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The Yé-yé Girls were a youth subculture that emerged in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal during the early 1960s. Yé-yé girls were often young girls who were stylish and independent. They usually wore miniskirts, go-go boots, and very characteristic hairstyles like beehives or straight hairstyles with bangs. They were respectivily also influenced by the genre of the same name, Yé-yé music. This subculture was heavily influenced by American and British pop culture, fashion, and music, which became extremely influential during the post-second world war era. In fact, the term Yé-yé is derivated from the "Yeah! Yeah!" catchphrase that many British and American musical artists of the time used in their songs.

History[]

Origins[]

The Yé-yé movement originated in France and gained significant popularity in western Europe and even south America. Its origins are closely associated with the French radio program Salut les copains (loosely translated as "hello pals"), which first aired in December 1959. The show was hosted by Daniel Filipacchi and Frank Ténot, and it featured the latest Yé-yé music and fashion in a specific section of the program called Le chouchou de la semaine (translated as "the sweetheart of the week"). Salut les copains was incredibly popular within the French youth of the time, and it played a major role in launching the Yé-yé movement. In 1962, a magazine of the same name was launched in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, leading to the spread of the genre.

History by Region[]

In France, Yé-yé was a symbol of cultural and social innovation. Young girls and women from France of the time finally felt themselves represented in their idols for the first time because it was the first musical movement dominated by girls. The singers were often teenagers just like them, and the lyrics of the songs addressed well-known subjects. It also brought innovation to European music in general, and even became very popular in Quebec and Japan. In fact, Yé-yé music is often considered the origin of Shibuya Kei music.

French Yé-yé girls were usually very young (for example, France Gall was only 14 years old when she recorded her first album, and barely 17 when she won Eurovision in 1965 representing Luxembourg) and innocent, as many songs emphasized feelings of one's "first love" (for example Tous les garçons et les filles by Françoise Hardy or Un jour comme un autre by Brigitte Bardo), however some songs also incorporated small discreet amounts of topics of sexuality.

The Yé-yé movement declined in the late 1960s in France, but it still had an important influence in modern French Pop music as well as French society. The Yé-yé Girls promoted the rejection of traditional gender roles and inspired many women to live a more independent and confident lifestyle. The genre saw some resurgence during the late 1970s in France as well.

In Spain, Yé-yé became a notably important trend, and in fact it lasted longer than in the other countries. Despite the fact that the ideology of Yé-yé music was incompatible with the Fascist dictatorship at the time in Spain, it was one of the most prominent musical scenes in the country between 1963 and 1968. Like in France, it was a symbol of progress and one of the many signs that Spain would become a democratic country in the next decade. The singer Pilar García de la Mata y Caballero de Rodas (professionally known as Mimo) was the first Yé-yé girl in Spain and is often cited as one of the pioneers of Spanish Rock music. In 1965, the Spanish comedy film Television Stories was released, and the movie featured the song Chica Yeyé by Conchita Velasco. The song quickly became the top 1 song in the country in only 27 weeks and became one of the most well known songs of Spain. In 1968, Massiel won the Eurovision song contest with the song La, la, la (a song originally meant to be sung by Joan Manuel Serrat, although it was later disqualified by Franco's regime because its lyrics were in Catalan, reflecting the struggle for political freedom in the Yé-yé movement). Other important Yé-yé girls in Spain included Marisol, Rosalía, Lita Torelló, Salomé, Lorella, Ana Belén, Karina, Gelu and Rocío Dúrcal.​

In Italy, the movement also gained important significance. The Italian Yé-yé girls were inspired by their French counterparts, but they also developed their own unique style. Their songs were often about love, heartbreak, and the joys of youth. They were also known for their rebellious attitudes and their willingness to challenge traditional social norms. Mina became the first female Rock singer in the country, and other popular singers included Rita Pavone, Donatella Rettore, Caterina Caselli, and Patty Pravo.

The Yé-yé movement in Portugal started in the year 1956, with the first Yé-yé bands being formed in the city of Coimbra. Most of the Portuguese Yé-yé music was performed by musical bands, including Os Babies, Os Conchas, Os Ekos, Os Sheiks, Os Celtas, Conjunto Académico João Paulo and Os Demónios Negros. Another important Portuguese Yé-yé singer was Daniel Bacelar. Although the Yé-yé movement started much later in Portugal than in other countries, it quickly became popular. Yé-yé music was played on the radio and in nightclubs throughout the country, and it also appeared in films and TV shows. Similiarly to Spain, Portugal was also under an authoritarian regime known as Estado Novo at the time, so the Yé-yé movement was seen as a symbol of social revolution against fascism, and it was embraced by the Portuguese youth, heightening its popularity.

