Petite Meller: The Soundtrack to My Life

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Petite Meller, Still from The Flute, 2016

The delightfully offbeat Parisian pop star spins five of her most influential tracks

Irrepressible purveyor of 'le jazzy-pop', Petite Meller, recently released her debut album Lil Empire. Having tantalised (and occasionally flummoxed) audiences with a series of effervescent, globally inspired singles accompanied by fantastical and highly stylised visuals shot in striking locations such as Senegal’s Lake Reba (Milk Bath) and the Mongolian hillside (The Flute), it’s clear the philosophically minded Paris-born, ex-resident of Tel Aviv and New York, is a true nomad.

Yet, as well as crafting a unique sound from a patchwork of world music, jazz, classic French pop and more with the intention of inducing Lacanian jouissance; Meller has also manifested an idiosyncratic visual realm via distinctive styling that explores ideas around burgeoning female sexuality whilst paying subtle tribute to the likes of Brigitte Bardot. And her ongoing collaboration with video director A.T. Mann and photographer Napoleon Habeica also ensures her dreamy Lil Empire is instantly recognisable – and unfailingly amusing.

For in her words, "Life is absurd. People try and act like everything is normal, but hey, we can all die at any minute, weird things are going on all the time, there is suffering everywhere and nothing is certain, especially happiness, so the only thing we can do is laugh at it and dance through it." Below, Meller shares the music that set her on course to become the globetrotting, nascent pop star that she is today.

Paul Simon, Graceland 
"Paul Simon's Graceland was heavily influential on me and his storytelling way of songwriting informed the whole Lil Empire album and [my] genre. For the songs Milk Bath and Hawaii, we even recorded the real "Black Smith Mambazo" choir, as Simon’s British producer, Craigie Dodds, sent them the songs which they then sang over as well as adding bongos and high life guitars which I adored on Graceland."

Chantal Goya, Masculin Féminin (Soundtrack)
"My mom used to sing French chansons to me as a child, songs like Brigitte Bardot’s Moi Je Joue and Charles Aznavour's Les Comédiennes. She sang them in a dramatic way, as if it was a matter of life or death. But it was only during university that I discovered Chantal Goya whilst watching a movie. Her soundtrack for Godard's Masculin Féminin was one of the most magical things I’d ever heard and it made everything I looked at while listening beautiful and cinematic. Songs like La Plus du Ciel affected the way I wrote Baby Loves sing-along melody: "Ta da da da da da da” – a classic, playful chansoniere mélody." 

Fela Kuti, Zombie 
"This Fela Kuti album shaped the way I hear drums in songs. I love live bongos, congas and fast BPM rhythms that uplift the soul. Zombie influenced my new album – every song was based on live African drums recorded on trips to Malawi and South Africa." 

Dizzy Gillespie and Ken Burns, Jazz
"Dizzy Gillespie's Jazz record with Ken Burns is a big part of who I am. As a child, I would listen to it on a record player while spinning around in my room until I fainted on the floor. Then I forgot about it until I moved to New York and started going to clubs like Fat Cats. Walking the streets of Brooklyn also takes me back to it and those sax melodies inspired 'le jazzy-pop', my new genre first crafted on NYC Time, Baby Love and Barbaric." 

Phoenix, United 
"Phoenix's United album blew me away. I was dancing to an unknown DJ in a Parisian club when suddenly I heard this track If I Ever Feel Better and literally my heart was on the floor. The production by Philip Zdar from Cassius has that bass which sounds like someone kicking like a drum. It changed the way that I hear music." 

Lil Empire by Petite Meller is out now