And from the conveyor belt of talent that is Québec’s l’École Nationale de la Chanson de Granby comes singer-songwriter Tina-Ève Provost, who has just released her debut album “Dompter la Bête”. Evoking memories of lazy summers of days long-past that were idly spent listening to 80s and 90s French radio, the album offers enough of a modern twist – not to mention a rather compelling voice – to keep everything resolutely fresh.
Exploring themes of inner turmoil – the ‘beast’ of the album’s title – and while on a first listen some of the songs do appear to sail dangerously close to Celine Dion territory (there’s a thick coating of ‘melodrama’ applied to a few of the tracks) – the album is definitely a grower. Dig a little deeper and you realise that you’re actually listening to a stunning example of La Chanson Moderne. It also becomes obvious that there’s a passion and a frightening intensity here. I’m drawn to a comparison at times with a young Chimène Badi (think 2004’s “Dis-moi que tu m’aimes” – an album worth the admission price alone for the stunning cover of Michel Sardou’s “Je viens du sud”)
And while the opening track,”Conne comme une princesse” is indeed slightly melodramatic – the song, a powerful tale of deception and hurt, and which employs sex as a weapon to both subjugate and deceive – receives from Tina-Ève the strong vocal performance it deserves. Indeed from the opening bars it is obvious that she can sing (the phrase ‘Quelle voix’ springs to mind), possessing a voice that holds you mesmerised throughout the ten tracks on this album.
The overwhelming theme is one of melancholy. “San Francisco” and “Meeting” are in many respects both about breaking-up, the former from the perspective of having finally been worn-down; the later from the point of view of exclusion and ultimately emptiness as she sings; “…But you’re right, Everything is perfect, Everything is perfect… For you…” La vie est peut-être belle, but not for Tina-Ève… In fact breaking-up is quite a common occurrence; “Pitou piteux” portrays an air of resignation, but also fortitude. Meanwhile “Il pleut” – for all it’s radio-friendliness – belies the song’s tristesse.
Thankfully and to lighten the mood, love – in several guises – does rear its head. On “Fais moi croire” it is the fear of (falling in) love. This is a slow-burner, you can almost sense the sickening feeling as she ties her stomach in knots. There’s an uplifting refrain, before the doubts return. Meanwhile “Comment gros tu m’aimes?” appears to be asking as to how much is love worth; “…How much do you love me, A five star hotel or motel… a 2 CV or BMW…”, but as the song progresses so pangs of self-doubt and a need for reassurance emerge – yes it’s a song about worth, but it’s that undefinable worth of self-esteem as opposed to any monetary value. Ultimately though, “Dans l’St-Laurent de tes faiblesses” is the album’s love song. All about ‘being there’, the lyrics are reassuring, there’s a softness yet assuredness in the voice, the tempo is up-beat – arguably prime for radio airtime.
Ultimately “Dompter la Bête” is a success because Tina-Ève’s vocals are always centre-stage – at times fragile, angelic, crystalline, fierce, deeply resonant – and because the album’s powerful lyrics demand a voice to match. On that Tina-Ève delivers with some aplomb, none more so than on the disarmingly melancholic “Le vent mauvais.”