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The Birth of Cornelius

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Album Review

After releasing two platinum French-language albums that were heavily influenced by his family's murder at the hands of a Rwandan death squad, neo-soul singer Corneille realized he was "becoming a symbol for something, a persona." On the Rwandan-Canadian artist's first English-language album, feelings of despair and the search for peace are once again touched upon, but when the provocative title "Murder" leads to a breezy, almost Swing Out Sister song that uses homicide as a metaphor for breaking up, there's little doubt the "persona" is shaken. Save a couple autobiographical lines found in "A Man of This World" and "Heaven," plus the heart-wrenching genocide commentary that's "I'll Never Call You Home Again," the singer/songwriter's connection to the past here is mostly neo-soul, influenced by Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and others Corneille has declared were his father's favorites. Dad was also a Tracy Chapman fan and that figures into the mix, and judging by the humble acoustic soul that fuels key track "Too Much of Everything," some Bill Withers records must have been in the collection. Work in a modern John Legend-styled croon plus string arrangements from MFSB alum Larry Gold and you've got the sound, but the reason to fall for Corneille is his unique comfortable and conversational lyrics. Unfortunately, this self-produced album sounds a tad too bright and the great "I'll Never Call You Home Again" is way too heavy to be anything but a closing number. Still, returning fans will find Corneille's evolution remarkable, while all the newcomers will get a rich and rewarding soul-folk experience. [An 11-track edition was also released.]


Born: 24 March 1977 in Freiburg, Germany

Genre: French Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

French-Canadian R&B singer Corneille translated personal tragedy into pop music success with his 2003 debut LP, Parce Qu'on Vient de Loin, a powerful and often harrowing song cycle inspired by his family's murder at the hands of a Rwandan death squad. Born Corneille Nyungura in Freiburg, Germany, on March 24, 1977, he was born into a Rwandan family completing an overseas study program. He nevertheless spent the majority of his childhood in Africa, absorbing native musical traditions as well as the...
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The Birth of Cornelius, Corneille
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