Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"A Tout le Monde"

A friend's essay, wherein she contemplated several song lyrics sung outside of each singer's native tongue, inspired me to revisit one of my older favorites.

Megadeth, "A Tout le Monde"

First off, if you've never heard Megadeth before, ignore this and check out anything off Rust in Peace or Peace Sells...But Who's Buying. Then maybe some of their hits like "Symphony of Destruction," "Sweating Bullets" and "Skin o' My Teeth." Or the masterful "In My Darkest Hour" and the thrashterpiece "Set the World Afire." Or the most famous song Mustaine wrote in his Metallica stint, "Mechanix." Or the ferocious comeback "Kick the Chair." There are actually about 20 or so songs that are more representative of Megadeth than "A Tout le Monde," most of which don't have portentous videos and useless reprises.

Yet I can't get enough of this song. Against my conceived notions of Megadeth, my general dislike of power ballads and my better judgment, "A Tout le Monde" is a song I return to regularly. There's something intangible about it that makes it seem more like a brave artistic expression than a blatant stab at the airwaves.

Perhaps it's the show-stopping live version that won me over. I don't know what the fans are thinking when they all join in on the third chorus, but they really believe it.

For a guy who writes jazz-inspired thrash metal with political, personal and fantastic lyrics for a living, Dave Mustaine really hit one out of the park with a mournful ode to departed loved ones. Inspired to write "A Tout le Monde" by the loss of his French-speaking mother, Mustaine once said in an interview:

"It's when people have a loved one that dies and they end on a bad note, you know, they wish that they could say something to them. So this is an opportunity for the deceased to say something before they go. And it was my impression of what I would like to say to all my friends, I love you all, and now I must go. These are the last words I'll ever speak, and they'll set me free. I don't need to say I'm sorry, I don't have to say I'm going to miss you, or I'll wait for ya. You know, I'll just say I loved you all, good, bad and different, I loved you all.

Mustaine had to spend a lot of time explaining the song's lyrics--released in the hypersensitive year that Kurt Cobain took his life, "A Tout le Monde" was interpreted as pro-suicide and initially banned from MTV (which played videos, even by metal bands, back then.) The controversy returned years later when a college student in Montreal mentioned the song on his blog, shortly before embarking on a shooting spree that ended with the gunman's suicide. Despite decrying the actions at a concert in Montreal that month, the damage had been done. It would go far in redeeming the term "power ballad" in anyone's mind, but "A Tout le Monde" still never gets the FM play or chart success that it deserves.

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