Saturday, 5 June 2010

Cover Version Showdown #2: Je T'Aime

Struggling to come up with something topical for my Saturday morning post, and without any gigs to review, I thought of doing a rundown of bands containing couples, in honour of HTDA. However, that would be far too long. Then I thought of the ultimate musical couple's song, Je T'Aime.

Serge Gainsbourg wrote the naughty French classic, and his best-known performance of it is this 1969 duet with Jane Birkin. Originally, he sang it with Brigitte Bardot in 1967, but that version is fairly similar to the definitive Serge/JB perv-fest, and not nearly as suggestive. Jane Birkin's breathy, coital delivery and near-perfect simulated orgasm caused the song to be banned from most media. Was she faking it? We'll never really know.

Next up, former lovers Nick Cave and Anita Lane. Their English-language reading of the song was released in 1995. Anita's high, breathy vocals are a good match for Birkin's, and Nick's lugubrious bass provides a perfect foil. Darker and less overtly raunchy than the original, but then there's no point in trying to outdo the experts at their own game. Some say that the translated lyrics don't work, but I like the way they highlight the nonsense nature of the originals.

Cat Power and Karen Elson - Karen has just released an album - see, topical!
Not the first girl-on-girl version, but probably the best known, Cat and Karen teamed up in 2006 for a Serge tribute album. This is a different English translation, slightly more overtly raunchy than Nick and Anita's. Karen's English-rose delivery adds a certain something; she sounds so innocent. There's even a touch of the original's sugggestive heavy breathing, echoed in the guitar line.

This is far from a definitive list of Je T'Aime covers. Apparently Miss Kittin and Sven Vath have recorded one, as have Cibo Matto and the Pet Shop Boys, but these recordings, if they exist, are rather more elusive.

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