The inimitable songstress on releasing an eponymous album that explores the nature of melancholy, living life with hope and the art of letting go
The softly spoken chanteuse Carla Bruni is a somewhat larger-than-life evocation of femininity whose life trajectory makes for a formidable curriculum vitae, taking into its sway heiress to a motor industry fortune, supermodel, singer/songwriter, tireless philanthropist and, of course, former first lady of France. Given her rather enviable status (one decade ago, she was ranked by Forbes as the 35th most powerful woman in the world), it is refreshing to find her a charmingly modest and down-to-earth character, brimming with an infectious exuberance that translates even over a long zoom call (given the fact that everyone at this point in the global pandemic is long over digital connection). We are speaking upon the eve of the release of her eponymous new album – a characteristically upbeat, somewhat whimsical and folksy musical offering that is, paradoxically, full of existential, and, at times, dark lyricism that muses quietly upon the nature of desire and mortality. Here, the songstress, who cites Baudelaire among her literary influences, talks to us about the true nature of love, accepting the temporal nature of reality, and the art of finding happiness in an age of anxiety.
The record feels very much like a meditation on the nature of love…
I always had a great tendency and addiction for love, like most human beings – you know what I mean? We all need love, and I always knew it was important, but what happens with ageing is that you realise there is really nothing else. I’m not only talking only about romantic love or sexual desire, but any kind of love – for friends, your family, animals… love for nature. There is really just being, and creating links with the things we love, and the people we love, and all other things are sort of minor in comparison, when you really look at it. There’s nothing higher, right? There’s nothing stronger. There’s nothing that is better even for health. If you get a disease, and if you get ill, then it is better with love – it’s easier; you recover faster. And it’s also better to die with love. Love is a major colour of a life.
Why do you think romantic love is so often possessive in nature?
It’s difficult, because at the beginning of love, one feels like possessing someone. It’s actually the sign – I wouldn’t say the sign of love – but the sign of falling in love. That feeling that there is something unique about the other person, and that when they are not there, the whole world is empty. That’s the sign when you’re falling in love. That’s the way it is. Possession is part of desire, but I believe that love is actually about letting go. First of all, possession is impossible, and it’s not even sexy. What’s the point to own someone – it’s ridiculous, right? It’s untrue. Nothing can stop someone from leaving. You can’t possess someone. There’s nothing we can really control.
The album feels very reflective at times – what does melancholy mean to you?
I find beauty in melancholy. It has a dark side, but to me, melancholy is sort of like a luxury feeling – it’s feeling the pleasure to be sad and tender; not the pain, not something that ruins you, not something that makes you lose your balance. Not that kind of thing. If you really get sad, then you can’t write anything about it – there’s nothing you can say, there’s nothing you can solve, and that’s the sign of sadness and depression, and danger. Melancholia is closer to beauty, and should be something that doesn’t bring you down, but just inspires you
How do you hope people will receive this record given the backdrop of a global pandemic?
I hope they receive the record the way I wrote it, because it was a shelter for me during this time. So, I hope it brings them sweet times when they’re just home or in the car, or whatever. I feel like my dream is to get close to people, as if I were seated at their dinner table. I believe that this pandemic is going to go and that we’re going to find a remedy, and go back to living, with all our sins and our imperfections. It’s difficult not to have hope in life. The song “Un Ange”, for example, is about the despair of life and the idea that there might be guardian angels. It’s difficult to renounce the magical and mysterious completely – we sometimes meet our angels, and sometimes maybe we are angels for someone else.
As someone who has been so involved in forwarding women’s rights across the globe – what do you think about contemporary feminism?
I believe the feminism of my mother was another kind of feminism, all about defending a woman’s rights, but this strong new feminism talks more about predators and victims and how you can denounce something if it happens to you, and that you shouldn’t be ashamed. The problem with abuse and rape is that the victim feels guilty, for some reason – so, the good part of the #metoo movement, to me, is the fact that it takes the sense of guilt away, and maybe now a woman anywhere in the world knows that if something happens to them, they can say, stop, you’re not going to do this, and they have an army behind them.
Carla Bruni is released October 16 on Universal Records