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Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday's French music break - Irma, "I know"

Friday's French music break this week is from a young woman whose voice you might recognise but perhaps cannot immediately place.

It's Irma with the single "I know", a song that has had massive exposure by being featured in a Google Chrome commercial in Europe.

Who says advertising can't serve a purpose, especially when it helps promote such a talent?

Irma (screenshot from Google Chrome commercial)

Strictly speaking, of course, Irma's not French.

Born and brought up Cameroon, Irma Pany, moved to France in 2003 at the age of 15 to study at the private Catholic secondary school lycée Stanislas de Paris.

In 2007 she began posting homemade videos of both songs she had written and cover versions on YouTube and it didn't take long for the buzz to build.

So much so, that when the fan-funded music label My Major Company showed an interest in August 2008, it took just 48 hours for the site to gather the €75,000 necessary to finance the recording of her debut album.

What perhaps sets the Irma aside from other My Major Company finds such as Grégoire and Joyce Jonathan is the fact that she not only sings in English but has an appeal which has quickly attracted other established artists both French and international.

Tété ("Hey ya"), Matthieu Chédid, M ("Rolling in the deep") and from the Black Eyed Peas ("I want you back") have all joined Irma to make simple acoustic cover versions of songs on her YouTube channel.

Her first album, "Letter to the Lord", released in February 2011, was enthusiastically greeted by most critics who praised her for the maturity of her approach and the refreshingly smooth, simple and effective piano-guitar voice arrangement of what was obviously a multi-talented singer-songwriter.

Before the album's release she had apparently worked in New York with Lenny Kravitz's producer but on returning to Paris decided she wasn't happy with the result and reworked the self-penned songs to make them more folksy.

The result, as far as Radio France Internationale was concerned was an album "full of promise with sensual melodies and a glimpse into Irma's own intimate universe," but one which also "lacked that little extra something to set her aside from other Rhythm and Blues or Soul singers."

There's some truth in that because although Irma has a distinctive and exquisite voice, the one track that really stands out is "I know".

The rest are good - indeed very good for a debut album - but far from having quite the same "I want to know who's singing that right now " allure of "I know" when you first hear it on the radio.

Irma (screenshot from official clip)

Its success, and the fact that it has been used in the Google commercial has given the 23-year-old tremendous exposure and the pace looks set to pick up.

She'll be stepping out of the proverbial shadows of being a warm-up act for other artists or appearing at small venues with two concerts in Paris this year.

The first at La Cigale in Paris in June is already sold out but you can still get tickets for the date at Olympia in November.

In between she'll be appearing at several of the many summer music festivals in France such as Brive Plage or Albi's Pause Guitar.

And then there's the aim - as far as Universal Republic Records, the record label to which she has signed, is concerned: to conquer the States.

Not beyond the realms of possibility perhaps.

For now though here's that single which, in the words of the blurb, illustrates her "immediate charisma and authenticity" and is an example of her songs which are "little gems of melody, a subtle mix of soul and folk music found in texts that tell a story."

In other words - it's a ruddy good listen.

Here's both the one-minute Google Chrome commercial version and, if that has left you wanting more, the longer official single version.

Have a great weekend.

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