Dildos Are a Girl’s Best Friend…

Even in France. Just ask Yelle.

For as much energy as French electro-pop sensation Yelle puts into her live shows, all she asks is that you give a little back. Tecktonik dance moves and bold print scarves aside, what she'd really be impressed to spot in the audience are the dog masks her crew designed for her current tour. "While we were preparing for the tour, we thought we needed to have something funny," says the 25-year-old Yelle (whose real name is Julie Budet). Originally she encouraged her fans (via MySpace) to follow instructions she provided and make their own masks. Then Yelle could stand on stages everywhere and look over a sea of people wearing the origami-esque dog mask featured in her video for "Ce Jeu." However, the apparent difficulty of the mask's design has led to very few willing participants. (Several fans donned their creations at a recent show in Orlando, but warned of burns from hot glue). "It's really hard to build," Yelle admits. "But it's really cool to see the people taking the time to do it...Maybe they'll get a kiss [from me]." This kind of quirkiness is to be expected from a young woman whose most recent day job was at a clown theater in Paris. But in 2005 she stumbled into pop-music success because of a MySpace demo, "Short Dick Cuizi," a sharp-tongued dis on Parisian rapper Cuizinier of TTC: "I wanna see you in a porn flick/Getting busy with your potato or French-fried-shaped dick/So your body will have no more secrets for me," she sang in French. While TTC's goofy embrace of blingy rap culture made the group perfect to spoof, Yelle said her song was not meant as a joke but rather as a way to turn the tables. Clearly, Yelle is not your bakery-variety pop tartlet. Many of Yelle's songs push the boundaries of French pop with provocative lyrics that exalt everything from small breasts to vibrators. Yet she insists she doesn't see herself as a feminist icon. "I'm not into feminism," says Yelle. "I want to fight for women's rights, but I don't want to do it in my songs." Acknowledging other female artists like Peaches, Yelle says she isn't breaking any barriers in terms of subject matter. But in France, her blunt style has shown other women that they can write openly about whatever issues they choose, which is why she chose to re-record "Short Dick Cuizi" as "Je Veux Te Voir" for her 2007 debut Pop-Up. "[Singing in] French is very important in this song, because it was the first time a girl was really rapping in a song with lots of pop melodies. We had that in the 1990s, but not 2008. [We were] the first pop electro French band with a girl talking about relations between boys and girls. It's not easy to talk about that in France," she says. "I've gotten lots of messages from girls who are saying, 'I want to be a singer like you and talk about boys in my songs.'" Growing up in Brittany, Yelle developed an affinity for music at an early age, listening to her father's band practice at home. With musicians constantly hanging around, it was only natural that she toyed around with bands as a teen. But it wasn't until she met her creative foil, Paris-based beat master GrandMarnier, that she felt music was her calling. "Now it's so easy because I know I am a singer," she says of the success the two have had so far. Now on her first headlining U.S. tour, with GrandMarnier and keyboardist Tepr, Yelle says it's been interesting to see how non-Francophones react to her songs without understanding most of the lyrics. "[In France] the people understand all the lyrics and can react to it, but in America the people understand some words or some sentences. But I try to play with my body to explain," she says. On "My Best Friend," over a synthesized beat, she coos in French: "You are all so small/My best friend/I take you with me everywhere I go/I talk to you like you are a sweet and sensitive man." She may not say "sex toy" anywhere in the song, but she doesn't have to. Bouncing around like an aerobics instructor onstage in Orlando, her gestures made it apparent which "best friend" she meant. music@seattleweekly.com

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