Sliimys unruly coif rises at an angle from his head like smoke from a genies lamp. His curls cannot be contained -- nor, it seems, can he. Once just another shining face in a provincial gospel choir, the 21-year-old gay French singer has become the new prince of French pop. Buoyed by his playful lyrics, whispery voice, and bouncy melodies, Sliimys debut album, Paint Your Face,reached number 2 on the French charts earlier this year and soon went gold. Now no one under the banner of the French flag can escape his relentlessly catchy single Wake Up, and considering he recently signed to Perez Hiltons record label, Perezlicious, Sliimy will soon be storming Americas shores.
Born Yanis Sahraoui, Sliimy grew up in St. Etienne, a small city in Frances Loire Valley. It is a little bit boring, he says. Thats why I did music -- because I was always bored by everything and I tried to find a passion. It is not the kind of city where it is easy to be yourself. Sliimy (rhymes with Jimmy) honed this passion, refining his singing skills in a gospel choir and finding inspiration in David Bowie, Boy George, and Madonna while tucked away in the small flat he shared with his father (his mother died when he was 7). I was attracted to their big personalities, he explains.
He began experimenting with music in his bedroom and soon developed his personal fashion style, part Cobra Snake hipster, part Radical Faerie. After winning a local talent contest in 2005, for which he sang Otis Reddings (Sittin on) the Dock of the Bay, Sliimy met his producer, Feed, and began to work on the album that would become Paint Your Face. He has different influences, like the Rolling Stones and Prince, Sliimy says of Feed. He is older than me, so he has a different vision. Hes 34.
The 13 songs on Paint Your Face form a bubblegum manifesto. The gist: Everything is complicated, la la la. But itll be all right, la la la. There are hints of Kate Nash, Lily Allen, Mika, Sondre Lerche, Sesame Street, Jamiroquai, and, of course, early Prince, to whom the tiny singer bears a striking resemblance. Sliimy writes songs in English, but with a flair reserved for ESL students. Hes like the sugarcoated pop version of Joseph Conrad. Im quite bitter, and youre sucker, he sings in Wake Up, adding, You must be aware of this / Im kinda lazy / Youre in a hurry / You scare me. His songs seem personal, but not in a belabored way: Mum could or could not be about his mothers death -- like the best pop songs, its open to interpretation.
I dont want to give lots of details, even if it is sometimes personal, Sliimy explains. I want people to create their own world with my music. In that vein, his slowed-down acoustic cover of Britney Spearss Womanizer, a YouTube hit earlier this year, could either be a reinterpretation of the song or an unironic celebration of it. Either way, its a lot more fun to dance to than the original.
Though his album was just released in the States this fall, Sliimy is already thinking of its follow-up. I am a guy with lots of different personalities, he says. I do not want to be stuck in one image. One year ago, I was stuck in my hometown of St. Etienne, but in the past year Ive lived some great experiences, and I think the second album is going to be really different.
Paint Your Face is now available in stores.