Niceties will get you everywhere

Israeli-raised Yael Naim has gone from obscurity in Paris to world stardom - all within a few months.

yael naim 88 (photo credit: )
yael naim 88
(photo credit: )
It's perfect to hum in the shower, in the background of a sentimental film… or evidently in an Apple advertisement for the MacBook Air. Those few "la la las" and the simple, wistful melody that have branded "New Soul" into our consciousness have also catapulted the Israeli-raised Yael Naim from obscurity in Paris to world stardom - all within a few months. Once Apple (reportedly Steve Jobs himself) chose the song from Naim's 2007 self-titled album to lead its ad campaign, "New Soul" quickly became the most-downloaded song on iTunes, topping a million hits. And when the album of folk, pop and jazz with lyrics sung in English, Hebrew and French was belatedly released in the U.S. in March, the single quickly entered the [not this] Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 7, resulting in 30-year-old Naim becoming the first Israeli solo artist to have an American top ten hit. Born in Paris in 1978, Naim moved to Ramat Hasharon with her family when she was four. She studied at the Ramat Hasharon Conservatory of Music and later served in the IDF's Air Force entertainment troupe, after which she moved back to Paris. Naim then toured for two and half years in a musical version of The Ten Commandments in the role of Miriam, and in 2001 she recorded and released her first album -- which proved to be a dud. "I was impressed by the big record company and big budgets and big studios and big producers, and then you discover that it puts a pressure on you," Naim told The Boston Globe. Other musicals and some film soundtrack work followed, and then Naim met percussionist David Donatien when she joined a friend's band as a piano player. The pair began collaborating, and without any pressure, began recording the songs that wound up on Yael Naim. Recorded over a two and a half-year period in the living room of her Paris apartment, the album is a quirky delight featuring winsome vocals and offbeat songs. And, of course, those "la la las." While "New Soul"'s success could potentially have been a Pandora's box of pop star trappings, Naim is trying to take her sudden good fortune in stride. "It accelerated things," Naim told The Montreal Gazette. "We want to take advantage (of the opportunity) while preserving what we do, so it stays human. So far we're managing." Naim performs with Donatien at Zappa, (03) 767-4646, in Tel Aviv on July 31 and August 1, and at the Wohl Amphitheater, (03) 521-5200, at Hayarkon Park in Ramat Gan on August 2. Tickets cost NIS 170.