Mathieu Boogaerts’ new album brings the art of chanson across the Channel
PUBLISHED: 11:43 23 February 2021 | UPDATED: 11:59 23 February 2021
En Anglais is the French singer’s first album in English and aims to translate the subtleties of this uniquely French genre
Mathieu Boogaerts was born in Paris and has lived in Brussels and Nairobi, but it is south London, between Brixton and Clapham, where he has spent the last five years. The ever-present spectre of Brexit has loomed over his stay and it is somewhat fitting that his latest album was previewed on the day that the UK officially left the EU.
Boogaerts: En Anglais is Boogaerts’ first album in English. He has enjoyed a celebrated career in France as a chansonnier, but on his move to the UK he realised he wanted to connect with his new audience in a way that the French language wouldn’t allow. The resulting album and documentary film shed light on this challenge – his desire for his music to transcend the cultural, political and linguistic boundaries that separate the UK and France.
In said documentary film Mathieu Boogaerts : MATHIOU, he explains: “I guess, subconsciously, I write songs to express myself and create a link with people. Straight away, the fact that my French songs could not reach my neighbours or the people I came across in a morning was a real frustration. So I thought, let’s write in English as a way to fight this frustration.”
Bringing the art of the chanson genre to England, and to the English language, is quite a feat, but one that Boogaerts carries off. The lead single of En Anglais, Am I Crazy, is a gentle foot-tapper with simple but poetic lyrics that, although sung in English, transport you to the streets of the City of Light. It’s so catchy that you can just imagine it being used on the soundtrack of the next season of Emily in Paris.
Apparently, Boogaerts had never considered not writing in French before, but this first foray into English songwriting will hopefully not be his last. But was he concerned, as a chansonnier, about defying the French chanson tradition and not singing in his mother tongue?
“I don’t care about tradition,” he says, dismissively. “I feel very free. For sure I’m not, because unconsciously there are a lot of borders I don’t cross; my songs last for two to three minutes, there’s a verse and a chorus and a bridge... I’m not doing anything avant garde, but when I write a song, and when I record it, I really feel free to do what I want.”
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