Who has the right to sing Edith Piaf?

Who has the right to sing Edith Piaf?

Four points to better understand the internationally recognized career of French singer Aya Nakamura.

At the end of February, the weekly The Express revealed that the singer Aya Nakamura had been received at the Élysée, on the 19th of the same month, by the President of the Republic. When asked by the latter what her favorite song was, she replied:Ode to love, by Edith Piaf. Emmanuel Macron would then have expressed the wish to see her perform this hit during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, on July 26. There followed a reaction in the media and on social networks against this hypothesis which neither the Head of State nor the singer have confirmed as we close this issue. Here are four keys to sorting things out.

1. A rearguard debate?

Torrents of insults were poured against the singer on social networks on condition of anonymity, while several personalities publicly expressed their opposition to the project. “When I look at the text of his songs, I find that we are quite far from the representations of our country,” indicated the President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher. The writer Éric Naulleau believes that “this young lady is vulgarity incarnate and sings in a slurry of French”. Faced with this racist hostility in certain cases, singer Benjamin Biolay, to name just one, argues that Aya Nakamura sings Piaf really well. And remember that, in the past, we castigated Javanese, slang or verlan which today make up the richness of oral French. As for vulgarity, we should also put things into perspective. Georges Brassens, who presented himself as “the pornographer of the phonograph”, was blamed in his time by “the dragons of virtue”. Today, schools, squares and libraries bear his name.

2. An internationally recognized Frenchwoman

Born in Bamako (Mali) on May 10, 1995, Aya Coco Dianoko arrived in France a few months old. In 2017, she chose her artist name in reference to the Japanese character in an American television series, Hiro Nakamura. His music is a mixture of RnB, pop and Afropop, whose codes, particularly in sometimes suggestive clips, may have led observers unfamiliar with the genre to think that it is obscenity. She is a singer already recognized internationally who opts for French nationality in 2021. In line with the universalism desired by Pierre de Coubertin, Aya Nakamura appears as legitimate to sing Piaf as other artists such as Madonna, Lady Gaga or Iggy Pop. Or like the American soprano Jessye Norman who performed the Marseillaise during the bicentenary of the French Revolution (provoking rare criticism in 1989) or the Beninese Angélique Kidjo associated with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, in 2018, without arousing such a volley of green wood.

3. An eloquent CV

Crowned “female artist” at the 2024 Victoires de la Musique, Aya Nakamura is “our best-selling artist abroad”, recalls Benjamin Biolay. She is also the French-speaking singer most listened to online (via the Internet). At the beginning of March, she had more than 6 billion plays on Spotify and 3.5 billion on the YouTube platform, where she has 7.5 million subscribers. Eight of his hits have been certified diamond singles (more than 50 million streams each). In this non-exhaustive inventory there is another record very related to his possible performance at the Paris Olympics. In 2018, in the Netherlands, his song Djadja rose to the top of the sales charts, a performance that had not happened since 1961 for a French song: the essential No, I do not regret anythingby a certain Édith Piaf.

4. A connection with “La môme”

Catherine Glavas and Christie Laume, universal legatees of Edith Piaf, have already granted authorizations to interpret theOde to love for the Paris Olympics ceremony. They believe that Édith Piaf “liked girls with personality and was very concerned about the international world”. Two criteria that Aya Nakamura meets. In response to her detractors, the Franco-Malian singer with blunt language officially released her song Doggy : “I don't have any enemies, it's them who don't like me/a bunch of enemies, but I don't even know them…” In her time, Edith was just as direct in the face of those who criticized her. This is evidenced by these words from a hit that remains famous: “I don't really care/Anything could happen to me… But what people think of you, it doesn't matter to me/I crazy! »

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