Let’s Talk Sparks, Adam Driver and “Annette”

Here is the lyric video for “So May We Start” by Sparks featuring Simon Helburg, Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, featured in the upcoming film Annette.

Annette, directed by Leos Carax and written by the band Sparks (brothers Ron and Russell Mael), will premiere July 6, 2021. It will also open the Cannes Film Festival the same day. The film stars Driver and Cotillard as a stand-up comedian (Driver) and his wife (Cotillard), a world-famous soprano. Their life takes a turn when their daughter, Annette, is born with a unique gift.

Adam Driver (born 1983) first gained recognition for a supporting role on the HBO comedy-drama series Girls. From there, he went on to appear in supporting roles in films like Lincoln and Inside Llewyn Davis before finding his greatest fame for playing the role of Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

Sparks consists of brothers Ron and Russell Mael and have released twenty-five studio albums, with a ever-changing cast of band members and musical styles. Their biggest hit single “This Town Aint Big Enough For Both Of Us” peaked at #2 on the UK singles charts in 1974. Since then, Sparks have continually experimented with pop music even as the landscape of music shifted around them. Their 1979 album No. 1 In Heaven (produced by Giorgio Moroder) has been considered by many to be a seminal synthpop album. They have named as an influence by such different musicians as Beck, Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Morrissey (who even wrote to a British music magazine as a teenager praising a Sparks album), New Order and Kurt Cobain.

Sparks performing (miming) “This Town” for a TV appearance in 1974. Russell on vocals, Ron on keyboards and glaring at the camera and audience. In order to establish himself different from other flamboyant keyboardists of the era (think the cape-clad Rick Wakeman of Yes), Ron Mael chose to look as non-rock as possible, and added a Chaplin-esque mustache. Allegedly, when Sparks appeared on “Top Of The Pops”, John Lennon saw Ron’s mustache and exclaimed “Look, Yoko, it’s Hitler on the telly!”

I mentioned No. 1 In Heaven earlier and the biggest hit from that album was “Beat The Clock”. After a period of instability, Sparks reinvented themselves as just a brother-duo and with the help of Moroder, concocted a great dance album with incisive lyrics.

Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos was an early fan of Sparks and lent her vocal talents to “Cool Places”, one of Sparks’ few US hit singles. It’s funny to me because they keep singing about how they want to go to these supposedly cool places but they don’t know where they are.

A consistent thread in the story of Sparks is periods of instability. After their early-mid 80s, it would be nearly a decade before they would enjoy success again when the hit single “When Do I Get Sing ‘My Way'” reached the UK charts some two decades after “This Town”. This video is a great story in itself. The easiest thing to do would have been for these two guys to call it quits and stop talking to each other. But they didn’t. They stayed at it. And they made another great dance number (although a very sad one). All you need to know about this song is in the title: when do I get to sing “I did it my way”? When do I get to feel like Frank Sinatra felt when he sang that song?

Lil’ Beethoven from 2002 is simultaneously the band’s densest yet most sparse album. After a period of experimenting with the dance genres of the period, Sparks went in the other direction and literally sang “I am the rhythm thief/gay goodbye to the beat” and then got rid of the beats. It’s filled with keyboards, strings, and vocals. But just those things. It’s only really until the last two tracks that other traditional rock music elements are brought in.

After the critical success of Lil’ Beethoven, there began a reappraisal of the band’s catalogue and career. The band continued to work and a new generation began to discover them. One band that was influenced by them was Scottish band Franz Ferdinand (“Take Me Out”) and over a period of years, they developed an full-length album project called FFS.

Annette, directed by French film director Leos Carax, is Carax’s first English-language film. The project was announced in November 2016 but shooting was pushed to August 2019 due to casting changes and Driver’s commitments to filming the Star Wars movies.

What More Can I Tell You?

It’s all gone. Four years of writing. Hundreds of thousands of words. All gone. I deleted the vast majority of my blog posts today.

It’s possible that some of the wrestling-related stuff got archived and that’s fine. I think I’m done writing on here. I’ve kept a few select pieces up, but nothing too personal.

I don’t want to write these anymore. I just don’t have anything else to say. It doesn’t matter what I think about anything that doesn’t pertain directly or even indirectly to me. I want to be on social media less, while I’m at it. Facebook is a useless website. Twitter occasionally pukes up something interesting but it feels like I’m just throwing bulletins into a hole. I’ve aged out of Tiktok, Snapchat, Discord, etc.

There are a million things going in culture and politics and a million other people who can do a better job encapsulating those events and commenting on them. I have been just another voice in the Greek chorus, wanting to be the lead. That’s not where I belong.

It was therapeutic, so it served it’s purpose. I went back and looked at each one as I deleted them and I saw how much I have changed as a person. I was a little sad at the person I used to be, but I’m proud at how far I’ve come.

I have no idea when I’ll write if I decide to do it again, but I’m comforted in knowing that my voice will not be missed.