(né/née en 1973)
Often compared to the legendary Serge Gainsbourg, singer/songwriter/arranger Benjamin Biolay is less apt to call on some lovely like Brigitte Bardot or Françoise Hardy to sing his songs when he can do it just as well himself -- although Gainsbourg did often duet with his protégées, most notably Jane Birkin on the scandalous international hit "Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus." Not that the handsome, honey-voiced Biolay hasn't worked with a few female vocalists on occasion, like, for instance, his younger sister, Coralie Clément, who has sometimes been compared to Hardy and Birkin. Biolay arranged and wrote most of the songs on her 2001 debut, Salle des Pas Perdus (which was released in the U.S. in 2002). Benjamin Biolay was born in Villefranche-sur-Saône, France, in 1973. His father was a clarinet player and member of the local orchestra. Biolay played the violin as a young man, going on to study the instrument at the Lyons Conservatoire. Over the years, his musical interests would grow to encompass classical (Mozart, Beethoven), American pop (Chuck Berry, the Beatles), and traditional French music (Trenet). From the violin, he moved on to the tuba, trombone, guitar, and piano. When he was 13, he discovered Gainsbourg's "Histoire de Melody Nelson," which would have a big influence on his own concept recording (2001's Rose Kennedy). From his teens through his early twenties, Biolay was a member of several groups, including Wind? and Mateo Gallion. The latter released a CD in 1994, which made little impact. In 1996, he was signed as a solo artist to EMI, but his initial singles also met with little success. Then, in 1999 he met Keren Ann Zeidel (aka Keren Ann), with whom he composed the 2000 French hit "Jardin D'hiver" for Henri Salvador's comeback album (Chambre Avec Vue). He would go on to collaborate with Keren Ann on Biographie de Luka Phillipsen (2000) and La Disparition (2002). In some form or another, Biolay has also worked with Hubert Mounier (aka Cleet Boris), Isabelle Boulay, Françoise Hardy, and Jane Birkin. In 2001, Biolay released his full-length debut, Rose Kennedy, a concept album full of hushed vocals, lush strings, and lyrical musings about the Kennedy family -- and Marilyn Monroe -- mostly from the point of view of family matriarch Rose. The recording features audio excerpts that evoke those golden years when JFK was in the White House, brother Robert was attorney general, and Monroe was on the silver screen. Other than the English samples (from Some Like It Hot, Monroe's "River of No Return," etc.), Rose Kennedy is in French and wasn't released in the U.S. Also in 2001, Biolay issued the Remix EP, featuring new versions of seven Rose Kennedy songs. 2002 continued to be a big year for Biolay as he entered his own "dynasty" of sorts -- a Franco-Italian-acting dynasty, that is -- when he married Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni. In 2003, he released Négatif, featuring guest appearances by Chiara and Coralie. ~ Kathleen C. Fennessy
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French Music - Released October 19, 2009 | Naive
Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Victoire de la musique - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection Les Inrocks
Hailed as the wunderkind of a new generation of French songwriters, Benjamin Biolay has often divided opinion, as his undeniable talents are not always exempt from narcissism. His sprawling double-album La Superbe will provide both admirers and critics with plenty of ammunition. While many contemporary French artists have unabashedly attempted to present themselves as the natural heir to Serge Gainsbourg, Biolay is arguably the strongest contender to the throne. He is a consummate master of the sultry boy/girl dialogue against an ostinato motif of swirling strings that Gainsbourg patented in the '60s, and that since the '90s has seemingly become the Holy Grail of a hefty chuck of the alternative scene (Pulp, Divine Comedy, Tindersticks, Blur, Portishead, Placebo, Suede, etc.). Nowhere is this more evident in La Superbe than in "Brandt Rhapsodie," where Biolay and Jeanne Cherhal act out an entire French film of the "couple conversation" genre inside of a five-minute pop song, with results that are -- much like those films -- as seductive as they can be infuriating. The same applies for much of this album. Biolay is clearly at the top of his game as a composer and arranger, and indeed La Superbe sounds like the ultimate decalogue of French sensuality, but there is a limit as to how many long-winded, cinematic, spoken monologues on sex, the futility of life, and languid bitterness a record can hold. This ambitious but definitely self-indulgent project plays almost like a suite and can too easily become a sensuous sonic blur, one where it becomes hard to discern individually memorable songs. It should be noted, however, that La Superbe was greeted with rave reviews in France, many judging it to be Biolay's masterpiece. Still, in spite of its impeccable realization, one cannot help but to recommend the perfect pop conciseness of early Biolay albums, such as Rose Kennedy or L'Origine, to the lush abandon and excess of La Superbe. ~ Mariano Prunes
Pop - Released September 10, 2007 | Parlophone France
Trash Yéyé, the fourth album from French singer Benjamin Biolay, was released in September of 2007. The title, a reference to the bubbly yé-yé style of music popular in France during the 1960s, is not to be taken literally. The album was recorded over the course of two years, partly in the United States. The end result of those two years were 57 tracks, eventually narrowed down to the 12 found on Trash Yéyé. From the first strains of "Bien Avant" through "De Beaux Souvenirs," Biolay's deep, recognizable voice resonates throughout. ~ Celeste Rhoads
Pop - Released March 25, 2005 | Parlophone France
Following his Home duets album with wife Chiara Mastroianni, and Clara et Moi soundtrack, A L'Origine is the fourth solo studio LP from French singer/songwriter Benjamin Biolay. Influenced by the likes of Serge Gainsbourg and Etienne Daho, its 12 jazz-pop nouvelle chansons includes the single "Mon Amour M'A Bais." ~ Jon O'Brien
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