Quirky French heartthrob Julien Dore is known for his playful approach to music, and his penchant for making downright wacky music videos. He gained notoriety during season 5 of Nouvelle Star (French "American Idol"), when his riveting performances quickly became the main draw.
But there's more to him than a pretty face, perfectly tousled locks, and a reality show title.
Born and raised near Nimes in the south of France, Julian Doré is the great-great-great-nephew of the artist Gustave Doré, illustrator for the literary works of Balzac, Victor Hugo, and others. He attended Fine Arts school in Nimes, studying music, acting, drawing, photography and film editing -- which explains the trippy music videos.
Heavily influenced by Brit Pop and American Indie Rock, Dore founded and sang lead in two Indie Rock bands, Dig Up Elvis and their spinoff project, The Jean D'Ormesson Disco Suicide.
When Doré auditioned for Nouvelle Star -- originally just to get publicity for his undiscovered bands -- he surely couldn't have imagined how things would turn out. Not only did he make the final 15, but he won the whole shebang. Each week, he had the audience and judges eating out of his hand with his energetic numbers and his reinventions of classic French songs and British and American Pop/Rock hits.
His buzzworthy, sometimes gender-swapped performances included a unique interpretation of "Moi Lolita" by Alizee, a lounge version of "Like a Virgin" (a la Richard Cheese), Paul Anka's big band version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and a stripped-then-flipped rendition of Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One more Time."
The Debut, Ersatz & Les Limites
Julian Doré's solo debut album Ersatz is NOT the kind of project one expects from a newly minted Pop idol. Rather than an onslaught of hastily assembled, radio-ready ditties, Ersatz was sophisticated and captivating, featuring 6 songs written or co-written by Dore himself. It became one of the best-selling French albums of 2008, and won him several Victoires de la Musique (French Grammys) in 2009: Best Album by a New Artist, Best New Artist (people's choice), and Music Video of the Year for the "Les Limites" video trilogy.
The first time I saw the music video for "Les Limites," it was really late at night. I thought maybe I was hallucinating and it was time to turn off the TV and go to bed, but it turned out that I was just watching the weirdest of the three he made for the song.
I later discovered it was based on the video for "Chez les Ye-Ye" by Serge Gainsbourg, an influence of his.
In the video below, the fat lady holding a chicken is a send-up of the character Divine from the cult John Waters' film, Pink Flamingos. The woman herself is French burlesque star, model, and "fat activist" Miss Botero, aka Patricia Tourne. From Julien Dore's debut album, Ersatz, here's version 2 of "Les Limites." Watch the French singer boogie in the background.
Version 1 hews closely to the original Serge Gainsbourg video, with Julien singing while a bearded guy dances in the background. There's also a third version of the video, where Julien sings while Patricia dances in the background. The whole concept was a brilliant marketing stunt!
Also on the Ersatz album were the singles, "Les bords des mer" and "Figures imposées." I only have ONE thing to say about the latter and its 80's-tastic video:
Catherine Deneuve on roller skates.
That is all. Make sure you watch it 'til the end.
Download: "Les Limites," "Figures Imposées," "Los Angeles"
In 2009, Doré scored a number one hit with Pour un Infidele, a duet with Coeur de Pirate that appears on her debut album. (Follow the link to watch it.)
In 2011, Julien Dore released his sophomore album, Bichon. (Yes, like the dog breed). It featured some notable collaborations with Françoise Hardy, Dominique A, and others, but I found something about it to be less earnest than his first album. It just wasn't to my liking. Nevertheless, it went gold in France, and his videos continued to be wild, whimsical head-scratchers.
The singles were "Kiss me Forever," "L'Eté Summer," and "Laisse Avril." "Miami" tragically wasn't released as a single, but should've been. It was my favorite on the album.
Download: "Miami," "Kiss me Forever," "L'Eté Summer"
Løve: Latest Album
In 2013, Dore released his third solo album, Løve. One peek at the wistful lion on the album cover should tell you that the title is not quite what you think it is. Yes, it's about love, the emotion. But the word is actually "løve," the Danish word for "lion." A Danish friend of his told Dore he had a lion's mane, and an album title and concept were born.
With French-English lyrics and a hazy, Dream Pop vibe, this album shows us a mellowed-out Julien Dore that we've never seen before. The songs themselves are bittersweet reminiscences of a love that slipped away. One listen to the chorus of "Chou wasabi" tells you what kind of heartbreaking music we're in for: "Baby I love you less and less because of what you've done to me."
"Here's the groovy, bilingual first single, "Paris-Seychelles."
The single "On attendra l'hiver" is a bit too Depeche-Mode-y for my taste -- if I wanted Depeche Mode, I'd just listen to Depehce Mode -- but see what you think of it:
Download: It's worth buying the whole album.
What do you think of Julien Doré? Leave a comment below.