"Poupée de cire, poupée de son" (English: Doll of wax, doll of sawdust) was the winning entry in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1965. It was performed in French by France Gall representing Luxembourg.
Composed by Serge Gainsbourg, it was the first song to win Eurovision that was not a ballad. It was nominated as one of the fourteen best Eurovision songs of all time at the Congratulations special held in October 2005.
As is common with Gainsbourg's lyrics, the words are filled with double meanings, wordplay, and puns. The title can be translated as "Wax doll, Bran doll" (a bran doll being a floppy doll stuffed with bran or sawdust) or as "Doll of wax, Doll of sound" (with implications that Gall is a "singing doll" controlled by Gainsbourg).
Sylvie Simmons wrote that the song is about "the ironies and incongruities inherent in baby pop"--that "the songs young people turn to for help in their first attempts at discovering what life and love are about are sung by people too young and inexperienced themselves to be of much assistance, and condemned by their celebrity to be unlikely to soon find out."
Gall is clearly singing about her own situation as the conduit for lyrics written by adults projecting themselves onto her as a teen pop star. The lyrics acquire an additional potency because, even in singing about her experience as a "singing doll", she still must rely on Gainsbourg to put her feelings into words.
This sense of being a "singing doll" for Gainsbourg reached a peak when he wrote "Les Sucettes" ("Lollipops") for Gall.
Her recordings are like a mirror where anyone can see her. Through her recordings, it is as though she has been smashed into a thousand shards of voice and scattered so that she is everywhere at once.
This central image is extended, as she refers to her listeners as rag dolls (poupées de chiffon) who laugh, dance to the music, and allow themselves to be seduced for any reason or no reason at all.
But love is not just in songs, and the singer asks herself what good it is to sing about love when she herself knows nothing about boys.
The two concluding verses seem to refer to Gall herself. In them, she sings that she is nothing but a wax doll, a sawdust doll, under the sun of her blond hair. But someday she, the wax doll and sawdust doll, will be able to actually live her songs without fearing the warmth of boys.
At a young age, France Gall was too naïve to understand the second meaning of the lyrics. She felt she was used by Gainsbourg, most notably after the song "Sucettes", which was literally about lollipops, but with multiple references to oral sex.
Poupée de son - can also mean "doll of sound" or "song doll", a doll that has a string on the back. France Gall could be said to be the doll through which Gainsbourg channels his sounds.
Today France Gall has disassociated herself with the Eurovision Song Contest, and refuses to discuss it in public, or perform her winning song.
Son in the context of poupée de son means "bran" (or sawdust, resembling bran), of the kind used to stuff children's floppy dolls . Poupée de son is a long-standing expression in French meaning "doll stuffed with bran/sawdust". It is also used in the expression Syndrome du bébé "poupée de son", "floppy baby syndrome" (infantile hypotonia), and can even refer to someone too drunk to stand up.
The double meanings of these two terms come in because of the subject matter of the lyrics, which contain many references to singing and recording. "Cire" (wax) brings to mind to the old shellac records, commonly known in France as "wax disks". "Son" has a second meaning--"sound".
These double meanings are amplified in Gainsbourg's lyrics. For instance, the first verse refers to the fact that the singer's heart is engraved in her songs, much in the way the sound vibrations are engraved in a wax recording. A later reference is made to the singer being broken into a thousand pieces of voice, as though she herself is made of sound.
English versions of the lyrics often translate the title as "Wax Doll, Singing Doll", "The lonely singing doll" (the version sung by Twinkle), or something similar--translations that are not literally correct but which capture some of the double meaning implicit in the original version.
Serge Gainsbourg said about the winning song: "The songs young people turn to for help in their first attempts at discovering what life and love are about, are sung by people too young and inexperienced to be of much help and condemned by their celebrity to find out."
The entire phrase as found in the lyrics--"Je vois la vie en rose bonbon"--can then be translated as something like, "I see life through bright rosy-tinted glasses".
"Briser en mille éclats" means "to smash to pieces". "Éclats de voix" means "shouts" or "screams".
Thus "Brisée en mille éclats de voix" could be translated as "Broken in thousand pieces of voice or "Smashed in a thousand shards of voice".
However, the phrase "Se laissent séduire pour un oui, pour un nom" sounds like the phrase "Se laisser séduire pour un oui, pour un non" which means literally "to let themselves be seduced for a yes, for a no".
This can more colloquially translated as "to give in to the slightest temptation" or "to let themselves be seduced for any reason at all".
The French public retrospectively reproached Gall and Gainsbourg for having represented [and won for] Luxembourg and not for their own country.