100 ESSENTIAL BRAZILIAN SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 7: The 2000-2010s

Contemporary music –in Brazil, France and elsewhere- has been greatly influenced by social media, video sharing and music streaming, all trademarks of the 2000s and beyond. Specifically for Brazilian music, this globalizing phenomena has had positive, as well as deleterious consequences: increased foreign songs topping the charts on one side, but also Brazilian mainstream music massively available to the rest of the world. The proof: songs like Mc Fioti’s “Bum Bum TamTam” with more than 1 billion! views on YouTube, and Michel Teló’s “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” with over 800 million views…

Despite globalization, Brazil internal music market has seen a meteoric increase in popularity of regional rhythms during this period, mainly sertanejo. Actually, sertanejo is Brazilian audiences‘ preferred music genre .

No one can deny that Brazil is a country with a powerful musical history. Going through all its music repertoire while preparing this series of articles, I can’t help but admire even more its distinct and perennial beauty. Are things changing though? Is Brazilian music going through a phase of decadence? This is an ongoing debate in the country nowadays… Many music critics are definite: today’s consumer society –they believe- leads to “consumable music”; moreover, they blame the universal predominance of sertanejo as responsible for the lack of musical diversification nowadays. “We always had good music and bad music in Brazil -says one critic- but there was a balance. At this time, at least 90% of what record companies release is totally disposable”. Some go even further and state that pagoda, sertanejo and electronic forró are “a tsunami of musical trash unprecedented in the history of Brazilian music”. Other critics are more optimistic. Véronique Mortaigne, writing an article in The Guardian, states that: “Brazil is surfing a musical new wave that is now reaching Europe”, making emphasis on the quality of certain musicians’ work “not afraid to mix the old and the new, irritating a few purists along the way”.

The debate could go on forever. What is certain is that there are still many bright examples of fine Brazilian music. Check out my list with some of the most remarkable songs of the 2000-2010s, go ahead and Brazilify” your playlist!

87) Bebel Gilberto – “Samba da Bênção” (2000) 

Bebel Gilberto is an extremely talented bossa nova singer, and it couldn’t be otherwise: she is the daughter of Joao Gilberto and Miucha, and the niece of Chico Buarque

She became worldwide known after the release of her amazing album Tanto Tempo.  This particular song was written by Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell; it was featured in the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Read more here.

 

88) Pato Fu – “Ando meio desligado” (2001) 

This psychedelic anthem was composed by the iconic band Os Mutantes in 1970; it was listed by Rolling Stone Brazil as the 50th greatest Brazilian song.

Of the many re-recordings the song has had, I like this one, by the Belo Horizonte band Pato Fu.

 

89) Gabriel o Pensador – “Até Quando?(2001) 

Known for his intellectual and controversial lyrics, rapper Gabriel o Pensador (“Gabriel the Thinker”) stepped into the limelight with his provocative composition “Tô Feliz (Matei o Presidente)” [I’m Happy (I killed the President)]. He has had a highly successful career since then, topping often the charts with his gold or platinum-certified albums.

Até Quando? (“Until when?”) was released in the album Seja Você Mesmo (mas não Seja sempre o Mesmo) (“Be Yourself (but not always the same”). Its compelling lyrics address the issue of conformism. It was highly praised by most critics and received an award at Brazil’s MTV Video Music Awards.

 

90) Cássia Eller & Nando Reis – “Relicário” (2001)

Cássia Eller is one of the most successful pop singers/composers in Brazil. Owner of a distinctive contralto voice, she was rated as the 18th greatest vocalist by Rolling Stone Brasil.

This beautiful song was composed by Nando Reis and was included in the live album Acústico MTV, where she sings it together with Reis; it is Cássia’s final album before her death on December 29, 2001 at 39 years old.

 

91) Tribalistas – “Velha Infancia ” (2002)

Tribalistas is a Brazilian musical supergroup consisting of Arnaldo Antunes (ex-Titãs), Marisa Monte and Carlinhos Brown (Timbalada). Their debut collaboration resulted in the popular album Tribalistas, which attained considerable popularity in Brazil and Europe. The curious thing with this popular group is that, despite their great success, they have rarely performed together, deciding to go on a world tour just now in 2018.

