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ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. YAEL NAIM (Singer): (Singing) I'm a new soul, I came to this strange world, hoping I could learn a bit about how to give and take. But since...

COHEN: If you're envisioning a MacBook Air right about now, that's little surprise. It's this song, hand-picked by Steve Jobs himself, that runs during the TV commercials for the new computer. The popular ads have also made this song the first Top 10 hit for an Israeli singer in the U.S.

Her name is Yael Naim. That's also the name of her new album, which features percussionist David Donatien. Last week our colleague Madeleine Brand spoke with both of them about their newfound fame.

MADELEINE BRAND: Yael Naim and David Donatien, welcome to the program.

Ms. NAIM: Thank you. We're happy to be here.

Mr. DAVID DONATIEN (Percussionist): Thank you.

BRAND: Okay, so this song that you wrote is called "New Soul." This song isn't about a computer.

Ms. NAIM: Really?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: What is it about? What did you really want to talk about?

Ms. NAIM: The song was written after a conversation with a good friend of mine. We were talking about reincarnation, and you know...

BRAND: Reincarnation?

Ms. NAIM: Yes. I was just telling her that looking back a few years earlier, I was really, like, pretentious, I think. I thought I was an old soul and that I knew life, but then starting the real life, I figured I am completely new. I mean, I did, like - everything was a mess and I did a lot of mistakes. So it was just looking back and say, okay, let's start again, it's okay.

BRAND: Do you have any reservations at all that this song is being used to sell a product?

Mr. DONATIEN: We call it (speaks in foreign language) computer, but it was okay for this. But some tried to ask us before, like chocolate or things like this, and we say no.

BRAND: You mean to use it to sell chocolate, and you said no?

Mr. DONATIEN: Yeah.

Ms. NAIM: Yeah, because we didn't feel any connection, and it's true that today computers helps us making the music. It's really a tool.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Now, this new album has the other songs on it. They're in French, they're in English, they're in Hebrew, and you speak all three. Are there certain songs that are better in Hebrew or better - you can better express yourself in French or in English?

Ms. NAIM: I don't know if it's a matter of better. It's really different. English is really free for me. Like there is no limits to the music and to the imagination, and French is just - I live in Paris, and it's really a poetic language where you can really play with words. And Hebrew, it's my first language.

I study in this language, I read everything. So it's really the most personal, I think, and most simple. When I write in Hebrew, I don't look for any sophistication in the music. It's just pure emotion that comes out.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. NAIM: (Singing in foreign language)

BRAND: And David, how do you approach your working with Yael? You helped with the arrangements, the instrumentation, then when she - a song comes to her, then what do you do? How do you step in and shape it?

Mr. DONATIEN: We work a lot on the emotion and when we were happy about the emotion, we start to work on the arrangement. It's only during(ph) music, I think, between her and me.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Talk to me bout the song, it's a cover, actually, of the song "Toxic," and this is a Britney Spears song, and it is, I have to say - your version is like - it's like night and day, the two versions.

(Soundbite of song, "Toxic")

Ms. NAIM: (Singing) With the taste of your lips, I'm on a ride. You're toxic. I'm slipping under the taste of your poison paradise. I'm addicted to you. Don't you know that you're toxic?

BRAND: First of all, why did you choose to do a cover of this song, "Toxic"?

Ms. NAIM: It was a joke in the beginning. I like playing with other music really far and to see what happen if I bring it to our work, musical work. So that day, I just wanted to take something really far. So Britney Spears seems really far away.

And at the end, when we looked at it, it was really nice seeing how this song comes from another world became a song from our world.

(Soundbite of song, "Toxic")

Ms. NAIM: (Singing) Can you feel me now?

(Soundbite of song, "Paris")

Ms. NAIM: (Singing in Hebrew)

BRAND: The first song on your album is in Hebrew, and I don't speak Hebrew, so I don't know what it says, but I wonder if you could describe it and tell me a little bit about it.

Ms. NAIM: The first song is "Paris," and it's really the first song in Hebrew I have ever written, and it was - it really described this period when this album was written, and it was after I arrived to Paris. I was there for four years already, and I felt suddenly that I left Israel without saying goodbye, without knowing I'm going to stay in Paris for so long, and it's just this mixture of sadness, and I still didn't find my voice, and after four years also my boyfriend left me.

He was in Israel; I was in Paris, and it was too far. So I wrote it in this period when coming to Paris was - I had to pay some price in order to stay. So it was just all mixture that make me write this song and the rest of the songs in Hebrew.

BRAND: I wonder if you could just translate one or two of the lines.

(Soundbite of song, "Paris")

Ms. NAIM: (Singing in foreign language)

Ms. NAIM: So (speaking foreign language), I ran somewhere else, (speaking foreign language), the most far I could get and I find myself in Paris. And then (speaking foreign language), far away from my home in Paris.

BRAND: Well, Yael Naim, thank you very much.

Ms. NAIM: Thank you.

BRAND: And David Donatien, thank you both very much for coming in.

Mr. DONATIEN: Oh, thank you.

BRAND: That's Yael Naim and her collaborator, David Donatien. Her new album is self-titled. It's called "Yael Naim," and you can hear tracks from that album at our Web site, npr.org.

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