Mylène Jeanne Gautier (born 12 September 1961), known professionally as Mylène Farmer, is a Canadian-born French singer, songwriter, occasional actress, writer, and entrepreneur. She was born in Pierrefonds, Quebec, to a French family, and brought up in France.
She has sold more than 30 million records in France and is among the most successful recording artists of all-time in France. She holds the record for the most number one hits in the French charts, with eighteen to date – eight of which were consecutive. Twelve of her albums have also reached number one in France.
Mylène Farmer was born in Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada. Her parents, Max Gautier (originally from Marseille) and his wife Marguerite (born in Lennon, in Brittany) moved from France in the late 1950s as Farmer's father pursued an engineering contract on a dam. Her family moved back to France when she was eight, settling in the Parisian suburb of Ville-d'Avray. When she first arrived in France, she took speech classes after her school declared her Québécois accent to be "improper" – this is why she now speaks with the accent of metropolitan France. In her teenage years, Farmer was passionate about horse-riding, qualifying as a riding instructor at the equestrian centre in Saumur. At the age of 17, however, Farmer discovered acting and she left the stables to undertake a three-year course at the Cours Florent, a drama school in Paris. Changing her name to Mylène Farmer as a tribute to her idol, 1930's Hollywood actress Frances Farmer, she began to earn a living as a model acting in several TV adverts such as those for Fiskars, Caisse d'Epargne etc.
In 1984, Farmer met Laurent Boutonnat, a young film student, after answering a newspaper advert for an actress for a small film he was working on. Farmer and Boutonnat became friends and forged a creative partnership, writing and producing the music. Boutonnat, whose ambition was to become a film director, became the creative force behind Farmer's videos.
Farmer gained fame with songs featuring controversial yet poetic lyrics and explicit music videos: "Maman a tort" was about a young girl's love for her female nurse. "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces" contains hints of sodomy; the video, set in the 18th Century, features caning. "Libertine" is said to feature the first full frontal nudity appearance by a singer on a major music video. "Que mon cœur lâche" was about love in the AIDS era; the video features a scene in which God tells Jesus he will not be sent to Earth again because the last time "was a disaster". The videos for "Beyond My Control" and "Je te rends ton amour" were banned because of their sexual and violent content. Later released as a video single, the latter became the biggest selling video single in France.
After Boutonnat and Jérôme Dahan (a young songwriter) co-wrote the song, Farmer was auditioned and eventually chosen to record "Maman a tort" (one of the few songs not to be written by Farmer herself), which became a mild success in March 1984. The video, which cost the mere sum of 5000₣, became controversial, due to the song's ambiguous lyrics (a woman falls in love with her female nurse).
Despite the minor success of her first two singles, Farmer, helped by Boutonnat, started working on her first album, Cendres de lune. Even though the album was almost entirely written by Boutonnat, it was then that it was decided that Farmer would write the lyrics to her songs - Boutonnat would write the music and direct the videos. "Libertine", the album's lead single, was released in March 1986 and set the tone for Farmer's musical style. The sensual, romantic lyrics were inspired by 19th century literature. As for the video, which has a running time of over 10 minutes, Boutonnat was inspired by the film Barry Lyndon and the novels by Marquis de Sade, thus giving the video a cinematic style. Farmer, lit by candlelights, is shrouded in mystery and sexual ambiguity. It also was the very first video in which a French female singer appeared in full-frontal nudity. The following single, "Tristana", also met with great success and its video carried the cinematic approach.
In 1988, Boutonnat and Farmer started to work on her follow-up album, Ainsi soit je... (a play on the French expression ainsi soit-il, meaning "so be It" or "amen"). This album, infused with a much darker atmosphere, is more sexually ambiguous than her previous one, featuring songs inspired by Farmer’s favourite authors, including the French romantic poet Charles Baudelaire and the American horror writer Edgar Allan Poe. The album sold 1.8 million copies on the back of the No. 2 hit "Sans contrefaçon" as well as her first No. 1 hit, "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces". The other singles "Sans logique" and the title song were also hits in France, while the Juliette Gréco cover "Déshabillez-moi" became a fan favourite. Ainsi soit je... was the best-selling female album in France of the 1980s.
