Off to new territory with real human models.
Today, one of my obsessions of the moment, Stacey Kent and her Venus du Mélo.
First off, without sounding too patronising (considering her award winning status and my… non-award winning one) I must say I am impressed at her (almost) flawless French accent, nailing the harder vowels so convincingly (especially the ‘eux’ ‘on’ and ‘ain’) in La Venus du Mélo as well as in her other songs in her album Raconte moi… (2010) . Indeed, I was surprised to find out that she was an American with no French heritage but it seems that her success worldwide, singing for instance in Ronnie Scotts and winning numerous Jazz awards means that I’m not the only one who agrees. The fact that she recorded an all-French album is a daring yet unsurprising move considering how well she pulls it off.
La Venus Du Mélo is not only particularly catchy but has a sprinkle of humour among the sultry swing of her voice. As some of you know, the Venus de Milo is one of the most famous ancient Greek statues, an armless woman believed to depict the Goddess Aphrodite, dating back to around 100BC. Now, the lyrics say ‘I am the Venus of Mélo’ , ‘Mélo’ referencing to melodrama and the play on words with ‘Milo’ suggesting that she will be a stone-like, armless goddess of love ‘ce soir’- her partner’s out of luck!
The Venus de Milo, at the Louvre.
Along with La Venus, I also love ‘Les Eaux de Mars’ which although isn’t her own (1) is the best interpretation I’ve heard so far (I have scoured Spotify and Youtube and have heard various English, French and Portugese versions and none come near hers in my opinion) which is delightful in its stream-of-consciousness-like lyrics and bossa-nova swing (thanks Jobim). The quality of this recording is also, I believe, thanks to the incredible musicians playing with Stacey Kent throughout her whole album, a truly exquisite arrangement, including her husband Jim Tomlinson on the soprano sax. There is a clarity yet smoothness in Kent’s tone and articulation and a breathy and seductive nonchalance -which she unfortunately doesn’t quite manage to duplicate in her English version to the same extent (2)- which really makes the recording unique and enthralling.
Tell me what you think
(1) ‘Aguas de Marco’ (1972) by Brazilian composer Jobim (who wrote both the English and Portuguese versions which were tremendously popular) and translated into French by Georges Moustaki, a well-known french songwriter (who wrote songs for Piaf (Milord!!), Dalida, Francoise Hardy, Yves Montand and other colossal names in French culture) and fab looking singer who also had a steamy 1 year romance with Piaf.
(2) Although I personally like the English lyrics much less, which may make this judgement biased.