Remember the 80s? That decade dominated by bubbly pop or often synthesized keys? Or how about the highlighter colored clothing that threatened to temporarily blind you depending on how many clouds were in the sky? Well…it was also the time of tattoos decked out over hair metal artists. We’ve come a long way since then as in the past year and a half one particular artist combined keys, pop, and armfuls of tattoos-and carried away the award for Song of the Year by the French Grammys, Les Victoires de la Musique.
In all seriousness, those aforementioned elements should lead to mockery or disaster with one tugging attention away from the other. However, Béatrice Martin’s talent is undeniable from her gentle voice that cradles your ears in those headphones on “Le long du large” to “Fondu au noir”, with a piano line that betrays you. It leads you like a gloomy documentary, then her singing switches into a warmth akin to sunlight breaking through a tempest. It is that tremendously convincing talent that led Cœur de Pirate to reach #1 in digital album sales in France, win Québec’s New Artist of the Year Prix Felix award, and the recent nominations in the Victoires de la Musique and NRJ Music Awards.
“Comme des enfants”, winner of the 2010 Song of the Year Victoires de la Musique
Awards and accolades aside, Cœur de Pirate is a pop album with an acoustic guitar and piano that grounds undeniably well-crafted melodies with folk undertones. “Printemps” beings with a simple strumming of guitar strings while punctuated by the ivories. If you shift past Béatrice’s French, you’ll hear hints of a banjo care of David Brunet. “Francis” and “Intermission” follow up, a duo of songs that distinguish Béatrice as more than another piano-driven pop artist like Sara Bareilles or Vanessa Carlton. Alone without those flourishing strings that American pop loves to add, a poignant piano line is the sole accompaniment to her voice. It attests to the fact that sometimes, stripped down can tug more than inserting woodwinds and strings.
The beaming, expertly balanced effort continues with “Ensemble”, a single about disorder and discord in relationships and how “mon cœur” “meurt un peu plus à chaque instant”. Although it kills her with every disagreement, in French, you couldn’t tell with the trombone and trumpet marching like a town’s homecoming parade. Enfin, on “C’est salement romantique” come those orchestral embellishments of violins and cello. Yet it is the musical restraint shown throughout the album, focusing the lens on Béatrice and her piano, that makes it work as Julie Brunet, Kristin Molnar and Jean-Denis Levasseur lift that piano bench up closer to those parting clouds.
The 1950s slowdance guitare on “La vie set ailleurs”, and yes, a French accordion on “Berceuse” have all but been overshadowed in North America, despite the incredible accessibility and perfect pop melodies behind Cœur de Pirate’s debut album. Born across our border in Montreal, Béatrice Martin and her upcoming 2010 follow-up is one tattooed, piano pop force not to miss.
And if you want to watch her winning the Song of the Year, alas…en français for non-French speakers, here you go! She won all three of those awards up there.
“Okay, well to begin I would like to thank my parents because they forced me to learn the piano! So thank you! I also thank all my ex-boyfriends because that helped me release all sorts of good songs. I would like to thank everyone at Barclay (Music)…everyone at Gloria Management…and everyone at my record label in Quebec. Moreoever everyone in Quebec. (D’ailleurs) And I would like say ‘Thank You’ to everyone who voted for me. It’s thanks to you that I am here today.”