DOWNLOAD: Carla Bruni, "At Last The Secret Is Out" (mp3)
Several years back, Carla Bruni, a beautiful and talented Italian model turned French chanteuse, enjoyed her Keren Ann moment: that kind of modest moment in the sun that beautiful, quite-talented French singers have become accostomed to. Her album Quelqu'un m'a dit found its way -- via the import bin, Amazon.co.uk, a shitload of blogs, and the usual file-sharing joints -- into the hands of American reviewers, who said enough nice things about it that her record company decided to give it a US release. It sold modestly, but she became well-known enough to guarantee that her next album would get a wider hearing. Unfortunately, by then the buzz had worn off: though her next album was sung in English, it was also a musical setting of obscure poetry (selected in consultation with her friend Marianne Faithful), which endeared her to classicists and NPR nerds but not many others, and that, in terms of an American bang, was that.
Recent events, however, have guaranteed that Bruni will get another look. The French papers reported over the weekend that Bruni is soon to wed Nicolas Sarkozy, the recently-divorced president of France. Bruni, with virtually no competition, would seem to be about to become the world's best-singing first lady, ever. (Sorry, Hilary.) A much smaller feat: she would also be the first First Lady ever to have sung a duet with Lou Reed. In France, that may actually still mean something.
Here's a question, though: provided Sarkozy proposes, would Bruni accept?
Back to Bruni's last album: the title was, "No Promises." (We reviewed it back in February.) The title comes from "Promises Like Piecrust," a Christina Rossetti poem that Bruni adapted for the album. Its opening verse:
"Promise me no promises,
So will I not promise you;
Keep we both our liberties,
Never false and never true;
Let us hold the die uncast,
Free to come as free to go;
For I cannot know your past,
And of mine what can you know?"
It is an odd song to consider Bruni singing now, since no one could imagine anyone other than Sarkozy on the other end of it. It's the kind of song you might sing to someone whose marriage proposal you are about to decline: "If you promised, you might grieve/For lost liberty again ... Let us be the friends we were/Nothing more but nothing less."
Cheap speculation, to be sure. Sarkozy's enemies have done much more with far less: When Sarkozy promised the French a break with France's recent past, he probably did not predict that the brave new world the country was entering would include song parodies based on his new girlfriend's music. If we spoke French, we might be able to tell you what these people are saying.Rumor of an impending marriage rendered even Bruni's official web page unavailable for comment: traffic left it crashed all day. Her MySpace page yeilded few clues: Bruni has only four top friends, none of them named Nicolas.