XXL is a seventh song from Mylène Farmer’s fourth studio album, Anamorphosée (1995) released on 17 October 1995. It is the first single extracted.
The months preceding the recording of the XXL title were probably among the most painful in Mylène Farmer’s career.
The film Giorgino, released on French screens in October 1994, Mylène’s first role in the cinema, was a critical and public failure.
An unfair sentence given the quality of the film and a real blow to the duo Farmer-Boutonnat who, after having chained the successes lasting for years, is destabilized by this brutal and unexpected desertion of a public yet so loyal.
Mylène then went into exile in the United States.
“As soon as the film came out, I went to the United States and I stayed there for nine months. I had a break with the world before. The idea of taking your luggage, of n ‘ to have no roots is fairly new to me. It is the first time in the ten years that I have been working that I have felt this feeling of freedom, of really living. Living in Paris, it became unbearable for me, even if you’re responsible for that. There comes a time when you lock yourself in your own neuroses, your own anxieties. I ended up locking myself up and losing something fundamental. Success isolates you, so it got worse.” ( Mylène Farmer -” Le Soir “- October 25, 1995 )
In early 1995, celebrity magazines unveil photos of the singer discolored in platinum blonde alongside Jeff Dahlgren in Los Angeles. READ MORE about the photoshoot by Herb Ritts HERE.
A period of travel, reflection, reading for Mylène who discovers The Intimate Death of Marie by Hennezel
as well as The Tibetan Book of Life and Death by Sogyal Rinpoche , works which may explain, at least partially, the more peaceful side of texts from the next album.
Finally, the creation period.
Texts or melodies in mind, Mylène calls on her lifelong accomplice, Laurent Boutonnat, who joins her in LA to work on the new album: the album of all dangers, the fans being impatient to find the singer who does not has offered nothing new in song since Que mon coeur lâche end of 1992.
For its part, the press has its teeth sharper than ever following the first “misstep” of her career.
The rumor began to circulate in France in the spring of 1995. Mylène Farmer is working on her new album with Laurent Boutonnat in Los Angeles, album announced more rock. Rumors are not always wrong! (at least this time they are for a change are true)
The recording takes place at the A&M studios for the first title then at the Record One studios on Ocean Way with in particular Jeff Dahlgren and Thierry Rogen (the latter will leave a few weeks later giving way to Bertrand Châtenet).
Very symbolic of the coming new era, the first track recorded is Laisse le vent emporter tout.
A making-of of the recording of the album is produced by François Hanss. It will be found in the bonuses of the Music Videos II & III DVD .
Recording of the album ends in August.
At the same time, Mylène carries out a photo shoot with Herb Ritts, some photos of which will illustrate the album.
“As for this desire to work with another photographer, that calls for the same thing. This desire to have a new look. Now, to talk about radical metamorphosis: no, of course not, I am still the same, except that we learn every day and that life makes that, either you change, or once again you learn things and, this life will direct you towards other things, of other desires, other thoughts. Once again, speaking of this photographer, I knew that he could bring me, not into my universe, but, in any case photographically, bring something that was his own and , maybe, to enrich mine. ” ( Mylène Farmer – Radio 21 on October 21, 1995 )
The title chosen to become the first single is XXL. A single that forecasts a huge success of the album Anamorphosée.
The words of XXL were written by Mylène Farmer. The text of XXL, like the majority of those from the album Anamorphosée, demonstrates a profound change in the artist. More direct, less complex, less gloomy.
” Love is the thing that has struck me as the most important and the most fundamental for my and our life. A need for love, yes! We want exceptional things. But it could be friendship, It’s the same thing! High quality things. ” ( Mylène Farmer – RTL – October 13, 1995 )
” If I had to summarize my current thoughts, it is true that they are heading towards what we all aspire to. believe, namely a little more security and above all a little more love … ” ( Mylène Farmer -” 7 Extra “- October 31, 1995 )
The music for XXL was composed by Laurent Boutonnat. We note the use of a greater number of instruments and a very clear rock turn.
Jeff Dahlgren was heavily involved in the recording of the album Anamorphosée, in particular with the writing of the line of guitars for XXL, as he confided in an interview for a special Giorgino issue of “Styx Magazine “, in 2014. The first remixes are designed by Laurent Boutonnat and Bertrand Châtenet.
Richard Dekkard, in 1996, released the “UK Remix“, included in the Maxi CD of Rêver . It will be used for the end credits of the Live video at Bercy in 1997. My favorite XXL remix of all times.
