Wednesday, April 16, 2008

They Can't Sing, Either

I've told the story a thousand times.

A friend of mine went to Paris a number of years ago and after the trip asked me, "Have you noticed how they can't dance? I mean, no sense of rhythm at all."

This was puzzling to me. After all, Paris is the home of Daft Punk - AKA the best f#(%ing dance act of all f#(%ing time. But I remember one night at the trendy DJ bar Wax (which I live mere blocks from now...) pointing out to my hostel companions - "Have you noticed how no one can dance?"

It was surreal how our heretofore-thought-of-as-lousy dancing - the worst of California, Colorado, and Queensland - impressed the locals.

Mind you, this story isn't some horrific generalization or yet another American episode of French bashing.

Last Friday night, a group of us were at the very chic and trendy Mezzanine de Alcazar (so hip they have their own line of CDs) sipping some way-overpriced cocktails and taking in some 80's electro when Julien (who is French) said to Alannah, "Have you noticed how nobody can dance?"

The arhythmic jerking and strutting was a source of laughter for all of us, and we almost wished some Tektonik crew would rock in to show these people how it's done.

Fast forward to tonight. Alannah and I had just finished dinner and were doing some channel surfing. I stopped on Nouvelle Star (the French version of American Idol) and somehow got sucked in. One song was done really well, but only one of the panelists voted for the singer. Then a whole series of horrendously performed tunes were paraded for the audience, and the panelists loved them. Note for every way-off-the-mark note. Stiff stage presence and horrible emoting and all.

These aren't the so-bad-they're-good auditions we're talking bout. Nor are they the early rounds of "we just wanted to put them on TV to humiliate them" amateurs. These are finalists. Yet the worst singers at my favorite San Francisco karaoke bar would give these clowns a run for their money. Hell, I could probably outdo them, and I sound like a poor man's Jim Morisson on qualudes performing the early dinner show for keno-obsessed, nickel slot jockeying senior citizens in Laughlin, Nevada.

It's truly confounding. In the six weeks or so that I've been here, I've fallen in love with a number of French singers who are simply fantastic. Others who are just wildly original. And some who just look and sound damn good spewing pop pabulum. And while I've never given American Idol or Pop Idol or any other permutation of this show much credit, I have to admit that they at least give 15 minutes of fame to people with some vocal - if not songwriting - ability. Hell, the no-talent ass clowns on Rock Star: Supernova seem like virtuosos compared to most of the Nouvelle Star lineup.

This little bitch session isn't out of any hatred for the format, the singers of this fine country, or what ends up making for water cooler talk on Thursday mornings. If anything, I love the fact that the show is completely live - technical goofs and all - which makes it tough to rig the voting, and no one benefits from editing or overdubs. It's a straight-up talent competition.

What frustrates me is that I can't get my little mind around one little quirk: There is very little talent.

And the way some of these judges lap it up makes Paula Abdul look credible.

Wrap your mind around that!


  1. are you referring to the night, damo, minno, paddo, myself , yourself and a gang of other breakdancing brothers broke it down at the Press Club? I know we turned heads that night LOL...


  2. Hahaha.. no, I was thinking of my first time in Paris at Wax with a couple of my Aussie mates from the hostel, but the Press Club night was a good time... And that night when that drunk chick took a dive. Owch!