France's first lady proves she has the chops to craft compelling narratives and tunes
Carla Bruni's latest LP might just be the best album ever released by a president’s wife. The convergence of her music career and marriage to France’s Nicolas Sarkozy plays out on Comme si de Rien n’Était in miniature narratives of baroque-pop that inject vitality into chanson françiase, a genre buckling under the pressures of modernity.
There’s plenty of red meat for francophiles with folky meanderings like “L’Antilope,” which uses the metaphor of animals prowling the Serengeti to probe archetypal French-existential woes. It’s an ethos glimpsed again on “Tu es ma Came” ("You are My Dope"), a breezy tune that likens love to hash and opium. “You Belong to Me” is the only outright misstep, a half-hearted Dylan cover that gives a knowing nod to her whirlwind elopement with Sarkozy.
Bruni's music is steeped in the French tradition yet immediately accessible to non-Gaullic ears, which is why the album’s name, which translates to "As if Nothing Happened,” is clever artifice. Something is spurring the maturation in Bruni's sound. Her biography may be checkered, but it inspires her to strive for a spot in the folk canon: “It’s not easy / but it’s good nevertheless / whether I am cursed or damned / I am in equilibrium.”