Remember When Francoise Hardy Convinced Iggy Pop to Go French?


No one quite encapsulates effortless French style quite like the most famous Yé-Yé girl of them all: Francoise Hardy. On the 72nd birthday of Iggy Pop, CR remembers when Hardy’s sartorial influence extended beyond the realm of the ’60s pop movement.

With a legacy of skin-baring performances often featuring drugs and blood, Iggy Pop has truly earned his nickname of the Godfather of Punk. But in 2009, the former Stooge swerved from his salaciously soaked persona to release Préliminaires, a half-spoken word, half-jazz, album that, with lines including, “You can convince the world that you’re some kind of superstar / when an asshole is all you are,” was surprisingly self-aware. Although Pop attributed his album inspiration to Michel Houellebecq’s 2005 novel The Possibility of an Island, the sonic shift, from its bookending French-language renditions of Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert’s “Les Feuilles Mortes,” to its overall sense of Gallic casualness was a tip of the hat to Hardy.

“No one can sing like Francoise,” he once said. “Her emotional and musical accuracy combined with her sense of reserve and mystique make an indelible and very French impact on the listener. There’s no one else as good around.” (For her part, Hardy is also a fan of Pop, noting, “He is a great singer–a great crooner.”) Although the two would eventually duet together on Hardy’s 2000 album, Clair Obscur, injecting jazz standard “I’ll Be Seeing You” with a wistful joy, their eventual meeting seemed less than fated.

As the unofficial leader of the Yé-Yé girls, Hardy launched her career with the art of suggestion, cloaking the overt sexuality, with playful performances and a sense of school-girl innocence. Her first hit, “Tous Les Garçons et les Filles,” a song about the sadness of not having a hand to hold, gave her an international audience. But Hardy was never content to remain a coquette in a baker boy. Breaking from the fluffy pop tradition, she’s since moved on to deeper ruminations, such as her collaboration with Blur on the haunting heartbreak ballad “To the End.” In 2018, after a health scare, she released Personne d’autre, an album that doubled as a meditation on mortality and acceptance, delivered in a self-assured, breathy sing-speak, polished by the life experience of someone who has certainly been there, and seen that.

“‘I sing about death in a symbolic, even positive way,” she said recently, reflecting back on her storied career. It makes sense. Just because your mouth is covered in the brightest lipstick doesn’t mean you won’t show your teeth. After all these years, Pop may still wanna be your dog, but it’s Hardy’s emotional takes that bite.


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