Tuesday, January 18, 2011

'I'm Coming Back For You': A Review of "Secrets De Femme" by Fanny J

Amongst many others, one of my own personal favourite quotes attributed to His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I is something to the extent of ‘The quest for knowledge stops only at the grave’. When I think of it and attempt to place it into some context of my own, I always come back to the music where, in my specific case, I consider music to very much be an education for me and not just something to listen to (clearly). While I don’t very well consider myself to be an expert at anything besides myself, my ‘strength’ is definitely modern Reggae and Dancehall and, in that case, I’d say that I do very well although I certainly have much much more to learn. Then there’s Soca and a few other styles which I have SO much more to learn and become acquainted with, but thankfully on those fronts I do have the consistent or semi-consistent passion to continue to become more and more educated and observant. And then there’s Zouk music. Most embarrassingly I would probably say, and do so rather confidently that, despite my only death ending quest to learn everything that I can, a couple of years ago I knew pretty much nothing about Zouk and right now . . . I know pretty much nothing about Zouk, especially following a 2010 where I paid little to no attention to it and in my opinion, still, I had pretty good reason. There just wasn’t a ton going on in my main area of interest and, in retrospect, the biggest ‘pure Zouk’ moment of 2010 (until this album that I’m about to tell you about reached) was something which may not have done registered to a great degree on many radars of people ‘in the know’ - sweet singing Methi’S pushing her debut album, ”Mon Nid D’iles”. Surely there was Stevy Mahy but as her album, ”The Beautiful Side of A Kreyol Folk Trip” moves further and further away in terms of time and even closer and closer towards my affections, I see it less and less as a Zouk album and more of a - dare I say - ‘World’ music album (YUCK). So, 2010 was definitely a year, for me, which could have used a beautiful closer to get me back to being interested. And I suppose I was lucky because you look up and see who’s released an album - Afrikan Zouk star Kaysha! Yep, Kaysha brought ”Works of Art” to the masses and I didn’t even know it was on its way. Of course I’m joking (biggup Kaysha anyway because I love his work as a producer) (biggup Thayna), but in terms of placing something in my face or putting it in on paper, 2010 had one MASSIVE trick up its bag before it said ‘goodbye’.

That “trick”, of course, would come in the form of an artist who I’m coming to notice is one of the genre’s biggest names altogether, Fanny J, the angelic Zouk singer from out of Guyane who, after a year of rumours on the matter, delivered her much anticipated sophomore set ”Secrets De Femme” for Section Zouk. Unlike several of my other favourites such as Kénédy, Tina Ly and Lindsey Lin’S who I largely caught onto in the typical way - big single(s) which ultimately lead to album releases - I’ve grown to become a pretty big fan of Fanny J’s for a bit of a different reason. First of all, having seen her perform live definitely hasn’t hurt, but also she’s just maintained such a powerful presence in the music that it became pretty impossible to ignore. Her first album, 2007‘s ”Vous Les Hommes”, in retrospect, was probably a lot better than I ever gave it credit for as well. Having gone back and spun through it semi-thoroughly for the sake of this review, it was packed full of some sterling material as well and perhaps, on that end, I shouldn’t be surprised that she’s risen to the top of her genre and is apparently doing things like mashing up Zenith stage in Paris on Boxing Day last year. I also shouldn’t be surprised to see her new album getting quite a bit of spin and SHINE as well and apparently doing very well on many of the retail sites because - Yeah, Fanny’s a really big deal in Zouk music. For some (almost certainly ridiculous) reason, I had started to associate Fanny J with Sushiraw, the label of the aforementioned Zouk star, Kaysha, but ”Secrets De Femme” comes packed and produced by another well regarded artist, Warren, who also apparently had a hand in originally discovering her talents as well. Also, Section Zouk is a label we haven’t dealt with in some time either. To my knowledge, they’re at the head of the class when it comes to Zouk music (the VP Records, if you will, of Zouk) and work with more than a little bit of the biggest active names, but I don’t know that they’ve been very active as of late. I was keeping an eye out for their big annual release, ”Section Zouk All Stars” (essentially ‘Zouk Gold’ for my Reggae heads) and if an installation of the series for 2010 does exist it’s yet another sign of my increasing ignorance on the genre, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t do one for the year which may suggest something is going on, but if it is, the fact that they’ve made it a point to serve up this album is, perhaps, yet another sign that Fanny is doing something right for herself. So, with all of that said, is the album any good? Sure it is. Not that the competition was anything special, but when all is said and when all is done, ”Secrets De Femme” was THE best Zouk album that I heard in 2010.

'Okay' Remix featuring Black Kent

Two things struck me just looking at this album on paper before listening to it. The very first was the fact that there’re TWENTY tracks on it. With only the intro as an ‘interlude’ like track, the other nineteen check in at more than three minutes and the fact that Fanny J gives up more than seventy-five minutes in full is well impressive and interesting. And, of course, there’s the matter of the cover of this album which is absolutely spectacular in every visible way. Said cover lays atop ”Secrets De Femme”, the brand new album from Zouk star, Fanny J, which gets going with a title track/intro which features the aforementioned Warren and precedes the first full musical selection on the album, ‘Notre Château De Mélodie’. This song kind of typifies more of the ‘standard’ type of Zouk track that I expect from Fanny on this album. It isn’t actually AMAZING, but it gives off the appeal that it is and that alone may be an important piece of the song, but this one more sets up what is to follow if you REALLY listen to it (and I’m not trying to call it bad, because it certainly isn’t and it gets even better as it goes along). The next tune, however, ‘Pas Ce Soir’ is as good as it seems on the kind of R&B vibes as Fanny J goes all Beyonce on the people and does so on rather coy Zouk swing. The next tune is somewhat familiar as you may very well know ‘Okay’ as one of the album’s single. In this case, however, it’s sans rapper Black Kent who features on the well known version of the tune, but the twenty track monster does include the remixed version as well, which closes things out. All in all, the opening of the album is pretty good and things get better and do so quickly.

