Daily Dose: ‘Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son’ by France Gall

Eurovision is soon! Let’s celebrate with a winning track. Related question: do you remember when Eurovision was good? Me neither, because I was barely able to talk at the time. Also the UK will never win again, so stop trying. We peaked with ‘Love Shine a Light’, which to be fair, is an absolutely stupendous song to peak on. Might come back to that at some point.

Anyway, there’s a lot to unpick with this one. It was composed by unquestionable French popular music legend (myth?) Serge Gainsbourg, and performed the iconic stunning French Yé-yé singer France Gall, representing…Luxembourg. Figure that one out, I bet the French public were a bit peeved after they won. Anyway, there’s loads of clever wordplay here that you probably need to speak better French than I do to properly understand, but it’s still a cracking tune. The central conceit, at least according to my somewhat unfocused research (I really went down the rabbit hole on this one. It’s three hours after I started writing this sentence and I’m still a little jittery at the revelations I have seen), is that it is possible to translate “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” into both “wax doll, rag doll” (just what used to be called a floppy doll, I think) and “wax doll, sound doll”, the inference being that Gainsbourg is puppeting Gall. As mentioned, it won Eurovision in 1965 (boy was music sparky then), apparently the first non-ballad to do so. It also got nominated as one of the 14 best Eurovision songs ever at the Congratulations special in 2005, so it clearly has staying power. You can appreciate the song without knowing any of this, as I did when I first heard it, as a quirky upbeat retro French pop number, and taking it at those face values it’s still really great. If nothing else, marvel at the architectural feat that was Gall’s hair, truly a thing of beauty.


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