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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 April 2018

Soundtrack to my life: Matt Pokora

From Michael Jackson to film composer Hans Zimmer, the French pop star tells us about the songs that influenced him

Matt Pokora. Getty
Matt Pokora. Getty

Energetic French pop was part of the Dubai Shopping Festival last week, when Matt Pokora made an appearance at Le BHV Marais CityWalk. In addition to signing autographs, the 32-year-old took to the stage to perform tracks from his latest album My Way, including the 2016 hit single Cette année-là which topped the French charts.

The event marked the end of what is becoming a new holiday tradition for the star. “I celebrated New Year’s Eve here in Dubai last year also,” says Pokora. “I think this will be a new routine for me because it’s a great way to take time off after a busy year.”

Before heading back to France to start work on his ninth album and to plan a new world tour, with Dubai firmly in the frame, Pokora tells us about five songs which contributed to the soundtrack of his life.

A song that reminds me of my childhood Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson (1987)

I was about six years old growing up in Paris and I remember watching the movie Moonwalker starring Michael Jackson. I am sure a lot of singers said the same thing, but that dance scene in the 1930’s gangster club, where Michael did the moonwalk, that was everything for me.

That song and movie is what made me want to become a singer and entertainer on stage. I wanted people to feel the same way I did when I saw and heard that song.

A song that made me want to sing Get Down by Backstreet Boys (1997)

Part of the tradition in French schools is that there is always an end of year celebration with some performance involved. So, I was in my early teens, and for the school year I got a bunch of friends together and we got on stage and sang this tune by the Backstreet Boys. The crowd loved it and I remember I enjoyed it very much.

A song that changed my career Elle Me Contrôle by myself (2004)

This was my first hit. Looking back, I can understand why it was popular. I think the song brought something new to people’s ears. It was this French pop but mixed with cool Afro-Caribbean elements like dancehall. It was a weird mix that wasn’t heard on French radio before.

That song went to the top of the charts and everything changed for me.

A song I wish I wrote The Scientist by Coldplay (2002)

That was the first song I was able to play on the piano. It is a really beautiful song because of how deceptively simple it is. The song is simple melodically, but that’s only because it gives a lot of space for the singer to really deliver when it comes to the vocals and lyrics, to really effect the listener. That’s not an easy thing to do.

You need to be on top form when it comes to your voice and lyrics to pull this off and Coldplay did it here with this amazing song.

A song that makes me cry Now We Are Free by Hans Zimmer (2000)

This is from the soundtrack to Gladiator, that beautiful drama with the actor Russell Crowe. Now, the thing about Now We Are Free is not so much the total piece itself, but its melody by the composer Hans Zimmer.

It haunts me every time, because it comes at that moment of Russell Crowe’s final fight where he wants to win to set his people free but at the same time he wants to also die so he can join his family in heaven.

Zimmer captures that emotional struggle in such a way that it moves me to tears every time I see it.

Dubai Shopping Festival runs until January 27. See www.mydsf.ae

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