One Random Single a Day #61: “Madame Bijou” (2004) by Edyta Bartosiewicz


Today’s artist for the One Random Single challenge is from Poland, which brings the country count for this project up to twenty. Considering that the vast majority of music I listen to is by American artists (with some European countries thrown in every now and again), this challenge has been really successful with broadening my horizons and showing me just a taste of what else is out there. It’s also interesting to find that so much non-American music actually possesses traits and trademarks that I’ve always assumed were distinct to American music, which shows how large the scope of the US music scene is and how far it reaches to influence others. This isn’t necessarily true of today’s artist, by the way – I just felt it was interesting to point out as a brief introduction.

Edyta Bartosiewicz is a singer-songwriter based in Warsaw, who had played in a few bands in the 80s before embarking on her own solo career in 1990. She actually recorded her first debut album entirely in English, before switching over to Polish for her second album, with which she has remained with the rest of her career so far. She is immensely popular in her home country, having achieved gold and platinum status on some of her albums and receiving five Fryderyks, the Polish equivalent of the Grammy. This single, “Madame Bijou”, comes from her most recent album Renovatio, released in 2013 after a fifteen year break without a studio album due to problems with her health and personal life.

During this fifteen-year-long break, I have read, Bartosiewicz endured the turmoil of having her best friend die suddenly (of what reasons I have not quite figured out). This led her to put off the album for as long as she did, and upon release it shot up to #1 in the Polish charts. I’ve ran the lyrics of “Madame Bijou” through a couple translators, but there’s no way I’ll be able to effectively grasp all the nuances of the song by virtue of being influent. With that said, this comes off as heartbreak and loneliness, with the speaker describing the sights and sounds around her as she spends time at a bar, thinking of a certain someone who makes her blue. The title, I assume, comes from the movie Titanic, when Jack tells Rose about a woman he knew who’d wear every piece of jewelry she owned and wait at the bar for her true love.

So, perhaps this is simply a song that Bartosiewicz created by drawing inspiration from said film. However, knowing what I know about her personal pain, it’s hard not to conclude that this is a song about her life without her deceased friend. While her previous output was akin in sound to the midtempo, guitar-led female singer-songwriters of the 90s, like Jewel and Alanis Morrissette, this song takes on a jazzier, more downtempo approach to its sound, making it seem all the more gloomier. The song is mixed in a manner where her pain and longing take center stage to it all. While she’s relatively soft-spoken for most of the song, the buildup in intensity throughout finds its release in its final lines, which mark the single’s emotional high-point.

Overall, I can’t say I love this one, even though slow, depressive contemplations on death and loneliness are totally my thing. I’m not against songs that aren’t in English, but the problem comes with a song like this when it’s clear that the lyrical bits are vital to the emotional core of it all. Since I don’t know Polish, I’ve got the remaining elements of the song on which to judge the complete product, and… it’s just so plain. The guitar, drums, and bass just kind of drone on and on for over five minutes, not doing much else besides holding up Bartosiewicz as she takes the stage for herself. I’ll admit my ignorance, but this is just okay for me altogether.

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