PARIS — She picked a planet for her stage name, but the 24-year-old pop singer Melissa Mars, who burst onto the French pop scene last year, still has her feet firmly planted on the ground. She arrives at the lounge of the Grand Hotel Intercontinental accompanied by her mother, who doubles as her manager.

Mars’ first album, “Et Alors,” sold an encouraging 20,000 copies in France, and plans for a Japanese launch are on the horizon. Her songs — like her hit, “Daddy Doesn’t Like,” about her absent father — are loosely autobiographical, but she sets her lyrics to a slick, Eighties-style techno beat, and French teens are lapping it up. Because of her small, girlish voice and slender silhouette, she’s often compared with the French star Vanessa Paradis, the singer and actress who is also the mother of Johnny Depp’s children.

This story first appeared in the June 28, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Born in Marseilles, Mars dabbled in acting until an encounter with composer François Berheim prompted her to change gears. “With movies, there’s too much waiting around and too many others calling the shots, ” she explains. “With my album, I’m the boss.” She’s currently at work on her second album, due in October, which will include songs in English.

While watching a cable fashion channel last year, Mars discovered her own fashion obsession: Chanel, in particular the fall 2003 rock ’n’ roll collection by Karl Lagerfeld.

“It was nothing like the Chanel image I had,” she says. The adoration is mutual — Chanel often dresses Mars for personal appearances.

Still, she has no ambitions to be the latest pop tart. Mars is driven to make her mark, like Serge Gainsbourg and his contemporaries did in the Sixties.

“Today’s artists are not provocative like they were then,” she says. “I hope I can make a difference.”

— Chantal Goupil

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