In spite of her drama courses, Farmer found it difficult to overcome shyness when facing an audience. She hesitantly agreed to tour in 1989. After test-singing in a small venue in Saint-Étienne, the singer went to Paris to perform at the Palais des Sports for a week in May. Following the positive response of the audience, she agreed to a full-scale 52-date tour throughout francophone Europe. A live album documenting the tour was released at the end of that year, titled En Concert. It featured a new song, "A quoi je sers" (What Am I Good For), in which she questioned the future of her career. The tour costumes were created by the famous French designer Thierry Mugler.
It was also during this period that it was noticed that Farmer rarely gave interviews or appeared in public, though she is now even less inclined to public exposure than at the time.
By the turn of the decade Farmer was a full-blown superstar in France, but it wasn't until the release of her third album, L'Autre..., and single "Désenchantée" that she became iconic. The album, released on 8 April 1991, displayed a new image to her audience: more mature, more confident, with very short hair and a more defiant attitude (as evidenced in the videos for "Désenchantée" and particularly "Je t'aime mélancolie", in which Farmer plays a professional boxer fighting a male opponent). The music had also evolved in comparison to her previous records. The lyrics now approached a larger scope of subjects such as religion ("Agnus Dei"), politics ("Désenchantée") and press criticism ("Je t'aime mélancolie").
"Désenchantée", the album's lead single, became a phenomenon in French pop music, striking a universal chord with its political lyrics. The song hit No. 1 in France, spending nine weeks atop of the chart. At the time, it was the best selling French single of all time (both in France and around the globe), according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It also spent six weeks at No. 1 in Belgium, made the Top 10 in Canada and the Top 20 in Austria and the Netherlands. It was accompanied by a video in which Mylène plays a rebelling prisoner in a facility which resembles a concentration camp or gulag.
Following the phenomenal success of "Désenchantée", Farmer released three more very successful singles from the album: "Regrets", a gold-selling No. 3 duet performed with Jean-Louis Murat, "Je t'aime mélancolie" (No. 3) and "Beyond My Control" (No. 8), the latter having a blood-and-sex-charged video that was banned from airplay. The success of the singles helped their parent album sell 2 million copies, having been certified Diamond. It spent a then-record 20 weeks at the pole position of the French charts, as well as topping the chart in Belgium and making top 10 in Canada. It has become Farmer's best selling studio album.
Prior to the release of the album's third single on 19 November 1991 a disturbed man who had been stalking Farmer entered the Polydor Records headquarters in Paris and held employees at gunpoint demanding to talk to her. The man had previously written the singer some fan mail, which she did not respond to. He killed the receptionist. Following this occurrence, Farmer shunned media attention and left France to live in Los Angeles for a few weeks.
In late 1992, she released the remix album Dance Remixes, a two-disc set containing 14 remixes of the singer's greatest dance hits plus a new song: the single "Que mon cœur lâche". As usual, Farmer did not shy away from controversy; "Que mon cœur lâche", a song dealing with AIDS and sexual relations, is accompanied by a video directed by Luc Besson (the first time in the singer's career that a video wasn't directed by Boutonnat) in which Farmer plays an angel sent down to earth by God (who refuses to send Jesus again, stating that "last time it was a disaster") to save mankind from itself. The imagery in the clip references pop stars, condoms, prostitution, homosexuality and drug use. The single was also recorded in an English version, "My Soul Is Slashed".
