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You Couldn’t Mac This Up

It’s a big step from the Israeli Defense Force’s Air Force band to a Mac computer commercial to Billboard’s Top Ten, but Yael Naim has done it all. A French-Israeli singer of Tunisian heritage, musically influenced by everyone from Mozart to Aretha Franklin to the Beatles, Naim has described her ascent into the spotlight as an “old dream” that is now finally real. Singing in French-inflected English and Hebrew, Naim often draws inspiration from her own life, especially on her more autobiographical and self-titled second album, where melancholic songs like “Paris” channel darker times, including disappointing record sales and a failed relationship, while happier songs reflect her love of music. She also boldly reinterprets more commercial music, as in her radically soulful version of Britney Spears’s “Toxic.”

She seems to have mass appeal, too. Encouraged to sing in Hebrew by musical collaborator David Donatien, a West Indian drummer, Naim has seen her following grow in France, a country known for its ambivalence towards things Jewish and Israeli. Multi-talented, she debuted as Miriam in director Elie Chouraqui’s play “The Ten Commandments,” and wrote the soundtrack for his film “Harrison’s Flowers.” Now that she’s begun touring in the U.S. and France — with high hopes of scheduling a tour in Israel soon — watch for this rising star and experience what one of her songs refers to as “a beautiful mess inside.”