'Me and You' w/Million Stylez

If I’ve failed miserably in my attempt to convey just how big of a deal this album is, then perhaps the fact that Warren and Fanny J have lined up some top of the line talents for Fanny to play with will make my point even greater. To Zouk fans (who’re laughing at me now) and just a few more the name Slaï should be familiar because the veteran singer has definitely done big things on his own and teaming up with Fanny on ‘Je Me Reppelle’. This tune is a bit older and I know it quite well, but still it is GORGEOUS! The two make a very fine duo, but as we quickly find out on ”Secrets De Femme”, Fanny does well with almost anyone. The always entertaining Krys is another such person who links well with the songstress as evident by their tune together ‘Bye Bye’, one of the album’s finest moments. This tune was also present on Krys’ own album from earlier in 2010, ”Step Out” and while I wasn’t very fond of that album, on the whole, this tune, which closes it, surely made an impression on me going forth and at that point in the album the very talented wordsmith that Krys can be at times, offers a most welcome changeup. Speaking of very talented wordsmiths (from Gwada) - One of the most talented of them all, Admiral T guests on the very popular and downright OUTSTANDING ‘Bay Love’. Yes, you should be familiar with this one because it also highlighted the Admiral’s own most recent release, ”Instinct Admiral”. This song is BLAZING and is my second favourite on the whole of the album. It gets better on each and every spin and if it got any better than it might even be better than ‘Me and You’, the album’s best tune. This song is so interesting because it’s actually the full on Zouk remix of a tune my Reggae heads should know quite well by Million Stylez from the Sugar Riddim. Here, it’s been Zouk-ified and it sounds so nice as Fanny J well ‘decorates’ a track which, although it didn’t need the help, sounds even better for it. And I don’t know whose idea it was to make this happen, but he, she or it is a damn genius.

The level of intelligence displayed on ”Secrets De Femme” doesn’t dip noticeably once Fanny J is back on her own as she continues to dazzle in some cases with big tunes. Such a moment is ‘Comme Toi’ which I had to kind of listen to out of the sequence where it is on the album (a lot of times listening to Zouk albums, some of the tunes begin to start EXACTLY alike one another to my ears, but are suddenly ‘revived’ or ‘energized’ once I either take a break or start jumping around and this one was such a piece) and in doing so I happened to see that it was GORGEOUS. The ultimately very addictive ‘Radio’ was a tune I was well looking forward to hearing based on the title alone and while it isn’t the kind of surefire dance hit that I may’ve expected, it is a very good song. And speaking of interesting titles, there isn’t a single more interesting one on the whole of this album than the song actually called ‘Fanny J’. Thankfully the singer (or whoever wrote it) thinks enough of herself to deliver when her name is (literally) on the line because rather easily the tune is one of the album’s brightest moments. And also on that note (with the title thing) is ‘Mon Bad Boy’, a tune which find us mixing just a little bit of Dancehall with Zouk providing the necessary edge for such a tune. And other selections such as ‘Et Moi’, ‘Fo Nou Pale’ and ‘Retiens-Moi’ all have more than just ‘their moments’, but definitely add to the total strength of the album and I would definitely say to not skip over any of them.


Still, after the combinations, there’re four tunes here which REALLY stood out for me and largely build the ‘body’ of an album that I called The Best Zouk Album of 2010. The first of that impressive lot is another curiously titled tune, ‘Gucci’. BIG BIG tune. So often this music has the reputation of being this very delicate and weak type of genre, but I’d certainly say to anyone who held such thoughts to take a spin of this coyly forceful and sassy (biggup Destra) tune on the album. You’d also want to check ‘Lé Ou Joinn Lanmou’ which was a tune that I’d actually known prior to this album’s release (or maybe at roughly the same time), because it’s been receiving a nice push and may, in fact, be the second single from ”Secrets De Femme”. I also really enjoyed ‘Reviens’ as well. I had to vibe this one four or five times, however, before I REALLY realized that it had actually grown on me and done so to a considerable degree. I LOVE the way this one starts in as it seems to be building up IMMEDIATELY and the subsequent tune doesn’t dissatisfy. And finally, speaking of nice intros, the tune just before ‘Reviens’, ‘Sa Ké Ay’, has beginnings which are truly dazzling and the swinging piece of mastery which ensues thereafter has about as big of a claim as any as being the finest tune on this album altogether. For me, in a solo track, this one REALLY showcases what’s wonderful about Fanny J as an artist and it does so with a vibes distinctly Caribbean and which I automatically associate with top of the line Zouk music.

Overall, hopefully even if this one isn’t on your vibes and you’d never pick up anything like it no matter how strongly I push it, what you can realize is just how big of a deal it really is and with that taken - Yes, it’s very very good also. I really like almost everything about how this album is done. Perhaps it could have used a few less tracks (and maybe they could’ve gotten it out just a little sooner), but there is clearly a whole heap of good material here which is never a bad thing. Furthermore, again, the remix with Million Stylez is BIG and hopefully it’s something which could give Fanny a bit of status with most of my usual readers. So, after a pretty long and completely uneducational time away from Zouk, thankfully 2010 didn’t end without something to grab ad pull me back - It was ”Secrets De Femme” by Fanny J - The Best Zouk Album of 2010. Period.

Rated: 4.35/5
Section Zouk/Warren Music
CD + Digital
Fanny J @ Myspace
Fanny J @ Facebook

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