fans packed the auditorium out for a whole week in May. Farmer wasted no time in overcoming her stage fright and even appeared to enjoy performing on stage, for she followed the Paris concerts with an extensive tour which included 52 dates throughout France and Europe. A live album documenting the tour was released at the end of the year, simply titled En concert. The costumes were designed by the famous french designer Thierry Mugler.

Farmer's spectacular stage shows, together with her wacky appearance and piercing vocals, soon began to attract an increasing number of fans. Meanwhile Farmer continued to surround herself with an air of mystery, refusing to give interviews or to appear in the media - but this only served to excite fans' curiosity about the reclusive star.

L'Autre & Désenchantée

By the turn of the decade Farmer was a full blown superstar in France, but it wasn't until the release of her third album, L'Autre..., and lead single "Désenchantée" that she became iconic. "Désenchantée" is considered one of the most important songs ever released in France, striking a universal chord with the political and social dissatisfactions of many of the citizens of France. The song debuted at #12 before going #1 and went on to become the best selling French single of all time (both in country and around the globe), according to Guinness Book of World Records. Likewise, its parent album L'Autre... sold more than 2 million copies in France alone,<ref>SNEP</ref> making it the third best selling album of all time in the country. The album also supported the hit "Regrets", a duet with French recording-star Jean-Louis Murat, and "Je t'aime mélancolie", the video for which, portraying Farmer as a professional boxer, received play all around Europe.

Leaving France

In December of 1991 a disturbed man who had been stalking Farmer entered the Polydor/EMI Record Co. headquarters in Paris and held a group of employees hostage at gunpoint demanding to talk to Mylene. Tragically, the man killed a receptionist and then committed suicide. Following this occurrence Farmer shunned all media attention and left France to live anonymously in California. In the following years, Farmer became almost as famous for her reclusivity as for her recording career, keeping all aspects of her personal life private, and limiting herself to one interview per album.

Anamorphosis

During her time in California, Farmer began writing her fourth studio album Anamorphosée which marked a complete change of pace for the French pop queen. The album had a very American, chic-rock sound that would divide Mylène's fanbase. The album was launched by "XXL", a mid-tempo rock ballad with blasting electric guitars, and a memorable video featuring Mylène strapped to the front of a moving train. The single became her first to debut at #1. The Anamorphosée album debuted at #2 and sold half a million copies in its first 3 months of release. The album continued to sell well with the release of "California", a jazzy pop-ballad bolstered with bass guitar, and final single "Rêver", which helped the album reach the #1 spot in January 1997 - 16 months after its release. In the summer of 1996 Farmer embarked on her 2nd concert tour, which received rave reviews and set sales records in nearly every city it visited.

Mylenium

After several years of reclusivity, Farmer returned in the spring of 1999 with her 5th studio album Innamoramento. The lead single "L'Âme-stram-gram", was a futuristic techno-ballad accompanied by a Chinese-themed video in which Farmer commits suicide to save her twin. The video for the second single, "Je te rends ton amour", sparked a firestorm of controversy with its use of religious imagery and was condemned by the Catholic Church and banned by many networks. Farmer's record company quickly released a video single of the song which went on to became the highest selling release of that kind in France. In late 1999 Farmer announced her third concert tour, called the Mylenium Tour, which wowed audiences from Paris to Moscow and set the record for highest grossing tour by a non-English speaking artist. During the tour, Farmer released the album's third and fourth singles: "Souviens-toi du jour" & "Optimistique-moi" which surprisingly became the biggest hits from the album.

Following the tour in 2000, she recorded the song "L'Histoire d'une fée, c'est..." for the animated film Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, and released her third live album & dvd documenting the Mylenium Tour.

Alizée

In 2000, Farmer and Laurent Boutonnat had assembled a number of songs and video ideas they felt appropriate for a younger, new star. They immediately began the hunt to break a new female singer into the French pop charts - hence they found Alizée who had gained fame as a contestant on the French television show Graines de star. Together Farmer & Boutonnat wrote & produced Alizée's albums Gourmandises and Mes courants électriques. Her hit "Moi... Lolita" reached the top of the charts all around the world, and Alizée became the most successful French singer that year. In 2001 IFOP announced Mylène as the top earning French entertainer of the year thanks largely in part to her writing, recording, and producing credits of Alizée's music, which earned her 10.4 million Euros.

Alizée's image was closely guarded and crafted by Farmer and Boutonnat; she was allowed to do few interviews at no more than twenty minutes apiece, and only a limited number of promotional appearances. In 2005 Alizée parted ways with the duo to strike it on her own. Her third album was released in December 2007.

Les mots

At the end of 2001 Polydor issued Farmer's first greatest hits collection: Les mots, whose title track & lead single featured a duet with Seal. Les Mots was the #1 selling album of 2001 & 2002, and remains the best selling compilation album in France with more than 1.5 million sold.<ref>www.universalmusic.fr</ref>

Avant que l'ombre...

In December of 2004, Farmer held a nationally-televised press conference announcing the spring release of her new album, Avant que l'ombre..., and single "Fuck Them All", as well as a special 13-night concert engagement at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in January 2006. The album was a quieter affair for Farmer, who gave no further interviews and did only one promotional television performance. Farmer commented that what she had to say was in her songs. Nonetheless, the album debuted at #1 and sold half a million copies in its first 3 months of release.

She returned to the stage in January 2006 for 13 dates in Paris-Bercy, with the final date being January 29. Farmer stated that she could not tour the country due to the complex sets built for the performances. A new live album and concert DVD, Avant que l'ombre... à Bercy, were released in December 2006. In its first months of release, the DVD became the best selling musical DVD in France.

Farmer recorded a single with pop-rock star Moby, "Slipping Away (Crier la vie)", released in September 2006, which became her fourth number one single in France.

Point de Suture

Farmer is currently putting the finishing touches on her upcoming album Point de Suture. It is scheduled to be released in August 2008. The album's lead single, "Dégénération" debuted June 19th. Farmer has also announced her fifth international concert tour for 2009, which will feature a transportable stage unlike that used in her 2006 Bercy residency.

So far 29 concerts are scheduled for 2009:

  • May 2 & 3 Palais Nikaïa, Nice
  • May 5 & 6 Zénith d'Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand
  • May 9, 10 & 12 Le Dôme, Marseille
  • May 15, 16 & 18 Zénith de Toulouse, Toulouse
  • May 23, 24 & 26 Zénith de Nantes Metropol, Nantes
  • May 30 & 31, June 2 Zénith de Rouen, Rouen
  • June 5 & 6 Zénith de Strasbourg, Strasbourg
  • June 8 & 9 Zénith de Dijon, Dijon
  • June 12 & 13 Halle Tony Garnier, Lyon
  • June 19 & 20 Gayant Expo, Douai
  • September 4 & 5 Stade de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland
  • September 11 & 12 Stade de France, Paris (sold out)
  • September 19 King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mylène Farmer" 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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