Richard Dekkard confided to the magazine “MF & Vous” during the summer of 2007:
“ I had never heard of her( Mylène, editor’s note )! But I’m not surprised that she is so popular in France. She has an incredible voice and does exactly the type of songs that I love to do. These same songs that made me work with Dido.” (Richard Dekkard – MF & You – May 2007 )
Announced for August 24 on the promo plan, the title is broadcast on radios (NRJ, Skyrock, Europe 1, RTL …) starting August 22, 1995 .
In addition to the classic promo CD, some media receive an item that is impossible to miss! Locked in a black box, a huge XXL wrought iron, at the bottom of which is discreetly affixed the name Mylène Farmer and on which the promo CD of the singer’s new title is based.
Mystery obliges, zero photos of Mylène on these promotional items. The 2-track CD was released on September 19, 1995 . In France, four media are available: a 2-track CD (with two versions: gold CD or black CD), a limited edition maxi digipak CD, a crystal box maxi CD and a 45 rpm maxi.
The Maxi CD digipak version is printed in 2000 copies. They all sold out on day one! The following days a maxi crystal box CD is put on sale (in unlimited edition).
Many media are therefore published in France but also in Germany offering several versions or remixes of the title.
XXL ranks the week of its release in 1st place in sales of singles in France (it is then the third number 1 for Mylène with a single after Provided they are sweet and Disenchanted ).
Despite several years of absence of the artist in the bins of record stores, fans are at the rendezvous with 40,000 sales the first week. Many record stores would have been obliged to place a new order of media from the afternoon of the release day.
The single has sold a total of around 120,000 copies in France. Nice success, nothing more.
XXLis well received by the radios reaching for two consecutive weeks the 02nd place of the airplay radios peripheral and FM rankings in France at the end of October.
The single has had a good run in Belgium and Switzerland.
Following the European success of the two previous albums, XXL benefits from broadcasts on radios in many countries (Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, Italy, Denmark …) with a more marked success in Poland, the song reaching the 11th position of the radio airplay of this country.
This title will deeply divide fans.
Some, destabilized by these changes leave. The aficionados of “the” dark, tormented or gothic Mylène do not accept this new sexy Mylène, more fulfilled. Little sulk, often very brief. Many will gradually be seduced by the new opus and others will find their marks with the following album, Innamoramento, in 1999.
The rupture or the Americanization which emanate from XXL then from Anamorphosée also allow others to discover Mylène then to let yourself be charmed by the universe or rather by The status quo of the familiar Farmer universe. Change always takes time and a lot of determination. And Mylene understood that than very well.
Release on December 08, 2017 of a reissue of the XXL Maxi 45 Tours . Release on January 11, 2019 of a white Maxi 45 Tours. A limited edition sold exclusively on the Universal Music Store website.
Release on June 12, 2020 of the first 45 Tours support for the XXL single , a marbled orange 45 Tours included in the “Singles Collection” box set.
So what really did it? What made this song to stand out and remain to be one of the most favorite among fans?
Is it the fact that all of us “On a besoin d’amour”, especially Women? Regardless of our upbringings, social status, interests, or careers. For me it certainly remains true. The Search for Love is the Lifelong Quest.
Is it a witty contemplation on what kind of “XXL” truly makes it all special for Women? She flirts with the idea during concerts simulating BJ moves (did you really expect anything less?) 😊
Of course, it is a message that XXL truly matters when it comes down to the Size OF THE FEELINGS. And not at all (against common believes!) of sizes of wallets, houses, or certain body parts. She wouldn’t be our favorite Mylene if there was nothing underneath the obvious message.
I’ve always loved peeling those layers in every song of hers finding the precious glimpses of what really inspired, enraged, or touched her so deeply that she just needs to cry it all out – through her witty and deeply sensitive and honest words!
Perhaps, it’s also a subtle pun on American oversized clothes or humongous portions in the restaurants and as a result quite a XXL nation? I get the point as I fled to the USA almost at the same time as Mylene (some synchronicity there!) When I first arrived from Russia, I was stunned how oversized everything/everyone is here! Yet, no matter which continent you are on – we all are just looking for LOVE. And not just any puny and insignificant love – the XXL LOVE.
Mylene no doubt feels the same way. Especially, being so royally betrayed by her fans after Giorgino and even by Laurent Boutonnat himself being so deeply wounded by the failure. Isn’t it also a reminder to us all that she is still yearning for the XXL Love she once had? The XXL LOVE from us – fans.
