French music is not like mainstream American pop music. It, like the overall French culture, embodies a nuance that reflects more than just the standard expectations. Instead of common beats and rhythms, most French pop exudes refined combinations of many eccentric styles of music.
Starting Wednesday and continuing for two days, the OohLaLa French Music Festival showcased almost a dozen acts that demonstrated the integration of French and American cultures through music.
The Henry Fonda Theater welcomed all French-loving attendees, who filled up the entire venue with wine, cigarettes and the flare of the French language.
This culture was absorbed and upheld for three days, but in no way was it ever elitist. Appropriately ignoring any stereotypes portraying French culture as snobbish, the festival welcomed American influence that was wholeheartedly embraced by the musicians.
Many acts were indeed performed in French, but much was also highlighted in English performances. The combination of the two made the language barrier insignificant and, after a point, even unrecognizable. The music, whether it was in French or English, projected itself as indifferent of either language and solidified itself as the type of music any concertgoer would enjoy.
Thursday night began with Soko, a French singer-songwriter, who performed entirely in English. If she had not mentioned it, the audience wouldn’t have known she was French. Her music and style, which resonates more American pop than French, made her impossible to label.
The weakest part to her act was her solitary presence on stage. Alone with her guitar, her music was simple and too familiar, but, after being joined by her seven bandmates, the overall sound greatly improved. The mixture of numerous instruments and additional singers gave her music a faster rhythm and, overall, a more diverse arrangement.
The Do — a French/Finnish duo of Dan Levy and Olivia Merilahti — along with backing drummer, distinguished themselves from all notions of simply being a French version of She & Him as soon as they started playing.
Levy, on keyboards and bass guitar, provided a devastating rhythm section that helped complement his partner’s talents while still persisting in his own skillful determination.
But the real gem of this duo is Merilahti, Levy’s attractive but ferocious counterpart. She savagely plays guitar and then adds light lyrics and melodies — some in English.
The pair sang only one song in French before walking off stage frustrated over continuous technical difficulties, but the three songs that The Do did perform were the best songs of the night.
And then there was Hollywood, Mon Amour, which was by far one of the most unique groups France has to offer. A modest-sized band with two female singers, this group specializes in exactly what its name infers: cinema, most notably the music from 1980s American cinema.
Its prolonged and slow-tempo versions of “Eye of the Tiger,” “What a Feeling” and “Ghostbusters” are unique to the group and resonate nothing of the original songs, making them quite personal to the band. Their sound, however, is not as endearing as it is interesting, and after a few songs, it all becomes comical.
One singer from Hollywood, Mon Amour addressed a stuffed gorilla as Maverick and then proceeded to seduce it by singing Top Gun’s “Take My Breath Away,” elaborating on the exaggerated sense of performance in their act.
Other French acts including Jamaica, The Shoes, Cocoon and Sebastian Tellier filled the other two nights. As a whole, OohLaLa successfully made French culture, and most importantly its music, accessible for all.
Although French pop might still seem uncommon in American mainstream culture, it has become so infused with American music over the years. Despite the apparent language barrier, the OohLaLa Festival displayed how French pop music has become more relatable and enjoyable for both countries.