Thursday, July 26, 2007

Album Review: "Inventaire" - Christophe Willem

To the uninitiated, Christophe Willem was the winner of France's "Nouvelle Star" 2006, which is that country's equivalent of "Pop Idol"/"American Idol". It would be fair to say that the recorded output of previous NS winners didn't exactly set the French chart on fire. Until now.

In an image-obsessed world, the geeky, bespectacled Christophe shouldn't really win anything. But he did - and what an achievement, especially in a country like France which always boasts its fair share of beautiful people competing to be the next Star Academy or Nouvelle Star winner.

So here is his first album, which wisely he took some time recording, sought out some of France's more credible songwriters rather than go down the cover version or rush-release L'equipe Obispo route. It all starts with "Jacques A Dit" with its almost nursery-rhyme feel, and then "Quelle Chance", a funky number which sadly becomes a little repetitive and outstays its welcome.

But then comes "Elu Produit De L'Annee", the first single release and still my favourite track on the album. Classic string-driven pop with a mighty spring in its step. As if that's not enough it's followed by current single "Double Je" which is a revelation. Electronic pop which sounds as if someone threw Mika, the Scissor Sisters and the Bee Gees into a blender, to produce one of this summer's best singles.

The 80s funk backdrop to "Le Lycee" lifts it out of the ordinary, whilst "Intemporel" is a distant cousin of "Elu Produit", all retro strings but a bit funkier. His vocals are very good here.

The pace slows down on "Safe Text". I may get shot down for suggesting this, but I think his vocals remind me of Michael Jackson in places. Builds into a very nice chorus here.

The other standout track, "Kiss The Bride" is not the Elton John song, but a brilliant electropop song - SUNG IN ENGLISH! - with a very 80s feel, and it's been a regular on the EuropeCrazy playlist over the last couple of months.

"Pourquoi T'en Vas" drifts by and is a little forgettable, whilst "Demain" has a bit of a 60s easy listening feel. "La Tortue" was the singer's nickname in Nouvelle Star, and it's also the name of the next track, a mega-cheesy-foot-tapper. That little "La tortue/la tortue/la tortue" hookline is cheesier than a cheese shop full of cheese.

You will find it hard to resist the need to shout "Cha'mon" and "ee-hee" as "Bombe Anatomique" is a bit Jacko-tastic!

All in all, "Inventaire" is a fine debut, different from the norm, and a clear indication that this young man is already forging his own musical style and may just have a longer lasting career than many of his fellow talent show winners.

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