Nicolas Sarkozy is an atom bomb.
He’s tireless and charismatic, and sometimes mopes -- according to Carla Bruni, who happens to be his wife, and is releasing an album on April 1. In “Mon Raymond,” she openly pays tribute to the former French president.
Bruni’s album “Little French Songs” comes at an awkward time. Last week, Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation by judges probing claims that he took advantage of the mental frailty of L’Oreal SA heiress Liliane Bettencourt to raise money for his 2007 election campaign. The news casts a cloud over the album’s release.
Not that politics hadn’t come up even before. “Little French Songs” got advance coverage for its track “Le Pingouin” (“The Penguin”) -- about a wishy-washy guy with no manners and a puffed-up, penguin-like air.
Journalists saw it as a dig at President Francois Hollande, who avoided walking the Sarkozy couple to their car during the handover at the Elysee Palace. Bruni denied targeting Hollande.
The ex-First Lady -- who wrote most of the tracks -- sings in the breathy style made fashionable by singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. He penned tunes for Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Jane Birkin which he had them whisper, like sweet nothings, into the microphone. Their beauty made you forget their vocal limitations.
The same may be said of ex-model Bruni. Any schoolgirl could do her gentle cooing. The album is as relaxing as a quiet night in with a shared bottle of decent Merlot. It’s inoffensive, likeable, polite and curiously devoid of passion.
The instrumentation is tastefully restrained: gentle electric guitars with reverb, classy piano. There’s nothing to disturb that soothing bath before bedtime.
Bruni is better at lyrics, which reveal a brooding side to her personality. There are references to a “dreary childhood” (she grew up in a grand Italian household), to being “the fruit of chance” (she was born of her married mother’s adulterous affair), and to her “devilish youth” (she dated Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, among others).
Whether her husband’s legal troubles will help or hurt sales of “Little French Songs” is anyone’s guess. Rating: **.
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(Farah Nayeri and Mark Beech write for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
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