It was Le Parisien - a newspaper hardly renowned for its polemical views! - which set the anti-Goldman ball rolling on 20 November. In an article entitled "The Goldman Affair", the paper made a surprise departure from its usual adulatory reviews and voiced open criticism about a French music star. Indeed, Le Parisien's music critic began his review writing: "Jean-Jacques Goldman has chosen a totally bizarre title for his new album: Chansons pour les pieds (Songs for Feet!) But then, judging by the weird clauses and conditions attached to his latest release, Goldman is no stranger to bizarre behaviour! In fact, one might go so far as to suspect the star of carrying out a cunning marketing ploy, while pretending to do no marketing at all … "
Good Lord! What could the normally staid Parisien have got its knickers in such a twist about? Reading on with interest we discovered: "Journalists wishing to interview Goldman about his new album were required to send a letter "outlining their motivation" to the singer's record label (…) This was then passed on to Goldman, while the journalists in question waited patiently for a reply. The next stage of the complex process required journalists to send in a second letter, this time from the editor of their publication, promising that when the interview appeared neither Goldman's name or his photograph would be used as a headline or on the cover of their publication. At the time of going to press, three publications had complied with Goldman's 'desiderata'."
Let's hear it for Le Parisien! We couldn't agree more. In fact, having spent so much time on our own cyber-pages criticising tame album reviews, it would be a bit hypocritical of us to turn round and pretend otherwise. Having said that, however, Goldman's hardly the first French singer to have resorted to such subterfuge marketing – and, as Le Parisien itself points out, three publications have agreed to submit to Goldman's demands to date! (And in our humble opinion, it's actually more disturbing that the media should fail to draw a distinction between editorial and advertising, than that record companies indulge in such sneaky marketing campaigns!)
Goldman's biographer, Didier Varrod, points to a different reason for the singer's attitude to the French press, however. Quoted in Libération (23/11/01), Varrod claims that: "There's been a problem of miscommunication in the general press from the word go. Mainstream newspapers and magazines have tended to portray Goldman as a teenage crowd-pleaser singing cheap, popular lyrics. But in my opinion, this is far from the truth – in my opinion, Goldman's a real songwriter."
Another French journalist, who preferred not to be named, admitted he actually went along with Varrod's view. "I think Goldman's relationship with the French media was considerably soured by their initial reaction. It's like a failed love affair, really. Like a lot of other left-wing singers, Goldman believed left-wing magazines and newspapers would stick up for him and fight his corner. But that hasn't been the case at all. It's been just the opposite, in fact …!" In the same article Libération recalled how following a negative write-up in L’Evénement du Jeudi in 1985, Goldman had reacted by taking out a page of advertising, filling it with all his bad reviews and printing a special message to his fans at the bottom of the page: "Thankyou for making up your own mind!"
Whatever the case for or against Goldman as a cunning manipulator of marketing, little has been said so far about the content of his new album. Bertrand Dicale is one of the rare French journalists to have actually commented on Chansons pour les pieds in Le Figaro(20/11/01). However, judging by Dicale's straight-talking review, Songs for feet may well not be Goldman's best album to date: "Goldman fails to tear himself away from his old style or move on to new musical territories," Dicale writes, "He does make some attempt, but on songs like Je voudrais vous revoir, a potentially moving number billed as a 'slow-style zouk' (!), it takes the Bagad de Kemperlé and their blaring bagpipes to save the day!" Dicale concludes that, in spite of everything, Chansons pour les pieds " should set Goldman on track for yet another diamond disc. selling a million copies with no trouble at all!" Looks like Goldman's 'non-marketing' campaign may pay off handsomely in the end!
Translation: Julie Street
Chansons pour les pieds (Sony/Columbia)