Edward Snowden starts his music career with a techno song about privacy

French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre travelled to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden and collaborate on a 'hectic, obsessive techno track' about big data and 'the manhunt for this one young guy by the CIA, NSA and FBI.'

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden collaborates with iconic French EDM producer Jean-Michel Jarre on new track

French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre travelled to Moscow to film the music video for his new song with Edward Snowden. Called 'Exit,' Jarre described the collaboration as a 'hectic, obsessive techno track' about big data and 'the manhunt for this one young guy by the CIA, NSA and FBI.' (Jean-Michel Jarre/YouTube)

Nearly three years after rocking the world with his unprecedented leak of documents about classified, top-secret government surveillance programs, Edward Snowden is finally making his dance music debut. 

Hey, weirder-sounding things have happened on the musical front.

But before you start calling the NSA whistleblower an EDM beat-dropper, it's important to note that Snowden isn't just up and abandoning his information privacy work to become a recording artist. 

He'd be off to a good start if he were, though, with one of the genre's most-accomplished producers on his side.

French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre on Friday released his 15th studio album, Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise after months of media hype surrounding both Jarre and the myriad people featured in his brand new tracks.

Part two of a project based on collaborations, the album features about 15 different artists from a wide range of musical genres – American pop star Cyndi Lauper, British singer Gary Numan, French musician Sébastien Tellier, Canadian electronic artist Peaches and German composer Hans Zimmer among them.

And if you don't stand up for it, then who will?- Edward Snowden on the Jean-Michel Jarre track 'Exit'

While some of the album's guest-stars do activism work in addition to being performers, Snowden appears to be unique in that he's the only collaborator without any sort of musical background.

According to Jarre, who went to great lengths in his efforts to contact Snowden about recording a song, that choice was intentional.

"Edward is an absolute hero of our times," he told the Guardian in April after news of their partnership broke. "When I first read about him, it made me think of my mother ... She joined the French resistance in 1941, when people in France still thought they were just troublemakers, and she always told me that when society is generating things you can't stand, you have to stand up against it."

"The whole Electronica project is about the ambiguous relationship we have with technology: on the one side we have the world in our pocket, on on the other, we are spied on constantly," he continued. "It seemed quite appropriate to collaborate not with a musician but someone who literally symbolises this crazy relationship we have with technology."

With Snowden in mind, Jarre wrote what later became their song Exit – a "hectic, obsessive techno track" about big data and "the manhunt for this one young guy by the CIA, NSA and FBI," according to Jarre.

He reached out to the Guardian asking if they'd put him in touch with the former CIA contractor, and a connection was eventually made with the help of Snowden's solicitor.

After a 90-minute conversation between Jarre and Snowden on Skype, the process was in motion. Vocals were recorded long distance, but footage for the song's music video was filmed in person when Jarre travelled to Moscow.

As you can see by watching the music video itself, Snowden doesn't actually sing on Exit. Instead, he recites a monologue set (and at times twisted around) Jarre's driving, frantic beats.

Jean-Michel Jarre and Edward Snowden explained how their new song, Exit, came about in a YouTube featurette ahead of the track's release. (Jean-Michel Jarre/YouTube)
"Technology can actually increase privacy," he says at one point in the song. "The question is: Why are our private details that are transmitted online, or why are private details that are stored on our personal devices, any different than the details and the private record of our lives that are stored in our private journals?"

"What may not have value to you today may have value to an entire population ... an entirely people ... an entire way of life tomorrow ... and if you don't stand up for it, then who will?" he says sternly near the end of the song before repeating the last phrase.

"And if you don't stand up for it, then who will? ... And if you don't stand up for it, then who will?"


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