Jacques Péna

Jacques Péna

When I listen to songs in other languages, there’s a fifty-fifty chance it will be exciting or weird. The language of the track is a large influence, but like many English songs, the genre alone can impact my reaction as well. If I do not understand the language the song is sung in, I must judge the music and the artist mainly by sound, though my judgement can vary if the songs also vary. Jacques Péna is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

An artist from Paris, France, Péna has done work as an actor, a comedian, a poet, and a fitness instructor, managing a Club Med Gym in Paris. He studied at two schools in Paris: the École Nationale de la Chanson and ECCIP Paris. However, it was his experience as a poet that influenced him to set his works to music. He started in October 2012 when he released his first digital album “Anonymat” and has continued to release more music, most recently in 2015 with his album “Tu regrettes ma nostalgie,” which means “You regret my nostalgia.” 

In the biography on his website, he says his songs are “imbued with rock ’n’ roll.” However, after listening to several of his songs, I find it difficult to place him in a single genre alone. There are numerous elements of rock, but they are joined by others. His song “Green de Verlaine” sounds like many jazz and blues songs I’ve heard in the past, with its usage of piano and deep, heavy-toned guitar-playing. Even the tone his singing is reminiscent of these genres, switching from low to light between verses. Meanwhile, in “L’agent Mudler,” rock is blended with elements of country, heavily influenced by the guitar, but it also includes several trumpet solos. Adding to the variety, “T’aurais pas du” feels somewhat classical, like a fast-paced song you would dance to during the Renaissance, enhanced with guitar. Péna’s myriad of mastery is quite astounding. 

It’s difficult to get a clear read on Péna’s style from simply listening to his songs, but watching him is another story. On his YouTube channel, there is a music video for a song called “Relax Max.” I listened to the song before I watched the video, and found the song soft and similar to tracks I heard in my college Spanish classes. True to its name, its mix of light guitar, smooth vocals, and several electronic elements create a very relaxing song. When the song is combined with video, though, the experience is changed completely as Péna shows off his acting skills. He dances, bounces while he plays the guitar, and dresses up in a number of costumes, including a female gypsy. It’s easy to see he’s having fun all the way through, and after I watched it, I realized his style isn’t specifically one style. He’s an artist and like any others, he is using the music to express himself. What the listeners get out of his songs depends on them and their attitudes, which means everyone is able to interpret the tracks differently, whether they understand French or not. Everyone forms their own opinion. 

So what is my opinion? I think Péna’s music is great. I can’t understand any of it, but I enjoy it because the sounds are catchy and the vocals prove he is pouring in so much of his heart, soul, and mind. I cannot say everyone will enjoy him the same way I do. However, it is definitely worth taking the time to listen and watch him. After all, they do say “French is the language of love.”

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