Huge discrepancies in sales numbers reported for Carla Bruni’s album released in July 2008
Already a celebrity in France and elsewhere in Europe in her own right, Carla Bruni made front pages worldwide when she married the President of France Nicolas Sarkozy. And her much-anticipated third album, Comme si de rien n’était , seemed to cause a huge splash, as much for its racy lyrics and subject as for its famous singer.
The album’s title translates to “As if nothing happened.” And now, three months later, some are saying the title is an apt one. Reports for sales numbers for Bruni’s album vary wildly, with the lowest reports suggesting the project was a bust, while the higher figures would put the album in the gold record category. Bruni’s CD has sold either 85,000 copies to French music-lovers or 175,000 copies, depending on how the sales are counted.
Her production company, Naïve, says the official industry figures are misleading, with sales figures being based on market research, which is often inaccurate, rather than actual sales numbers. The theory is that many people who actually purchased the album might not have admitted it to researchers who asked. According to these official industry figures, retail sales of the album in France have struggled to reach 85,000.
The more reliable figure, Naïve says, is the wholesale sales of Carla’s album to French stores and outlets – 175,000, enough to make it a “disque d’or” or gold record, and double the official figure. Of course, wholesale sales count what the stores bought, not what actual customers did. Only a check of the remaining inventory in stores in France would paint a true picture. But even if the higher figure is accurate, it still adds up to only 10% of the sales of Carla Bruni’s first album, released in 2002, which sold two million.
Bruni’s latest album caused much controversy when it was released in July, because of the propriety of a first lady of France recording music in the first place, perhaps, but especially because of the intimate, illicit and sometimes even illegal subject matter of some of the songs. Among the 14 tracks is a song called Ma Came(My Dope) – comparing love to an illegal drug. Written before she met Mr Sarkozy, the album was nevertheless dedicated to her new husband. On the track, Bruni sings: “You are my dope. More deadly than Afghan heroin. More dangerous than Colombian white powder,” adding: “My guy, I roll him up and smoke him.” In another song on the album the Italian former model sings: “I am a child. Despite my forty years. Despite my thirty lovers. A child.” It was public knowledge that Bruni had had some other famous lovers before her new husband, such as Mick Jagger, kevin Costner and even Donald Trump, but to be singing about them as a married woman, and married to the President of France, struck more than a few in France and elsewhere as more than a little inapporpriate.
Still, as some say, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the racy nature of Bruni’s album garnered it a level of free buzz that many recording artists and labels would kill for. In view of this, even the higher sales numbers touted by recording label Naive are not especially impressive.
To generate more public enthusiam for the release in France and worldwide, Carla Bruni’s record label Naive made all 14 tracks of Comme si de rien ‘était available for a two hours per user on the internet. The strategy may have backfired — this may have enough to satiate the curiousity of many in France, who, having heard the “shocking” lyrics for themselves, then did not go on to buy the album, either in protest or out of simple lack of interest.
While some might cite Carla Bruni’s album’s quality for its poor performance, French critics at the time of its release would not have agreed. French newspaper Le Figaro in particular reviewed Bruni’s album in glowing terms, paying the ultimate compliment in comparing it to her earlier efforts: “In a word, it’s less America, more France, more Beatles.” Of course, they, too, may have been under the Carla Effect as the glamourous new First Lady of France was enjoying a honeymoon period with the world. Record buyers in France and worldwide quickly came down to earth when it was time to vote with their wallets.
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