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Album review


Alizée

The New French Lolita


Paris 

26/01/2001 - 

Six months ago Alizée was just a sweet teenage girl, living in total anonymity with her parents. But following the phenomenal success of her single Moi, Lolita - which went on to sell a staggering million copies! – Alizée has turned into the French Britney Spears. With her debut album, Gourmandises, shooting straight to number 4 in the French album charts and her second single, L’Alizé, riding high at number 2, Alizée has established herself as the nation's new pop Lolita.



Flaunting her chestnut mane as expertly as Britney with her blonde locks, Alizée struts her way through her dance routine, dressed in black stockings and a flirty little top. Looking coyly in the camera the sweet 16-year-old sends a tremor of desire down the cathodes, seducing several generations in one fell swoop. Long before the rise of Britney and Billie, France had a long history of girl-child pop stars and Alizée is just one in a long line of Lolita divas (her illustrious forbears in the Pantheon of pop including the likes of Lio and France Gall).
Like Lio and France Gall, Alizée appears to have shot from anonymity to stardom almost overnight. But look a little closer at the Alizée story and you'll find Mylène Farmer (an ex-French Lolita herself), playing the role of fairy godmother. Bringing on board her famous songwriter/producer Laurent Boutonnat and the rest of her hit-making artillery, Mylène has metamorphosed into a pop Pygmalion and one who is determined to launch her new protégéé with military precision.

Born in Ajaccio on 21 August 1984, France's new Lolita was christened Alizée Jocotey. (Her father, a fanatic windsurfer, chose her Christian name, calling her after the 'alizés' or 'trade winds'!) Alizée was groomed for stardom from an early age, her parents enrolling her in dance, drama and singing classes at the tender age of five. Multi-talented Alizée also shone in art classes and when she was ten she won first prize in a drawing competition organised by a French airline. Having an Airbus named after her and travelling first-class on the plane's maiden voyage, Alizée must surely have felt the first inklings of stardom. Over the next four years, the young hopeful would work her multiple talents even harder, fixing her eyes on the big time.

The turning-point in Alizée's budding career was her appearance on the French TV talent show "Graine de star", presented by Laurent Boyer. Performing a cover of the Axelle Red hit Ma prière, the coquettish young singer brought the house down, winning the hearts of TV viewers and the programme's jury. After Alizée's appearance on "Graine de star", the phone in the Jocotey household rang non-stop with invitations to castings and offers to manage Alizée's career. The famous French TV producer Thierry Ardisson tried in vain to get the up-and-coming Lolita to sign a deal with his production company, but the wind of destiny was about to blow little Alizée in a completely different direction.

Alizée went along to a casting and met the afore-mentioned Mylène Farmer. Impressed by Alizée's vocals and her seductive stage charisma, Ms. Farmer took the Ajaccio schoolgirl under her wing. Enlisting the aid of her faithful hit-maker, Laurent Boutonnat, Mylène began writing a series of jaunty little pop ditties for the blue-eyed Lolita, using the same production team and studio musicians as on her own albums. Alizée went on to release her debut single, Moi, Lolita in June 2000 and, after just two outings on French TV, the song went rocketing up the French Top 50.




'Operation Lolita' was planned with the strategy of a military campaign and Alizée's producers, Mylène Farmer and Laurent Boutonnat were leaving nothing to chance! The pair kept tight control over their protégée's image, limiting Alizée's rare interviews to 20 minutes per journalist and refusing all requests for photo sessions. Meanwhile, Boutonnat concentrated his efforts on shooting a saucy pop video for Moi, Lolita. Skipping along beneath the blue skies of Corsica, Alizée plays the part of a coy young schoolgirl, melting the hearts of the local male population as she sings, Collégienne aux bas bleus/ je suis un phénomène… ("Sweet little blue stocking/ I'm a real phenomenon…") Given France's long-standing history of girl-child pop stars, the nation went into paroxysms of delight, rushing out to buy Alizée's catchy Lolita pop ditty. The phenomenon of 'innocent' young French pop divas being cynically marketed by their elders goes back to 1966, when Serge Gainsbourg wrote Les sucettes, a highly ambiguous song about sucking lollipops for a sweet young innocent called France Gall. Serge returned to his obsession with the pop girl-child in 1973, getting his girlfriend Jane Birkin to sing about white cotton pop socks and panties on La poupée qui fait. Seven years later a new French pop Lolita arrived on the scene. 17-year-old Lio stole the hearts of the nation's male population, pouting her way through a song about 'brunettes being just as good as blondes!' Lio's songwriters, Hagen Dierks and Jay Alanski promoted their young protégée's career with a series of highly risqué lyrics on Banana Split which involved avalanches of Chantilly cream cascading down mountains after a first kiss! Then in 1984 Mylène herself came strutting into the French pop arena with a saucy little single entitled Maman a tort (Mummy's Wrong). And now seventeen years later, the girl-child pop phenomenon has come full circle with Mylène launching her own Lolita protégéé on the French music scene!


The ten songs on Alizée's debut album, Gourmandises (Goodies), have all been expertly manufactured by the Farmer hit-machine. Sweet syrupy pop ditties are wrapped in silky synths, violins and catchy techno beats and judging by the success of Alizée's sexily alliterative second single, L’Alizé, the Farmer team have hit upon a winning formula. The team's deliberately risqué lyrics are aided and abetted by the charms of Alizée herself, who frolics about in her new pink-tinted video clip bursting scores of little soap bubbles! Gourmandises also contains the inevitable sexy-chick-in-bikini number, JBG (as in "James Bond Girl!") which borrows heavily from John Barry's original Bond themes. BR> But while the lyrics on Gourmandises flirt with the idea of naughtiness and teenage sex, Alizée maintains a squeaky-clean public image as the perfect teenager. When it comes to maintaining her virginal image, Alizée is more like an old-fashioned Disney heroine than Buffy the Vampire Slayer! "I still feel like a real teenager," Alizée tells fans on her web site (http://www.moi-alizee.com/), insisting that she is "not in any hurry to grow up!" She's just a totally normal 16-year-old who enjoys 'normal' teenage things like "hanging out with people my own age!" And yes, she does have a hectic pop-star schedule to keep to, but she still finds time to "go out, have fun and fall in love …". Citing Besson's Le Grand Bleu as her favourite film and "jelly bears" as her favourite sweet, Alizée confides that for her the perfect boyfriend has to be "sweet, kind and caring" and, above all, "faithful". In short, beneath her pop Lolita exterior, Alizée is actually very 'girl next door!' Of course, the critics have derided Alizée for being a "Mini Me" to Mylène, but the Ajaccio star is adamant that she exists in her own right. "You can recognise Mylène's style in my songs," she admits, "and her fans may buy my records because of that. But that doesn't mean they'll ever stop loving Mylène! I'm not trying to be some new kind of Mylène. I couldn't - Mylène is totally unique!" Not as unique as all that it seems! With Britney, Billie and Christina surfing high in the international pop charts, Alizée has picked just the right moment to dole out her Gourmandises.

Alizée Gourmandises ( POLYDOR/ UNIVERSAL MUSIC) 2000

Gérard  Bar-David