tremble clef

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Jane Birkin and Alain Chamfort, "T'as Pas Le Droit D'avoir Moins Mal" (2004)

"If equal affection cannot be/Let the more loving one be me." W. H. Auden's poem has a spirit so generous that it's practically unreal. Affections never are equal. Never can be: how, after all, do you quantify or measure love? Unable to do so, you're left suspecting that the love you give is not commensurate with the love you receive. "However I look it's clear to see," a broken Neil Tennant sings for Electronic, "that I love you more than you love me." And the more you worry about it, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Auden's attitude therefore seems healthy, helpful. If love never flows equally, then be the one who gives more, who loves extravagantly, selflessly. It's something to aspire to: which is to say, something that's hardly ever attained in real life.

Real life, alas, seems much more painfully present in "T'as Pas Le Droit D'avoir Moins Mal." As far as I can tell -- and that's not far, given how non-existent my French is -- this shimmeringly beautiful rendez-vous places itself at almost the exact opposite end of the spectrum from Auden. Mental hostilities have escalated: far from assuming the role of being the more loving one, Jane and Alain both want the other to suffer as much as they each think they do. "Ta douleur à ma douleur se doit d'être égale." And yet, the song has less of an air of vitriolic bitterness, than one of remorse, regret, sadness. Alain sings a verse, a chorus; Jane takes the second, and then gets her chorus. They circle each other, barely interacting, singing a duet that's not really a duet. Briefly, they come together in harmony: "T'as pas le droit d'avoir moins mal; t'as pas le droit d'avoir moins mal. Moins mal, que moi." They are perhaps talking at last; in the final moments they trade lines instead of entire verses, and sing the last stanza together. "On a toujours partagé tout/Mon angoisse prends-en une tasse, tea for two/T'as pas le droit, alors que j' déprime/D'être ailleurs qu'au bord de l'abîme." My French fails me. I no longer know what they say, but I think I hear what they want to.


  • The last lines are : " we always shared everything. have a cup of my anguish - tea for two / you are not allowed - while i'm depressed / to be somewhere else than at the edge of the precipice" the rhymes in french are REALLY nice

    By Anonymous Arnault, at 7:56 PM  

  • Thanks! I was hoping I would lure a French-speaking reader into translating. The rhymes sound great, and the sentiment -- which continues the "mutual sorrow" conceit of the rest of the song, in which they both want each to not be able to get over the other -- is quite twistedly sad.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 8:08 PM  

  • yes. great song. I like alaim chamfort very much. he just release a fantastic live album.
    he is a great songwriter but Serge gainsbourg made him famous with the song Manureva. Are you a gainsbour fan?

    By Anonymous Arnault, at 8:21 PM  

  • I only know the major Gainsbourg songs, although I was named after "Lemon Incest."*

    When the Birkin album came out, Chamfort was one of the Birkin duet partners I was least familiar with, and I wanted to check him out more. Two years later, that hasn't happened enough.

    *A lie.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 8:37 PM  

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