100 ESSENTIAL BRAZILIAN SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 6: The 1990s

If there is one word can define the 1990s, that is globalization. With Brazil’s growing openness to the globalized nineties’ culture, greatest influence of foreign musical trends was unavoidable. The youth of that period would increasingly enjoy dancing -in night clubs- to the new electronic rhythms, such as techno, trance and house.

On the other hand, Brazilians revalorized their own historical roots. The great originality and variety of the nation’s music is observed in the creative fusion of diverse influences such as samba, sertaneja, Brazilian rock, samba-reggae, baião, forró, lambada, axé, electronic music, among many others.

Globalization also made easy for Brazilian music to gain worldwide recognition. After pioneers like Carmen Miranda, many other names gave Brazilian popular music international publicity during that decade.

In the 90s, other styles like funk carioca and hip hop became popular among young people of the country’s Southeast, whereas the brega style “resisted” and was renewed, remaining popular especially in the North and Northeast regions.

These are the songs I chose from this period:

74) João Gilberto – “Eu Sambo Mesmo ” (1991) 

One of bossa nova’s fathers, João Gilberto is a consummated artist since the fifties, with enormous international recognition since then.

His 1991 album João, with orchestrations by Clare Fischer, featured songs in English, French, Italian, and Spanish, plus old sambas and his version of Caetano Veloso’s “Sampa”. This song (“I Really Samba”) is the opening track of this wonderful album.

 

75) Sergio Mendes – “Magalenha” (1992) 

Sergio Mendes doesn’t need much introduction. Superstar from the 60’s, with a prolific career and enormous international success, he is “indelibly identified with the pop side of the bossa nova boom”.

“Magalenha” was composed by musician Carlinhos Brown and is the second track of Sergio Mendes studio album Brasileiro. The energetic vocals by Carlinhos and the explosive rhythm of the Bahian percussionists are just electrifying … I dare you not to dance when you listen to it!

“Magalenha” appears in the soundtrack of the 1998 film Dance with Me .

 

76) Daniela Mercury – “O Canto da Cidade(1992) 

“The Queen of Axé” Daniela Mercury is well known for popularizing axé music, not only throughout Brazil, but also internationally. As a matter of fact, she enjoys a goddess-like worship in Salvador da Bahia.

Her second album, O Canto da Cidade (1993) was a national phenomenon, establishing her as the most popular Brazilian performer of the early ’90s. The title track of this album (“The tune of the city”), a celebration of her native Salvador, became a sensation and topped the charts. Not only was O Canto da Cidade the first Brazilian album to top a million in sales, but it remains her best-selling album to date, with millions of copies sold -and it continues to sell today.

 

77) Timbalada- “Beija Flor” (1993)

In the late 1980s the talented drummer Carlinhos Brown started to form percussion ensembles in his hometown Salvador; he simply gathered people in the streets and taught them basic percussion patterns. Eventually these gatherings grew into a band called Timbalada.  Timbalada is credited with the revival of the timbal (a kind of drum used in candomblé), which had been nearly extinct before they began featuring it. Moreover, the band melted the rhythms of Bahia with those of Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean origin, such as samba reggae and axé and added some pop elements; the result is an interesting, extremely prototype sound. The band’s aesthetics also has a distinctive character: the vocalists make heavy use of body painting, which provides a tribal touch and adds to their originality. Timbalada is also well known for its regular participation in Salvador de Bahia’s Carnival.

Due to their innovative music and particular aesthetics, it didn’t take long until the band caught the attention of Brazilians -and the entire world, gaining deserved, huge popularity. Their first album, released in 1993, has one of their major hits, Beija-flor (“Hummingbird”).

 

78) Ivan Lins – “Madalena” (1993)

Songwriter, vocalist, and pianist, Ivan Lins came to fame in Brazil in 1970 when Elis Regina recorded his song “Madalena” and made it a hit. He has been an active performer and songwriter of Brazilian popular music and jazz since then, with numerous of his compostions recorded by remarkable Brazilian and foreign and artists, such as George BensonMichael Bublé,  Ella FitzgeraldQuincy Jones, Sarah VaughanSting and Barbra Streisand.

He did release his own version of “Madalena” in his 1993 Minha História; in here though I include this marvellous, live version with Elis Regina, featured in the album Elis Regina e Ivan Lins – Juntos (Ao Vivo).

 

79) Chico Science & Nação Zumbi – “Da Lama Ao Caos” (1994)

From the mud flats of his natal Recife, Chico Science began to experiment with music, blending maracatu with reggae, funk, rap, and rock. The mixture of ancient folkloric Northeastern rhythms with world pop and electronic music would become referred as mangue beat (“mud beat”). Mangue beat eventually grew into a musical movement, one of the most characteristics of Brazil’s musical scene of the 90s.

After being recognized in his region, Chico Science joined Nação Zumbi; their first collaborative album, Da Lama Ao Caos, was released in 1994, from which the eponymous track was a major hit.

 

80) Mamonas Assassinas – “Pelados em Santos” (1995)

Characterized as a satirical rock band, Mamonas Assassinas‘s sound consisted of a mixture of pop rock with influences of popular genres such as sertanejo, brega, pagode, forró, and vira. The only studio album recorded by the band, Mamonas Assassinas, with the hits Pelados em Santos“, “Vira-Vira” and “Robocop Gay” had a meteoric success, rapidly becoming diamond-certified.

