Cécile Hortensia has created a cross-cultural music lesson with her upcoming album, Papillons [produced by Olivier Zahm]. She switches between French and English with an ease and fluidity rare in artists who attempt bilingual music careers. While most artists falter with linguistic transition, Cécile embodies both languages effortlessly. Her album has a natural rhythm and flow that could only come from someone whose story reflects the same.
After learning that Cécile Hortensia grew up in a small town in Northeastern France, moving to the French Alps for University and later to Phoenix, AZ, I was interested by her sudden change of trajectory. Undoubtedly, the move to America is at the heart of her album. The loneliness, excitement, and overwhelming adjustments of such a move give the songs on Papillons a deeper meaning.
Reflecting on her decision to move to the United States, Cécile laughed, “America is still for dreamers, I guess.” She continued by saying, “I came to pursue the freedom of opportunity that everyone envisions in the US. It’s a melting pot of cultures, art, music, and history, and the draw of the ‘Wild West’ was incredibly alluring.” So she upped and moved to Phoenix, AZ, which is a place Cécile feels is truly home. The atmosphere couldn’t be more different than a village in the French Alps, but this diversity of experiences and cultures has equipped Cécile with an incredible artistic repertoire.
More than being a great collection of individual songs, Papillons as a whole creates a unique juxtaposition of experiences and places. For instance, the first song on the album, entitled “Les Papillons dans l’Estomac” immediately transports you to the Parisian streets, and I imagined myself walking past a café with the smell of crepes and croissants wafting out to the sidewalk. Then you immediately move to a song like “Cactus Road” which clearly paints a picture of the Arizona desert. What might seem like an interesting track order is actually the perfect glimpse into Cécile’s own experience of simultaneously existing in two vastly different cultures.
When I first received this album in the mail, I was taken aback by the physical likeness between Cécile Hortensia and Celine Dion. While these two dynamic singers have distinctly different musical styles, I can’t help but see the similarities between the two. There is a vibrance and life-force in both artists that propel their music, not to mention the obvious French similarities. Where Celine Dion has an unbridled vocal power (which has defined pop music for two decades), Cécile sings with a delicate vocal control. She has created a fusion of French, folk, and alternative pop musical stylings that intrigued me from the start. She is a fantastic artist whose unique journey, shared through music, gave me unparalleled access into the kind of cross-cultural voyage Cécile has traveled. Her album is out this week – make sure to check it out!
You can also catch Cécile Hortensia live in Los Angeles on October 23, 2012 at Genghis Cohen! If you want to listen to Papillons, you can check it out here: http://electriclotuslabel.com/com/cecilehortensia_epk/.