During a year when a number of pop artists in Latvia turned to English as the language of their music, Marija Naumova decided on French. Her Ma voix, ma voie (My Voice, My Way) showcases not just her French-language skills, but also her ability to modify her singing style and image to fit the mood.
Ma voix, ma voie is Naumova’s third album. The first, in her native Russian, saw little exposure in Latvia. But her second, the Latvian-language album Ieskaties acīs, had her teamed with Niks Matvejevs in an effort that resonated with audiences, sending the record to platinum status.
Released late last year, Ma voix, ma voie features 11 tracks. Several are compositions by Raimonds Pauls, whom Naumova credits for helping launch her career. Lyrics were written by several songwriters, but in “Une voix” we are treated to a translation of Vizma Belševica’s words, while in “Cher ami” it’s Imants Ziedonis’ work. Also lending a hand with the lyrics was Astra Skrabane, an instructor of French.
Listening to this album, don’t expect to hear Naumova trying to emulate such well-known French singers as the late Edith Piaf or the contemporary Patricia Kaas. Instead, Naumova here tries to carve out her own style, sounding more like an up-and-coming bistro singer. In doing so, she’s gone as far as to change her looks from her previous album, as well as the presentation of her name. On Ieskaties acīs, she was Marija Naumova, but on Ma voix, ma voie the “j” disappears. Naumova also will represent Latvia in the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest in Tallinn, where she will be known as Marie N.
The album opens with the jazzy “Sous le soleil du nord” (Under the Northern Sun). Credited to Pauls and Skrabane, the song is about a person’s search for her way in the world. It sets the mood for the rest of the album, both emotionally and musically.
Naumova’s voice on this recording is soothing, not as throaty as with other French singers. She succeeds in using her voice to set the tone of each song.
My favorite track is “Je t’aime!” (I Love You!), in which the singer acknowledges her love for another, but not yet publically, to the world. I’ve been calling this a “2 a.m. song”: as a private moment wanes, perhaps the last sways of a slow dance in a subdued bar, a rising saxophone heralds the lights coming up, signalling that it’s time to part.
A feeling of nostalgia seeps through several songs. In “Ecris-moi” (Write Me), for example, the singer laments that she once made fun of a clumsy fellow who used to write love notes to her in school. Now, years later, she longs to be with him, to have someone send her something written on paper, not in e-mail.
Some bright songwriting comes through in “Aux coins du vieux Riga” (On the Corners of Old Rīga). Credited to Matvejevs and Skrabane, the song has Naumova walking through the cobbled streets of the city while musing on the vagaries of fate in relationships: “Un pas, Et tu ne partiras jamais…” (One step, And you will never leave…).
While not a consistently strong album, nothing overly bothersome leaps out, either. If anything, listeners who aren’t huge fans of Pauls’ style of piano music might be irritated by his presence on songs such as “Cher ami” (Dear Friend), where his work on the keyboard seems just a bit out of place. However, on “Souviens-toi” (Remember) his playing is more reserved and fits better with the song.
The liner notes are a linguistic challenge. The lyrics and the acknowledgements are all in French. Short descriptions of the songs are provided in Latvian and Russian.
Listen to this album at the end of a long day and you might just find your mind drifting away to the French quarter of Rīga.
Ma voix, ma voie
Baltic Records Group, 2001
BRG CD 114
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