Among their most popular songs are “Já Sei Namorar” (included on the video game FIFA Football 2004), “Passe em Casa“, “É Você” and “Velha Infância“, played on the Brazilian soap opera Mulheres Apaixonadas.

 

92) Paulinho da Viola & Marisa Monte – “Carinhoso” (2003)

Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Jr. was not yet Pixinguinha when he began to be called a prodigy, enchanting with his unusual musicality and facility for instruments and improvisations. Considered till nowadays a musical genius,  Pixinguinha is regarded as  one of the greatest Brazilian composers of popular music, particularly within the genre choro. “Carinhoso“,  was recorded in 1928 and has remained as one of the most famous melodies of Brazilian popular music. Incredibly enough, he received heavy negative criticism at that time, with complaints that it was “too Americanized.”

From Marisa Monte to Elizeth Cardoso, from Paulinho da Viola to Francisco Alves, from Elis Regina to Marcelo Camelo, dozens of artists made their impassioned interpretations of “Carinhoso”; one of my favorites is this one, by Marisa Monte and Paulinho da Viola.

93) Zeca Pagodinho – “Deixa A Vida Me Levar” (2004)

Zeca Pagodinho is a singer and songwriter considered a great name of the genre samba and pagode. He has recorded more than 20 albums and has become immensely popular, not only due to his irreverence and jocosity, bur mostly due to his rare talent, praised by critics and consecrated artists.

This song gives name to his 2004 album Deixa A Vida Me Levar (“Let life take me”), it was extremely successful, becoming double-platinum certified.

 

94) Sergio Mendes feat. Stevie Wonder & Gracinha Leporace – “Berimbau / Consolação ” (2006)

The berimbau is a single-string percussion instrument. Originally from Africa, it was eventually incorporated into the practice of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira. The instrument became worldwide known for being the subject matter of this song, which belongs to Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes.

Maybe one of the most famous versions of “Berimbau / Consolação ” is the one performed by Toquinho and Maria Creuza in 1970; nevertheless I love this version, featured in Sergio Mendes’ 2006 Album Timeless, with the participation of his wife, Gracinha Leporace and iconic American artist Stevie Wonder.

 

95) Vanessa Da Mata & Ben Harper – “Boa Sorte/Good Luck ” (2007)

Award-winning, chart-topping singer, composer, and novelist, Vanessa da Mata got her start writing songs for artists such as Maria Bethania and Daniela Mercury. Despite the strength of her voice, it took her several years until she finally decided to record her own material, releasing her self-titled debut in 2002. It was her next album, Essa Boneca Tem Manuel, however, that really pushed her into the limelight, aided by the strength of the single “Ai Ai Ai“. Three years later her third album, Sim, was released. Sim spawned the hit single “Boa Sorte/Good Luck“, a duet with Ben Harper, which peaked at number one in both Brazil and Portugal and was the most played song in Brazilian radio stations in 2008.

96) Criolo – “Subirusdoistiozin” (2011)

Criolo is a rapper and soul singer. With a career starting in 1989, he originally got a reputation as one of São Paulo most important rappers. After the release of his second album, “Nó na Orelha” (Knot in the ear), he saw his popularity grow beyond São Paulo to all Brazil and abroad, leading to a successful worldwide tour. He has been characterized as “ the most interesting and unruly representative of the Brazilian new wave”.

Nó na Orelha” mixes rap, afrobeat, hip hop, reggae, samba and brega. It received positive reviews and was considered the best national album of 2011 by the magazine Rolling Stone. From this album, “Subirusdoistiozin” (Two-Old-Guys-Died) is the most popular track; it describes the general waywardness of favela street culture.

 

97) Marisa Monte – “Ainda Bem” (2011)

Multi-awarded singer, composer, instrumentalist, and producer, Marisa Monte is considered one of Brazil’s greatest singers; in fact, Rolling Stone Brasil listed Monte as the second greatest singer of all time after Elis Regina. She also has two records (MM and Verde, Anil, Amarelo, Cor-de-Rosa e Carvão) among the 100 best albums of Brazilian music.