"Que mon cœur lâche" would be the last single released by Farmer in 3 years. In the meantime the singer would star in a movie, as her longtime collaborator had written a script he had wanted to direct for a long time. The result was the ill-fated Giorgino (1994). The film, shot in English, was a huge critical and commercial flop. Budgeted at 80 million francs, it was seen by only 60,000 people and recovered only 1% of its budget. One of the main reasons for the film's flop was its length of over three hours. According to Farmer herself, the bad reception of Giorgino was particularly hard on Boutonnat, who was directing his first feature film, something he would not do again for 13 years until the release of Jacquou le Croquant in 2007. Following the lukewarm reception of the film, Farmer decided to leave France to take a long break in the United States.
During her time in California, Farmer started to write her fourth studio album, Anamorphosée. The album was launched by "XXL", a rock song with blasting electric guitars, and a video directed by Marcus Nispel featuring Farmer strapped to the front of a moving train. The single became her first to debut at No. 1. Anamorphosée debuted at No. 2 in the album charts and sold half a million copies in three months. The album continued to sell well with the release of "L'Instant X", "California" (a jazzy-pop ballad bolstered with bass guitar featuring a highly acclaimed video directed by Abel Ferrara), "Comme j'ai mal" and "Rêver", which helped the album reach No. 1 in January 1997 – 16 months after its release – gaining a Diamond certification. The album is the first to contain music written by Farmer ("Tomber 7 fois...").
In summer 1996, Farmer embarked on her second concert tour, which met with huge success. The corresponding live album, Live à Bercy, is currently the best-selling French live album ever. During the tour, Farmer sang a Raï version of Michel Polnareff's La Poupée qui fait non with Khaled, which was released as a promotional single from the live album and became a Top 10 hit in France.
Farmer returned in spring 1999 with her 5th studio album Innamoramento. The lead single "L'Âme-stram-gram" was a futuristic up-tempo techno-ballad with erotic lyrics accompanied by a Chinese-themed video in which Farmer commits suicide to save her twin. Both the single and the album went straight to No. 2 on the charts. The album is certified Diamond in France.
The video for the second single, "Je te rends ton amour" sparked controversy because of its religious imagery, which was condemned by the Catholic Church and banned by many networks. Despite this, Farmer released a video single, which became the highest selling release of that kind in France.
In late 1999, Farmer embarked on her third concert tour, the Mylenium Tour, which set the record of the highest grossing tour by a non-English speaking artist. The stage of the show featured a huge pharaonic statue at the center of the stage from which she emerged and flew before being carried down by the hand of this very statue. During the tour, Farmer released the album's third and fourth singles: "Souviens-toi du jour" and "Optimistique-moi".
After "Innamoramento", the final single from the album, she recorded "L'Histoire d'une fée, c'est..." for the animated film Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, and released her third live album and DVD documenting the Mylènium Tour along with "Dessine-moi un mouton", the promotional single for the live CD of the show.
In 2000, Farmer and Boutonnat had assembled songs and video ideas they felt appropriate for a younger, new star. They began the search for a female singer to break into the French charts – they found Alizée Jacotey, a 15-year-old contestant on the French television show Graines de stars. They wrote and produced Alizée's albums Gourmandises and Mes courants électriques. Alizée's biggest hit, "Moi... Lolita" reached the top of the charts and she became the most successful French singer that year. In 2001, Le Figaro announced Farmer as top earning French entertainer of the year thanks, in part, to her writing, recording, and producing credits of Alizée's music, which earned 10.4 million €.
Alizée's image was crafted by Farmer and Boutonnat; she was allowed a few interviews of no more than 20 minutes and a limited number of promotional appearances. In 2005, after two successful albums and a concert tour, Alizée amicably parted ways with the duo to meet different songwriters and producers.
In 2014, Alizée revealed plans to include a song named for the singer on her Blonde album. The song, written by Lionel Florence, tells the story of an obsessed fan. Alizée revealed in an interview that the song is meant to pay tribute and respect to Farmer. Although the two no longer work together, she mentioned that she is still a big fan.
