Carla Bruni

Comme Si de Rien N'Etait

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The title of Carla Bruni's 2008 album, Comme Si de Rien N'Etait (As If Nothing Had Happened), is a good joke. After all, since her last album Bruni fell into a whirlwind romance with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ended up marrying him and becoming the "First Lady" of France. That's a pretty big "something," and indeed it isn't often that the romance of a singer and a president is chronicled on record as it is here -- though you need to be fluent in French to catch the details, since only her cover of '50s pop classic "You Belong to Me" (which is a witty nod to a semi-scandalous trip the couple took to Egypt and other exotic locales before they were wed) is in English. You don't need to know exactly what's going on lyrically, because the intimate-sounding arrangements on the ballads and the light and breezy sound of the more uptempo tunes clue you in that there is romance in the air. Along with the nice arrangements, the best thing about the album is Bruni's intimate and sultry singing. She can purr like a Gainsbourg girl, strut sassily, or croon quite tenderly -- sometimes all within the same song. Most of the time she sounds like you always hoped a '60s French bombshell would sound but never quite did (think Bardot or Birkin). Not surprisingly, Bruni appears totally in control throughout the album, which could be down to her having written almost all of the songs herself, or could be down to her new position in the world. Whatever the reason, it makes for quite an improvement over her previous album, No Promises, and fulfills the promise of her charming debut, Quelqu'un M'a Dit. It is probably the best album released by a "First Lady," but beyond that, it's a pleasant, sometimes compelling album by a singer/songwriter with some stories to tell and a lovely way of telling them.

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