Elle ne me voit pas …

Whenever I heard this song — often, it was in the heavy rotation when the movie was new kind of everywhere, all the time — I felt a little bad about it. It touches me, and I can of course explain why, there are about 50 obvious reasons. The song is very clearly designed to evoke an emotional attachement. Written and performed by Jean-Jacques Goldman, it is a veritable How-To of writing this kind of songs:

Elle ne me voit pas

Jean-Jacques Goldman

Quand elle passe, elle efface comme un éclat
Devant un ciel c’est elle qu’on voit
Elle est si reine qu’elle ne mérite qu’un roi

Et je ne suis pas roi
Elle ne me voit pas

Quand elle danse, tout danse, ses reins ses bras
Près d’elle tout s’éclaire un peu, pourquoi?
Elle a cette grâce que les autres n’ont pas

Tout ce que je n’ai pas
Elle ne me voit pas

Et moi, plus j’approche et plus je me sens maladroit
Plus je déteste et mon corps et ma voix
Il est des frontières qu’on passe malgré des milliers de soldats
Mais les nôtres, on ne les franchit pas

Il a de l’allure, des gestes délicats
La vie légère de ce monde-là
Il est aussi, tellement, tout ce qu’il n’est pas

Mais les femmes ne savent pas voir ces choses-là
Elle ne me voit pas

On peut changer tellement de choses si l’on veut, si l’on combat
Mais pas ces injustices-là

Quand elle passe, elle efface comme un éclat
Devant un ciel c’est elle qu’on voit
Elle est si reine qu’elle ne mérite qu’un roi

Un autre que moi
Je ne suis pas roi
Elle ne me voit pas

It just came back to me just today because, in an effort taking a well-deserved — according to my own estimate — break from work I googled “Philippe Jaroussky”  — and got this.

It says: “no direct match found, closest match: “Asterix and the Big Fight.”

In the meantime, I came to the conclusion that this must be a direct intervention from Toutatis: Philippe Jaroussky should sing the next Asterix title soundtrack!

Actually, I like the German version better, in total, so I will add it here. The singer, Xavier Naidoo, is almost unknown outside of Germany, mainly due to the fact that he almost only sings in German.

Even if Naidoo’s singing is sometimes sliding along the borderline of severe emo-ness, some parts make up for it, as always.  The song is a pefect match for Goldman’s voice, which is hardly surprising; for Naidoo’s voice it is not quite — he could do much more.

Sie sieht mich einfach nicht

Jean-Jacques Goldman; singer: Xavier Naidoo

Wenn sie vorbeigeht, dann scheint es wie ein Feuerwerk
Vor einem Himmel ist es sie, die ich bemerk’
Ihre Königlichkeit ist nur ein König wert

Und ich bin wenig königlich
Sie sieht mich einfach nicht

Wenn sie tanzt, dann tanzt alles, ihre Hüften und Arme
Alles erhellt sich im Licht, dieser Tag
Sie hat die Anmut und die Reinheit, die die anderen nicht haben

Sie hat alles, was ich nicht hab
Sie sieht mich einfach nicht

Je mehr ich mich ihr näher’, desto ungeschickter bin ich
Mein Körper, meine Stimme, mein Gesicht

Es gibt Grenzen, die man trotz Millionen von Soldaten wegwischt

Aber unsere überwindet man nicht

Er hat Stil, ist delikat, bedient sich Gesten so zart
Das leichte Leben dieser Welt ist seiner Art
Er ist so sehr auch das, was er nicht zu sein vermag
Doch die Frauen wissen nicht

Von diesen Dingen, wenn er spricht
Sie sieht mich einfach nicht

Man kann so vieles ändern, wenn man zu kämpfen bereit
ist aber nicht diese Ungerechtigkeit

Wenn sie vorbeigeht, dann scheint es wie ein Feuerwerk
Vor einem Himmel ist es sie, die ich bemerk
Ihre Königlichkeit ist nur ein König wert

Ein anderer als ich. Ich bin wenig königlich
Sie sieht mich einfach nicht. Sie sieht mich einfach nicht… 

For reference, I will add the English version of the song here, sung by Sarah Brightman. I’ll be honest — I don’t very much like her singing. The song is almost tragic, and so I find her voice capable of exactly one colour (plus a husky shade of middle register here), a bit of a misfit. This, and the change of the lyrics make the song seem distant, I find. Where in the original it is “She doesn’t see me” this is changed to “She doesn’t see him” — the singer becomes a narrator.

I’m just a Pavlov dog.

When I notice I’m touched by this song, I feel like obediently buying a certain brand of icecream, not because it is my favourite, but because some advertisement told me to.

I hate being so easily guided. Well, sometimes it is nice though to enjoy even simple things, like this song.

All about perspective

However, what always mildly put me off about the song was the very clear gender reference — Of course, it fits the plot, and Naidoo is very straight as well, according to his own assessment I won’t question. For me,  Brightman’s version, and how the lyrics were changed there, shows what a difference this makes concerning how the song feels. As this was for the actual soundtrack, it was about impossible to change differently, should a woman sing it.

I like wild accusations and love declarations in second person, though, or a gender neutral “amante”. I found it a shame that women (heterosexuality assumed) couldn’t cover the song so easily without changing the lyrics, even as a stand-alone piece.

It never rains on TV

Why not leave it like it is and sing it nevertheless? With gender, and  assumed sexual orientation, it is a little like when it rains on TV. I have to digress a little to explain it; I once asked a cameraman I used to work with why he would make such a fuss setting lighting for an outdoor shot for a magazine feature about some park in the drizzle to evoke the illusion of faint sunshine. If it rains, it rains — what would be the problem, I asked. He told me that it doesn’t just rain then, the rain would become the main subject, the one thing that stands out and can’t be ignored from the viewer’s perspective.

I never watched the Asterix movie on screen, even if I read almost all of the comics. To watch it as a movie is just not my thing. When I listen to the song, I don’t have Obelix’s unhappy romantic envolvement in mind; for me the song is more universal, and abstract. I don’t think that feelings differ much depending on gender.

For me, gender references in songs are a bit of a turn-off, as it spoils this universality. Whether it is “L’amerò, sarò costante” or “Elle ne me voit pas” — for me it’s like biting on a cherry pit in a spoon of marmelade.

It might fit my own preference, or it doesn’t, but it declares a sexual orientation. Now, to be straight is the assumed standard in pop songs and opera (this is not true for Britten, however); If someone would sing “She doesn’t see me”, and was female, it wasn’t probably going to be so mainstream. It would be the only thing that matters, the one only thing that stands out, just as rain on TV.

Would I change the lyrics, if I had to sing it? (If that ever happened, it would be most likely after an encouraging drink among friends at a Karaoke party or similar).

I don’t know, probably not. Somehow, the suggestion of an unrequited same-sex crush enhances the feeling the song already transports. And well, I’d need a drink, otherwise lines like …

Et moi, plus j’approche et plus je me sens maladroit
Plus je déteste et mon corps et ma voix

… would feel too accurate to be of comfort.

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