To describe Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s voice is to picture touch. When she speaks, as when she sings, her voice slides like a gentle, warm current lapping the tiniest pebbles of a deserted beach. Her voice is not the sound of waves, swelling only to roll back as swiftly, but the sound of tender sensuality. Naturally, Bruni’s sixth album, out on October 9, is about love. The woman who married former French President Nicolas Sarkozy after a whirlwind romance, comments, “I think love is a very good material not only for life but also for writing songs.”
Bruni has written her life like a wonderful mélange of beauty and adventure. With her feline features, she reigned as one of the Supers during the Eighties and Nineties, storming runways for Versace, Chanel, and Yves Saint Laurent. Her life is also impulse, instinct, and drive. Today, the self-taught composer and musician feeds all this into her music. “My greatest professional challenge is to be, at the same time, completely intimate in my music and also in my way to sing the songs; and, at the same time, I would like to touch as many people as I can.”
She considers a long list of musical influences, from French singer Barbara to Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Ornella Vanoni, and Umm Kulthum, who she discovered as a young girl growing up in Italy. A songwriter, her poetic references are equally eclectic if not somewhat haunting: Charles Baudelaire, William Yeats, Emily Dickinson, and Sylvia Plath. “What dominated my life was melancholia and happiness; my life was definitely dominated by emotions,” she shares. “My thoughts on melancholia are very special because I find it a pleasant feeling. I don’t think it’s grief or pain or incredible sorrow; it’s a slight sadness that makes you happy.” Her songs, which are accompanied by gentle instrumental rhythms, oscillate through various time periods. “Rien de l’extase” and “Un grand amour,” songs about desire, life, and love, are the two she identifies with the most. “It’s not autobiographical, but the songs are related to my deep feelings,” she shares.
Not one to rest on her laurels – or on her five million records sold since launching her musical career with the album Quelqu’un m’a dit in 2002 – last November, in the dark and in silence, accompanied only by her piano, guitar, pencil, and book, she waited for the songs for her sixth album to “come to her.” By June, she had finished writing and proceeded to record the album in six days. Bruni next started teasing the eponymous album on her
Instagram to her half a million followers. Wearing her signature blue jeans, she sings, “Il nous arrive un grand amour…” into a microphone, her hands clasping, eyes closing. “I do have an onstage persona. I have to invent someone called Carla Bruni,” she smiles, adding that her most memorable performance to date was singing at a concert in celebration of Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday in 2009 – “the image of peace, freedom, and kindness.” The performance in New York punctuated her time as first lady of France from 2008 to 2012, a period she refers to as “interesting, exceptional, and a little scary.” Though Bruni seemingly became known around the world overnight due to her position, in her circles of music and fashion she was well-established. Today, associated out of friendship with many fashion houses, she lauds praises on designer Hedi Slimane of Celine. “It’s been years that I like his work,” she shares. “He designs exactly what I want to wear. He’s a fantastic artist, incredible photographer, a strong and different person. He’s laid-back and has something that I like in people – he has a lot of mystery. I like people who are secret people and Hedi is like that.” So is Bruni. At least, that’s what her voice and album appear to reveal.
Originally published in the October 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia