Jennifer Lopez has her own back, movie star magnetism, B+ beats, una buena onda to surf, and a lousy voice—which I find to be a stumbling block in bubblegum bounce. Compare to Ophélie Winter, who has tighter songs and a richer voice and is a supermodel. So why isn’t she famous?
She is—in France, where I’m writing from. Her last single, “Je marche à l’envers,“ walked back ward through Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival,” spilled the whine and doubled the hooks, and made noise all over MTV Europe with a space-age bachelorette video avec ruby fright wig. But when she rerecorded the song in English with the title ‘Spy,” shhhh. Sony didn’t even release it in the States. Possible reasons for the trans-Atlantic whiff: (1) Not actually Swedish, though album was recorded in Stockholm per European Union’s Pop Proviso of 1997. (2) Sony waiting for French-
American demographic to show some muscle before sending in Gallic glamour queens. (3) When you’ve got faux chanteuses like April March, who needs actual French singers? (4) Market already saturated with Shakespeare crap. (5) New Janet-es que single, “Je cours,” more geared to dancefloor, where accents are still le sexy. Dear Sony: voulez-vous to rock that shit, please?
Upmarket from Ophélie, the world capital of discopop fronts Daft Punk and Stardust and of course Air. You loved “Sexy Boy” cuz it was straight outta Gainsbourg, a liber-teen anthem with its eyebrows arched clear to the moon. But “Kelly Watch the Stars” wants to take you higher. The Moog Cookbook mix (available on the “All I Need” single) is the floorshakinest piece of pocket lint the world dug up during the last year, a breath taker clear to the sampled “whooooooo!”
But Frenchy don’t rock—at least, not enough to light up an American radio. After four decades, voilà: not a single band to chill on the playlist with Golden Earring, much less the Scorpions, the Sex Pistols, or Roxette. May be because they were trying actual revolutions; in ’68, the first punks went right past guitars to police cars on fire. Maybe, per my local analysts Moxley‘n‘Evans, there‘s a lack of sufficient friction between the high and low (meaning both the proles and the bourgeoisie knock off early for a glass of wine). Or maybe the nation‘s still in recovery from its absurdist WW II performance, known in these parts as “the funny war.“ So it was particularly hilarious when Courtney Love—still iconic June 22 at La Zenith—
berated the stage-jumping efforts of les riot girls nouvelles. “Show me why you won the war!” As Louis Malle’s wife would’ve said, you could’ve heard a pin drop. Then the most Marie Antoinettesque rock star ever promised a stupid love song to home. As everyone clenched their fists or perhaps teeth for “Celebrity Skin,” Hole dropped into a lazy, happy cover of “Paradise City” that swore the revolution was over, that it was all the same pop now. And the crowd knew the words better than the band and drowned them out gleefully and so it was that populist ecstasy was recovered once more and it did not feel like the first time but maybe the last time I don’t know.
Meanwhile, Lisa Lopes is the punkest rocker on French radio. She’s unpretty on the inside and proud of it, man; she’d set a police car on fire on the second date. TLC’s “I’m Good at Being Bad” is the only song on their current record that is all hers; “What you gonna do with a bitch like me?” is Left Eye’s question no matter who’s singing, and it’s spelled “here we are now entertain us.” From a band that already brought the best Prince song of the decade (“Waterfalls”), this is the song Nirvana would’ve made if they were still on the scene as mega-mega soul sisters, exploding the problem-solving system of verse/chorus into a raw dialectic of soft/hard and slamming back’n’forth between them like the entire bipolar generation’s lithium was in bloom.
On Paris hip-hop radio they started playing “PE 2000,” Puffy’s cover of “Public Enemy No. 1,” the day after he previewed it in New York. Makes you wanna throw your hands in the air—not waving, drowning. In a way there’s something sublime about watching his tiny brain churning out its equal signs: “Hey, you hate me now just like you hated Chuck D. Sample criminal, race radical—why split hairs? Chuck was all ‘rap is the black person’s CNN’; I’m all Nick at Nite. Vive la revolution!” But all history comes down to this: when PE re corded the original, they were more or less nobodies, with all the limits and options that implies. Sean Combs is out wearing whites in the Hamptons, and to get there he’s sucked enough dick it’s hard to imagine he’s about to start biting.
The Puffalo Soldier striking a rebel pose with his Schlock 9mm isn’t irony quite yet; just levity. And canny at that: tilting your cred against vintage Public Enemy is a sucker’s game and Puffy knows it; he’s losing the battle to win the war. As long as you think of him as a musical Furbie whose worst crime is maybe slugging some industry type, Puff is a happy camper: better a buffoon than an actual criminal. But time doesn’t quite fade away, and those kids from his near-forgotten firetrap rent party are still real dead. Now that’s