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Jil Aigrot: Words of Love

You may have noticed French chanteuse Jil Aigrot credited as “the voice of Edith Piaf” in last year’s biopic La Vie en Rose. That’s true, up to a rather limited point. In the film, they are mostly Piaf’s original recordings that Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard is lip-synching. For three songs-most notably “Mon Homme”-Piaf versions of adequate quality were unobtainable, so new recordings by sound-alike Aigrot were used instead.

Now, riding the hit film’s coattails, Aigrot has released this tribute, featuring retro-styled treatments of 17 selections from the Piaf songbook (some showcased in the film, but several not), including both hits (“Non, Je ne Regrette Rien,” “Mon Manège à Moi”) and, for American listeners, comparative obscurities (though most will recognize “La Goualante du Pauvre Jean” as “The Poor People of Paris,” as it was re-titled by Les Baxter for his million-selling instrumental treatment in 1956). Curiously, two of the Little Sparrow’s most celebrated numbers, “Milord” and the aforementioned “Mon Homme,” are omitted, and the iconic “La Vie en Rose” appears only as a brief, extro instrumental.

While Aigrot’s vocal similarity to Piaf is inarguable, close comparison reveals that she can’t quite replicate that tremulous (if steel-lined and Chanel-wrapped) vulnerability that placed Piaf on a plateau all her own (or, at least, one shared with Judy Garland). And, impressive as Aigrot consistently is, it’s difficult not to follow the sound logic of the film’s producers: Start with the original and settle for the striking imitation only when and if necessary.

Originally Published