The two official languages of Eurovision are English and French. So it is about time that I featured a French-language song! It is not, however, a song from France.
As I’ve mentioned before, Switzerland is lucky to have four official languages for its Eurovision songs. I have already reviewed the German-language Swiss Lady from 1997 (Link); today, I present Mister Music Man from 1992.
As usual, let’s start with the first official performance of Mister Music Man. The following clip is from Switzerland’s national song selection final.
My own first impression is something that nobody thought back in 1992. Mister Music Man reminded me immediately of Sjúbídú, Iceland’s song from 1996! (Link) But in the end, I think I prefer this jazz song from der Schweiz. The melody is livelier, and Daisy Auvray’s voice is very appealing to me.
As for the lyrics . . . Listening was tricky. Although I’ve studied French in the past, my ears kept trying to hear German words. At first, I could understand only very common fragments: “Dans mes bras,” “voulez vous,” “pouvoir,” “autrefois,” “encore et encore” . . . After a few repeats, I made out longer phrases like, “Voulez-vous me jouer . . .” and “Si vous êtes d’accord . . .” Soon I could guess that the singer was asking the Music Man to play something for her. But I needed to read the lyrics to get the whole story.
Daisy Auvray’s Eurovision performance is essentially the same. She is even wearing the same costume! But the live orchestra and the spectacular stage allow her to give the song a bigger meaning.
At the start, for instance, she points to conductor Roby Seidel when singing, “J’ai demandé au chef d’orchestre . . .” (I asked the orchestra conductor . . .) But it is the last time she admits he is the “Music Man” of the title. The other times she sings to “Mister Music Man,” she points directly at the camera. I guess she wanted to make a connection with the home audience; but I would have preferred to see more of a connection with the “Music Man” who shared the stage with her.
Then there is the line: “Baissez les lumières autour nous” (Set the lights down around us). It becomes breathtaking when Auvray gestures at the lights in Malmö Stadium! She actually made the same gesture during her national selection performance, but it was just silly on the garishly-lit Swiss stage.
In general, I find the Eurovision performance strong and arresting. But when I look more closely at the lyrics, I don’t think they fit together perfectly.
Lost (and Found) in Translation
There are no versions of Mister Music Man in other languages. But during the UK broadcast of Eurovision 1992 (Link), the presenter Terry Wogan recited a translation of the first lines:
I long to take him in my arms and give him a kiss
So to the leader of the band, I said this:
“Mister Music Man . . .”
“Leader of the band” sounds better than the literal “orchestra conductor”! The rest of the lines fit Auvray’s outgoing performance and Seidel “big band” arrangement in more ways than one.
If you just read the French lyrics, you’ll see that the character in Mister Music Man is actually quite shy. She speaks to the chef d’orchestre “a mi-voix” — in a low voice. She asks him to be a secret conspirator in romance. She dreams of “danser tendrement” — dancing tenderly — with the man she loves. In contrast, the Eurovision performance is confident and assertive. Auvray doesn’t seem like a woman who asks for help to get a man!
But a contrast is not always a clash. If my French were better, I might hear something more interesting in shy lyrics from a confident singer!
There is a full English translation on the Diggiloo Thrush site. (Link) It’s not the version that Wogan was reading, but it’s more complete and accurate.