Music and Politics Make Strange Bedfellows
|Some of the criticism of Bruni’s new album is politically inspired.|
Now that supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni is France’s First Lady, it is perhaps inevitable that much of the vitriolic criticism of her new album, Comme si de Rien n’Etait*, would be influenced by hatred for the political policies of her husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy, and she has admitted that she is hurt by it. Certainly, left-leaning newspapers like Libération have been leading the attacks. Moreover, references to the Colombian drug trade in one of the songs has almost sparked diplomatic incidents. Welcome to the hard-nosed political world, Mme. Bruni-Sarkozy.
Given that her first two albums were received very favorably (the first, Quelqu’un m’a Dit, sold 2 million copies worldwide), this third album nevertheless merits serious consideration, regardless of the singer’s personal and public circumstances.
Bruni has written eight of the album’s 11 original songs, with covers of Bob Dylan’s “You Belong to Me”** and Francesco Guccini’s “Il Vecchio e il Bambino,” and a musical arrangement of a Michel Houellebecq poem thrown in for good measure.
Compared with her first CD, which was charming for the simplicity of the guitar backing (most of it was recorded in her kitchen), Comme si de Rien n’Etait at times feels over-encumbered with background strings, tubas, vibraphones, flutes, electric pianos and horns. Some of the songs penned by Bruni still manage to retain a certain charm and directness, however. The first three songs – the lilting waltz “Ma Jeunesse,” the dreamy “La Possibilité d’une Ile” and the annoyingly catchy “L’Amoureuse” – get the album off to a propitious start. Bruni’s voice has a wonderful huskiness to it, which is at its most effective when allowed to flow naturally, but all too often she seems to feel the need to lapse into the girlish breathiness that mars the work of so many French female artistes.
The remaining songs, with the exception of the intensely moving “Déranger les Pierres,” in which she muses about death, do not maintain the same momentum, and in a couple of cases are simply embarrassing in their lack of melodic ideas. And, although “Salut Marin” (Hello Sailor) is about Bruni’s brother Valerio, who died of cancer last year, its impact is strangely muted.
Let’s hope that M. Sarkozy does not take the penultimate song, “Notre Grand Amour Est Mort” (Our Great Love Is Dead), too personally.
* To listen to the album for free, go to www.carlabruni.com/
** Reader David Platzer writes: Just about everyone in the press attributes “You Belong to Me” on Carla Bruni’s disc to Bob Dylan. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the song was written by Pee Wee King, Redd Stewart and Chilton Price in 1952 and covered by all kinds of artists in the years after. Perhaps it is just that nobody writing now is old enough to remember that the song was all over the airwaves in various forms during Bobby Zimmerman’s school days. Dylan covered the song but that is the extent of his responsibility.
© 2008 Paris Update