SONIC REDUCER Zut alors, where is the joie, mademoiselles? Judging from the current pop charts, rage is all the rage: girls just want to "start a fight" is the message from Pink, Brit, and Katy Perry, even as pop's queen Beyoncé, a.k.a., Sasha Fierce, chooses the somber rather than ferocious path with "If I Were a Boy."
Maybe it's too much to ask for a recession-wracked America to find a battered vein of real happiness. And perhaps that's why I'm looking for bliss overseas. You have to be a crusty old croissant to not succumb to the wholesomely sexy, gallic-girls-just-want-to-have-fun charm of Yelle, née Julie Budet. In a year when every pop thang coming out of Francophone music-makers seems to exude a freshness that escapes rage-aholic American pop, along comes Yelle with the cutest bob this side of Rihanna and those prep-cool dancing boys in "A Cause Des Garçons." Not for nothing does Budet's acronym nom de plume stand for "You Enjoy Life." Could this be the new yé-yé?
Resembling a sprightly Feist onstage, the jeune fille also coughed up the catchiest bit of whistle(-along) bait since Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks": "Ce Jeu." Yelle's palpable '80s-throwback aesthetic crossed with the twirly-girly, smiley-faced nouveau-rave dancefloor vibe in the "Je Veux Te Voir" video squeaky-cute aerobics, girl-gang dance moves, and a crayon-bright pop aesthetic, oo-la-la evokes the seemingly last microsecond of dance-pop innocence when Her Madgesty, Salt-N-Pepa, and J.J. Fad ruled the school canteen. Who needs to speak the language when confronted with the inexorable, happy-sad-but-mostly-happy sizzle of "Tristesse/Joie," given a Reebok commercial makeover this past summer?
So why France and why now? According to Budet, "maybe because France is well-located between English pop, German electro, and American production! It's geography!"
Mais oui, Budet enjoys life and exclamation points! Though our trans-Atlantic phone tête-à-tête didn't materialize, I managed to connect via e-mail with the Bretagne-born vocalist, who's more comfortable answering questions in writing when she isn't slinking around onstage like a T-shirted electro-pop whippet. Of course, she isn't quite as wholesome as she might appear: her first MySpace hit "Short Dick Cuizi," a poke at Cuizinier of French hip-hop group TTC and an early incarnation of "Je Veux Te Voir," famously samples the bassline of "Short Dick Man." "The songs are about our lives and our productions," she writes. "I think about everything in Pop Up [her new debut on Source Etc/Caroline/EMI]: dildos, but death, too."
Some fans might be taken aback by Budet's live appearances, which are low on the diva-esque antics and high on the every-girl bounce. "We naturally worked hard on our show," she writes, predicting ghosts onstage for her Halloween appearance. "It's normal for us to give a real show, not only the songs like on the album. Drums bring a lot of energy, and we build our live set like a DJ set, mixing the songs together, adding production. We have a compromise that seems to work: we rock the dancers and we dance the rockers!" So get your fill of Yelle because 2009 will be "the year of the break," Budet suspects. "We have to take time at home or people are gonna hate us, ahah!"
With Passion Pit and Funeral Party
Fri/31, 9 p.m.