At the end of 2001, and seventeen years into her career, Universal issued Farmer's first greatest hits collection: Les Mots whose title track and lead single, a duet with Seal, became an enormous hit. The music video of the song was the first one directed by Boutonnat since "Beyond My Control" and borrowed many influences from art. Les Mots was the best selling album of 2001 and 2002, and remains the best selling greatest hits album in France with more than 1.5 million sold. The album also featured new tracks and singles, including Top 10 hits "C'est une belle journée" and "Pardonne-moi".
In December 2004, after a long period of silence, Farmer held a press conference announcing her new album, Avant que l'ombre... and the single "Fuck Them All" as well as a special 13-night concert engagement at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in January 2006. This era featured no further promotion, and marked a new level of reclusivity for the star, who simply stated "What I have to say is in my music". She also announced her new series of concerts in Paris-Bercy, a show designed by Mark Fisher. She explained that she could not tour due to the complex sets of the performances of the show, which featured two stages, a mobile bridge to link the two stages and a curtain of words written with water.
The album debuted and spent several weeks at No. 1, selling 800,000 copies and going 2× Platinum, although its commercial success is considered inferior to her previous albums because she made little or no effort to promote it. Nonetheless, all five singles became Top 10 hits in France, while the single "L'amour n'est rien..." became a very big success in Russia.
As announced in her press conference, she returned to the stage in January 2006 for 13 dates in Paris-Bercy. A live album and concert DVD, Avant que l'ombre... à Bercy were released in December 2006. Within months, the DVD became the best-selling music DVD in France ever.
After her concerts in Bercy, electronic musician Moby invited her to record a duet with him. Choosing "Slipping Away", Farmer translated the lyrics herself to French, and the resulting single became a phenomenal success in French-speaking countries, becoming her 4th No. 1 single in France.
In 2007, Farmer's long-time songwriting partner, Laurent Boutonnat, directed his second feature film, Jacquou le Croquant. Farmer recorded the theme song of the film, "Devant soi", for the end credits. During that period, she also worked on the French version of Luc Besson's animated feature Arthur and the Minimoys, lending her voice to Selenia, the character voiced by Madonna in the international version. The movie was a box-office hit.
In March 2008, Universal confirmed Farmer would release her seventh studio album near the end of 2008, and embark on her fifth concert tour the following year, including two shows at the Stade de France. The record's lead single, "Dégénération", had a minimal electronic sound while its video marked the singer's return to the scripted videos of the beginning of her career. The song became Farmer's fourth number one solo single (and fifth overall, following "Slipping Away (Crier la vie)" with Moby).
The album, Point de Suture, released in stores on 25 August, followed suit debuting at No. 1 with over 100,000 copies sold in its first week in France. The electronic-driven album continues in the vein of Farmer's previous work, featuring a mix of ballads and upbeat, synth-driven pop songs.
Farmer's next four singles from the album, "Appelle mon numéro", "Si j'avais au moins...", "C'est dans l'air" and "Sextonik", all became No. 1 hits in France, allowing Farmer to beat her own record. Farmer then had a record of nine No. 1 hits in France, more than any other artist in French music history. It is also the first time that all the singles from her album became No. 1 hits.
Meanwhile, in 2008, Farmer announced a new protégée in the vein of Alizée: Lisa, Farmer's niece. Her lead single, "Drole de creepie", was released in September 2008, produced and written by Boutonnat and Farmer. The song accompanied the hit children's series, Growing Up Creepie, and the video depicts Lisa dressed as Creepie Creecher. Unlike Farmer & Boutonnat's previous side-projects, Lisa is marketed primarily to children.
Farmer's sold-out tour began in May 2009 in Nice and ended in September 2009 in Brussels, garnering an extremely positive response from critics. She also gave two concerts at the Stade de France, as well as other concerts in Russia, Belgium and Switzerland. The show was designed by Mark Fisher.
A new live album documenting her 2009 tour, N°5 on Tour, was released on 7 December 2009 and hit No. 1 position in the charts, being certified double-platinum in its first week of release. A DVD of her Stade de France concerts followed on 12 April 2010, instantly being certified Diamond.
