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 the bands — he surely couldn’t have imagined how things would turn out. Not only did he make the final 15, but on his way to winning the whole shebang, he had the audience and judges eating out of his hand each week with his energetic numbers and his reinvention 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.”
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.
When I first saw the music video for “Les Limites” on TV late one night, I thought maybe I was hallucinating and needed to go to bed. But that video just turned out to be 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, 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 his debut album, Ersatz, here’s version 2 of “Les Limites.” Watch Julien boogie in the background.
In version 1 of the video, Julien sings while Patricia dances in the background.
Version 3 hews closely to the original video by Serge Gainsbourg. In this one, Julien sings while a bearded guy dances in the background.
Lastly, here’s the original clip by Serge Gainsbourg that inspired the whole thing, “Chez les Ye-Ye.” That’s French actor/dancer Jean-Pierre Cassel with some killer moves in the background.
Which version did you like the best? Leave a comment and let me know.
In 2009, Doré scored a number one hit with his duet on Coeur de Pirate’s debut album called Pour un Infidele:
His appearances in films like Ensemble, nous allons vivre une très, très grande histoire d’amour are those of a trained actor returning to his roots rather than those a movie star wannabe. If you think Julien is dreamy, check out his ever-growing filmography to see more of him on-screen.
In 2011, he 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. Nevertheless, it went gold in France, and his videos continued to be wild, whimsical head-scratchers.
Some people liked the lead-off single “Kiss me Forever,” but it didn’t tickle my fancy. I liked this single, “L’Eté Summer,” much better.
Look out for a new album from Julien called Løve, due out in Fall 2013.
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