Indonesian pop princess Anggun seeks to conquer the American
charts with her soulful new album, the brilliant ‘Chrysalis’
BY BRITTANY JERLINGA
At the age of seven, what were you doing?
Visiting the doctor to get the
jelly bean removed from your left nostril? Chucking Legos at
your little sister? Hiding your animal-shaped vitamins behind
Unlike most children, Indonesian
singer Anggun Cipta Sasmi was working on her first recording.
Influenced by western artists
such as The Police, Elvis Presley and Bon Jovi, Anggun produced
six chart-topping albums before she turned 18.
But having success in her homeland
of Indonesia wasn’t enough — the exotic alto also dreamed of
an international career.
So she packed up and, without
knowing one word of French, made Paris her new home. Once there,
she met Erick Benzi, the producer who unleashed the sound of
Celine Dion on the United States.
"Snow on the Sahara," her international
debut, sold more than a million copies. The haunting but energetic
title track had people asking, "Who is THAT?"
But that was back in 1998, and
I hoped that when I decided to review her new album, people
would have some recollection of hearing her name before.
To my dismay, the only reactions
I got were:
"What? I’ve never heard of her."
"An-gooon? What’s an An-gooon?"
And my personal favorite, "Is
"Chrysalis," the newest release
from Anggun, proves to be well worth the cash spent on it.
Not only does it have a full
track list — a whopping 15 songs — but the album also manages
to cover subjects other than love.
In "Tears of Sorrow," she explores
human nature and our tendency only to accept people who are
Some of the lyrics read, "We
build up walls with no shame/We turn away if you’re not one
of us/But I thought, there’s one color in our blood."
Similarly, in "How the World,"
she wonders how the world keeps working when we turn our backs
to people’s suffering.
To her credit, Anggun manages
to make her point without sounding preachy or pessimistic. The
songs are performed in an upbeat, playful fashion.
Anggun proves that spirituality
and faith are important in "A Prayer," "Look into Yourself"
and "Signs of Destiny." These songs, while verging on religious,
can be enjoyed by religious and secular listeners alike.
Finally, for the closet romantics
of the world, there are multiple lovey-dovey songs to sing along
to without feeling like a total sap.
The first track, "Still Remember,"
speaks of ongoing changes that refuse to suffocate the love
one pines for. With its soaring melody and conviction, this
song will melt the heart of even the iciest princess.
"Want You to Want Me" delivers
a painful dream of lust by way of ominous piano melodies played
by Anggun herself.
While this song is mysterious
and breath-taking, its melancholy message is clear: Don’t think
you can fool her. She knows all about your unbridled passions
for Heath Ledger, Britney Spears and others of impossible status.
And if you’re in the mood to
dance, listen to the title track, "Chrysalis."
True, the song still has a lustful
edge, but in it she points out that while women can be sweet,
patient and tender, they also can be heart-breaking vixens at
the same time.
In "Non Angelica!" Anggun proves
her point once again. Throughout the track, she seems to be
laughing at a friend who doesn’t see that he’s being trampled
But instead of taking the conventional
role of "jealous female with ulterior motives" Anggun simply
points out what he’s not seeing. "She’s so hypocritical/She
talks illogical/non Angelica."
To add one last twist to the
mix, tracks 13 and 15 contain brilliantly sung French lyrics.
While the only French words in
my vocabulary are "Moulin Rouge" and "croissant," Anggun’s everlasting
conviction makes the emotions radiantly clear.
Unfortunately, the album has
a couple negative aspects. First, some of the songs are hard
to differentiate — she almost sounds like she’s repeating herself
Also, because the songs are generally
geared for female listeners, males may find it harder to relate.
And because this album is an
import, it could cost upwards of $30.
But throughout the CD, Anggun’s
voice soars without ever going above her range. She separates
herself from the cliched world of pop by adding her own spiciness
Soulful, strong and heart-felt,
these songs are easy to relate to and full of conviction. Anggun
has the makings of a genuine star ... if only people knew who
- Archive of 5th October 2001