Global hit – Yael Naim

The World
The World

Apple, the computer company, is a marketing master. And the independent musicians it features in its ads mirror Apple’s independent spirit. For instance, the Polyphonic Spree for the iPod…. Feist for the Nano. Now the Mac Book Air — reputedly the thinnest laptop of all time — features ANOTHER alternative artist. The World’s Marco Werman introduces us to Yael Naim.

Yael Naim was born in Paris to Tunisian parents, and raised in Israel outside Tel Aviv. This is her song “New Soul” that’s currently being used to plug the new Mac Air.

Naim is thirty, but she’s been writing songs since she was 14. She says self-mockingly that she released her first “debut album” when she was twenty. She had left her home in Israel, and moved to France.

�When I came to Paris, I signed to a big record company, EMI, and I did a first album like this. But it didn’t have the maturity at the time and the album didn’t work at all. And I think really it’s the first time I’ve found my voice and it’s really a lot because of our collaboration, between David Donatien and me.�

David Donatien is a pop musician and producer in Paris. He’s now Yael Naim’s full time collaborator. Naim says that Donatien was the only person in the music business who was willing to spend time listening to her collection of more than a hundred compositions…and specifically a few songs that no one understood.

�Inside of these songs there were ten songs in Hebrew. And it was the first time I’d met someone who believes in these songs in Hebrew, and who believes I don’t need to go to big studio and find big producers and big managers to do music.�

One of those tunes was this ode to the French capital called “Paris.” It joins a long roster of love songs to Paris, but Yael Naim’s may be the only one in Hebrew.

Yael Naim’s album is selling well in France, despite or maybe because of this strange Hebrew song about Paris. Here’s Naim’s collaborator David Donatien.

“Paris” is really a strange mix for everybody because it’s like an old French song, you know with Hebrew lyrics. And it was really interesting to work with a language that I don’t understand at all.�

No stranger than Yael Naim’s minimalist cover of Britney Spears song “Toxic,” also on Naim’s new album. (But) back to that track “New Soul” which is getting a lot of attention. Apple heard it when Naim’s CD came out in France last year.

They asked her record label if they could license it because Apple thought it conveyed the right vibe for their new product, their ultra-thin laptop. Beyond that, Apple kept things tightly under wraps.

�Everything is so top secret there that we didn’t even see the commercial until it was out. I wrote it after four years in Paris, doing a lot of projects but also after awhile being lost and doing a lot of mistakes. And it was a period when my boyfriend left me and I found myself not knowing how to do the music I love and a bit confused. It was not about a Macintosh even though I love Macintosh.�

One problem Yael Naim might encounter here in the US is listeners confusing her with Canadian singer-songwriter Feist, another artist who’s loaned a song to Apple.

�It’s a singer I really like. I don’t mind people being confused in the beginning. The first seconds can be confusing, but I think when I really listen to both of us, it’s not the same, so it’s OK.�

If Apple keeps up its promotion of Yael Naim, that confusion will likely disappear. Yael Naim’s CD — titled “Yael Naim” — comes out in the US next month.

For The World, I’m Marco Werman.

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