You may know the French-Israeli songstress from this cheeky MacBook Air commercial. Or from this completely awesome cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. Somehow, Yael Naim took the American pop diva’s dance hit and turned it into a mysterious come-hither ballad.
Better than the original? I think that depends on your personal taste and mood—it’s certainly an interesting spin on the original.
Naim’s music comes with a light touch and is at once both whimsical and seductive. Her voice evokes both Feist and Ingrid Michaelson, effortlessly floating up and down the musical scales without ever feeling showy. Her fluttering vocals only serve the music and add to the story told by the lyrics, most especially so on “Far Far“, “Too Long“, and “Shelcha“.
Now prepare to feel linguistically inadequate: the multi-talented Naim also sings in multiple languages, English, French, and Hebrew. When she switches between French and Hebrew, as she does on her track “Paris“, it is a surprising twist that makes her songs even more unique.
Her pieces occasionally open with set-the-scene sound effects: a creaking door, feet shuffling along a wooden floor, chirping birds, or what sounds like a rain stick being turned over the distance. These added sounds never detract from the actual song or feel gimmicky. They simply add a narrative layer to the music. Some of the more traditional among you may roll your eyes at this. But remember: she’s French. And somehow the French seem to be able to pull off the whole sexy-whimsy thing without irony or cheesiness, much more so than others (case in point: Camille‘s “La Jeune Fille Aux Cheveux Blancs“, Carla Bruni‘s “Quelqu’un M’a Dit” and Amelie). I don’t know why. So don’t get mad at me: I didn’t make the world. Or the French.
Yael Naim is an international artist whose work proves, with songs often sung entirely Hebrew or French (or both in one song), that music can truly be universal. You may not understand the lyrics (unless you choose to translate them…in which case, well done!), but you can still be moved. Her songs often have many small and refreshing twists, whether it is through the use of different languages or because the song has been mixed to sound as if it is playing off an old vinyl LP. No matter the case, her music is often enchanting.