The Spinners

Comme si de rien n’était (Carla Bruni, 2008)

In Frances Mae Ramos, French, Pop, Summer Albums on April 13, 2010 at 7:48 am

If only for grand pretensions I find myself listening to Carla Bruni.

Two things: one, heady love affairs soundtracked by scandalous metaphors such as narcotics, a literary ploy to discourage bromides in grocery store fare such as “I’m crazy about you” or “you got me messed up”; and two, a languorous outing with the French language that would bait hopeless romantics.

Bruni’s French wording may be too much of a Gallic bramble, and I wonder how she fits all those in without drowning out the thin ambient sounds of her guitars. But to a French language learner it’s a gold mine of poetic outbursts you can randomly court bar room strangers with—that is, if you’re Carla Bruni, first lady of France, former supermodel, and chiseled cigarette-intellectual confection.

But she begs to be treated like a normal human being whose taste for love—the universal language of soaring record sales— overruns a rather intellectual background. For Bruni is no ditz, and it sounds like she doesn’t want to be Sarkozy’s lump of candy to be doled out as needed in the boudoirs of Champs-Élysées. This first lady has a voice, and if it breaks before she finishes a verse, it’s because, going by her run-on lyrics, she probably needs a pause for breath to transmit her thoughts.

That and she must have written these tomes with the dregs of a rather turbulent (at least for the paparazzi) string of affairs. If there were Mick Jaggers, philosophers, and philosophers’ sons in your relationship CV at some point, all that secondhand smoke from your past might just make you choke on the emotions you sing. She comes out all the more genuine for not sustaining her notes in this album, as if it’s an unwarranted slip of forgiving relationship errors.

Bruni’s third album, Comme si de rien n’était (As if Nothing Had Happened), flows breezily. It does not beg to be translated into a punitive reordering of sense and meaning. She has been transparent enough, hence her venture into taboos. Colombia decried having figured in the track “T’es ma came” (You are my Drug), as a source of the meth that stirs illusions, restlessness and withdrawal, the symptoms of desire surfeit. Is there really a better way to say “I want you and I could shoot you up my veins because you alter my mind”? We are thankful she offers us an alternative phrasing in a language so unforgiving and yet delicate.

Most of the tracks are a plausible banter for the trappings of love in a worldly, political setting. It’s impossible to sift through the nuances armed with elementary French, and most listeners will be content lounging and picking the personality that wades in the ditties, asserted with rhythmic guitar strums and insinuated by the stealth of xylophones and keyboards. Moreover, don’t expect her to sound jaded. For it seems most of the tracks refer to a kind of paradise exclusive only to a woman who is capable of articulating feelings as if she hounds the same Parisian haunts of existentialists. Oh well, compared to us she’s more dreamy, and maybe infinitely more lovable.

– Frances Mae Ramos

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