Newspaper article International New York Times

Song for French Charity Strikes Discordant Note ; Younger People Assail Lyrics That Imply They Are Lazy and Lacking in Effort

Newspaper article International New York Times

Song for French Charity Strikes Discordant Note ; Younger People Assail Lyrics That Imply They Are Lazy and Lacking in Effort

Article excerpt

Many people in France are taking offense at a song they say portrays youths as lazy and unwilling to make an effort to get ahead.

The song was supposed to raise money, not a ruckus. But because it features a group of young singers whining and another group of older singer-celebrities reproaching them, the recording, made for a French charity, has provoked a storm of anger and laid bare a generational divide in French society.

"You had everything -- peace, freedom, full employment," the younger side sings. "We have joblessness, violence and AIDS."

"Everything we have, we had to earn it," the more senior celebrities respond. "It's your turn now -- but you need to get going!"

The song, "Toute La Vie" ("All Life Long"), was written by a music star from the 1980s, Jean-Jacques Goldman, to raise money for a well-known organization, Restaurants du Coeur, that runs food banks. A video featuring the song was posted last week on YouTube, and it took off on social media, with more than 2.6 million views since then. But along the way, it garnered more than a thousand critical comments on Facebook and tens of thousands of messages on Twitter, setting off a tense and startlingly bitter debate in France.

It was the younger generation that took offense, feeling that in the song, they were characterized as lazy and unwilling to make an effort in life by adults who seemed dismissive of the obstacles young people face.

The song is "paternalistic," "reactionary" and "anti-young," Marc- Aurele Baly, a music critic in his 20s who writes for Les Inrocks, a music magazine, said on Friday in a televised debate about the song on BFM TV.

The group of older singers and other celebrities, known as Les Enfoires, roughly translated as The Bastards, records a song each year for the charity. They have never been known for breaking musical ground, and this year's song, while it has a catchy beat, was no exception. Neither, though, do people take their efforts as serious commentary on French society.

Laura Slimani, who heads a youth branch of the governing Socialist Party, said she thought Mr. Goldman probably just chose his lyrics poorly. Still, she said, it came across as an insult to young people.

"It's a little complicated to reproach young people for not 'getting going' when there is 25 percent unemployment among people under 25, and 22 percent fall below the poverty line," she said.

She also noted that young adults do not have the same right to the welfare payments that older French people receive if they have little or no income.

At first glance, the French generational tensions appear somewhat reminiscent of those in the United States surrounding the "millennials," people born in the 1980s and 1990s who are delaying marriage, extending their educational years and still have a hard time finding jobs. …

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