Review of: Simply (Comme si de rien n'etait)
By HELEN BROWN, The Daily Telegraph | July 10, 2008
Carla Bruni's new album, "Comme si de rien n'etait" ( "As if nothing happened"), will be sold internationally as "Simply." On it, she sings of her love for her husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, and much more. A song-by-song review is below.
"Ma Jeunesse" The Premiere Dame may have a colorful past, but her music has always been as classically chic and subtly sexy as her Christian Dior wardrobe. The supermodel-turned-chanteuse has been worried that her left-leaning fan base might desert her now she's married to the right-wing French president, so the album's title is literally a plea for them to treat her Comme Si De Rien N'Etait (As If Nothing Has Happened).
And she opens her third album with a simple, low-heeled piano waltz. Now 40, she sings a rueful farewell to youth. The melancholic melody and mournful brass solo recall the Beatles' "For No One."
"La Possibilité d'une île" Pushing her independent, intellectual credentials, Ms. Bruni has set an extract from Michel Houellebecq's novel "La possibilité d'une île" to music that sounds as if it's been lifted from the soundtrack to "Twin Peaks": all slow-motion xylophones and swirly guitars.
She gets the tone of detached despair and sinister dreaminess just right as she quotes breathily from France's literary bad boy (who tried his hand at rap before succeeding as a novelist). The hero of Houellebecq's novel is a middle-aged man who falls for a glamorous actress 25 years younger than himself.
Ms. Bruni is only 13 years younger than Mr. Sarkozy and, it is often joked, 13 inches taller.
"L'amoureuse" Ms. Bruni's romantic CV shows a taste for rich and successful older men: Ex-lovers include Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Donald Trump. Over elegant strings and a jaunty guitar line arranged by the dashing young chansonnier (and Catherine Deneuve's son-in-law) Benjamin Biolay, she gushes in praise of love and the moment.
"Tu Es Ma Came" "You are my drug. More lethal than heroin from Afghanistan and more dangerous than Colombian white," breathes Ms. Bruni on a bluesy little ditty that has upset Colombia's foreign minister, even though the South American country is still the world's largest producer of cocaine. Perhaps he was just defending the national product from Ms. Bruni's assertion that love was more addictive?
The song is said to have been written about Mr. Sarkozy. Before she began dating him, she had expressed a desire for a man "with nuclear power."
"Salut Marin" A gently plucked "au revoir," washed with "Betty Blue" harmonica and dedicated to Bruni's brother, Virginio, who died last year. She also has a sister, actress and director Valeria Bruni, who is critical of Mr. Sarkozy's politics.
"Ta Tienne" A flirtatious burst of flute opens this Latin-inflected declaration of love: "I, who used to make men dance, I give my whole self to you."
Since her 2002 debut, "Quelqu'un m'a dit," Ms. Bruni has established a vocal style that sardine-packs syllables into lines, running lyrical rings around her subjects without getting out of breath. Here she has fun playing with an impassioned "ta-ta-ta-ta tienne," which provides a new take on the phrase "Je suis à toi" ("I'm yours") by using a formula unknown in the French language: "Je suis ta tienne" ("I'm your yours").
"Péché d'envie" A pretty little song about envy. A recent book about Ms. Bruni and Mr. Sarkozy's whirlwind three-month romance, by respected journalists Yves Azeroual and Valerie Benaim (sanctioned by Ms. Bruni), describes a scene in which the former Guess Jeans model pointed at the double bed in the Elysée Palace before turning to female Justice Minister Rachida Dati, who is single, and snarling: "You'd have loved to occupy it, wouldn't you?"
"You Belong to Me" This Bob Dylan cover isn't Ms. Bruni's first time singing in English. On her last album, "No Promises," she set poems by W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, and Dorothy Parker to music. Born in Italy and raised in France by her concert pianist mother and industrialist/composer father, she is trilingual.
"Le Temps Perdu" Pavement café swing abounds here, as Ms. Bruni offers a lover cherries and roses, asking "make time for the gentle things..." She has said she hopes to cultivate a deeper love of culture in her tele-addict husband, whose musical tastes stop at Elvis Presley and his French equivalent, Johnny Hallyday.
"Déranger Les Pierres" There are shades of "The Windmills of Your Mind" in this slightly trippy and retro harp-backed ballad. Ms. Bruni's sultry delivery is in the breathily girlish soft-core tradition of Jane Birkin. The lyrics about mixing up rocks sound a bit, well, stoned.
"Je Suis Une Enfant" She may have inherited a tire manufacturing fortune, proved a true professional in the tantrummy world of modeling, made millions of her own, given birth to a son, and dated some of the world's most famous men but, "despite her 40 years and 30 lovers," Ms. Bruni still sees herself as a child. "I turn my back on time," she croons to a Schumann tune, "hair and skirt in the wind." Le Figaro's critic thought this was the album's best track and praised Ms. Bruni's "dense and fragile voice."
"L'antilope" "The future is unclear and the past is troublesome," sings Ms. Bruni, but the bouncy mandolin riff and breezy delivery says, "je ne regretted rien."
"Notre Grand Amour Est Mort" "Our great love is dead"? Surely it can't all be over for the couple who only married in February. Probably not, although Ms. Bruni still publicly disagrees with many of Mr. Sarkozy's policies, particularly the mandatory DNA testing of immigrants.
"Il Vecchio e il Bambino" Last year, Mr. Sarkozy called on the European Union to study "the possibility of taxing imports from countries that do not respect the Kyoto Protocol" ― the international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. This murky and moving cover of a Francesco Guccini song describes an old man telling a child of the grass fields that have now been replaced by smoking factories.