Sans Douleur: Camille’s Song “Your Pain” Brings Pleasure

If you watch Saturday Night Live, you may have seen Emma Stone in a skit called “Les Jeunes de Paris” (“The Youth of Paris”). In it, Stone and other young Parisians dance in a Left Bank café and speak only French while listening to “Ta Douleur,” a song by the French pop singer Camille. The song, the title of which means “Your Pain,” was inspired by French New Wave film director Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 film Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders). Camille’s song is so arresting and appealing, one can see why Emma was inspired to dance.

“Ta Douleur” was a hit in Europe when it was released in 2005 on Camille’s album titled Le Fil (The Thread). One thread that binds  all the album’s songs together is a low-level drone in the background; another is the album’s emphasis on the human voice above all. The album’s constant droning note, a B, is barely detectable in “Ta Douleur,” but the song is quirky and surprising even without that gimmick. The entire album is an exploration of the versatility of the human voice with very little actual traditional instrumentation, just a bit of percussion and some bass to back up the beat boxing, raspberry blowing, humming, scat singing and other vocal pyrotechnics. Odd though it may be, “Ta Douleur” has a very catchy melody and intriguing rhythms.

Camille’s original video for the song features the singer in an ever-escalating battle with a ball of yarn. It becomes a self-knitting hat that creates itself around an unwilling naked woman. It then forms itself into a raveling dress, a womb, perhaps even a shroud for the woman caught within it. The yarn behaves like an invasive, inescapable, parasitic entity. The lyrics, when translated from the original French into English, are a bit cryptic but they definitely relate to pregnancy. While some listeners have expressed a belief that the singer of the song is talking about the pain of her upcoming labor, it seems more likely that she is considering an abortion.

The official video portrays the yarn as a menacing force that seems intent on taking over Camille’s body and the lyrics show hostility toward the fetus growing in her womb. Videos of Camille’s live performances of the song are captivating, too, despite not involving her being naked or fighting a losing battle with a willful ball of blue yarn. The song takes on a surprisingly bitter and poetically serious message for such an upbeat tune. Consider this translated excerpt:

Now who’s this gatecrasher
This storm before the summer
This little bitch of a sister

I’m going to take everything away from her
Her darts and her whistle
I’m going to give her a proper licking
Send her away during break
I’m going to take your pain
But who’s this heiress
Who’s bathing, who is hiding
In the lukewarm water of your loins

I’m going to take the desert away from her
Make her eat dust
Of those who are not hungry anymore
I’m going to take your pain