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Music / Oxygène

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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. The album as a whole was very influential in the development of Electronic Music.

Jarre opted to release the album on Motors Records, a small jazz label affiliated with Polydor Records (who in turn distributed the album globally) that didn't have much concern about making its artists into international superstars. Jarre's contract was already owned by Motors' owner, Francis Dreyfus, who previously released Jarre's music through sister labels Sam Fox and Eden Roc. 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. Following this success, Dreyfus would move Jarre's contract over to his larger, eponymous label, Dreyfus Records, keeping him there until the early 2000s.

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. In 2007, Jarre re-recorded the entire album from scratch as Oxygène: New Master Recording, commemorating the original's 30th anniversary (in the vein of Mike Oldfield's 2003 version of Tubular Bells); it would be his only album on EMI, owed to the label's initial dissolution in 2012. Another "sequel", Oxygène 3, came out on December 2nd, 2016, precisely 40 years after the original, increasing the number of "parts" to 20.


Side A

  1. "Oxygène Part I" (7:40)
  2. "Oxygène Part II" (7:37)
  3. "Oxygène Part III" (3:24)

Side B

  1. "Oxygène Part IV" (4:06)
  2. "Oxygène Part V" (10:26)
  3. "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. (Unless it was part of a box set series which has only happened once, and even then, one of the box sets included Oxygène.) And there were several. That said, Oxygène itself has never been not available since 1976.
    • Each release of an all-new Oxygène was accompanied by a set of all Oxygènes so far.
  • 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 most of the album, aside from the appropriately moody "Part I", 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 go over 7 and a half minutes, and "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.
  • Genre-Busting: In 1977, "Oxygène 4" hit number one on the U.S. pop, jazz, country and classical charts at the same time. Yes, country. And yes, classical.
  • Gratuitous Panning: Copious use of stereo trickery marks this album like bark on a tree. The most prominent case of this is in the second half of "Part V", which features a repeating synth bass riff that starts in the left channel and repeatedly pans to and from the right channel before settling in the center-left.
  • 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 for this purpose.
  • One-Word Title: The album title and all individual tracks are all called "Oxygène".
  • Performance Video: The original video for "Oxygène 4" shows Jarre playing his instruments.
  • Record Producer: Jarre himself. He recorded the album in one of his two kitchens (he claims it was perfectly normal for Parisian apartments to have two kitchens at that time) 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, "Oxygène 2" was used as the main theme in the German dub of Space: 1999, and parts of the album 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 (the one with the penguins).
  • 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.