If you’ve ever wondered what a cross between Brigitte Bardot, Lolita and Lady Gaga would be like, then the emergence of eccentric Parisian chanteuse Petite Meller means that you don’t have to wonder any more. Combining the breathy high-pitched tones of the 60s French icon, the childlike chic of the fictional temptress and the wonderful wackiness of Ms. Germanotta, this 28-year-old is undoubtedly one of the more curious acts to arrive on the dance-pop scene this year.
But whereas Lady Gaga’s flamboyance often seems forced and contrived, Petite Meller’s appears entirely effortless and natural. Indeed, her signature blush red cheeks aren’t a make-up choice, but the result of a ski burn she suffered as a child, and while ARTPOP failed to live up to all the claims of a “reverse Warholian expedition,” Meller’s output is clearly inspired by higher culture.
The video for the twinkling jazz-pop of “NYC Time” sees her piggyback around Brooklyn in an homage to Jean Luc-Godard’s Pierrot le Fou, while her lyrics are often informed by the theories of psychoanalyst Jacques Lucan, which she has been studying while earning her philosophy degree at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Take away all the nods to French New Wave cinema and academic references, and Meller’s early run of singles still intrigues. Featuring the crazed vocals of Yiddish pop singer Joe Fleisch, “Icebear” is a brilliantly deranged take on Neue Deutsche Welle outfit Grauzone’s 1981 hit. “Conspiracy” suggests Lana Del Rey now has a genuine rival when it comes to melodramatic torch songs, while European breakthrough “Baby Love” is a joyous burst of Italo house piano, wailing saxophones and floorfilling beats.
Petite Meller, who began her music career in Israeli electronic group Terry Poison before embarking on a solo career, may have initially attracted attention for her stylish cinematic promos and garish image. But scheduled for release later this year, her debut album will no doubt prove that there’s also substance to her weird and wonderful style.