Corneille :: The Birth of Cornelius :: Motown Records
as reviewed by Alex Sheremet

Corneille had a full, horrifying life. His family was exterminated in Rwanda and he became a refugee, spending a few years in Germany before settling in Canada.

People with unconventional lives have an artistic advantage, in that they are naturally compelling and can up for a lack of depth or talent. Solid, raw experience is not enough if the artist is completely talentless, but it helps the mediocrities, and certainly those that are good. But, here's the paradox: Corneille is a typical dull crooner, writing banal lyrics set against middling music. Or, rather, at least here, for I've read he's significantly better on his French albums, which are his principle claims to fame. I can't judge the lyrics, but listening to a few tracks on Youtube, they are, at the very least, melodically superior. It makes things better.

It's revealing that, if you'd like to read up on "The Birth of Cornelius," a good chunk of the writers are from "Mom" blogs, or refer to them. And that's it, really - recycled stuff that won't offend your mother. Take "Back to Life," which opens the album thus: light drums, a dull, repetitive guitar, and subdued violins, none of which hold interest since they're merely slapped against each other almost out of fear of originality. And, lacking any ideas musically, the refrain (creative parallelism? No!), "Woman, you brought me back to life," pretty much sums up his... exploration. And innovation just isn't it.

"All Of My Love" is hardly distinguishable from the above, following a similar structure, utilizing the same instruments, and - just looking at the title - does nothing, in any respect. Skip the next few tracks, because the deal is the same. In fact, it's downright bizarre how each track anonymously bleeds into the rest. I wouldn't be surprised if Corneille forgot which lyrics to sing to what track, and, to solve the pickle, yelled "Fuck it!" It would make for an interesting concert, especially if the fans, apparently, are more into his music than he is. To wit, "Acoustic guitar, light drums, some electronic lush, tiny violins... WILL IT BLEND?" It does, by a push of a button and pre-set parameters, repeated ad nauseum. There's literally nothing distinctive about anything on this album, with the exception of a handful ("Foolish Heart," "Liberation," and a couple of others) that break the monotony, not by quality, conceptual depth, or anything, but mood... Great artists create variety by new, compelling arrangements and ideas - the rest offer a ‘change of pace,' thus admitting their own blandness.

I will not touch the remainder, as I can't bear to re-write (note the emphatic hyphen) the same objections. A concluding remark for brevity: dull and innocuous, and, in case the point was missed, hard to recommend.

Music Vibes: 4.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4.5 of 10

Originally posted: April 9, 2009