Olivia Ruiz

Le Femme Chocolat

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Olivia Ruiz rose to fame in 2001 as a contestant on the first edition of the TV reality show Star Academy, the French equivalent of American Idol. Subsequently, Ruiz exploited her popularity to secure a record deal and pursue a solo career. Certainly, her Star Academy background has been both a curse and a blessing for Ruiz. On the one hand it allowed her to become a recording artist; on the other it made her immediately suspicious to critics and music lovers, because of the dubious musical merits of such shows. It is thus an unexpected and pleasant surprise to realize than in her solo albums Ruiz is firmly bent in disowning the Star Academy stigma, enthusiastically embracing instead the French chanson genre. More surprising still is the fact that she actually fully succeeded in her goals with the release of her second album, La Femme Chocolat. A marked improvement, both artistically and commercially, over her 2003 debut, J'aime Pas l'Amour, La Femme Chocolat sold over a million copies and turned Ruiz into one of the best-paid French female singers of her generation. Part of the album's success is doubtlessly due to the contributions from other talented French songwriters, such as Dionysos' Mathias Malzieu (who wrote three tracks, including the one that gives the album its title), Têtes Raides' Christian Olivier (who also sings on his "Non-Dits"), Tryo's Christophe Mali, and Juliette. While this multiplication of strong authorial voices renders it somehow difficult to ascertain Ruiz's own personality, it certainly keeps the record interesting, also because Ruiz is still more of a witty interpreter than a great singer, in a French café-concert tradition. Similarly, there is great stylistic variety in this album, from rock to flamenco, and Ruiz also sings a number in English and two in Spanish. At its core, however, La Femme Chocolat remains rooted in chanson française: the vals and musette of the 1930s, and the acerbic character sketches of Georges Brassens, as in for instance "Thérapie de Groupe," "La Petite Valse de Narbonne Plage," and "La Petite Voleuse." While hardly a revelation, Olivia Ruiz is a pleasant new addition to the French female singer scene, and La Femme Chocolat a consistently entertaining album.

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