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Culture

France's Glamorous First Lady Releases New Album

After weeks of hype and breathless anticipation, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's new album, offered free online this week, hits stores in France and much of Europe Friday, June 11. Critics are split on the first lady's croonings.

Carla Bruni

Bruni has vowed to continue with her songstress career despite her marriage to Sarkozy

She may have captivated heads of state, won over the French who are traditionally blasé about their politicians' private lives and helped lift her husband's sagging approval ratings.

But can France's first lady and model-chanteuse who married President Nicolas Sarkozy in February this year after a whirlwind romance pull off another coup when her latest album officially hits the stores on Friday?

The 40-year-old Italian-born millionairess has certainly been doing her best to keep a hold on French heart strings with a mixture of modesty, easy elegance and nonchalance.

Drug song stirs controversy

Helped by a high-wattage publicity machine supervised by her husband's aides and a stream of promotional interviews in which she has demurely said she would "understand" if the French public scorn her album because of her marriage to Sarkozy, Bruni has said she is not planning a tour to promote the album and will donate all royalties to charity

This week, she surprised many by putting the album online for free -- for listening only.

Called "Comme si de rien n'était" (As if Nothing Had Happened), the album, Bruni's third, contains 14 tracks in a mixture of rock and blues, French chanson and guitar-based folk. Bruni composed and wrote most of the songs. One, "Ma came" (My Drug) in which she mentions "Colombian White" has already caused controversy in Colombia.

"From the mouth of the wife of the French president, this statement is very painful for Colombia," Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said recently. Colombia produces more than 80 percent of the world's cocaine.

Bruni and Sarkozy

Bruni has declared undying love for the dimunitive French president

The French media has largely heaped praise in particular on the album's torrid lyrics. For instance, "Ta Tienne" (Yours), is a clear declaration of love to Sarkozy.

“You are my lord, you're my darling, you're my orgy . . . my charming Prince I am yours . . . I who always sought fire, am burning for you like a pagan woman," Bruni sings.

Schmaltzy lyrics

But not everyone is enamored by the album. Media reaction in Britain, where Bruni was praised for her good looks and clothes and reportedly even charmed the Queen on a state visit in March with Sarkozy, was largely derisive.

In a review headlined, "First Lady of Schmaltz," The Independent called Bruni's latest musical offering "simpering" and "weedy."

The Guardian said the listener may have trouble separating the memory of the elegant presidential wife on show in London from the singer expounding on multiple lovers and alluding to cocaine.

"The hardest part about listening to Carla Bruni's new album is somehow erasing from your memory that woman in the demure, dove-grey Dior coat, flat shoes and little black hat who had us all swooning back in March," its reviewer wrote.

There were dissenting voices in France too. Le Nouvel Observateur, the leading left-wing news weekly, called the album pretty but trite, uninspired and boring.

Marianne, an influential French political news weekly, last week slammed what it called the "Carla overkill," comparing Bruni with Marie-Antoinette and the excesses of the 18th-century Versailles court.

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