Carla Bruni’s latest album
Released on July 10th, “Quelque Chose” is Carla Bruni’s first new original song since her album Little French Songs seven years ago. In the meantime, the singer revisited a selection of international standards from a range of genres – from Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” to “Moon River” by Henry Mancini, popularized by Audrey Hepburn – in a collection titled French Touch, which was warmly welcomed by fans around the world. This project was successfully followed by an extensive international tour. But Bruni, whose talents as an authentic singer-songwriter were discovered 18 years ago, has never been long without her notebooks. She writes her songs by hand, a process that’s very important to her – she has an irrepressible need for this immediate contact between emotions and paper, and this passion shines through in the collection of songs on this new album. She wrote them in a slow process that accelerated into fruition over a few weeks last fall. Month after month, something rose, just like in the first song, “Quelque Chose”, that speaks about the awakening of some mysterious thing. At the end of the journey is a return to the very essence of the artist’s feelings and a naturally eponymous album. As always with Bruni, the songs speak about the eternal desire to love and the great adventure of our lives but they also reveal an innate sense of freedom and fantasy.
The eponymous album is the reflection of Carla Bruni herself, a wholehearted embracing of her true self. Always sensitive, with emotions on the surface at times, the music of the album’s 13 songs – 14 on vinyl and 17 on the collector’s edition – bears witness to a unique temperament and avoids ostentation. Through it we can sense a desire for a calm simplicity, free from glitter and arrogance. That’s probably because the production of these songs was planned well before anyone set foot in the recording studio. Guitar, piano, a bit of foot-tapping and fragments of melody are the foundation of all the tracks, recorded behind closed doors with Albin de la Simone, who produced the entire album. For his first collaboration with Carla Bruni, the multi-instrumentalist – one of the very best on the French scene in the past 20 years – was determined to give her new songs the most delicate treatment. The album was recorded live with the musicians in just six days. This was something new for Bruni, who swears she’ll never record any differently in the future, having enjoyed every single minute of her work with Albin and a small team of musicians.
This new album also represents Bruni’s furthest ventures into unknown territory. “Partir Dans la Nuit”, one of the most evocative songs, speaks of surreptitious travel. “Voglio l’Amore”, performed with her sister, actress Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, a slam with a subtle and infectious groove, also expresses a desire for exploration. What’s more, it’s the first song she has written in Italian. “I was born to Italian parents, but my grandmother on my mother’s side, who raised me, was French. I used to read mostly French books and poetry as they were my favorites. I didn’t have the confidence until now to write in Italian.”
Bruni also wrote her first song in English, “Your Lady”, about star-crossed love, that has something of a timeless classic about it. “Un Grand Amour” and “Un Ange”, odes to the magic of love, have the same charm. “When I write a song, I try and make it sound familiar, simple to the ear. I avoid complexity because it makes things seem artificial.”
In another first, the singer sat at the piano to compose “La Chambre Vide”, a song about a child’s departure from the family home. “It’s a song tinted with melancholy, a mother’s song with a rather nocturnal feel.” This ambiance is underscored by a very soulful electric guitar arpeggio that immediately brings Otis Redding to mind. Absence is again the theme in “Les Séparés”, a song composed by Calogero that is sure to pull at many a heartstring.
With “Le Petit Guépard”, a fable about a cheetah, Bruni mischievously reveals her playful side. “I write a song about an animal on each of my albums. After the antelope and the penguin, now it’s the cheetah… The idea came to me after I re-watched Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby, in which Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn wrangle two big cats, one of them tamed and the other wild.”
The album also contains two covers. “Le Garçon Triste” is a track that Bruni wrote for Canadian singer Isabelle Boulay a few years ago. “This song is precious to me – I sang it at every stop on my last tour.” The classical guitar arrangement by her loyal musician Tao gives another dimension to this intimate love song composed by Julien Clerc. The Spanish standard “Porque Te Vas” created by singer Jeannette in 1974 and then used two years later in the Carlos Saura film “Cria Cuervos”, is one of the first songs Bruni fell in love with as a child. “We recorded it fairly quickly the same day as four other songs, with a fast arpeggio similar to the one in Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right”.
“Rien Que l’Extase”, with arrangements that bring Morricone to mind, also reveals the album’s European feel. Like four other tracks, it was composed by Michel Amsellem, and highlights the singular contrast between light and dark in our lives.
Listening to the new manifesto, “Carpe Diem”, you can’t help but regain a strong sense of the present moment. And this is what’s so disarming about Bruni’s songs: the intimacy, the simplicity, in a spirit of freedom, friendship and love.