By Joe Lopes
September 21, 2007

Here is the fifth and final part of Joe’s article, covering his top ten favourite tracks that reflect the pervasive influence of the classic bossa nova sound in their makeup or design. To read the previous parts click the relevant link at the bottom of the article.

8. Believe in Life” (Eric Clapton). From the cream of the crop to the bottom of the barrel, that’s what we get with Eric Clapton’s “Believe in Life,” his one (and hopefully only) attempt at a bossa-nova connection. But the only connection purchasers need make after having acquired this nonentity is with the Returns Department on eBay.

The song is found on his ponderously named Reptile (Reprise, 2001) – and yes, friends, the party’s definitely over with this bargain basement, pseudo-Brazilian atrocity, as faux a piece of work as any I’ve heard from the blues-man from Ripley. I’m still scratching my head over its banality and blandness next to the topnotch quality of Clapton’s previous output (“Wonderful Tonight,” “Tears in Heaven”).

Possessed of the most uninspired lyrics he’s ever had the misfortune to unearth (“And when the day is almost done / And there is nothing left to say / You will let me call your name / ‘Cause I love you more than light”), the less I say about “Believe in Life,” the better.

And talk about a lounge lizard’s delight, this Reptile runs both hot and cold (mostly cold), and is musically all over the map. My advice would be to look elsewhere for your pop thrills.

9. “Come Away With Me” and “Sunrise” (Norah Jones). Just when you thought it was safe to throw out your old compact disc player – especially after repeated hearings of Number Eight above – along comes a talented young artist, of the exalted caliber of Ms. Norah Jones, to lift the spirits and sooth the soul with her much-needed conviction that modern-day pop is alive and well and thriving in Variety Land.

Jones (the daughter of sitar master Ravi Shankar), along with her crack backup band, received six Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist, for her triumphant Come Away With Me on Blue Note (2002).

On this, her premiere set of songs, and on the atmospheric title tune, she is miles ahead of her closest recorded rival, jazz-pop darling Diana Krall, whose sleepy-eyed readings and mushy diction are a chore to get through. Not so with Norah: she’s completely natural and unaffected throughout.

Even better is her 2004 follow-up, Feels Like Home (Blue Note), with its bouncy opening number, “Sunrise” (“Sunrise, sunrise / Looks like mornin’ in your eyes / But the clocks held 9:15 for hours”) – the colorful and surreal video isn’t bad, either. It holds the attention span, as well as the Number Nine position, which brings my top-ten list (now a baker’s dozen) to a close.

I know what you’re thinking: that neither “Come Away With Me” nor “Sunrise” is, strictly speaking, legit bossa nova. I concede they’re a bit of a stretch, but just listen to that sure beat and toe-tapping rhythm, and especially to that irresistible voice and its allure.

Norah Jones is the real deal, all right, and the best we have in this repertoire right now. Despite certain tonal similarities to Dido and to Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachan (with a hint or two of country music’s Lee Ann Rimes), she’s as near to the “Astrud” aesthetic as we’re likely to get. Enjoy her, while you can, or I’ll be forced to give Eric another spin.

So how did bossa nova do after all? Not bad, actually. I half expected it to be a whole lot worse off than it was. There’s always room for improvement, of course, but truth be told it’s come along quite nicely through the years – given what there is to work with.

As we have since seen, the best songs of this type can be categorized not just by their exceptional lyrical beauty, but by the singer’s individual attitude toward them, expressed, principally, in the way he or she distances (or does not distance) him or herself from the source.

To put it another way, it’s one thing to approach bossa nova covers in this arms-length manner; it’s quite another when attempting to do proper justice to your own work. The finished product, then, usually ends up becoming a precarious (and sometimes unsatisfactory) balance between the two.

Both are viable options, however, and based strictly on personal preference (as this list certainly is).

Now if we could only get the producers of American Idol interested in that Brazilian beat. Indeed, that would be my ideal “fantasy island” wish, and, when it comes right down to it, the only thing I’d like to take with me to that fictional tropical atoll. Who needs all that excess CD clutter anyway?

Copyright 2007 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 4
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 3
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 2
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 1
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 4
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 3
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 2
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 1
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 6
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 5
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 4
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 3
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 2
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 2
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 1
Misunderstanding Brazil’s National Anthem: A Crash-Course in the Hymn of the Nation
Brecht, Weill & Buarque: The Brazilian Play’s the Thing! Part 1
Theater, the Brecht of Life: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera, Part II
A Walk on the Weill Side: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera Part 2
A Walk on the Weill Side: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera Part 1
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 5
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 4
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 3
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 2
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 1
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 11
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 10
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 9
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 8
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 7
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 6
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 5
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 4
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 3
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 2
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 21
Teaching English In Brazil Part 20
Teaching English In Brazil Part 19
Teaching English In Brazil Part 18
Teaching English In Brazil Part 17
Teaching English In Brazil Part 16
Teaching English In Brazil Part 15
Teaching English In Brazil Part 14
Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

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