The Musical Birthdays of Ben Mazué
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Belgium, Canada, Japan, Romania and Ukraine care. Isn’t that enough?
By Carl Pettit
Ben Mazué’s style, rooted in the tradition of chansons françaises (French-based, rhythmic lyrics), reaches beyond its past by infusing rap, a kind of Beat poetry and a bluesy aesthetic into an amalgam of art, narrative and music. You can hear all of those influences on his sophomore album, 33 Ans (33 years) — a collection of songs exploring different stages of maturity in a human life — as well as on the track “25 Ans.”
“I don’t know how I came to this kind of combination,” Mazué says. “When you write music, you try a lot, and it often sounds bad. When it sounds good, you don’t even ask why.”
With “25 Ans,” Mazué started out with what he describes as an “old soul song” that “had to be in English.” Once he had the musical footing down, he went to work on the voice-over, which tells a story of youthful seduction, in French, before the English-based crescendo kicks in — instilling the tune with a layer of infectious positivity and “sweet desires.”
In the song, a 25-year-old man finds himself in the midst of a very physical flirtation with a woman 10 years his senior. We delve into his thought process about the woman — and the perspective he should adopt about their age difference — as the couple becomes more intimate and sexual.
When speaking about his work, Mazué jokes, “I don’t know if my music is popular — even in France, actually!” Although he’s played shows in countries as linguistically diverse as Belgium, Canada, Japan, Romania and Ukraine, Mazué believes his lyrics are the true key to his songs. “I think my music is made with words you have to understand to be touched, so I think French-speaking countries are more inclined to it.”
With 33 Ans, Mazué worked with two different producers — one for songs with an age in the title and another for songs without an age, like “Chamallow” and “Vivant.” He co-produced it, and recorded in two different cities (Nice and Paris), coming up with an album he believes has a sound more his own.
As far as his musical future is concerned, Mazué isn’t sure where he’s headed next. His current live show “is something between singing and storytelling, which is the spirit of this album.” Even so, he misses “the pure emotion of music, the one you don’t have to understand to be touched. So maybe I will start to look that way for the next album.”