Eddy de Pretto is now 27, and lately he sings on a few of the largest levels in France — or he did, when the levels had been open. When he was 21, he carried out for a smaller viewers: the vacationers on the bateaux-mouches, the Paris sightseeing cruises that ply tens of millions of individuals up and down the Seine.
“It was a pretty crazy job. I was on the singing cruises, the ones where they serve you dinner,” de Pretto mentioned in a latest video interview from Paris. From the little stage within the boat’s eating room, he recalled, he’d serenade vacationers with syrupy Charles Trenet standards, to whole indifference. “They were eating, looking out at the Eiffel Tower. They didn’t even realize someone was singing — they thought it was a soundtrack.”
“But those three years on the bateaux-mouches were so completely typical of what it’s like to make a career,” he added. “It was totally formative to sing every night in front of people who didn’t give a damn at all.”
Those lonely nights on the cruise ship are the origin of “À Tous Les Bâtards” (“To All the Bastards”), de Pretto’s second album, launched in France final month. “I was waiting patiently to take the throne/And they’d sing my songs like I sang ‘La Vie en Rose,’” he belts on the primary single, “Bateaux-Mouches,” whose started-from-the-bottom lyrics recall many a hip-hop boast. But name-checking each Rihanna and Édith Piaf as your lodestars? That’s rarer.
De Pretto burst to fame in 2018 together with his triple-platinum album “Cure,” and its mix of city beats and chanson poetics was not its solely unusual attribute. There was his voice: huge and vibrant, with each syllable articulated for the again of the home. There was his look: hoodies and tracksuits, a three-day beard, and a strawberry-blond tonsure like a medieval monk’s. And there was his biography: a younger homosexual man, uninhibited and unperturbed, from the suburbs that Parisians nonetheless typecast as a cultural backwater.
He was born in 1993 in Créteil, to the capital’s southeast. His father was a driver, and his mom a medical technician who revered an earlier technology of French singer-songwriters. “We lived in public housing, and my mother listened to a lot of Barbara, Brassens, Brel, Charles Aznavour,” he mentioned. “She listened to it all the time, and really loud, too. Loud enough to hear it over the vacuum cleaner.”
De Pretto mentioned he performed sports activities as a toddler, badly sufficient that his mom enrolled him in appearing lessons. The stage suited him. He landed a number of small TV and film roles. But his theatrical tendencies weren’t in concord with the macho tradition of the Paris suburbs.
That stress impressed his breakout single, “Kid,” a mid-tempo ballad about mother and father and their effeminate sons. “You’ll be manly, my kid,” de Pretto sings over spare piano chords and digital hi-hats, although the track’s video reveals him struggling to heed the decision. Shirtless and sweat-soaked within the gymnasium, de Pretto seems to be far too rangy to carry the large barbells, trapped between household expectations and his true nature.
“Every single word of ‘Kid’ is so wonderful,” mentioned the singer Jane Birkin, who carried out a duet with de Pretto in 2018. “He faced up to quite a lot of teasing, getting through in quite a tough neighborhood, with tough friends. And I should think he made himself respected — I wouldn’t mess around with him. And, at the same, time he has great fragility and great poignancy.”
“Kid” was an prompt hit in France, and appeared to return out of nowhere. De Pretto’s weighty voice appeared like a ’60s throwback, however he sang over spare, menacing, bass-heavy beats. The slangy lyrics had the vibrancy of the suburbs, however they had been as poetic as they had been acidic, with that French fixation on what de Pretto calls “the weight of the word.”
For his first huge TV look, in 2017, he carried out with nothing but his own iPhone for accompaniment. The album cover of “Cure” had the identical Gen-Z nonchalance: mirror selfie, cellphone in hand, leg hoisted on the kitchen desk. A critic for the French newspaper Libération mentioned astringently — however not with out trigger — that it regarded like a late-night drunk pic despatched to a Grindr hookup.
Indeed, there was additionally de Pretto’s material: furtive glances within the locker room, sloppy after-parties in darkened basements, grim evenings trawling the apps. On his spiky single “Fête de Trop” (“One Party Too Many”), he particulars the malaise of one more night getting excessive and “slipping my tongue into the salivating mouths” of “tonight’s boys.” “Jungle de la Chope” (“The Hookup Jungle”) delves into the “insipid conquests” of informal intercourse, protected or in any other case.
Some homosexual musicians deal with their homosexuality as a nonissue; others need to make it a mark of distinction. What made de Pretto’s debut so thrilling was that he did neither. He assumed his identification to the hilt, and thereby made it nothing particular. “I’m writing from my point of view as a gay man,” he mentioned. “But the songs are not a defense of being gay. I mean, yes, I’m gay, and I’m casting an eye on society.”
He has, nonetheless, recorded one sideways pleasure anthem. “Grave” (“A Big Deal”) is a humorous, filthy encouragement to anxious homosexual youth — suppose Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” for teenagers whose first view of same-sex intimacy comes by way of streaming video. It’s a catalog aria of homosexual rites of passage that, de Pretto sings, are “not a big deal”: scoping out classmates in gymnasium class, fantasizing about your greatest good friend, and lots of extra not printable in a household newspaper. “Not living it: That’s a big deal!” goes the chorus.
“If I had to compare him to anyone, it would be Christine and the Queens, although Eddy hasn’t exploded internationally,” mentioned Romain Burrel, the editor of the French homosexual journal Têtu. “Christine really opened the way for questions of gender and sexual orientation,” he mentioned. “But Eddy is very, very French. There’s been a globalization of music, but when you listen to Eddy de Pretto, you’re in the 11th Arrondissement.”
Musically, “À Tous Les Bâtards” sounds lots like “Cure”: the identical huge voice, the identical minimal beats. But de Pretto’s writing has grow to be much less offended, extra confessional. “Désolé Caroline” (“Sorry Caroline”), its second single, sounds at first like a breakup track, addressed from a younger homosexual man to the straight woman he can not love. (In the interview, De Pretto described this type of romantic rejection with the charming franglais verb “friendzoné.”)
Then once more, this “Caroline” — whom the singer needs to get out of “my veins” — might not be an precise woman. She could also be a personification of cocaine: a double which means he underlines within the music video, which options de Pretto in a white parka singing amid flurries of snow.
“I love playing with these double meanings,” de Pretto mentioned, “because it opens up the field of possibilities.” He actually leaves the sector open on the finish of “À Tous Les Bâtards,” within the ingeniously smutty ballad “La Zone.” Here suburbs and sexuality grow to be interchangeable, as de Pretto entreats us in a easy falsetto to danger visiting … properly, a sure space usually thought of soiled, or harmful.
“La zone,” in French slang, denotes a tough suburban neighborhood, the type of place you would possibly go to attain medicine. But as de Pretto croons of the “dark pleasures” of a spot the place “some men are afraid to go,” we understand the actual zone he’s inviting you to is extra anatomical than geographical. (Birkin mentioned this track reminded her of “Sonnet du Trou de Cul,” a poem by Verlaine and Rimbaud written in 1871. “It’s a wonder people don’t talk about it more!” she added.)
The Paris suburbs have birthed so lots of France’s greatest singers and actors and artists, to not point out the reigning world champions of soccer. And but western Europe’s largest and most numerous metropolis nonetheless treats the cities exterior its ring street as inaccessible locations. “That was the whole project of the first and, I hope, this second album: breaking these fantasies and these ideas everyone has of what happens in the suburbs,” de Pretto mentioned. “And of a pretty stereotypical view of being gay.”
“That’s the job of an artist,” he mentioned, “to find points of view that haven’t been found yet.”