“Toho” is off Yelle’s third studio album, Complètement fou. Like a lot of American women, I shamelessly romanticize anything and everything French. I’ve studied abroad in France and lived with a host family. I like to think that gives me an edge over the average American visitor, but even so, I still get all giddy and swoony when someone mentions anything French. I believe there’s an extremely valid reason we romanticize it—because it’s awesome. This is only part of the reason I love Yelle, a French dance-pop group led by Julie Budet. The other part of the reason is that I’ve seen her live, and she’s just as awesome as her homeland. She owned the stage, the audience, and my heart. This latest album is no exception to her awesomeness.
The song I’ve chosen, “Toho,” is about two people who constantly lie back and forth to each other. They lie so much that it becomes a game to see who can get away with the most lies. (It kind of reminds me of this French film called “Jeux d’enfants” with Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet, but that’s another story.) By the end of the song, you, the listener, don’t know whom to believe.
Amidst all of their stories and their lies comes one line of hope. “Les mirages de-de la raison/ Loin là bas dis moi que tu les vois.” My French may be rusty, but I interpret that as “Those mirages of reason/ Underneath it all, tell me you see them.” Maybe it’s less about hope and more about one last attempt to salvage the relationship.
Because it feels like this friendship is falling apart, and the music reflects that. It starts off dance-y and full-on pop. Everything is fun! But after the last chorus, the synths transform from fast, punchy, and electric to slow, drawn-out, and smooth. They become contemplative, and maybe a little melancholy. They lose their playfulness. And then the song ends with a quick, four-note riff and the sound of finality.