Mundial Corrida

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It's doesn't seem so long ago that Faudel was the great young hope of rai music, the heir apparent to Khalèd's crown. But he's been moving away from that, placing himself more in the mainstream of French music, to the point where this album contains only one real rai track -- and that's mixed with R&B.; "Aya," a duet with Sara Kaddour, is fair, but nothing earth-shattering. Elsewhere the music veers from the slightly exotic, string-drenched "Elle Chante Pour Moi" to "Mon Pays," a fairly powerful rock-pop piece that made it to number one in France. There are touches of Mediterranean sun, and the brooding punk spectre of "Alger-USA," possibly the best and most satisfying piece on here. Faudel has come a long way, and he's certainly cemented his commercial success. This might not be the best thing he's ever done musically, but lyrically he does address some issues that have proved thorny to many in France: what it means to be a French Algerian. With rioting and immigration still fresh in the nation's mind, that's an important topic, and gives plenty of weight to a disc that might just be pop music otherwise. [An "Edition de Noel" was released on December 26, 2006.]

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