California is a song from Mylene Farmer’s fourth studio album Anamorphose (1995). This is the third single from it. Music for “California” was written by Laurent Boutonnat, lyrics by Mylène Farmer.
California came in at number 7 for popular French singles, the best result ever. It only sold about 110,000 copies, but she allowed the album to hold well on the charts. To draw attention to the song, Mylene even kissed a girl named Valerie Boni during a television performance of the song. A small scandal, a taboo violation and a lot of rumors work to raise the rating every time.
The name became a real hit on the radio, and California became a classic in the “farming” repertoire.
It is in California that the verb created by Mylène, “anamorphosis”, is used. A purely scientific term, from which Mylene removed its harsh and complex side, giving it a poetic and fabulous meaning. Anamorphosis is a mystical projection that requires the viewer to take a personal point of view when assessing what is happening.
The music video for “California” was filmed in Los Angeles on February 9-11, 1996. It was a smart commercial move to release a truly “American” video, ensure good sales of Anamorphose and take Mylene to the top of the charts.
History of creation
The song was written while Mylene was living in California. Mylene starred in the film “Giorgiano” by Laurent Boutonna, but it failed at the box office. The singer had a difficult life period. California has become a life-saving destination. The text mimics this imaginary journey as a confrontation between Parisian darkness and the California sun. Her journey led to a change of scenery as Parisian life became an apathetic death coma for the singer.
Initially, the plan was to shoot a three-minute music video. Farmer offered Ferrar $200,000 to shoot it, but it ended up being a short film. The director was amazed by Farmer’s professionalism and ability to work.
The meaning of the song
The essence of this song is to show that women sometimes like to turn into a sexual object, but they still have pride. A cleverly disguised message is that both of Mylene’s characters are “objects”. Wealthy or poor, they both “belong” to the man. At the beginning of the clip, both guys literally disapprove of the outfit that Mylene wants to wear. They own it in both representations. Both of them “pay” with sex, which seems to be semi-voluntary, but is more of a use. A richer woman realizes that she will face the same fate as a prostitute. She is well aware that her chic appearance does not guarantee happiness, security, or true love. She pays tribute to her “lower” self and rebels against the abuse and thereby frees herself from her own enslavement.
The message seems very familiar as this is not the first time Mylène has urged women to own themselves and not be property. The topic of prostitution is not uncommon for Mylene. She apparently explored this in her famous LIBERTINE video, which shocks people to this day. California is, of course, the most pronounced statement of this.
As for the context itself, it clearly reflects her emotional breakdown, as well as the desire for rebirth and transformation, gaining a new taste for life and love for the world.
The meaning of the clip
The budget of the clip, created by Gdon, is estimated at 610 thousand euros, which makes it the most expensive clip of 1996. The video was directed by Abel Ferrara and filmed in Los Angeles at the Chteau Marmont Hotel. Also on Sunset Boulevard.
The clip, although created by Ferrara, reflects the main theme of Mylene – the power of men over women. In the video, Mylene Farmer played a wife and a prostitute, and Giancarlo Exposito played a husband and a pimp. During the filming of the video, it was very difficult for the actor to keep the wig in place, and Mylene was very amused.
Farmer admitted that before filming the video, she talked with prostitutes in order to understand this profession. In her interviews, she said that freedom is boring for her. She recognized that everyone has a vulgar side that has to be suppressed. Mylene said that she likes this role, because sex is an important part of people’s lives.
At the beginning of the clip, a wealthy young couple (Farmer and Esposito) are going to the reception. Meanwhile, a prostitute and a pimp (also played by Farmer and Esposito) have a violent fight. From her car, a rich lady watches prostitutes on the sidewalk and then sees her doppelgänger threaten a pimp with a knife, who eventually kills her.
After a boring reception, the rich woman heads to the restroom, where she transforms herself into a prostitute and joins those outside. First, she and the pimp make love, and then she ruthlessly kills him to get even for the murdered prostitute (her “twin”).
Critics recognized the video as a success, because it combines the fabulous imagination of Mylene and the cruel realism of Ferrara.
The song is really autobiographical, the video is definitely very imaginative and brings up the theme of an alternate self existing simultaneously in the same timeline. She became a real shift not only musically, but also deeper for Mylene. The singer has plucked up the courage to step out of her gloomy image into a sexier, lighter, and even optimistic universe. Mylene is a talented performer, she is adored in France. In the US, she is called the “French Madonna”. And this is all she is – smart, bright and beautiful!