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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Paris Based Silly Boy Blue to Release Debut Album 'Breakup Songs' on Columbia France

By JD Beauvallet.

Silly Boy Blue (Ana Benabdelkarim) is a young singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer based in Paris. Her debut album, Breakup Songs, is out June 18th via Columbia France. She was a music journalist before starting her artistic journey as part of the French band Pegase. Borrowing her name from a David Bowie song from the early part of his career before stardom, Silly Boy Blue shares with him a taste for risk and a deep-rooted desire to push norms and codes. Ana’s universe is beautifully split, she is as bright as the sun and as dark as the night.

Silly Boy Blue has released a series of transfixing singles and videos in advance of the album. On “Goodbye” she puts her distinct spin on classic synthpop with yearning lyrics and a soaring vocal that finds triumph in the heartbreak. “The Riddle” is a stirring and emotive ode to hope and finding your own place in the world. She took to the subways of Prague for the video and uses them as a metaphor for racing and obsessive thoughts. “Hi, It’s Me Again” is comforting yet conflicted. The almost ethereal instrumentation soothes as she explores the rage and emptiness that can follow a breakup before your resilience takes over. Earlier this month, she released an orchestral version of “The Fight” which appears on the album. The music was rearranged under the direction of French American prodigy conductor Uèle Lamore.

Ana says, “I knew I wanted The Fight to be part of my album, although I wanted it to be different from the track we recorded in 2019. I approached Uèle Lamore, whose work I love, to help me rework it, and that’s how the orchestral version of The Fight was born. I consider the song to be the conclusion of a chapter: the song was born on my sofa, one night, with all the rage there was in me. It ends up accompanied by a string ensemble that was recorded at Studio Ferber in Paris.”

Silly Boy Blue The song was recorded in May 68 by a young, unknown singer: David Bowie. It talks about a boy who breaks the rules. The song is called Silly Boy Blue and its title, as well

as it’s invitation not to comply, found an echo. Of course, Ana Benabdelkarim wasn't yet

born at the time David Bowie was competing with his heroes for the award for the most

flamboyant song. But this taste for risks, this unlimited musical ambition, this freedom

taken with convention and sexual gender, this joyous melancholia still reverberates in

the dreams of the young singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer already

identifiable in the Nantes band, Pégase. Ana now embodies Bowie's Silly Boy Blue,

after hijacking the song's title for her stage persona, after transforming its fantasies into

realities. “It all goes back to my school days”, she says. “With my friend Leo, we first

heard Changes by Bowie and it surprised us so much that we were in hysterics all day.

From this starting point, music became a trail. Every important moment of my life has its

own soundtrack. Music offered me the possibility to emancipate myself from two older

brothers, to develop my own identity at college. I built myself on music.” Says Ana.

With sparkling eyes, Ana talks passionately about the musicians whose pictures are still

pinned on her bedroom wall: Siouxsie & The Banshees, Marilyn Manson, The Cure,

Fever Ray, Lady Gaga, Prince, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Christine and The Queens, Frank

Ocean, Joan Jett... She calls them untouchables, unreal. With her trademark modesty,

she also shows her university thesis, called “The Androgynous bodies in music, from

David Bowie to Mykki Blanco"... Digging into her memories, she talks about herself as a

rebellious goth college girl, wearing proudly laddered tights. “I was more Outsider than

Popular”, she recalls.

This rich and passionate build up in music helped her to develop a solid and personal

universe right from her first EP, the luxurious But You Will. The sound was definitely

hers, a prowess far too rare in French pop, which very often has the bravery outshadowed by caution and the lack of ambition. The EP took its name from the film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Sung in English, dreamy and wide, it revealed an intimate song writing, carnal, without prudishness, tortured but still strong. Like her all-time heroes Elliott Smith and Lana Del Rey, Silly Boy Blue cured her blues with words. Her songs mix sensual acoustic sounds and devilish electronics, forming a fascinating exercise of layers upon layers. Her music could be called “humble maximalism”, as opposed to “whinging minimalism”, as minimalism couldn't contain all her desires of escapism, of post-pop in any case. If she comes across as shy in the social circus, in day-to-day life, Ana certainly is not when it comes down to her music “Using the Silly Boy Blue persona allows me to be

stronger, freer, braver than in real life. I desperately needed an avatar to be more

honest and finally tell people how I feel. Even if I need songs to achieve this... Between

Ana & Silly Boy Blue, I sometimes wonder who is the real me.” Ana describes herself as

a romantic, incapable of expressing her feelings. Since the dark torment of her teenage

years, she has learnt how to live with crushes, love affairs reduced to silence by the

capitulation of words, the impotency of failed courage. “In my head, I go through love

affairs without the other person even being aware of it. But if I hadn't had these things to

write about in my teenage days, I don't know how I would have gone through life. It

really helped me understand myself, to find myself less weird.”

The first Silly Boy Blue album is comprised of 12 songs. Some will only need a guitar

and the voice. Some others will require the wizardry and opulence of rhythm and

arrangements. The recording started in Paris with Apollo Noir, who was joined in

Normandy by Sam Tiba, from Club Cheval, also in charge of production duties. But Ana

also operated on the mixing desk and has produced 3 songs on her own. “It was a

feminist statement, she says. I really wanted to play every piece of piano and guitar,

write the arrangements and produce some tracks. I am quite geeky but also impatient,

which is a bad combination. It reinforces my fears of being useless, of being revealed as

an imposter. Nevertheless, even though I have LOTS to say about being a female

musician, I have even more things to discuss as a musician”

This is what is striking in her songs: their meticulousness, their musicality. It describes

perfectly well the rollercoaster of love, from crushes to crashes. No one will be surprised

to hear that there is a special guest on most of these songs: melancholy. “I have always

been very, very melancholic," says Ana. "In my life and in my head, I collect memories,

dates, feelings. They are all linked to songs.”

I asked her if music still saves lives. She answers without a blink. “Without music, my

life would have been totally different. It helped me to hate myself a bit less. My biggest

dream would be that my album falls into the hands of an equally fucked up girl, who

doesn't know who she is, if she prefers boys or girls. And that this girl feels OK while

listening to me. I just want to pay forward what Bowie and others did for me.”


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