The first question I asked myself when faced with reviewing the new album from Carla Bruni was how to tackle reviewing a body of work sung predominantly in French when I don’t know speak the language, I have this issue though whenever I find myself listening to anything that goes beyond my language barriers. I might be getting the melody but am I getting the message and sentiments involved.
Then of course I find myself looking at Carla Bruni the public figure, a woman who has in no uncertain courted some levels of controversy during her life, a former model and now the wife of the French premier Nicolas Sarkozy who is no shrinking violet himself. Bruni’s musical career began in the late nineties and this is her third album entitled Comme si de rien etait (As If Nothing Happened).
A total of fourteen tracks which according to translation focus on the themes of passing time and the disappearance of youth (Bruni is 40, hardly ancient but maybe she’s having some kind of crisis). Vocally she adheres to certain cliched expectations of delivery in the French language, whether you speak the language or not there is something about songs sung in French with it’s seductive structures that is often strangely familiar, the tones are often breathy and surrounded in light acoustic shading which actually makes for pleasing listening. Her cover of ‘You Belong To Me’ (popularised most recently by Bob Dylan) is a picture of restraint and is an expected high point of the album for me. Elsewhere the music drifts in to playful territory with it’s hinted pianos and then a gentle slide into folk territory (on Je Suis Une Enfant and l’antilope respectively).
As a whole I was surprised at how well I got on with this album. Even without a direct translation it’s a body of work that works well in a downtempo chillout fashion (I’m not sure that was the intended market but for me that’s where it lands). Have a listen for yourself and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.