“Love is the thing that has struck me as the most important and the most fundamental for my and our life. A need for love, yes! We want exceptional things. But it could be friendship, It is the same thing! High quality things. ” (She said October 13, 1995 – RTL)
I suppose success of the XXL as a single as well as the entire Anamorphosée album is due to a multitude of factors.
In the midst of it all there is a powerful, raw, and Americanized Mylene declaring her unapologetic comeback and claiming HER place not only on the French music scene but also surrounding countries. Sadly, for me, the USA was not amongst those countries.
I personally think the public curiosity to see what the “Fallen Angel” does next helped greatly! The urge to see if the idol is fallen or otherwise risen is a win-win situation and contributed to the commercial success.
Boutonnat nailed it this time commercially although to be completely honest it is not his strongest song and melodically quite monotonous. Perhaps the title as also a great choice self-proclaiming its enormous (XXL!!) success
The first note is the wolf-like howling on the word “amouuuuur”. Its so raw – it’s a cry from the very bottom of the Heart and Soul! It’s an animal yelp which is a part of a deeply hidden animal nature in each of us…Can you hear me? Can you feel me? I certainly did!
Wolf theme is recurring in Mylene’s work and once again elegantly resurfaces through the leading sound of the song.
As far as a favorite live performance of the song, I’d say Stade de France in 2009 wearing bright red outfit and creating a prayer like sing along! I can only imagine the live energy in the space! Must be truly XXL as in “XXceLent” 💙
The whole video with her being strapped to the train brings up the analogy with the great Novel by Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina. In the novel, the heroine is throwing herself under the train when she loses her interest for living after when her lover no longer feels a passion for her. Was it in the back of Mylene’s mind when he did the video? Who knows?
Greta Garbo played Anna Karenina in 1935 film – another unexpected link to Mylene’s song Greta
The XXL music video is directed by Marcus Nispel . This Requiem Publishing production of XXL clip cost about 80,000 euros (230,000 euros, according to journalist Benoît Cachin) and was shot in two days one for Farmer, one for the extras – in August 1995, in Fillmore, California, on the Fillmore and Western Railway. Based on an idea by Farmer, the video shows a 1910 locomotive being driven at high speed, which is frequently interpreted as a symbol of sexual intercourse.
Marcus Nispel was born on May 26, 1963 in Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, Germany. He is a director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacres, Frankenstein, Pathfinder and Friday the 13th.
Monday September 18, 1995, M6 broadcasts at 8 pm, after its JT “6 minutes”, exclusively, the clip of the song. This one-hour broadcast of a very large audience was announced by numerous commercials on the channel and was the subject of several press articles.
Big risk-taking for Mylène who chooses not to do any promotion for this comeback single after years of absence on the music scene. No TV performance for this song.
We have to wait for the release of the album Anamorphosée for Mylène to grant interviews to the media and we will have to wait even more, until December and the following single L’Instant X , to finally see her sing on television sets. And what a memorable appearance was that! 😮
But lets talk about the XXL clip, shall we?
The video premiered on 18 September 1995 on M6. Shot in black and white, it features Farmer hung on at the front of a moving locomotive, filmed in an orange grove. These images alternate with those of the train passengers who are very different from each other (social origin, race, age, marital status…). The action probably takes place in the United States in the mid-twentieth century, as evidenced by the sets and costumes.
Producer Anouk Nora explained that some difficulties were met during the shooting: “The idea of putting the artist hanging in front of a moving train, it was unthinkable. Because in the United States, they are sticklers on security issues.”
Thus, it was necessary to sign release forms in order to allow the filming. Moreover, Farmer burned herself twice during the shooting. For the shooting, the singer remained hung on this locomotive for nearly five hours under a 40 °C temperature and was scared because it ran sometimes very quickly. She wore a dress made by French fashion designer Thierry Mugler.
No doubles were used, and according to author Erwan Chuberre, “the staging is firmly photographic“, but there is “no screenplay”.
In the video, Farmer appears much more “glamorous and sophisticated woman” than before and “proudly proclaims her femininity”.
Doesn’t she remind you of a The Spirit of Ecstasy is the bonnet ornament sculpture on Rolls-Royce cars? One of the most famous sculptures by Charles Robinson Sykes.
This train was also used in the 1992 movie Chaplin, directed by Richard Attenborough.