Ainda Bem (“Just as well”) belongs to her highly praised eighth record O Que Você Quer Saber de Verdade (“What do you really want to know”), was considered by Billboard Brasil the best album of 2011. Originally, “Ainda Bem” was composed by Marisa for Italian singer Mina, who included it in her 2011 album Piccolino.

 

98) Dominguinhos & Arthur Maia – “Lamento Sertanejo ” (2014)

An emblematic representative of the forro music genre, Dominguinhos has had success as a musician, both solo and as a sideman for consecrated artists like Luís Gonzaga, Caetano VelosoGilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Maria Bethânia. But also as a composer, he has produced hits recorded for some of the most important Brazilian artists; he has also written cinema soundtracks and has won four Prêmio Sharp Awards.

This is one of his biggest hits, composed in 1941. Initially instrumental, it was later re-recorded by Gilberto Gil, who wrote its lyrics. The song has received countless recordings and has been included in the soundtrack of several films and soap operas. The original version is beautiful; this version though, by Dominguinhos himself together with the great Brazilian bassist Arthur Maia, it’s just beguiling.

 

99) Adriana Calcanhotto – “Felicidade” (2015)

Adriana Calcanhotto is an MPB (Brazil popular music) singer and composer revealed in 1990, who has had great success in Brazil and helped bring MPB back to the hit parade after the 1980s’ Brazilian rock period.

Felicidade (“Happiness”) was written in 1947 by the great samba-canção composer Lupicínio Rodrigues; it was re-presented to Brazil by Caetano Veloso in 1974 who made it widely popular. Calcanhotto included it in her fourth live album Loucura (“Madness”), which is a tribute to Lupicínio Rodrigues.

 

100) Tiago Iorc & Milton Nascimento – “Mais Bonito Não Há” (2017)

Tiago Iorc is one of Brazil’s new talents. Singer-songwriter and record producer, with his debut album Let Yourself In, he gained notoriety after several of Tiago’s songs were featured on major Brazilian primetime soap operas, TV ads and films. Let Yourself In was also released in Japan with great success and in South Korea, where the public granted Tiago a Best Foreign Artist Award.

In 2017, he partnered with the incomparable Milton Nascimento (who declared being Tiago’s fan) and recorded some songs for the purpose of a national tour. This exquisite song (“Nothing more beautiful”) is the result of this partnership.

 

See also:

100 ESSENTIAL BRAZILIAN SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 2: The 1930s, 40s & 50s


In my previous post I presented an overview of Brazil’s music history and styles. This article will focus on the music of the first half of the twentieth century.

During this period, Brazil’s Teatro de Revista became a very popular genre, inspired by European operetta. It reached its peak in the 30s and revealed talents like Carmen Miranda, Wilza Carla, Dercy Gonçalves and Elvira Pagan, who had immense success.

Also in the late 1930s, the so-called Radio Era began in Brazil. As the process of recording discs was still primitive with poor quality results, the radio became the preferred circulation channel for new productions. This communication medium played an important role on the diffusion of popular music until well into the 1950s, but it quickly lost space when television became popular. Some performers that conquered the national audience were Dolores Duran, Dalva de Oliveira, Cauby Peixoto, Nora Ney, Emilinha Borba, Marlene, Vicente Celestino and Ângela Maria.

During this period the popularity of samba intensifies, and by the end of the 50’s bossa nova starts making its appearance.

These are 10 representative songs of the 30s – 40s – 50s:


1) Francisco Alves – “Aquarela do Brasil” (1939) 

Known in the English-speaking world simply as “Brazil“, it’s one of the most famous Brazilian songs, written by Ary Barroso. With this song, he created the genre known as samba exaltation for speaking of Brazil’s great qualities. “Aquarela do Brasil” became successful after being included in Walt Disney’s animated film Saludos Amigos. Since then, it has been recorded numerous times throughout the years, and was featured prominently in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film Brazil.

