French Music Monday: The 5 most controversial Serge Gainsbourg songs

Hella Ibrahim - French Music Monday: The 5 most controversial Serge Gainsbourg songs - Ma Vie Francaise - My French Life -

Hello and welcome back to another French Music Monday!

Here at Ma Vie Française™ we understand that Mondays can be a drag, so we bring you a selection of French musicians and French-language songs to help start your week. Because if you’re going to force yourself through a Monday, it might as well have theme music.

I suppose it goes without saying that Serge Gainsbourg is an infamous legend. His music is so diverse it’s difficult to actually categorise and he had a huge influence on French music and artists. But while he’s remembered for his contributions to music, he’s also remembered for his scandals. Here are five of his most provocative songs (I’d advise reading the description before watching the video, just in case you’re unfamiliar with the content).

‘Nazi Rock’

Serge was personally affected by the war, so it’s understandable that he’d have some issues to work out. And work them out he did, in his 1975 concept album ‘Rock Around the Bunker’. But in true Gainsbourg style, the album is an upbeat, psuedo-comical take on the subject. And that upset some people.

‘Un Zeste de Citron’

A duet with his 13-year-old daugher Charlotte that plays on the words ‘un zeste’ and ‘inceste’. I find Serge’s antics funny most of the time, but I’m not going to lie. I find this video clip disturbing, even though I know it’s entirely fictional.

‘Les Sucettes’
A duet with France Gall, a young French pop singer. It’s a song full of innuendo about oral fixation, if you listen hard enough. The story goes that France was completely unaware of the lollipop double entendre, and was completely horrified when she found out. I imagine Serge had a good chuckle to himself over it.

‘Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus’

Funny title, highly suggestive song. It’s essentially a recording of two people… err… becoming intimately acquainted. It was very risqué – I’d argue that it still is – and despite being banned pretty much everywhere it managed to become bestselling hit.

‘Aux Armes et Cætera’
The French national anthem, but with a reggae beat and a chorus consisting entirely of ‘to arms, and so on’. Some of the French took it a little badly. And when I say a little badly, I actually mean he recieved death threats over it. Personally, I think the song’s funny, but that’s probably because I’m not French and don’t have that French patriotism others do.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. Which French songs, singers and groups are in your top 5? Comment below with your suggestions!

Image Credit:
1. Serge Gainsbourg, via I Prefer Paris

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  1. Elisabeth Donato Oct 22, 2012 at 12:16 PM - Reply

    This was very fun! I was never a huge Gainsbourg fan – but I still think that he was a genius. A degenerate genius to boot.

  2. Hannah Duke Oct 22, 2012 at 2:27 PM - Reply

    Couldn’t have said it better myself Elisabeth! 😉

  3. francois roland Oct 24, 2012 at 8:27 PM - Reply

    Interesting topic which, maybe, is calling for a deeper reflection. So let me give it a shot. I think that the most important thing to understand is that a man and his work that is two very different things. And let me add at once that if we were to dismiss all the works of art of people who didn’t behave decently in the course of their daily life, then museums, libraries and other art places would be deprived of a good many of their best pieces. If I take only the case of France, our greatest poet Arthur Rimbaud finally went in Abyssinia wheeling and dealing with weapons and slaves. Ferdinand Céline (probably the greatest French novelist of 20th century) badly compromised himself with the ugly Regime of Vichy, collaborating with Germans during WWII. Louis Aragon our immense poet was a pure Stalinian, … and I could go on like this.
    So about Gainsbourg, while no one with taste can deny the genious of his music and lyrics, the mere fact is that the man was not only an intemperate reactionary man but foremost what we call a “sale mec” (a dirty guy). The way he behaved, particularly with women, was simply intolerable! The guy was just not holding his human self.
    Two examples among so many: Here on a French TV show he say straight in the face of Whitney Houston that he want to fuck her. You’ll note the disgusting mop that could be Michel Drucker (the host) not reacting the proper way to that ->

    On this other one he badly insulted the French singer Rita Mitsouko (whose “sin” was to have participated in porn movies in her youth) calling her a whore and using of the most disgusting outrageous degrading words in her face, all of this on real time TV show again

    Well, these excerpts clearly make understand who is the guy in real situations. Not my buddy as you understood.

    Now among the five controversies that you address here, only one is really not okay with me, but really not okay at all in this instance! And it’s “Un zest de citron” with his daughter Charlotte. I don’t find it only disturbing; it’s simply outrageous for me. And then we align with what I showed previously, i.e that guy has really hard time to perceive the limits of decency. Here he is clearly using his daughter for an erotic effect (which is already too much for me) but he aggravates the thing by involving himself as her father in the picture with this heavy barker symbol of the bed. Damn! As if paedophiles and incestuous men really needed that kind of free hand sign to pertain in their bad behaviors!

    The rest may shock people but is not condemnable. Erotism was always present in any form of art and I really don’t see why he should be allowed to bring it in song. So if you put aside that song I just clearly condemned the rest is no big deal.
    And making fun around the Nazis? Charlie Chaplin or Mel Brooks did it long before Gainsbourg and they did well!

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