The locomotive used is not a reconstruction. It is a real steam locomotive from the beginning of the century in 1906. Mylène refused to be dubbed, even for the most dangerous scenes. In order to be able to take shots of Mylène harnessed to the front of the locomotive launched at full speed, another train was running just in front with a “louma” at the back filming her from different angles.
Mylène remained attached to the locomotive for almost four hours under a blazing sun. The locomotive was also very hot and Mylene was burned twice. “I was wired in front of the locomotive and it was really rolling. The last shot, which is the wide shot, I found myself really all alone in front of this locomotive, with louma crane that were very, very far away and there, the train was really picking up speed, and all of a sudden, you ask yourself some questions.” (Mylène Farmer – Paris Première – May 30, 1996)
Mylène interpreted XXL on all the dates of the 1996 Tour from May 25 to December 15, 1996 in the final of the show.
“ Serenity, I haven’t reached it. I still have too many missing links and I fear that doubt will be my eternal traveling companion. But, today, I would replace cynicism with humor. J I have acquired certainties such as sharing and I am happy to end my show with a piece of hope. ” ( Mylène Farmer – Le Parisien – May 31, 1996 )
Arrangements for the stage: Laurent Boutonnat.
Choreography: Christophe Danchaud.
The song was the last one performed during the 1996 tour, and is also the last on the Live à Bercy album from that tour. It began with the sound of a train, then the scene was fumigated. Farmer, raised on a hoist, wore an indented black outfit, and her dancers wore pants and a golden tank top.
June 15, 1996 , at the Halle Tony Garnier in Lyon in front of 8,000 spectators: Mylène at the end of XXL(last song of the concert) returns on stage for a third final cover of the song’s chorus (which she had not done on the previous dates). She again positioned herself at the front of the stage. The dancer David Matiano then hung on the railing located on the front of this train, an element of decoration for this title.
The metal railings broke off, carrying the dancer who, in his fall, takes Mylène with him. A fall of more than three meters in height. in the hallway between the stage and the audience. We then hear screams in the audience followed by a silence reflecting the concern of the fans. Someone will come on stage quickly for a few reassuring words.
Mylène after the intervention of the firefighters in the room is taken to the Edouard Herriot hospital by her manager Thierry Suc and bodyguards. She will then be transported by ambulance escorted by five police cars to another hospital for surgery. Indeed, she suffers from an open fracture of the left wrist requiring surgery, multiple contusions. Not too bad for the dancer. A few hours later, a dispatch announced the postponement of the rest of the tour for December.
” It’s the anguish … That of not regaining all your mobility, of feeling diminished. I had the chance to meet an exceptional surgeon thanks to whom today I can only keep the bad memory of this fall. I always seek the why of the why (sic, Mylène probably meant ‘the why of the how’, editor’s note) but, very sincerely, there is so much people who are suffering and who have real problems that I do not feel the right to complain about. ” ( Mylène Farmer – Télé 7 jours – November 11, 1996 )
The song was scheduled for the 2000 Mylenium Tour, but was taken off the setlist.
AVANT QUE L’OMBRE À BERCY…2006
XXL was performed live during the thirteen concerts of 2006, AVANT QUE L’OMBRE À BERCY…,from January 13 to 28, 2006 .
Arrangements for the stage: Yvan Cassar.
During the 2006 series of concerts, the hall was fully blue when “XXL” was performed. The singer asked the audience to clap their hands, and at the end of the song, the refrain was repeated by Farmer and the audience.
TOURNEE Nº5 (2009)
The song was performed again on the 2009 tour; Farmer wore a glittering short dress with red cape with hood; at one point, she caresses her guitarists from the torso to the crotch.
XXL was sung on all dates of the 2013 Timeless tour from September 7 to December 6, 2013.
Arrangements for the stage: Laurent Boutonnat.
For the 2013 Timeless Tour, “XXL” was performed as the 17th song of the setlist.
This version had a melancholic intro with samples of “A-t-on jamais” from her album Monkey Me, then, after the first verse, the song turned into its original arrangement while rotating lights lit up the crowd and the stage. Mylène wore a black suit with a white shirt, and black tie and black high-heeled shoes. During this tour, Mylène asked the crowd to sing the chorus only on a few dates.
PARIS LA DÉFENSE ARENA 2019
XXL was not performed during concerts of 2019. The first since Mylenium Tour it was not sang live. I am sure some of fans were surprised by its absence.
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