At the end of Never show that to anyone, the Amazon Prime documentary series directed by his brother Clément Cotentin, Orelsan shares his moments of doubt in front of the camera. “I think everything sucks, I sing out of tune and I don’t know how to make music. I’m depressed, as expected, ”he says. A few seconds earlier, however, he said “I will finish the album in a month, I only have good ideas, life is good”. But that was before the announcement of confinement (illustrated by Emmanuel Macron’s first speech in March 2020), and before finding himself “preparing an album while the world is on the way to ruin”.
But all’s well that ends well (for the Orelsan album). The documentary ends with the optimism of the rapper, locked up who knows where (or when) in a chalet: “Frankly, I think I am moving forward well, I have found fishing again”. And the result is in Civilization, unveiled this Friday. And what is it all about? Orelsan sums it up himself as a preamble to his feat Flowters Infinity breakers with Gringe: “I made an album that only talks about my girl and society, do you think we’re doing a song? “
“I’m afraid there is nothing to understand”
And it’s not The smell of gasoline, the first title of the album unveiled Wednesday, which will contradict him. On a very good Skread production (like all the songs on the album), Orelsan draws up a rather bitter assessment of our time. The rapper evokes pell-mell the ecological issues, the failures of “our leaders”, the rise of extremes or “sterile debates”. Accumulating more than two million views on YouTube in 24 hours, the clip highlights the lyrics of the song. He compiles explosions, debacles and notably uses images of a demonstration of yellow vests facing the Arc de Triomphe. A title that takes on another dimension on the album, where it succeeds Manifesto. For more than seven minutes, without any refrain (an exercise that he masters perfectly), Orelsan tells about a manifestation from within and the evolution of his point of view on the subject. “I’m not concerned with society, I’m a fucking artist,” he says in the intro, before seeming to gradually become aware of the anger that is roaring around him. It also tackles certain media and their runaway, just like the emptiness of social networks.
Other titles are critical and acidic. Like Dream better, which attacks pretenses, well-thought, influencers, the quest for power and money (it goes a little in all directions, yes). Or Fuck the world, which echoes over the words the problems of pollution and overconsumption. Finally, the album ends with the title that gives it its name, Civilization. “I was afraid of not having understood anything now I’m afraid that there is nothing to understand”, sings Orelsan, posing a look that could not be more pessimistic on our world (we are not going to lie, the album is not particularly happy). He still calls for change, to “break this fucking circle”, “we have to be better than our parents, we have to learn to unlearn”. An awareness that is not foreign to its own advancement in life.
“It was better before perhaps, we will do everything to make it better after”
In the same title, the rapper repeats: “I’m trying to have a child, I’m trying to have a civilization, I can’t do it alone, we’ll have to do this together”. If he is used to talking about the environment in which he grew up, namely Normandy and “France where we dance the caterpillar” (in The rain, his excellent feat with Stromae on his previous album), for the first time he expands a little more on his current life. He thus devotes several titles to the woman who shares his daily life, which he rarely mentioned until now. On a lighter tone with the song Babyboa and alcohol consumption, or more intimate as in Together in feat with Skread. He confesses his bad sides, talks about the imperfection of love and declares his love: “Now that I know that I could lose you, I will do my best to keep you. It was better before perhaps, we will do everything to make it better afterwards ”.
But it’s in Athena, the penultimate title, that Orelsan goes there even more frankly. “What’s the use of saying I love you, if I never really said why.” Because you knew how to stay the same, you saved me so many bad choices. Because I know you underestimate yourself, you laugh too hard and the room lights up, ”he says, then listing all the reasons why he’s in love.
Get angry with society, tell people that we love them that we love them, review our priorities … No doubt about it, we are well in 2021 and in post-confinement. Or on the cusp of the midlife crisis.