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Carla Bruni

07/29/08 7:55AM By Mike Martin
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(HOST) The First Lady of France is also a pop star who's just released a new album with some racy lyrics about her new love, President Sarkozy. Commentator Mike Martin has been listening to the CD and thinks some critics have missed the point.

(MARTIN) My French sister-in-law still remembers the moment when she found out that Carla Bruni was going to become First Lady of France. She was walking down the street and saw a huge tabloid cover showing the French President posing with his new fiancée, the famous Italian heiress, top model, and pop singer, Carla Bruni. My sister-in-law says she was so shocked that she stopped dead in her tracks, mouth agape, while her fellow Parisians bustled past her on the sidewalk.

And now that President Sarkozy's wife has released a racy new album, my sister-in-law isn't the only one who's unsure how to react to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. One song on the album entitled Tu es ma came, or "You Are My Dope," provoked a formal complaint from the Colombian government, which protested the First Lady's reference to "Colombian white" in the lyrics. But this isn't like when Eric Clapton sang about cocaine as if it were a woman; here the drug is a metaphor for the mind-blowing nature of love - the same way poets have described love's intoxication for centuries. And with words like "abyss," "swoon," and "aroma," Carla has borrowed directly from the sonnets of the great French poet Charles Baudelaire.

Carla knows her poets. On her last album she interpreted works by Yeats, Shelley, and Emily Dickinson. This time she worked from a poem by France's current literary bad boy, Michel Houellebec. She also does a Bob Dylan cover called "You Belong to Me," which mentions the Nile and the Pyramids, the very places where she was first photographed on a romantic trip with the President, now her husband.

But some reviewers may have missed the point of the album's poetry. For example, much has been made of Carla singing the word orgie, but in French the word usually means "feast" - especially when it shares a verse with words like "sacred bread" and "Lent." And, in the same song, some reviewers found the singer's offer of her body, her soul, and her "chrysanthemum" to be an erotic metaphor. Maybe so, but in France the chrysanthemum is a symbol of death, so Carla might have meant something else too.

And death, time, and nostalgia are themes that run throughout her new album and lend a depth to the love songs that we don't often encounter in pop music. The title of the album and at least one of its songs are tributes to her brother, who died two years ago. The track Je suis une enfant ("I Am a Child") is based on a Schumann theme she loved as a child.

So, sure, Carla Bruni's new record is pretty steamy, and it's funny to think of President Sarkozy as the muse for Carla's breathy vocals and passionate love talk. But, despite the scandal, Carla's songwriting and erudition prove that she's way more than just a trophy wife.

I guess the French agree: Carla's album is Number 1 on the charts. And the best part is that she's donating all the profits to charity.
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