Today is the 20th anniversary of the release of Mylène Farmer‘s greatest hit, her anthemic single “Désenchantée.” I’m guessing that a lot of my readers won’t know her music, especially in more Anglophone areas, but she’s sort of the Francophone Madonna: one of the hugest gay icons around the time I was coming out, both in France and Quebec (she is French but was born while her parents were living in Montreal), and like Madonna with much of her fame spurred by her iconic and envelope-pushing videos. (Interestingly, like my other musical idols the Pet Shop Boys, despite not being especially popular in North America her career has endured and she is still a huge hit in Europe.)
I associate her music and this song in particular with 1998 and 1999 and 2000, at the height of her fame (her 1999 Mylenium tour was one of the highest grossing for any non-Anglophone artist) the time I first started meeting other queer kids and going to clubs, when playing “Désenchantée” meant madness on the floor, especially at Ciel! Mon Mardi at Sky which was one of the best nights of clubbing ever (it was before they renovated and while Mado Lamotte was still emceeing). I felt such joy at connecting, finding a place in this great motion; anything was possible.
And it didn’t hurt either that to me the song was an awesome anthem for the age I was and the activism I was getting involved in, or that she bends gender like all-get-out in the videos.
[Trigger warning: scenes of violence, including some apparently directed at a character due to gender presentation.]
And even more so than that were the lyrics to “Sans contrefaçon”:
Tout seul dans mon placard, les yeux cernés de noir
À l’abri des regards je defie le hasard
Dans ce monde qui n’a ni queue ni tête, je ne fais qu’à ma tête
Un mouchoir au creux du pantalon, je suis Chevalier d’Éon
Puisqu’il faut choisir, à mots doux je peux le dire
Sans contrefaçon je suis un garçon
Et pour un empire, je ne veux me dévêtir
Puisque sans contrefaçon je suis un garçon
Anyway, any of her music always brings me right back to that time, the wonder and tremulousness and intensity of my late adolescence and the beginning of my adult life, and especially “Désenchantée.”