After “Garota de Ipanema”, it is the most recorded Brazilian song in the four corners of the planet. This wonderful original version was performed by Francisco Alves; other great covers are those by Elis Regina and João Gilberto.

 

2) Dorival Caymmi – “O Mar” (1940) 

No other composer of Brazilian music portrayed the sea as well as Dorival Caymmi. Among all his songs this one is certainly one of the greatest classics and has been recorded in other languages by interpreters from all over the world. The vastness of the sea of his native Bahia was Caymmi’s greatest inspiration for this song.

 

3) Carmen Miranda – “Tico-Tico No Fubá” (1947)

Although first presented in 1917, it reached the peak of popularity in the 40s. One of its most successful versions is the one by Ademilde Fonseca in 1942. This is one of the songs that contributed to the internationalization of Brazilian music, mostly since it featured in several American films, such as Copacabana (1947), in which it was eternalized by the iconic fruit-basket head-dressed Carmen Miranda.

 

4) Luiz Gonzaga – “Asa Branca” (1947)

Written by Luiz Gonzaga and Humberto Teixeira, asa branca (“white wing”) refers to a bird of the parched sertão (the semi-arid region in Northeastern Brazil ). The picazuro pigeon symbolizes peace, longing and exile. But the evocative lyrics of the song speak of the difficult conditions of sertanejo’s life. The bird flaps wings to find a better life and the protagonist of the song does the same. But he promises to his love that someday he will return, when the rain falls again. There are more than 300 versions of this song, but no interpretation beats the one by Gonzaga.

 

5) Waldir Azevedo – “Brasileirinho” (1947)

Waldir Azevedo is one of the most famous cavaquinho players of Brazil. This song, representative of the choro genre, would become a reference for all the instrumentalists of Brazil and was a huge success from the moment it was released.

 

6) Noel Rosa – “Conversa de Botequim ” (1950)

Launched in 1935, this samba perpetuates one of the lightest and most relaxed lyrics of that time. It was written, however, in a tense time – marked by the 1930 Revolution in Brazil and by the crack of the New York Stock Exchange. The most acclaimed versions are by Aracy de Almeida, Chico Buarque and by Noel himself, one of its authors.

 

7) João Gilberto – “Chega de Saudade ” (1958)

This song is often considered to be the first recorded bossa nova song. The music was composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and the lyrics were written by Vinícius de MoraesJoão Gilberto‘s version is the most famous, although the original one was recorded one year later.

The title can be translated roughly as “enough longing,” though the Portuguese word saudade carries a far more complex meaning. The word implies an intensity of heartfelt connection that is yearned for passionately. Chega means no moreenough.

 

8) João Gilberto – “Desafinado” (1958)

There are countless recordings of this classic bossa nova song, but this one arguably surpasses all the others. Composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim, it was released in João Gilberto‘s seminal album Chega de Saudade. Its strange melody, its deliberate debauchery and the incomparable guitar sound had never been heard before. Although  Brazil had already exported some songs before this one, nothing compared to the impact that “Desafinado” had when it was recorded in 1962 by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd for the album Jazz Samba. It was the music that definitively put bossa nova in the international scene and took Brazilian music to an era of modernity.

“Desafinado” means “out of tune” and was a response to critics who claimed that bossa nova was a new genre for singers who can’t sing.

 

9) Dolores Duran – “A Noite do Meu Bem” (1959)

This samba-canção is the most famous song of carioca Dolores Duran and the one that best defines her particular style. A successful singer in a country that, at that time, had no tradition of women composers, Dolores gained more popularity after her death at age 29, one month after releasing this song.

 

10) Luiz Bonfá – “Manhã De Carnaval ” (1959)

The most notorious composition of carioca violinist Luis Bonfá was used in the soundtrack of the film Orfeu do Carnaval (Black Orpheus) directed by Marcel Camus. The film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1960,  after which this beautiful song conquered the entire world.

 

Coming soon:

  • The 1960s
  • The 1970s
  • The 1980s 
  • The 1990s
  • The 2000s – 2010s