Exactly one year after releasing her debut album, the adorably sweet French musician Yael Naim spent the night celebrating the anniversary with her show at the Cedar Cultural Center. The song “New Soul” has been on repeat in the head of nearly every TV viewer at least once, due to its run as the soundtrack to MacBook Air’s commercial, but it and all the rest of her songs, were met with warm applause and loving appreciation from fans. Naim is truly a new soul— as incredibly young spirited and heart warming as her songs themselves.
“Far Far” started out the set as Naim took center stage with her guitar, accompanied by a bassist, keyboardist and musical accomplice David Donatien on the drums. Don’t be fooled -- they may have had primary instruments, but by no means did any of these players stick to making noise on one prop alone. Song after song introduced an unbelievably refreshing assortment of fresh sounds, from accordion and music box, to bongos and Nintendo laser noises.
Warming up with every song, Naim’s wide smile became incredibly infectious, most notably as she let down her long curly hair, shimmied her shoulders over to the mic and sang in French. Gush! Inspiring images of Paris romance and dreams of macaroons abound.
Hopping on the piano, Naim introduced the next song as a cover of a close friend, who she would not name. Awaiting this very song, luckily I (probably unlike half the crowd) knew this secret: Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Completely opposite of the original, Naim’s version started out with a staccato crawl, and slowly turned a little funky. Complete with spaceship noises, surprise pauses and funny variations of the melody, the song was a blast. Her voice classically fluttery and French (not fake like the original’s singer), Naim’s version was sultry, but not slutty.
Multiple songs played throughout the night are not found on her album and were simply a special show treat. Regardless of whether she was singing in English, French or Hebrew, Naim filled the room with a sense of ease, whisking listeners away to a Parisian café.
Mid-set Naim picked up a miniature guitar, which she said came in handy while working on the album in a tiny apartment for over two years. Sitting at the bongos, Donatien took one glance at her and giggled, making Naim squirm and waltz around.
“I’m not strong in dancing -- and I’m not the only one,” she said with her meek European accent, pointing towards her partner. As she started to strum, the sound guy attempted to eliminate the amp buzz, but Naim told him to leave it- saying it was part of the act.
One of the last songs was the highly anticipated “New Soul”, but before she began, Naim prefaced it with a short story on how the lyrics came about.
“I used to be pretentious. I used to consider myself an old soul,” she said. But after much consideration and starting life from a new place, she realized she had been wrong all along. “I came to the conclusion that this is indeed my first time on Earth.”
-- Amber Schadewald