(born on 1983)
A multi-disciplinary artist, Woodkid's Yoann Lemoine combines towering sonics and ambitious visuals with a yearning for the wonder and innocence of childhood. Alongside his acclaimed work as the director of videos for artists such as Lana Del Rey, Drake, and Rihanna, he developed a moody, sophisticated musical style combining lush strings, stark electronics, and vulnerable vocals that first appeared on 2011's Iron EP. The contrasts within Woodkid's music took on an autobiographical bent on 2013's full-length The Golden Age, an internationally charting album that spawned the single "Run Boy Run" (the video for which earned Woodkid a Grammy nomination). Though Woodkid's releases were infrequent -- a "Woodkid Sad Remix" of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" appeared in 2014, and his second EP, Woodkid for Nicolas Ghesquière: Louis Vuitton Works One, arrived five years later -- they were consistently striking, and 2020's sophomore album S16 underscored the singular nature of Lemoine's music. Born in Lyon, France in 1983, Lemoine studied illustration and animation at the Emile Cohl School before landing jobs on Luc Besson's Arthur and the Invisibles and Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. In between shooting promos for the likes of Katy Perry ("Teenage Dream"), Taylor Swift ("Back to December"), and Lana Del Rey ("Born to Die," "Blue Jeans"), he recorded Woodkid's debut EP. The Iron EP was released by Green United Music in March 2011, and the title track appeared in several movie trailers as well as an episode of the TV series Teen Wolf. His self-directed video for 2012's "Run Boy Run," a song that charted just outside the Top 40 in the U.K., won Lemoine an MVPA Award for Best Director of the Year and a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video. He also charted in Europe with a set of "Run Boy Run" remixes, which included a version by French producer SebastiAn. Woodkid's debut album, The Golden Age, arrived in March 2013. A set of songs about a boy who turns to stone that was inspired by his own childhood, it received largely enthusiastic reviews, and fared well commercially, rising to number two on the French album charts and going Top Ten in Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. He went on tour to support the album, including a groundbreaking performance at London's Brixton Academy alongside the BBC Orchestra. Woodkid had a busy 2014, with an invitation to perform and partake in a discussion about the New York minimalist movement with Philip Glass at the Museum of Modern Art in Saint-Étienne. He issued his own remix of Pharrell's "Happy" -- "Happy (Woodkid Sad Remix)" -- won the award for Best Stage Performer at the Les Victoires de la Musique, and performed at Coachella and the Montreal International Jazz Festival, all before July of that year. He also composed the score for Les Bosquets, a piece performed by the New York City Ballet and jookin dancer Young Buck that was conceived and directed by the French photographer JR. Woodkid received another Grammy nomination for Best Music Video in 2015 (for "The Golden Age" featuring Max Richter), losing out to Pharrell's "Happy." That year, a film he scored, the Jonás Cuarón-directed thriller Desierto, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. He returned in July 2016 with a collaboration with pianist Nils Frahm, a soundtrack for JR's short film Ellis. That July, he also delivered another highly innovative performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which featured a host of guests, including Elle Fanning, Son Lux, and Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste. "Run Boy Run" turned up on an episode of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why in 2017. Woodkid's 2019 EP Woodkid for Nicolas Ghesquière: Louis Vuitton Works One came out on Island Records and included a reading by Jennifer Connelly. October 2020 saw the release of Woodkid's second album S16, another lush set of songs featuring string arrangements recorded at Abbey Road.
© Marcy Donelson & Heather Phares /TiVo
© Marcy Donelson & Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 16, 2020 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)
Though nearly a decade separates Woodkid's The Golden Age and S16, it's almost impossible to tell at first. Arriving seven years after his 2013 debut album, Yoann Lemoine's second full-length is very much of a piece with his previous work; his songs still have so much musical and emotional richness that they feel like miniature symphonies. S16's opening track, "Goliath," is pure Woodkid: its bone-rattling beats and heroic strings evoke the giant's menace and David's bravery as well as Lemoine's own epic battle between toughness and vulnerability. He explored similar territory on The Golden Age's tale of a boy who turns himself into marble, and while S16 is less overtly conceptual than that album, it often feels more cohesive as Woodkid examines the crisis points of his relationships with others and himself. On "Drawn to You," the first hints of attraction are just as wrenching as a breakup; on "Highway 27," Lemoine sets the sinking realization that love is gone to stark, choppy percussion that makes for some of the album's most audacious sound design. "Reactor" is just as impressive, combining a children's choir, piano, and strings in a theatrical sweep that echoes Woodkid's score for the dance piece Les Bosquets. His songwriting on S16 is equally compelling in its clear-eyed insights into the spiritual and sensual dimensions of yearning and loss. Lemoine captures the ache of being loved by someone without being fully understood by them in the elegantly simple lyrics from "In Your Likeness": "I know I'm not made in your likeness/You're not made for my darkness." On "Pale Yellow," he sings, "My love for you will be gone/I will fix the pain on my own" like a wish instead of a certainty, and if his vocals are slightly more controlled here than they were in the Golden Age days, that only makes them more empathetic. Just when it feels like the album might be too dour, Lemoine turns up the heat with "So Handsome Hello," a seductive, commanding standout that delivers a seismic shift in mood. Moments like these make S16 worth the long wait for fans, and show that the scope and humanity of Woodkid's music has only grown with time. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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