“On est tous des imbéciles” (English: “We Are All Fools”) is a 1984 song recorded by French artist Mylène Farmer. It was released in February 1985 as her second single after “Maman a tort” and its English-translated version “My Mum Is Wrong”. Although the song was provocative and rather critical of show business, it was often well received in the media. However, in spite of good reviews and an intense promotion on television by the singer, the sales of the single were disappointing.
After the moderate success of her first single “Maman a tort”, Farmer decided to record a new song. Jerôme Dahan had already written some songs for her including “Be Bip Bou Rock’n Roll / L’Amour au téléphone” and “I Do Love You” which, however, were never released. “Be Bip Bou Rock’n Roll” was just recorded as a demo and Farmer said she often listened to this song. Finally, “On est tous des imbéciles” was released as a single under the RCA label. In an interview, Jérôme Dahan said that he wrote the song at the same time as “Maman a tort”, when Farmer had not yet began her singing career. Dahan, who composed both the song’s lyrics and music, remains the only songwriter to having entirely composed a song for Farmer. When he wrote the lyrics of “On est tous des imbéciles”, Dahan thought he would be the singer of the song.
In addition to the two traditional media (12″ single and 7″ maxi), a promotional vinyl was sent to radio stations, which displayed an entirely red cover with the words “Mylène Farmer est une imbécile, et vous?” (Mylène Farmer is a fool, what about you?) written on it. No music video was produced at the time, because as explains by Dahan, “the television did not agree with the record companies for the rights on their airing”.
Because of copyright issues, this song remains not available on any Farmer’s albums, including her first studio album Cendres de Lune, and her best of Les Mots. However, Farmer has apparently never disowned the song.
This single marked the end of the collaboration between the duo Farmer/Boutonnat and Jerôme Dahan, and also with RCA. François Dacla, then artistic director of the recording company, accepted the song in a contract that included only two singles with a requirement for success.
About the song’s title, Farmer said in an interview: “I don’t know if this is really aggressive. This is certainly provocative and I always like to highlight the sentence that said “On est tous des imbéciles mais ce qui nous sauve c’est le style !” (“We are all fools, but what saves us is the style !”) and I think that’s right.” According to author Erwan Chuberre, the song criticizes the “superficial side of the entertainment universe”, with “rather strange lyrics playing on the self-mockery, accompanied by a music tinged of rhythms and bells”. Author Alice Novak considered this song as very different from other ones that made the success of Farmer, although the singer showed through it that she had a sense of humor. In March 1985, Farmer explained: “This is a tongue-in-cheek song. This means that life should certainly not be taken seriously, that we need to laugh, and that derision is good.”
It is Mylène who talks about it best:
” It’s a song that is written a bit for) show business, maybe the profession in general. It’s that we are wrong to take ourselves seriously. You have to do things seriously, not take yourself seriously. ” (Mylène Farmer -” Platine 45 “- Antenna 2 – February 27, 1985)
In the song, Farmer “extracted her complexes by spreading the error on the human race”. According to Télé Poche magazine, it has a “jazzy tone” and a “deep voice”.
In Farmer’s career, the song is very original in many ways, as it was composed by someone outside of the Farmer / Boutonnat duo, in the music being very light, even a little simple, compared to Laurent Boutonnat’s subsequent productions, and which the lyrics include “familiar and vulgar lyrics (aka Libertine) , which is not the case in Farmer’s other songs in which she sublimates them systematically in figures more aesthetic, namely violence and eroticism, always put into words and images with delight and refinement”.
Considered as a “funny lampooner” and a “provocative” song which “disconcerted journalists and public”, “On est tous des imbéciles” is about the artist profession and makes some cynical observations on it. It is a “virulent criticism from the environment of the show business where artists would be all fools”. However, Farmer tackle’s strong themes that “have yet structured her musical work even to the point of becoming clichés”. For example, she criticized the tendency of some artists to melancholy and romantic, and often exacerbated and vapid. “On est tous des imbéciles” “is proving to be a very enlightened song on the show-biz world in which many coincidences appear”. Moreover, some observers noted several words that seem to refer to Jeanne Mas’ universe, who was Farmer’s great competitor at the time: evocation of style, ambiguity, dark atmosphere, sadness.
