Serge Gainsbourg, the controversial and influential French singer, composer, and actor, has left an indelible mark on the French music scene. Known for his eclectic style and thought-provoking lyrics, he is unquestionably an icon. But which songs are considered his very best? Here are 10 classic tracks from Serge Gainsbourg that you absolutely must listen to.
10. ‘La Chanson de Prévert’
‘La Chanson de Prévert’ serves as a subtle homage to the French poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert. Gainsbourg blends melancholic melodies with lyrics that delve into the transience of love and time. While it’s a subdued way to kick off this list, it’s a vital part of Gainsbourg’s oeuvre.
This song showcases Gainsbourg’s ability to articulate complex emotions in straightforward terms. L’anamour offers a fresh perspective on love and relationships, laden with poetic nuance. The musical arrangements are rather minimalist, highlighting the lyrics.
8. Je Suis venu te dire que je m’en vais
Here, Gainsbourg explores themes of farewell and the inevitable end of a relationship. The title, which directly translates to “I came to tell you that I’m leaving,” resonates strongly with the listener. The song handles emotion with a certain detached quality, making it all the more poignant.
7. Bonnie and Clyde
In collaboration with Brigitte Bardot, Gainsbourg delivers an epic tale of the infamous American outlaw duo. This song weaves drama with romance and exudes an air of mystique that transports the listener to another time and place. Bardot’s presence adds an extra layer of complexity to this already captivating track.
6. ‘L’eau à la bouche’
With ‘L’eau à la bouche,’ Gainsbourg dives into the world of sensual desires. The title, roughly translating to “mouthwatering,” hints at the song’s erotic theme. However, Gainsbourg tackles the subject with such elegance that it never feels vulgar.
5. Initials BB
Another song inspired by Brigitte Bardot, “Initials BB” is a beautiful blend of grandiose instrumentation and introspective lyrics. Here, Gainsbourg employs an almost cinematic approach to convey the essence of a great, albeit tragic, love.
4. ‘Cargo Culte’
‘Cargo Culte’ is an ambitious track that fuses influences from various musical genres. The atmosphere is almost hypnotic, and the lyrics are rife with symbolism and dual meanings. It’s one of the songs where Gainsbourg’s genius shines through completely.
3. Le Boomerang
“Le Boomerang” brings together all the elements that made Gainsbourg great: catchy melodies, intelligent lyrics, and a dash of mystery. The song is like a boomerang that keeps coming back to your thoughts.
2. ‘La Javanaise’
‘La Javanaise’ is one of Gainsbourg’s most romantic pieces. The song is a perfect balance between poetry and musicality, elevating the French chanson genre to a new level. It’s an enduring classic that haunts you long after listening.
1. ‘Je t’aime … moi non plus’
One of Gainsbourg’s most controversial and famous works, ‘Je t’aime … moi non plus’ is an erotic duet with Jane Birkin. The song was so daring that it was even banned on some radio stations. Despite, or perhaps because of, this controversy, it has become an icon of French pop music.