Premiere: Noé Returns to Her Roots with the Endearingly Empowered “La Fève”

Noé © Claire Cali
Referencing cultural traditions while doing things on her own terms, “La Fève” is a sweet introduction to the Paris-born, LA-based singer/songwriter Noé.
Stream: “La Fève” – Noé


A song can really shine when put in the context of an artist’s other songs. While it isn’t fair to always compare, given changes in concepts and frames of mind et cetera, releases always feel connected as part of a timeframe. When there’s a song within this timeframe that stands out with a sudden change in direction, it makes the ears prick up and a new narrative is introduced. This is especially true for “La Fève,” the latest release by singer-songwriter Noé which Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering today.

ibynoé - Noé

ibyNoé EP – Noé

Noé was born in Paris and raised between Hong Kong and Aix en Provence. Now based in LA, “La Fève” is a way of going back to her origins by writing and performing in her native language. On first listen, without familiarity of the artist behind it, it sounds like a pleasant, easily-listenable French language song. But, when heard in relation to the rest of her music (written and sung in English), it holds more prominence. A deeper awareness of Noé is formed and relationships between music and language emphasized. 

“This song feels like a raw sneak peek into who I am because it goes back to my roots,” Noé tells Atwood Magazine. “Not only does it mention something super personal to me, it’s also in my first language, refers to traditions and has beautiful live strings played by Hannah [Epperson] adding to the vulnerability.”

Est ce que tu m’as vu
te passer la fève sous la table
Si je deviens reine c’est pas comme ca
Moi je veux de l’or qui pèse
Donne des maux de tête
Un dos bien droit
Un cœur qui bat
Est ce que tu m’as vu
te passer la fève sous la table
Noé © Claire Cali

Noé © Claire Cali

“La Fève” is a simple track that draws upon the classic nature of artists like Barbara and Françoise Hardy- just a piano, strings, and strong saveur français. It has the essence of socialising nonchalantly in a cafe or soaking up the light coming through the balcony doors of a Parisian apartment. It’s recognisable and endearingly timeless. 

“I’m a big fan of “Barbara” and listen to a lot more French classics than current top 40 French music,” Noé says of the inspiration. “I wrote this song at a time when she was pretty much all I was listening to so her sound and phrasing were definitely a great inspiration. After years of being too afraid and lacking the confidence to write and sing in French, Barbara made me want to try.”

Lyrically there’s an assertiveness that’s released through an understanding of one’s personality and intentions. Noé sings about wanting to be appreciated but only through hard work and earned pride. To feel like a queen comes with the strained emotions of headaches and beating hearts. It doesn’t come from mere luck. ‘Maman m’a dit que j’étais belle mais je ne la penserai jamais honnête’  she croons with sophistication. Mother told me that I was beautiful but I will never consider her honest. People can give you praise and compliments but it’s only when you feel that way yourself that you can believe them to be meaningful. 

J’avoue je rêve d’arabesques
de bouche baies inconditionnelles
Ce n’est pas très sain mais
J’ai besoin de vous

Noé graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2016, around that time self-releasing several singles including “Lady” – a sensual but tough electrically heated statement of female empowerment. “La Fève” is taken from the up-and-coming debut EP ibyNoé and maintains the writing approach of being true to the self. Recent releases, also featuring on the EP, are a mellow concoction of electronic indie and R&B, her smooth breathy vocals lounging upon a stylish, simmering ambience. But they touch on challenging issues with defiance and subtle humour/wittiness – the dealing with depression in “Color” and the self-deprecation of “Pity Party.” In “Puzzles,” an enticing, funk-fueled rhythm complements the narrative of being played and doing the playing when it comes to relationships.

Maman m’a dit que j’étais belle mais
Je ne la penserai jamais honnête
Ce n’est pas très sain mais
J’ai besoin de vous
Noé © Andrea Czarnota

Noé © Andrea Czarnota

While the question tu veux jouer?Do you want to play? – is incorporated into “Puzzles” for fun added personality, “La Fève” is Noé’s first song written completely in French and, in comparison to the rest of ibyNoé (although “i cheated on u” is soulfully acoustic), it’s stripped back and slower. As a result, there’s a wholesome intimacy that takes the listener to the roots of who Noé is. 

“I had no intention of having a French song on my EP, not because I didn’t want to but because I didn’t think I was capable of writing in French,” Noé tells Atwood Magazine. “When we wrote “La Fève,” it was truly a surprise and I just had to include it. I left France seven years ago to study in the US and now live in LA. Sometimes it feels like I left my roots and even betrayed them. It’s truly an unsettling feeling. So, to me, adding this French song shows that I might have left France but France never left me.”

Overall, a more rounded introduction is created – but one that’s more clearly understood in the context of the ibyNoé EP. By combining cultural traditions with her empowered mindset, “La Fève” is a sweet addition that represents Noé and how she’s doing things on her own terms. Stream the single exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and dive deeper into Noé’s art and artistry in our interview below!

Stream: “La Fève” – Noé

A CONVERSATION WITH NOÉ

Atwood Magazine: What inspired this song?

Noé: I’m a big fan of “Barbara.” I listen to a lot more French classics than current top40 French music. I wrote this song at a time when she was pretty much all I was listening to so her sound and phrasing were definitely a great inspiration. After years of being too afraid and lacking the confidence to write and sing in French, Barbara made me want to try and Stint and Hannah Epperson created the safest space for me to do so. It turned out to be a pretty effortless song to write! The lyrics from “La Fève” come from wanting recognition and people’s approval, but only through hard work.

What is its significance on your ibyNoé EP?

Noé: This song feels like a raw-er sneak peek into who I am because it goes back to my roots. Not only does it mention something super personal to me, it’s also in my first language, refers to traditions and has beautiful live strings played by Hannah adding to the vulnerability.  And tbh, there was not much playing around with melody and words during the writing of “La Fève.” I was so unsure of what to do, that I just went with the first words that came through my mind and the first melodies. I’m so glad we kept the vox sounding raw, because this song is like a precious voice memo to me. Like a reminder of where I’m from.

How does this EP play into your repertoire, and how do you feel it defines your artistry?

Noé: This EP is so much of who I am as an artist but especially as a person. Lyrically, it’s as honest as can be, and sonically I’d like to think that it shows i don’t limit myself to one specific genre. I find inspiration in so many different artists and random things in life, i hope that translates in this EP. I’d love to be defined more by my point of view and lyrics rather than by my sound because it’s constantly evolving. I hope this EP leaves the listeners both wanting more and unsure of what to expect next.

Why include one song in French?

Noé: “La Fève” was pretty much a last minute addition. I had no intention of having a French song on my EP, not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t think I was capable of writing in French. Even if French is my first language, i’ve always felt more comfortable writing songs in English. So when we wrote “La Fève”, it was truly a surprise and I just had to include it. I left France 7years ago to study in the US and now live in LA. Sometimes it feels like I left my roots and even betrayed them. It’s truly an unsettling feeling. So to me, adding this French song shows that I might have left France, but France never left me.

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ibynoé - Noé

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📸 © Claire Cali

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Francesca Rose

Francesca is a London-based writer who considers music a form of storytelling. She's fascinated by the connections that songs can form, whether it's relatable lyrics or the personal associations a sound conjures up.