Charlotte Gainsbourg’s First Time

Charlotte Gainsbourg; Image courtesy Le Book; Black and White Photo; Pantsuit; White interior;
Image courtesy Le Book

After a few years of hiatus, Charlotte Gainsbourg came out with a new album- “Rest” toward end of 2017. It is the most personal work of the singer thus far. Growing up as a child until becoming an adolescent, Charlotte Gainsbourg never felt quite comfortable with herself. She once said in an interview that, she is never going to be as beautiful as her mother (Jane Birkin, scroll down that article to see the music video), and never going to write as well as her father (Serge Gainsbourg), therefore she felt she had nothing to lose. This has all but changed, it is quite evident in her latest album.

No longer reticent about her personal feelings, in “Rest” Charlotte Gainsbourg becomes transparent and expresses candidly about loss and loneliness.

Charlotte Gainsbourg; Album Rest; Jean jacket; black and white cover; taped collage; French pop; Electro-pop
Charlotte Gainsbourg’s album cover -“Rest”

This is the first time she’s written her own lyrics for most of the tracks in the album. Through these songs, Charlotte Gainsbourg re-lives the moments of pain and loneliness after the passing of her sister Kate Barry and the death of her father when she was just 12 years-old. When Charlotte Gainsbourg finally uses her heartache as create outpour, it marks out a poignant path of commemoration and healing.

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s sister Kate Barry died in 2013, the tragic event has led the singer to write about the terrible loss from deep within her gut. In the title song of the album “Rest,” she turns her grief into a romantic requiem for her deceased sister with lyrics that talks about walking on air and floating in the moonlit sky.

Without excessive sentimentality and self-indulgent mawkishness, she unleashes her morbid fascination with death in “Lying with you.” The song describes an intense love for her father that’s beyond the tangible realm. Remembering seeing her father’s dead body lying in a coffin that was slowly growing cold, she sings about not being able to let him go. Like a kind of animal instinct, she wants to remain next to his life-less body wishing to keep him with her forever.

Charlotte Gainsbourg; Image courtesy The Guardian; Black leather jacket; figure on white background; Charlotte Gainsbourg poses
Image courtesy The Guardian

“Ring-A-Ring O’Roses” inspired by an old nursery rhyme is placed at the beginning of  Rest, a song about the first-times. Charlotte Gainsbourg’s quiet voice unravels the melody as she recounts a series of first-time experiences that changed life forever as in going through coming-of-age, while longing to savor the moments until the end.

This sense of not wanting to let go is redolent throughout most of the album. With SebastiAn, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, and Sir Paul McCartney as writers and collaborators, the songs carry the the undertone of the 70s and 80s. In the last song, “Les Oxalis” as Charlotte Gainsbourg bids farewell to her sister, there is a layer of melodic interlude that reminds me of Gato Barbieri’s “Last Tango in Paris.” No matter if I am right or wrong on this note, like the “Last Tango,” the album ends with melancholic bitter-sweetness, before it’s lifted up again by her youngest daughter singing her alphabet song. This last part also feels like a homage to her father, Serge Gainsbourg when he wrote and sang with her in “Charlotte For Ever.”

Charlotte Gainsbourg; Image courtesy Vogue Paris; black and white photo; med. shot; Charlotte Gainsbourg photo portrait;
Image courtesy Vogue Paris

p.s. Charlotte Gainsbourg collaborated with NARS and launched a line of cosmetics in 2017. The line is sold-out on their website, but I found that you can still buy her lip and cheek tint, lip pencil, skin foundation tint, eye-pencil, and eye-shadow from Amazon. All the products are named after something significant to her life.

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