May 3, 2005By Heidi EllisonWhat's New Art & Culture

New Chanson Française

Juliette, once the French Harry Connick, Jr., has struck out in new musical directions. Photo: Lisa Roze

Juliette Noureddine, better known as Juliette, made her name by singing in the tradition of French chanteuses like Edith Piaf and Fréhel – at the beginning of her career, she was something of the Harry Connick, Jr. of la chanson française. On “Mutatis Mutandis” (Universal/Polydor), her fifth album, she moves away from that musical ghetto, although the album does feature one pleasing accordion-backed music hall-style number, “Les Garçons de Mon Quartier,” and she demonstrates her ability to achieve a dramatic Piaf-style catch in the voice and throaty rolling r’s on the song “La Braise.”

But even these songs are not interpretations of old standards; Juliette has written the words and music for all the songs on the album, with the exception of the “Franciscæ Meæ Laudes,” an adaptation of a Charles Baudelaire text in Latin. She seems determined to revive Latin, by the way – each song is accompanied by a Latin quotation, thoughtfully translated on the liner notes.

Many of the songs have a humorous touch, like “Maudite Clochette!,” in which a maid is driven mad by her mistress’s bell-ringing and plans to murder her, and “Mémère dans les Orties,” a duet with actor François Morel in which an engaged couple’s argument deteriorates into vicious name-calling. Others have a more somber edge, like “Il S’est Passé Quelque Chose,” about a terrorist attack. Juliette is also branching out musically, with Arab rhythms on “L’Ivresse d’Abhu-Nawas” and a Latin beat on others.

Unabashedly overweight, Juliette doesn’t hesitate to wear glasses and dress up in outrageous costumes. With her strong, assertive personality and musical talent, she’s an original on the French music scene.

Heidi Ellison

© 2005 Paris Update

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