First of all, I need to state two obvious things before starting. Number one: I am clearly not talking about a British boy’s band here and it is just a simple coincidence that a great French spoken word artist may share his name with them. If you are a fan of theirs, well… you can still check this out and hopefully you will take an opportunity here to open your mind and ears (I tried not to be too judgemental, forgive me if some opinions inadvertly creeped in…). Number two: I apologise to you non French-speaking people (I am well aware you are an overwhelming majority) because you will definitely miss out on a lot if you don’t understand the lyrics. But as I stated several times before, music is universal and you should be able to feel what JLS put into this album even if you don’t get the exact meaning of his lyrics. With that said, DES MOTS [dé]NOTENT has been highly anticipated on my side and I have to say it did live to my expectations, even if I would have loved a longer album. Let me tell you more about JLS and his debut…
I first heard of JLS many years ago on MySpace and was immediately enchanted by his universe. I was discovering French spoken word at the time and I really loved the way he played with words and ideas, how he was very open with his thoughts and emotions, allowing listeners into his very interesting universe. I was going to his page regularly to listen to his music and some of the tracks I loved so much I played them on repeat. Fast forward to more recent times, when Facebook allowed me to re-discover him and get in touch. A few months ago, JLS finally released his debut full-length, entitled DES MOTS [dé]NOTENT. This contains a very nice wordplay and basically introduces one of the concepts of the album, which offers a very interesting balance between words (‘mots’) and notes. I greatly appreciate this aspect of the project and I think it makes it easier for non French-speaking people to get into it and feel its vibe. As he states in the beautiful introduction, JLS’ music is a mixture of different genres and doesn’t fit in any traditional box. It is indeed filled with many influences, from jazz, soul and reggae to hip-hop and spoken word. It’s simply feel-good, conscious, emotional music. I want to quote what may be his slogan, ‘La musique se vit mais ne se joue pas’, which means ‘Music is lived, not played’.
Straight from the first notes of the introduction, you are travelling to another world, you can imagine yourself sitting in an underground jazz club in the States many decades ago and indulge in the sheer beauty of the piano and horns. More jazzy and cinematic elements can be found in Ce soir, a wonderful duet with Aldrick, a very talented singer (whom I also discovered on MySpace back in the days). There is also a melancholic and introspective aspect in this track, where JLS reminisces over his childhood and his past. We then travel further into his universe, through words and music, with reggae-influenced God Bless (featuring Droïd D. Boop). This one really exudes positive energy and is a call for more communication and understanding between people. JLS is realistic but still hopeful, wishing for a better world. It is then time for more hip-hop with a duet with Hadi Barzon. On Ma poésie sur écoute, the artists are showcasing amazing writing-skills and wordplay ability. They are dealing with freedom of speech and how it can be threatened in today’s society. The beautiful piano and flute give the lyrics more depth and are emotionally strong. JLS is also drawing a sad but real image of a world where media manipulation is in full effect and where words are losing some of their power through a decreasing of interest in art and culture. To make their beauty more obvious, JLS shares a wonderful spoken word piece entitled Je veux être. Here, he mixes emotion and technicality, proving that such a blend is indeed possible and his flow makes his lyrics even more powerful. He states ‘Je veux être une fenêtre ouverte sur le monde’ (‘I want to be a open window on the world’). Plume du ghetto has a very nice and energetic jazzy vibe and is a recounting of his path from the ghetto to the world of writing, how he used his ‘feather’ to get out of the ghetto but definitely not to turn a page on it. He is underlining once again how effective words can be over a wonderful piano and horns. The interlude is simply incredible. It is then time for a complete change of mood with the ironic and funny Jimmy le millionnaire which describes how some young people want to be reality TV ‘heroes’ and would do anything for a bit of fame. Finally, it’s all about the music with Des notes which uses the same beautiful soundtrack as the intro and leaves you with a smile on your face.
After words and music, it’s now time to add some visuals… Here is the official video for Ce soir, first single off DES MOTS [dé]NOTENT. Enjoy!