Carla Bruni No Promises

Carla Bruni

No Promises

:. Genre: Folk/Chanson
:. Year: 2007
:. Country: France
:. Label: Naive
:. Official Site: Carla Bruni

After the success of her first album Quelqu'un m'a dit, the first question was when Carla Bruni would record in English and two, can she really sing? Well, her new album No Promises is not a mere translation of her first album á la Shakira. Instead, she worked with Marianne Faithfull, spent some time in Shakespeare & Company in Paris, and crafted a delicate, exquisite work in which she creates songs of poems by the likes of Emily Dickenson, W.H. Auden, Christina Georgina Rossetti, and W.B. Yeats. Not exactly a move to cash in on those cross-marketing dollars.

Yes, she's the ex-model and former girlfriend of Mick Jagger & Eric Clapton — blah blah blah — and yes, she can sing. Songs from her first album are still in heavy rotation on my IPod. On this album she purrs and hums and sings in a melancholy, sultry voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar whose notes don't veer too much from her first effort but nevertheless prove effective-the poems are so rich in and of themselves that there's no reason to mess around with complex arrangements.

No Promises kicks off with a few poems by W. B. Yeats. "Those Dancing Days Are Gone" is a great opener, coltish and accessible and depressing in a Tim Burton Corpse Bride kind of way, before moving on to "Before The World Was Made". She covers three poems by the always upbeat Emily Dickenson: "I Felt My Life With Both My Hands", "If You Were Coming in the Fall" & "I Went to Heaven". "Promises Like Pie-Crust" by Christina Georgina Rossetti sounds like a treatise on modern love while W.H. Auden's "At Last the Secret Is Out" and "Lady Weeping at the Crossroads" give the album an ethereal feel. The balance of male and female poets, as well range of themes (though death seems to be a constant) keeps her from sounding like she's trying to channel beloved poets into some whack version of "girl power".

Fans of French chanson and the god and goddesses of that movement, notably Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy & Jane Birkin, can look to a new generation of singers who carry their torch. Like singers Keren Ann and Coralie Clément, the very Parisian, very feline Carla Bruni is an alchemist, and by mixing chanson with some of the finest poets of the English language she's created her own category. She hasn't really been recognized stateside yet — the poems are too cerebral compared to what else is on the charts, so check out YouTube and listen.

  Anji Milanovic

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