Costello told Pop during a Rolling Stone Musicians on Musicians interview that the song was already partially inspired by Pop. Talking to Pop, he pointed out the title “shared one word and one letter with a famous song of yours [‘No Fun’], but nobody spotted where it was drawing from because nobody expects me to take a cue from you.”
The instrumental, which stayed the same for the French vocal cover, is built around call-and-response with a quirky guitar riff that could blend into either artist’s catalogue. It has a new wave tone but there’s an angry punk quality to it as well.
Pop kept one phrase from the song in English, the title drop during the chorus. Costello’s “No time for this kind of love/No flag waving high above/No sign for the dark place that I live/No God for the damn that I don’t give” was translated to “Trop-tard pour ce genre d’amour/No flag waving high above/Le vide d’un trou noir où je vis/Pas de dieu pour le damné que je suis.”
An animated lyric video reuses the drawings from the English video, just replacing the words with the translation. Eamon Singer and Arlo McFurlow put the videos together. The translation itself wasn’t done by Pop but by the wife of Costello’s keyboardist Steve Nieve, Murial Téodori and her son Antoine Jules Ulysse Quessada.
According to Pop, nobody official asked for the French dub, “It was just Elvis and [his wife] Diana [Krall] asking, ‘Do you want to sing this in French?’ And I thought, ‘Well, the French will be a big chore. I can do that.’” In 2012, Pop had released a largely French chanson album called Après.
He detailed the efforts he went to while practicing it, “There’s a uniqueness to the French language. No other language has vowels that sound like that. Learning a song that’s as quick as ‘No Flag’ took a month of practice because my lips weren’t used to those combinations…I [worked on it] for 40 minutes a day for about five weeks. You don’t want to do too much work on it at once or it’s not fun anymore.”
Costello was really happy with his performance, “You sound absolutely convincing in French,” he told Pop. “When I played your version to Muriel she said, ‘This is unbelievable. You’re so inside the song.’ Diana and I were both listening to it with tears in our eyes.”
Tonight, December 3, Costello participated in a live stream benefitting the David Lynch Foundation and transcendental meditation. He had recently curated a 50 Songs for 50 Days playlist on Spotify leading up to the U.S. Presidential election.
Pop has contributed vocals to several other covers this year. He started the year with a feature on a new version of Cage the Elephant’s “Broken Boy,” recorded a rendition of his Stooges song “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with Laurie Anderson and some others and took on Sly & the Family Stone’s “Family Affair” in April. Pop’s last solo studio album was Free in 2019.