Jake B., Bellingham, WA
Cover of Joe Dassin’s “Aux Champs Elyseles”
As anyone who’s studied a foreign language knows, finally visiting that foreign country is an exhilarating and nerve-racking experience. I remember when my plane was descending down towards France, I all of a sudden had a moment of second-guesses and doubt, and wanted to turn around and fly 11 hours back home to Seattle, back to my safe little bubble. This was not the regular policy on planes apparently, so I stepped off that walkway and had a grand ole time in France.
The Champs Elysées is a ginormous, fancy road right in the center of Paris, climactically leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. It’s crowded and there’s restaurants and malls and street vendors EVERYWHERE. When my host brother took me to the legendary road I thought back to the first time I heard Joe Dassin sing about finding love on that street, back in a high school classroom when Mlle G. played it for us and made us sing along to practice. Needless to say, I fell in love, like, every 10 minutes with the next beautiful French girl that would come along.
But Dassin’s song was carefree, joyful, and bombastic, and it instantly became a favorite of mine. What’s more, it’s at the end of The Darjeeling Limited, one of my favorite movies. He’s singing about busking on the street and saying hello by chance, to this woman who he joins on a spontaneous adventure and they fall in love overnight because they’re both open-minded to the unknown. At the end, he’s saying that all along the Champs Elysées, there’s “an orchestra of a million chords, and at daybreak, every bird is singing love.” Poétique, non? It doesn’t matter where you’re from in the world, music brings out a fundamental part of who we are and allows us to communicate things and ideas that can cross language barriers because they are deeper than language itself.