Benjamin Biolay


20 januari 1973

Benjamin Biolay was born in Villefranche-sur-Saône. He studied classical music at the lycée Saint Exupéry in Lyon. At the start of the nineties Biolay started to be interested in popmusic and started his first band Matea Gallion. The band released one live album before falling apart again. His first single, 'La révolution', was released the following year, but failed to make any sort of impact on the French charts.

In 1995 he was asked by  L'Affaire Louis Trio to arrange their album ‘L'homme aux milles vies’. The group, based in Lyons, was fronted by a close musician friend of Benjamin's, Hubert Mounier (better known to French music fans as Cleet Boris). The next year he was contracted by EMI records. They linked him to singer Keren Ann, whose first two albums he co-wrote and produced. His breakthrough to a broader audience came when he contributed several songs to 'Chambre avec vue', the comeback album of singer Henri Salvador.

In 2001 Biolay finally got the chance to release his debut solo album, ’Rose Kennedy’. As its name suggest, this finely-constructed concept album revolves around the story of the Kennedy clan, touching on the assassination of president Kennedy in 1963 and the history of the clan's legendary matriarch, Rose Kennedy.  In the meantime Biolay continued his production and arrangement work for other singers. During the year he also undertook a large tour performing alongside his old friend Hubert Mounier. In 2002 he married French actress Chiara Mastroianni (the daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni). The next year Biolay was very productive in writing for other established artists like Valérie Lagrange (‘Fleuve Congo’), Julien Clerc (‘Studio’) and Juliette Gréco (‘Aimez-vous les uns les autres ou bien disparaissez’). He also released his second album ‘Négatif’, which went on to sell over 300,000 units. The following year, Biolay and his wife released the porject  ‘Home’. 2004 was also a movie year, with Benjamin Biolay scoring his first soundtrack for the film 'Clara et moi', directed by Arnaud Viard.

Did his albums before 2005 had a positive glow around them that changed in 2005 with ‘A l'origine’ on which Biolay makes refenrences to hostages, anthrax and the Intifada. The album won critical praise, overshadowing the criticisms about his public attitude. He has been accused of being a pretentious poseur, although he himself simply says that he's shy. His outings in the media about his fellow French musical collagues aren’t helping either. He states that French chanson is polluted by artists like Zazie and Bénabar, which he also calls a ‘talentless sausage’. Even Henri Salvador gets slanted as ‘an asshole that’s not even French’.

In 2006 he teamed up with Elodie Frégé, winner of the reality TV show Star Academy for her album 'Jeu des 7 erreurs'. In 2007 he started working on a new album called ‘Trash yéyé’. On 13 September 2007, Biolay fans turned out in force to see him perform at 'La Cigale' in Paris followed by a European tour. At the start of 2008, Biolay featured on 'Tombés pour Daho', a tribute compilation to Etienne Daho. Biolay’s contribution was a reworking of 'Les bords de la Seine" recorded as a duet with Elli Medeiros. In Spring 2012 Biolay stars in his first opera-role at the Chatelet theatre in the rockversion of the Monteverdi opera 'Couronnement de Poppée' transformed in 'Pop'pea'. In december of that year he releases 'Vengeance' on which guests like Orelsan,Vanessa Paradis and Oxmo Puccino appear.

On the web:

- Benjamin's website: http://www.benjaminbiolay.com
- Biography: http://www.rfimusique.com/siteen/biographie/biographie_6267.asp

If you like this, you probably like... / european counterparts:

Serge Gainsbourg (France)

Lucio Battisti (Italy)

What do we think:

PR: Despite his attitude I just adore Biolay and his work. He innovated French chanson and took it into the third millennium. His voice and music, but also his many collaborations with (mostly female) artists like Juliette Gréco and Isabelle Boulay (just to name a few) remind me of the great Serge Gainsbourg. Yet, he is definitely not a copy-cat. His music is erotic, melancholic and beautifully orchestrated. Try it with a lot of red wine...

DB: I first heard Biolay on his album Négatif. To be honest it took me a while to get used to his style which is in fact an innovation of French chanson. But after you get to know his music it just gets better and better. Just as is albums as a matter of fact that seem to top each other with every release. His 2007 album is a stunning edition to the Europop catalogue.


♪♪♪ - Rose Kenedy - 2001

♪♪ - Remix - 2001

♪♪♪♪ - Négatif - 2003

♪♪♪ - Home (avec Chiara Mastroianni) - 2004

? - Clara et moi (OST/BOF) - 2004

♪♪♪♪ - À l'origine - 2005

♪♪♪♪♪ - Trash Yéyé - 2007

♪♪♪♪ - La superbe - 2009

♪♪♪♪ - Vengeance - 2012

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided