When Zhu’s latest album (GENERATIONWHY) came out a couple of months ago, a colleague of mine sent me the song Palm of My Hand. “It’s got a verse in French, sounds real sexy,” he said to me. I took a listen to the song, the melancholy but soulful electric guitar whirring behind an ambient tune, police sirens wailing in the background. It sounded like drug-fueled sex in Paris in a forbidden place with dimmed, red tinged lights.
And then the French. I was working on something on the computer, listening to the song, not paying close attention to what the silky voice of the jeune fille was saying. But all of the sudden I found my eyes starting to blink back the formation of tears, my face turning red. I rewound the song and took in the lyrics. How terribly, deeply sad! I translated them into French for my colleague, and have pasted them below.
J’crois que je poursuis un rêve impossible
J’pense que ça marchera pas mais j’y ai cru quand même
Je me revois, je revois tes yeux, je revois ta bouche, je revois tes cheveux, ton visage
Je me demande si toi aussi t’y penses
Je me demande si toi aussi tu
Tu me revois quand tu fermes les yeux et quand tu rêves
C’est un rêve impossible, tu m’avais dans la paume de ta main
Tout ce que tu avais à faire c’était de me dire de rester
Mais tu es reparti, puis tu es revenu et puis tu es reparti et puis tu es revenu
Encore et encore et à chaque fois c’est la même chose
Tout ce que tu avais à faire c’était de me dire de rester et je serais restée
Je serais restée pour toujours, toujours avec toi
Alors pourquoi tu es parti, pourquoi tu m’as laissée?
Ça va nous échapper entre les doigts, et un jour ou l’autre de toute façon, tout ça va s’arrêter
I think I’m chasing after an impossible dream
I think don’t think it’s gonna work, but I believe it anyway
I see myself, I see your eyes, I see your mouth, I see your hair, your face
I wonder if you think about it too
I wonder if you,
If you too see me when you close your eyes and when you dream
It’s an impossible dream, you had me in the palm of your hands
All you had to do was tell me to stay
But you left, then came back, and then you left and then you came back again
Again and again and every time it’s the same thing
All you had to do was tell me to stay and I would have stayed
I’d have stayed forever, forever with you
So why did you go, why did you leave me?
It’s going to slip out from beneath our fingers, and one day or another in any case, it’s all going to come to an end.
Ouf. Quelle tristesse profonde, l’amour perdu.
I Googled the song on Google France and Google USA to read reviews, see how it was received by French speakers and English speakers. All the English blogs concentrated on the music itself, mentioning the “sultry” or “seductive” French at the end, never once bothering to look up the meaning! One blog simply mentions “a female voice speaking in French”. On the other hand, the first French blog introduces the song as one that “nous a bouleversé”, or that “moved us deeply”…”un brin déprimante mais résolument sublime”, “a tad depressing but resolutely sublime.” I couldn’t agree more.
Now obviously it makes sense the French are going to immediately understand the lyrics and react to the song differently. I was just a bit surprised by the English-speaking music blogs – Were they not at all curious what she was saying? She goes on for about a minute, she’s sort of poetry-jamming, and it just sounds intense. But, ah, I suppose maybe it doesn’t matter, for a non-French speaker perhaps it just adds to the exoticism of the song, the darkly sensual vibes, the allure of the unknown. But, if you are interested, you can thank me for the tears streaming down your face (I only stole half that line from Coldplay, come at me Chris Martin).
Funny how songs hit you differently after you’ve been in love, or after you’ve just lived a bit longer.