Oxygène, released in 1976, is the third studio album by French electronica musician Jean-Michel Jarre. The album acted as his domestic and international commercial breakthrough at the time, having previously done small stints with smaller bands, ad spots, and soundtracks, all of which funded his building of an at-home studio, a fierce rarity at the time. It's best remembered for the melancholic hit instrumental "Oxygène IV" and the album as a whole was very influential in the development of Electronic Music.
Despite its current acclaim, nobody thought at the time that it would be a commercial success due to just how different it was from everything else at the time. Thus, Jarre opted to release the album on Les Disques Motors, a small jazz label affiliated with Polydor Records that didn't have much concern about making its artists into international superstars. Contrary to expectations, the album was a massive commercial success, topping the French Albums chart and peaking at No. 2 in the United Kingdom, not to mention going platinum both there and in Canada and gold in France, Germany, and Poland. Critical reception was ambivalent at best in the US and UK, owing to it coming out at a time when Punk Rock was the dominant force of popular music and Post-Punk was just starting to emerge. However, with time it received greater and greater acclaim, going on to be regarded as one of the best and most innovative albums of the 1970's, aided in part by the visible influence it carried in Synth-Pop, New Age music, and electronica as a whole. Decades after its release, Oxygène continues to be Jarre's most iconic and influential album, essentially being to him what Tubular Bells was to Mike Oldfield.
Oxygène was supported by two singles: "Oxygène (Part IV)" in the UK and "Oxygène (Part II)" in France. In 1997, a bit more than 20 years after the release of the original, a sequel album was released called Oxygène 7-13. Another "sequel", Oxygène 3, came out on December 2nd, 2016, precisely 40 years after the original, increasing the number of "parts" to 20.
- "Oxygène Part I" (7:40)
- "Oxygène Part II" (7:37)
- "Oxygène Part III" (3:24)
- "Oxygène Part IV" (4:06)
- "Oxygène Part V" (10:26)
- "Oxygène Part VI" (6:24)
Breathe deeply before reading these tropes...
- Ambient: One of the classic albums in the history of this genre.
- Compilation Re Release: No Jarre box set would be complete without Oxygène. Ever. And there were several. That said, Oxygène itself has never been not available since 1976.
- Concept Album: Oxygène is about the environment.
- Covers Always Lie: Ironically, the Michel Granger painting used for the cover was Jarre's direct inspiration for making the album. But from looking at the painting—in which the Earth's crust peels away like an orange rind, revealing a human skull beneath—who would expect the album to be "an infectious combination of bouncy, bubbling analog sequences and memorable hook lines"note ?
- Crapsack World: The album cover by Michel Granger shows the world as a skull.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover is a painting by Michel Granger, which Jarre received official permission to use.
- Epic Rocking: "Part VI" is over 6:24 long, "Part I" and "Part II" both over 7:30 minutes long, while "Part V" nearly reaches the 10:30 mark.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: Jarre made Oxygène sparkle with his trusty (seven-year) old EMS VCS3 and its portable brother EMS Synthi AKS.
- Evolving Music:
- Bend-down sound effects on "Oxygène 4" at Destination Docklands 1988 that would return for some later concerts.
- The beginning of "Oxygène 4"'s second RMI part was replaced with a kind of break for Paris La Défense in 1990. This was reverted at the 2008 Oxygène Tour.
- "Oxygène 5 Part 2" got a drum beat for the 1997 Oxygène Arena Tour which didn't survive beyond it.
- Starting with Oxygène Live In Your Living-Room and the following tour, "Oxygène 5 Part 2" almost seemlessly faded into "Variation III".
- In general, live drumming and percussion at concerts.
- What was done to "Oxygène 4" at the 2016 Electronica tour almost amounts to remixing.
- Mostly averted by "Oxygène 2", no matter how often it's played live. Then again, it was somewhat drastically changed on the Aero album.
- Fading into the Next Song:
- The point where "Oxygène 1" ends and "Oxygène 2" starts can hardly be defined. If anything, it has to be when the "Oxygène 2" sequence starts.
- "Oxygène 5" into "Variation III" in live versions.
- Iconic Song Request: When Jarre fans want to hear something particular during concerts, it's usually "Oxygène 4".
- Instrumentals: The whole album is instrumental, as are both sequels.
- Numbered Sequels:
- Oxygène 7-13, the sequel to the six-track Oxygène.
- Oxygène 3, the second sequel, 40 years later.
- In fact, along with the release of Oxygène 3, Oxygène 7-13 was renamed Oxygène 2.
- One-Word Title: The album title and all individual tracks are all called "Oxygène".
- Record Producer: Jarre himself. He recorded the album in his kitchen with several analog and early digital synthesizers and other electronic instruments and effects. He couldn't afford building a proper recording studio before the money from the Oxygène sales came in.
- Repurposed Pop Song: Jarre's music has been used as themes of several TV shows, and parts of the album Oxygène went into the soundtrack of Gallipoli.
- Re-release the Song: "Oxygène 4", the original studio single recording from 1976, was re-released at about the same time as Jarre Live (a live album) in 1989 with a brand-new video.
- Song Style Shift: In the middle of "Oxygène 5".
- Synth-Pop: Albeit smaller than that of Kraftwerk's mid-70s releases, Oxygène did have an impact on this genre and an even greater one on ambient.
- Title by Number: The tracks all have the same title, "Oxygène", but are distinguished from one another by number.