Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 13 News List

Beyond the Gainsbourg birthright

Charlotte Gainsbourg emerges from the shadows of her musical legacy with ‘IRM,’ an album of whispery vocals produced and largely written by Beck


“I’m attracted to but very intimidated by music,” she said. “I’ve never experienced any real creativity through music myself. I did Charlotte for Ever through my father. It was always through him.” As for Beck: “He gives the impression that he’s constantly thinking about music. He has a guitar that seems to be sewn to his arm. I was trying desperately to write a couple of lines, and in a few a minutes he had a whole song. I suggested some of the song titles, wrote a line or two here and there. But really, Beck did everything.”

Whatever heavy lifting Beck shouldered on IRM can be seen as a repayment of debts to the Gainsbourg family. From the beginning, Beck’s own music has been audibly inspired by Serge Gainsbourg. (He made the influence explicit on Paper Tiger, from his 2002 album Sea Change, which sampled sections of Gainsbourg’s 1971 song Melody.)

The questions are: What does Gainsbourg bring to her musical endeavors beyond her impeccable pedigree, her success as an actress and her status as a left-of-center fashion symbol? Is IRM merely the latest record in which her primary function is to play muse for a male Svengali? What are we to make of an heiress to pop royalty who bluntly declares herself musically uncreative while promoting her latest arty release?

Gainsbourg doesn’t quite answer these. But listening to IRM it’s clear there’s some false modesty at work. No one who hears the jaunty Gainsbourg-Beck duet Heaven Can Wait can doubt that they are hearing a meeting of two formidable musical personalities — and evenly matched vocalists.


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