In the latter half of 2010, the media reported that Mylène Farmer would work with Line Renaud and Ben Harper in their respective new releases. After thirty years of absence, Line Renaud released her new album in November 2010, which contains "C'est pas l'heure," a duet with Farmer, written by Farmer and Boutonnat. Also in November, Australian band INXS released the album Original Sin as a tribute to the late Michael Hutchence. Farmer covered "Never Tear Us Apart" with Ben Harper, featuring new lyrics in French written by Farmer.
It was announced surprisingly on 27 September 2010 that Farmer would be releasing a new single "Oui mais... non" to lead her next album. Unlike all the previous musical works by Farmer, Boutonnat was not included in the production or composition. Instead Farmer hired RedOne, known for his work with Lady Gaga to produce and write the music for the single. "Oui mais... non" was released to digital downloading markets on 11 October and hit No. 1 on the French download chart. Considering the decline in music sales, it's her most successful single since 2002. This also makes her the only French singer to have number-one hits in four consecutive decades. The following singles, "Bleu Noir" and "Lonely Lisa", hit the top of the charts too, expanding her record with twelve No. 1 singles.
The album Bleu Noir was released on 6 December 2010, produced by Farmer, RedOne, Moby and Archive. It entered the French album chart at No. 1 and remained at the top for three consecutive weeks. It was the 9th best selling album in France in 2010, with more than 300,000 copies sold in only three weeks. It has sold so far 600,000 copies reaching Diamond status within three months of its release. It also broke the record for best debut in the Downloads Chart, with 9,000 copies sold.
Farmer's second greatest hits collection, titled 2001.2011, was released in late 2011, featuring all of her hit singles recorded after 2001's Les Mots.
In early 2012, Farmer said that she was recording a new album which was to be released in late 2012. A new single, "À l'ombre" had its radio premiere on 22 October 2012. It reached number one in the French Singles Chart, becoming her twelfth number-one solo single and thirteenth overall. Farmer's album was titled Monkey Me and entered the French charts at number one on 11 December 2012, with sales of 147,000.
Farmer's tour for the album, Timeless 2013, started in September 2013. Nearly 200,000 tickets were sold on the first day. More than 500,000 people in total attended the tour.
The live album of the tour was released in December, selling more than 100,000 copies in two weeks. An eponymous film shot in widescreen during the shows in Lyon premiered in French cinemas on 27 March.
On 15 May 2015, Fragile (Anne Carrièr Ed.), a photo-book by Sylvie Lancrenon, was published. It included 90 photos of Farmer taken by Lancrenon.
In August 2015, a new site was launched, announcing new material from Farmer. The first single to be released was "Stolen Car", a duet with Sting, who originally recorded the song on his 2003 album Sacred Love. The single reached No. 1 on the French and Belgium Wallonia singles chart and on the Billboard's Dance Club Songs.
The album Interstellaires, including "Stolen Car", was released on 6 November 2015, becoming Farmer's 12th number one album in France. It also reached number one in Belgium Wallonia and number three in Switzerland.
On 15 March 2017, it was announced that Farmer signed a new record deal with Sony Music Entertainment, leaving her previous label, Universal.
On January 19 2018, the single "Rolling Stone" was released and entered the French charts at number one. The video was directed by Carole Denis. A new album was announced for fall. On June 22, a duet with LP, "N’oublie pas", was released, also entering the French charts at number one. The song was co-written by LP, and the video, set in Iceland, was directed by Laurent Boutonnat.
Farmer speaks fluent English, having been born and partly raised in Canada and then spending time in the United States in the mid-1990s.
• Cendres de Lune (1986)
• Ainsi soit je... (1988)
• L'Autre... (1991)
• Anamorphosée (1995)
• Innamoramento (1999)
• Avant que l'ombre... (2005)
• Point de suture (2008)
• Bleu Noir (2010)
• Monkey Me (2012)
• Interstellaires (2015)
• Désobéissance (2018)