Mylène Farmer was born in Pierrefonds, Quebec Canada, a suburb (now borough) of Montreal, to parents from France; her family returned to France when she was eight.
She chose her stage name Farmer in homage to Frances Farmer.
She is very popular in French-speaking countries, and the only artist selling more than 1 million copies of each album in France. She is also a very big star in Russia, Ukraine and in the Eastern European Countries. Though she's virtually unknown in English speaking countries despite a collaboration with the British vocalist Seal on her song "Les mots".
She works together extensively with Laurent Boutonnat, who not only writes her music, but also directed the music videos for her songs and the movie Giorgino, in 1994.
Her best-known songs are "Désenchantée", "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces", "Libertine", "Les mots", "Rêver", "California", "Ainsi soit je", "L'Instant X", "Je t'aime mélancolie", "C'est une belle journée", "XXL", and "Sans contrefaçon".
She made her professional recording debut in 1984 with the song "Maman a tort", followed in 1986 by her first album, Cendres de Lune, which included the hit "Libertine". In France, her success was immediate.
The French Madonna
Farmer gained fame with songs featuring ambiguous or shocking lyrics, and somewhat explicit music videos: "Maman a tort" was about the love of a young girl for her female nurse in hospital. "Pourvu qu'elles soient douces" was about a man with an obsession for the buttocks of his lover, with hints of sodomy; the video, set in the 18th century, featured a caning. "Libertine" is said to feature the first nude appearance by a singer on a major music video. "Que mon cœur lâche" was about love with condoms in the age of AIDS; the video for the song features a scene in which God tells Jesus he won't send him to Earth as the last time was a disaster.
Her concerts and videos are often compared with those of Michael Jackson or Madonna ("Pourvu qu'elles soient douces" lasts 17 minutes, while "California" was directed by Abel Ferrara and cost $700000).
After the disappointing reception of Giorgino, Farmer moved to the United States for a while. She returned in 1995 with a new, more rock-like sound for Anamorphosée. Like her previous two albums, it sold over one million copies in France and was followed up with the album and DVD Live à Bercy.
Farmer returned to the spotlight again in 1999 with the album Innamoramento. This was a more subtle affair than the previous album, and the lead single "L'Âme-Stram-Gram", accompanied by a Chinese-themed video, topped the chart. This album contained the first songs written entirely by Farmer, one of them being the hit "Optimistique-Moi". The tour that followed, called the Mylenium Tour, was an enormous success from Paris to Moscow.
In 2000, she and Laurent Boutonnat wrote the lyrics and music for starlet Alizée's album Gourmandises and Mes courants électriques. Her hit "Moi...Lolita" reached the top of the charts all around the world, including Russia, Spain, Taiwan, Mexico, Italy, and Korea, and Alizée became the most successful French singer in the world.
In 2000, she recorded the song "L'Histoire d'une fée c'est..." for the animated film Rugrats in Paris: The Movie.
One year later, her first greatest hits was released: Les mots, which included a duet with Seal. This compilation remains the best selling compilation in France.
Avant que l'ombre...
In 2005, Farmer returned with a new single, Fuck Them All, which reached number two, and a new album Avant que l'ombre..., which hit number one and has already sold over half a million copies. She refused all requests for interview, and accepted only one television performance for this album, informing that what she had to say was in her songs.
She returned to the stage in January 2006 for 13 dates in Paris-Bercy, with the final date being January 29. Mylène stated that she could not tour the country due to the complex sets built for the performances. She will release a new live album, with a new concert DVD, Avant Que L'Ombre... a Bercy, in December.
In 2006, Farmer showed that she's still the queen of provocation in the video for "L'Amour n'est rien...", wherein she performs a showy striptease.
She has recorded a single with Moby, "Slipping Away (Crier la vie)", which was released in September 2006, and became her fourth number one single in France.