Influence in Foreign Music[]

Yé-yé also gained some important attention in Japan during the 1960s. City Pop, a Japanese musical genre and Euro-Romance Yé-yé music shared some similiarities, such as catchy melodies, simply lyrics and the topic of youth. Because of this, some Japanese City Pop artists were inspired by French yé-yé artists, and viceversa. This led to the surge of a Japanese microgenre known as "Shibuya Kei", which took many clues from both City Pop and Yé-yé.

Eventually, its popularity faded everywhere during the 1970s, mainly because the youth was moving on into other musical genres, like Rock or Psychedelic music. However, Yé-yé had a long lasting impact on western European music and traditional gender norms in the west.

Fashion[]

The Yé-yé Girl Fashion was all about social rebellion and modernization: at the time, western societies started to become less restrictive of women's fashion. So, Yé-yé fashion included innovative feminine fashion elements like miniskirts, tight dresses, and bold colours. Hairstyles were also an important part of the typical Yé-yé look: they often featured long bangs covering the forehead, and the hairstyles in general typically included long straight hair, ponytails, bob hairs or beehive cuts. In fact, long bangs were so popular within the Yé-yé subculture that some adults nowadays still associate them with it. Makeup was also an important part of the general look, as it was becoming more socially acceptable. The fashion style associated with Yé-yé could be described as 'effortlessly chic'.

Some of the most suggested features of Yé-yé fashion include:

  • Short skirts and dresses
  • Tight clothing
  • Bold colors
  • Miniskirts
  • Breton-striped shirts
  • A-line dresses
  • Shift dresses
  • Turtlenecks
  • Knee-high boots
  • Mary Jane shoes
  • Cat-eye sunglasses
  • Headbands
  • Bow ties
  • Long bangs
  • Long straight hair
  • Beehive cuts
  • Short bobs or ponytails
  • Makeup, mainly focusing on the eyes and lips

Yé-yé Boys[]

RaphaelSinger

Spanish singer Raphael when he was younger. He was an important figure of Yé-yé music in the 1960s.

Although the Yé-yé movement was mainly dominated by young women and girls, there were also some important masculine idols representative of the genre. Contrary to Yé-yé girls emphasis on innocent and pure fashion, they were often boys with a romantic and innocent vibe, for example Richard Anthony, Michel Polnareff or Serge Gainsbourg, who wrote songs for many artists like France Gall.

The Portuguese Yé-yé musical scene was notable for Yé-yé Boys as well, as most bands were mainly made up by men due to the dictatorial political situation of Portugal at the time.

Music[]

Yé-yé (also called Yeyé in Spanish) is the musical genre that gave origin to both the Yé-yé Girl and Yé-yé Boy subcultures. It is considered part of the broader spectrum of Pop music. The origins of this musical genre are traced back to the economic boom southwestern Europe went through during the post-war period, and British and American pop culture became dominant in the world. Because of this, Yé-yé took many cues from the pop style of English bands like The Beatles, but adds more orchestral elements and a takes a bit of influence from American Jazz to its upbeat and simplistic melodies. In Yé-yé music, the vocals are often sung by teenage girls, adding a Chic tone to the genre. Yé-yé songs are characterized by their catchy lyrics and melodies, energetic rhythm and lyrics relating to dreams, desires, and experiences of young people. While many songs were about love, they also included references to the hardships of teenage life, like loneliness or school. Generally, Yé-yé took many inspiration from British Rock 'n' Roll music, however Yé-yé stands out for the fact the singers would sing in their native language, as opposed to many other musical trends of the time, inspired by English-language music.

Media[]

Musical Artists[]

  • Françoise Hardy
  • Sylvie Vartan
  • France Gall
  • Sheila
  • Chantal Goya
  • Véronique Sanson
  • Catherine Deneuve
  • Jane Birkin
  • Anna Karina
  • Nana Mouskouri
  • Serge Gainsbourg
  • Stella
  • Petula Clark
  • Jacquéline Taïeb
  • Pilar García de la Mata y Caballero de Rodas (Mimo)
  • Marisol
  • Rocío Dúrcal
  • Ana Belén
  • Karina
  • Gelu
  • Rosalía Garrido Muñoz
  • Lita Torelló
  • Salomé
  • María Ostiz
  • Rita Pavone
  • Mari Marabini
  • Carmen Villani
  • Anna Identici
  • Le Amiche
  • Le Snobs
  • Sonia e le Sorelle
  • Os Babies
  • Os Conchas
  • Os Celtas
  • Daniel Bacelar

Songs[]

French[]

Spanish[]

Catalan[]

Italian[]

Portuguese[]

Gallery[]

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