Earlier this year, Jain was the biggest thing in The Louvre. Well, we say in, but we mean on, really. Spread across the world famous art gallery’s Seine-side wing, a gigantic promotional poster of Jain hung triumphantly. It’s a more ingenious way to cover some of the temporary scaffolding for sure, but also acts as a statement of intent of just how strongly France feels about this particular pop star.
Her second album ‘Souldier’, released just over a month ago, landed in at Number One in the French album charts, just like her debut ‘Zanaka’ did in 2015. She’s spent the summer conquering the continental festival circuit and a gigantic world tour is in now motion. But being the biggest thing in The Louvre? Well, only the timeless icons know about that. “I could never imagine ever in my life that I’d be on the side of The Louvre,” she says. “I took a little selfie of me with it, of course.”
“I could never imagine ever in my life that I’d be on the side of The Louvre. I took a little selfie of me with it”
‘Zanaka’ may be the initial offering that shook the landscape of French pop, but ‘Souldier’ is the confirmation of just where 26-year-old is heading. Its brash in places, but mainly a deeply touching and inclusive selection of anthems. Take the song’s title track, for one, which was influenced by the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida back in 2016 – where 49 people were killed in the barbaric shooting in the gay nightclub by Omar Mateen. The song doesn’t dwell on the specifics of the horror, but rather the powerful response by the LGBTQ+ community across the world: “I saw men bringing flowers and putting them in front of the club, and it was really beautiful, so this song is a story of a soldier who is fighting with love.”
Jain – real name Jeanne Galice – sees a better world and very much trying to will it into existence. “I want to create this instant bubble of utopia. People can forget their everyday life and make them move,” she says. “I don’t think I’m overly optimistic in the way the world is going, especially when you look at the things that have happened over the past two or three years in Paris and England, especially.” But what exactly goes down in Jain’s Utopia? “I think it’s important to mix cultures in a time like this and to create a safe space.”
“It’s important to mix cultures in a time like this and to create a safe space”
There is perhaps no-one better suited to create this inclusive fusion of sounds. Jain was born in the city of Toulouse in Southern France, but her father’s job resulted in several change of sceneries. Aged 9, she began her travels that would last nearly a decade taking in Dubai, The Republic of Congo and Abu Dhabi . “My favourite place was in The Congo. It’s where I began to write songs and build myself as an adult,” she says. “It’s hard when you’re a teenager, but at the same time I met a lot of new people and lived a lot of different lives.”
By the time she moved back to Paris aged 18, she packed a distinctly global sound. Swaying Afrobeats would collide with Arabic melodies for a truly intoxicating global cocktail, and her breakout single ‘Come’ proved to be a perfect alchemy of all these elements. Built on a simple acoustic riff, by the time Jain brings you to the chorus she’s promising “to show you the world”.
“I wrote that when I was 16 and it was one of the first songs I ever finished, so it was a bit weird to see people listening to it for the first time. By the time I was 23, I knew this song off by heart and it was good to introduce it to people.” Jain said hello and the world listened. The single rocketed to Number One in France and Spain, as well as making a considerable dent across the rest of Europe. ‘Makeba’, a thumping funk slapper would have similar success (Number Seven in France) and has been appearing in TV adverts since its release. You’ll likely already know and love this one.
Over the course of the following two years, Jain world tour the album ‘Zanaka’ – including support slots with fellow French breakthrough Christine & The Queens. But she always had an eye on the future, plotting her follow-up album, ‘Souldier’, which was initially penned on the road – using the audiences reaction to gauge what came next.
“I wanted to change my influences a little bit but keep those same vibes. I wanted to talk about the Arabic culture,” she says. “The main challenge is not doing the same thing. Sometimes people stop me on the street and they say ‘when are you going to make the next ‘Zanaka’ and itthat what I really didn’t want to do. It already exists. I wanted to get more into hip-hop and to try something fun”.
That she did. ‘Inspecta’, for one, samples cult ’80s TV icon The Inspector Gadget’s theme tune but gives it a big trap-style beat. “I just wanted to transform Inspector Gadget” she says, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Songs like ‘Abu Dhabi’ and ‘Dream’, meanwhile, are proof of her determination to highlight her Arabic influence.
Peruse through Jain’s Instagram and you’ll see that it’s working a treat. Her solo live performances are dazzling to witness, controlling the crowd like a seasoned pro. Part of this connection, she suggests, is due to the language barrier she’s avoided by singing in English, instead of her native French. “I don’t know if this journey would have been the same if it was in French. My music was about travelling a lot and connecting with other people, and English is the voice of travelling”. Jain’s seen the world, now won’t you step into hers?
Jain’s new album ‘Souldier’ is out now
Catch Jain live in the UK later this year:
Gorilla, Manchester (Nov 26)
Brixton Electric, London (Nov 27)