The self-conscious chanson : creative responses to the art versus commerce debate
This thesis investigates self-consciousnessin chanson. It examines,in particular, French popular songs that question and problematise the chanson form and the role of the chanson artist. While certain forms of self-consciousnessc an be traced back to the troubadours, this thesis will argue that the specifically self interrogatory nature of self-consciousness found in modern French chanson can be attributed to artists responding to the 'art versus commerce' debate. It is precisely through their responses that a particular conception of chanson is constructed. Chanson, in this self-conscious discourse, differs from both varieties and Anglo-American pop music as well as from governmental and institutional definitions of the genre. The thesis examines the diverse, and at times ambiguous, effects of this self-consciousness. Moreover, it argues that reading chanson from a self-conscious perspective suggests a redefinition of chanson's relationship to cultural debates. It also provides a new interpretative grille for its analysis, and enables the researcher to find different and possibly deeper meanings than those revealed through an examination of overriding thematic preoccupations. The thesis is in three parts. Part I comprises two introductory chapters: an Introduction and a Literature Survey and Methodology (Chapter 1). Part 11 consists of a thematic investigation of the guises self-consciousness takes in chanson. It focuses, in particular, on the conscious evolution of a chanson genre (Chapter 2); the constructed role of chanson (Chapter 3); and the figure of the chanson artist (Chapter 4). Part III comprises three case studies: Serge Gainsbourg, Renaud and MC Solaar. Each artist in Part III was chosen because, on the one hand, his work is especially self-conscious in nature, and, on the other, he makes an original contribution to the art versus commerce debate.