Ha! Belinda Carlisle has made the greatest of album of her career. And it’s in French.
Yeah, somebody sent us a CD and it was a big surprise: the singer from the Go-Gos tackles some of the the greatest hits of the French pop world in Voila. Sacred hipster pop like Serge Gainsbourg’s Bonnie et Clyde and chanson warhorses like La Vie En Rose. And from the first notes, it's very cool. And Belinda is very good; grown-up, with a deep voice that sounds like it's been oiled by lots of pastis, surprising gutteral growls, and only occasional lapses into Berlitz diction or Ronstadt-phonetics-by-the-numbers.
She sounds French. The band plays clean, classic Europop and features Brian Eno on keyboards (along with our favorite Irish accordion player, Sharon Shannon). It’s good living room music.
Now, you should know that French pop music is very big in the Tabloid Baby office. Gainsbourg, Jacques Higelin and Johnny Hallyday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Attitude all get play on the hard drive. But the real favorites are the spice girls like Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, Carla Bruni, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, Valerie Lamercier, Claudine Longet and Vanessa Paradis. Well, against all odds, add Belinda Carlisle.
We were never fans of the Go-Gos or any of that early Eighties LA powerpop. Belinda Carlisle always seemed chubby and squeaky. When the Tabloid Baby LA years began in earnest in the early Nineties, she lived down the road from us in Benedict Canyon, married to James Mason’s son, cleaned up into a lady who lunched. Later she got herself airbrushed and naked in Playboy and apparently moved to southern France.
Of course, Voila was recorded in London and she credits not only a “French Vocal Coach” but a “French Language Tutor” in the liner notes. But it all sounds like Paris, a nice cartoony version of France, as all good French pop music provides. And on the cover, she looks her age—slimmed and worn. All good. (The only unnecessary frill is a “bonus” 4-track disc in which she sings some of the same songs in English. She sounds better in French.)