“On est tous des imbéciles” was generally well received by contemporary pop music critics. For example, Boys and Girls said: “A new hit into perspective, and especially evidence that Mylène has real talent”. Ici Paris praised the song, stating: “”On est tous des imbéciles” seems to confirm the talent of the trio [Boutonnat-Dahan-Farmer]”. L’Est Républicain said: “This famous “On est tous des imbéciles” tastefully composed puts Farmer on the right track”.Antenne considered the song as the “pleasant continuation of “Maman a tort““, and added that “this new production won’t let anyone indifferent” and that “Mylène is in the process of confirming her talent”.
According to Numéro 1, “this new song has this little ‘trick’ that makes it almost essential”.Salut! deemed the song as “pleasant, funny”,La Voix du Nord considered that “the music is very rhythmic, almost jerky, the melody is stripped, the lyrics are disillusioned”, and Chanson qualified the song as “salubrious”.Jacinthe deemed “On est tous des imbéciles” a “provocative” song that “easily fits in the head as a success”. As for Podium, it stated: “The melody is beautiful, Mylène’s voice and tone are charming. Everything is very nice”.
There was also some criticism. According to Le Matin, “this refrain is too heavily rhythmic”, and to Nice Matin, “Mylène Farmer will have a hard time doing again a hit with this ‘pretty’ song”.
“On est tous des imbéciles” was only released in France and did not meet the same success as the previous single “Maman a tort”, failing to reach the French SNEP Singles Chart (until 1998, it was only a top 50 hit). About 40,000 units were sold in 1985. Along with the singer’s live singles, the song remains one of the lowest-selling single throughout Farmer’s career. However, the two vinyl formats are today highly sought after by collectors, especially as this song and “L’Annonciation” are not included on Farmer’s albums in 1998, the value of the 7″ reached about 1,500 euros, and the maxi vinyl’s one 2,000 euros.
Explaining the reasons of the song’s failure, journalist Benoît Cachin said that “the public does not join the second meaning of the lyrics” and that “the chorus also seems a bit “violent” to the listeners’ ears”. In addition, although the song’s lyrics as well as Farmer conveyed the message that an artist should not considered himself seriously in his profession, critics deemed that Farmer’s behavior did not comply with this message.
Promotion and live performances
From April to December 1985, the singer actively promoted the song performing it in 19 French television shows broadcast on TF1 , Antenne 2 and FR3 , including Patatoès patatorum , Pour le plaisir , Jour D , Paris kiosque , L’Année du Zèbre , La Vie full-time , Platinum 45 , L’Écho des ados , Les Jeux de 20 heures , Cadence 3 , L’Académie des 9 , 4C + , Zénith , Hit des clubs , Today life, Chanson témoin, Chanson miroir, La Grande Suite, La Clé des champs, C’est encore mieux l’après-midi, Super Platine, Eurexporythmes and Ring parade.
.On these occasions, she performed a choreography which author Erwan Chuberre qualified as one of the “most astounding uncoordinated dance[s]”; however, Cachin considered that Farmer was smiling then and appeared more at ease than when she promoted her previous single.
The song was never performed on tours.. On est tous des imbeciles does not appear on any Mylène album.
The rights to use the song On est tous des imbeciles were abandoned to RCA when Mylène and Laurent left the group. It is clear that they have never tried to buy them since!
The song is as adorable as Mylene herself with her baby girl pouty lips in combination with her huge eyes – just a killer! Only she could pull this off calling us all “imbéciles” and “débiles” without pissing anyone off. That’s our girl and the preview of what yet to come. The cutest moment is when she repeats with the question (poet?) 😊 and those 80s dance moves!!!
