Belinda Carlisle's Voila!, her first new album in a decade, and her first record sung entirely in French, is a radical departure for the pop diva and lead singer of the Go Go's. Working with producer John Reynolds (U2, Sinéad O'Connor, Indigo Girls, Hothouse Flowers), Carlisle has fashioned a traditional pop album that pays tribute to the classic French chansons and pop music of the '40s, '50s and '60s. Just in time for Valentine's Day, the album is set for release on February 6, 2007.
"After I moved to France, I became familiar with the classic French chansons and a lot of French pop music," Carlisle explains. "I realized there was a whole world of artists and singers I was not familiar with. As I discovered all these amazing songs, I came to love this music and wanted to record some of them with a playful, contemporary feel."
Carlisle and Reynolds went into the studio with a musical dream team including Brian Eno on keyboards, guitarist Fianchna O'Braonain (Hothouse Flowers,) Sharon Shannon, the Irish button accordion player who incorporates reggae, tango and calypso into her music, Julian Wilson (Grand Drive) on piano, Hammond B-3, strings, keyboards and world music star Natacha Atlas (Transglobal Underground) on backing vocals.
"We wanted to try everything, no holds barred," Carlisle says. "Since this is not a pop project, we were free to experiment. We played with every song, trying all sorts of instrumentation and different styles of arranging and everything clicked. The only definite idea I had was that I wanted to sing with an accordion. Other than that, there was no conscious effort to cover as much creative ground as we could; we just played around with things and had a blast."
The creative energy Carlisle and Reynolds brought to the project is evident on every track. Carlisle's smoky vocals and the diverse arrangements imbue the songs with a simmering Gallic soul. "Sous Le Ciel De Paris (Under Paris Skies)" sounds like a street carnival waltz with its mournful accordion and eerie keyboard accents, Francoise Hardy's "Pourtant Tu M'aimes" gets recast as a new wave rocker, "La Vie En Rose" bounces along on a driving disco backbeat and "Jezebel" sounds like the twang-drenched theme song from a spaghetti western. Songs like "Ne Me Quitte Pas" and "Avec Le Temps" are closer to their original incarnations, wrenching emotional statements made more intense by Carlisle's understated delivery.
"You don't really have to know what's being sung to know that 'Avec Les Temps' is a devastating love song," Carlisle says. "When I heard that song the first time, it broke my heart." Carlisle's first venture into French music proves once again that good songs are universal - timeless expressions of the human soul that need no translation to work their exhilarating magic.