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PARIS (Reuters) - France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy sings of 30 lovers and hard drugs on a new album that she insists was not inspired by her whirlwind romance and marriage to President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Top French newspaper Le Figaro said the distinctive melodies and bold lyrics on Bruni's "Comme si de rien n'etait" (As if nothing had happened), her first album since she wed Sarkozy, were a new departure from plain folk and a musical success.
Le Figaro critic Bertrand Dicale said in his review that the album -- which is due out on July 21 -- shows Bruni coming of age as a songstress and embracing more recognizably French styles and the flamboyance of the 1960s.
"I am a child despite my 40 years and 30 lovers," Bruni sings in the song "Une Enfant" (A Child), according to Dicale who said it was one of the best on the album.
In another song entitled "You are my Drug," Bruni sings: "You are my drug. More lethal than heroin from Afghanistan and more dangerous than Colombian cocaine."
It is Bruni's third album since turning from top model to musician, and her first since she married Sarkozy in February.
Bruni has repeatedly said she wrote the songs before meeting Sarkozy, so listeners should not look to the lyrics for clues about her feelings for the French president.
The recently divorced Sarkozy, 53, and Bruni, 40, began dating in November, revealed their relationship in December in a worldwide blaze of publicity, and tied the knot on February 2.
The massive media exposure of Sarkozy's private life was one of the contributing factors in a popularity slump that saw his ratings plunge to record lows in the first months of this year.
In response, he has tried to talk less about his personal life but interest remains high. Hardly a week goes by without new intimate pictures of Bruni and Sarkozy at the presidential Elysee palace appearing in the press.
Bruni now signs her name "Bruni-Sarkozy," but on the album cover she appears as Carla Bruni.
The album showcases her fragile yet intense voice and unique melodic style, Dicale wrote in a review flagged on the front page of Le Figaro, a pro-Sarkozy newspaper usually focused on politics and economics.
"In short: less America, more France and more Beatles," he wrote of the contents of the album.
While acknowledging that interest in the album is acute due to Bruni's romance with Sarkozy, Dicale lauded it as a "perfect success" in terms of music.
In an interview also published on Wednesday in celebrity magazine VSD, Bruni says she is painfully aware of the pitfalls of her dual role as artist and first lady.
"Perceptions will not only be musical. Criticism, which is useful, risks being blurred, for good or for bad, by the fact that I am the president's wife," she told the magazine.
"I have had to protect myself. I made the album in a bubble with my musical entourage," she said.
Yet she appears confident enough in song, if not in life.
"They can curse me, they can damn me, I don't care," she sings in another one of the songs, quoted by Le Figaro.
Editing by Estelle Shirbon and Paul Casciato