The tune is so catchy and upbeat I can’t seem to kick it out of my head (LOL). The jazziness in the end is also super cool, I think.
I got to say, I found the song very recently. Somehow it was totally unnoticed in Russia or perhaps was filtered out? Who knows… So for me it was a pleasant surprise to discover another song of Mylene’s!
By the way, it has my favorite band plugged into the lyrics. Can you spot it?
I didn’t partially know the lyrics targeted the showbiz. I would take the meaning a bit more globally (she hints at it by using the word “planet”)
But in her own words:
“C’est une chanson qui est écrite un peu pour) le show-business, peut-être le métier en général. C’est qu’on a tort de se prendre au sérieux. Il faut faire les choses sérieusement, pas se prendre au sérieux.” (Mylène Farmer – “Platine 45” – Antenne 2 – 27 février 1985)
Surprisingly, the song is dedicated to “Papa et sainte Thérèse d’Avila“.
“For a long time, I was fascinated by Saint Therese, and I had a vision of her that was reduced to a popular image. I wanted to know more and I looked into her life. She saw God on several occasions, spoke with him. The end of the story is censored” (Mylène Farmer – “L’Est Républicain” – May 09, 1985)
Wow isn’t this surprising at least to say? Perhaps, now we can easier understand her perpetual love- hate relationship with the religion and the reason for so many songs/videos referring to the Search for a Faith but only to discover brutal disappointments.
Commercially speaking, It does not join the top 50 of the best sales in France and will sell around 40,000 copies. But its not bad at all considering she took only few baby steps on the long road of “On est pas loin de l’enfer”.
Enjoy the April Foolishness any which way you can, my friends! Be silly, be child-like, laugh at others and most of all at Yourselves and all your “Équivoque, et aussi paradoxe”
Elbert Hubbard once said: Don’t take this life too seriously – no one comes out alive 😊
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lyrics with translation
C'est sûrement pas être artiste Que de frapper sur un piano C'est sûrement pas être poète Que de chagriner la tête vide Assise au bord du Styx Je suis vraiment si peu comique Que les larmes me viennent à l'oeil Et toi connard, ça te fait rire Ça te fait rire et moi, pleurer C'est qu'on doit rien piger On est tous de imbéciles On est bien, très bien débiles Ce qui nous sauve, c'est le style Équivoque, et aussi paradoxe Et ça suffit On a du se gourrer de planète C'est que je ne sais meme plus où l'on est Les producteurs trouvent ça bien Toi et moi, on le sait quand même, On est pas loin de l'enfer Ah ah! On est tous de imbéciles On est bien, très bien débiles Ce qui nous sauve, c'est le style Équivoque, et aussi paradoxe Et ça suffitOn est tous de imbéciles On est bien, très bien débiles Ce qui nous sauve, c'est le style Équivoque, et aussi paradoxe Et ça suffitOn est tous de imbéciles On est bien, très bien débiles Ce qui nous sauve, c'est le style Équivoque, et aussi paradoxe Et ça suffit
It is surely not to be an artist Than to strike on a piano It is surely not to be a poet Than to grieve with an empty head Sitting on the edge of the Styx I'm really so little comical That tears come to my eyes And you asshole It makes you laugh It makes you laugh and me, cry It is that we should not take anything We are all imbeciles We are good, very very stupid What saves us is the style Equivocal, and also paradox And that Enough We had to be bothered by the planet It's that I don't even know where we are The producers find it good You and me, we know it anyway, We are not far from hell Ah ah! We are all imbeciles We are good, very good morons What saves us is the Equivocal style , and also paradox And that's enough We are all imbeciles We are good, very good morons What saves us is the Equivocal style , and also paradox And that's enough We are all imbeciles We are good, very very stupid What saves us is the Equivocal style , and also paradox And that's enough