Unfortunately, their career was tragically interrupted in March 2, 1996, when the group was the victim of a plane crash which caused the death of all its members, and a great national commotion. In spite of their brief success, the band continues influencing the national musical scene and being celebrated even now, more than two decades after its end.

 

81) Carlinhos Brown – “A Namorada” (1996)

Not only a talented percussionist, Carlinhos Brown is also a greatly praised composer and vocalist. After his success with Timbalada (see above), he decided to display all his musical virtues in his solo album Alfagamabetizado. For the album’s release, Carlinhos Brown performed many shows throughout Brazil, The United Status, Japan and Europe. The track “A Namorada” was the biggest success, even being included on the soundtrack of the film Speed 2, where he also made a cameo appearance performing the song.

 

82) Skank- “Garota Nacional” (1996)

Belo Horizonte band Skank became one of the most popular bands in Brazil in the ’90s. Mixing influences of pop music, reggae, ska and rock & roll, Skank reached the market with their first eponymous album. Their 1996 album O Samba Poconé includes one of their greatest hits, Garota Nacional. Although “Garota Nacional” literally translates to “national girl”, the song is not about the women of Brazil, as usually believed: it refers to the “girls of Bar Nacional”, a bar and nightclub in Belo Horizonte famous in the early 1990s for its beautiful female patrons.

83) Simone and Martinho da Vila – “Ex-Amor” (1996)

One of the greatest Brazilian female artists of all time, Simone is a sensuous singer with a signature low, mellow voice. Although having a more activist repertory in her beginnings, she later abandoned it in favor of more mainstream, romantic songs, with which she has enjoyed international success.

In this song she unites her voice with that of another iconic MPB and samba singer/composer: Martinho da Vila.

 

84) Chitãozinho e Xororó – “Luar Do Sertão” (1996)

With a 30 year-career, 30 released albums and the impressive 30,000,000 sold copies, Chitãozinho e Xororó are a real phenomenon in Brazil. The two singers were the first artists to successfully promote the fusion of “redneck music” (caipira) with urban pop, opening the field for a millionaire craze which would become known as sertanejo romântico, a genre that ultimately took all regions of Brazil -and many other countries. Indeed, Chitãozinho e Xororó have performed with artists such as Billy Ray Cyrus, Reba McEntire and the Bee Gees.

This song, Luar do Sertão (Hinterlands Moonlight in English) is a popular, old Brazilian song, one of the most recorded Brazilian songs of all time. Its simple verses praise the life in sertão (English: hinterlands or countryside). It appears in their album Classicos Sertanejos and counts with the participation of Simone.

 

85) Quarteto Jobim Morelenbaum – “A Felicidade” (1999)

A felicidade (“Happiness”) was composed in 1958 by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes for the film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). The theme of this mesmerizing bossa nova song is the fragility of happiness: “Tristeza não tem fim. Felicidade sim” (“Sadness has no ending. Happiness does”).

“A felicidade” has had many re-recordings throughout the years; I love this one by the Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum, which features Antonio Carlos Jobim’s son, guitarist/vocalist Paulo Jobim, and his grandson, pianist/vocalist Daniel Jobim, along with cellist Jacques Morelenbaum and his wife, vocalist Paula Morelenbaum. With the exception of Daniel, all of the group’s members were members of Jobim’s final band before his death in 1994.

 

86) Ney Matogrosso – “Poema” (1999)

Famous for his singular countertenor voice, but mostly for his provocative stage costumes, make-up and daring movements, Ney Matogrosso has always been regarded as a controversial character. What nobody can deny is that Ney is an extremely talented artist. In fact, he was ranked by Rolling Stone as the third greatest Brazilian singer of all time.

He is best known as a member of the glam rock group Secos & Molhados, a phenomenon band during the 1970s. After the band split up, Ney pursued a successful solo career in Brazil and abroad, obtaining several Gold and Platinum records.

This song (“Poem”) belongs was released in Olhos de Farol, an album that celebrated 25 years of Ney’s solo career.

 

Coming soon:

  • The 2000s – 2010s

 

100 ESSENTIAL BRAZILIAN SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 4: The 1970s

Brazil’s music transition into the 70s was marked by the consolidation of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira, Brazilian Popular Music) which now incorporates into its repertoire different rhythms, not only from Brazil’s different regions (such as the northeastern baião), but also from foreign countries (like Jamaican reggae). Standout artists of the 70s MPB are, among others, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque, Gal Costa, Simone, Elis Regina, Rita Lee and Maria Bethânia.

The Jovem Guarda had already made its appearance in the 60s and was still very popular in the beginning of the 70s. Nevertheless, Brazil was under military dictatorship at that time, and the cultural elites accused these artists of being “alienated” from the country’s social and political problems; as a result, the movement soon lost its strength.

Without the presence of the nonchalant Jovem Guarda, a different genre of popular romantic music emerged, which would gain the pejorative epithet “cafona“, then replaced by “brega” (both words meaning “tacky”). Once the name got accepted by its fans, brega music became a trend and won a wide audience. Many artists belong to this genre, although its fame was consolidated by Waldick Soriano. Since the end of the Jovem Guarda, Roberto Carlos also approached a more romantic, brega style; nevertheless, he managed to establish his position as the country’s most popular singer.

The decade of the 70s, together with the 60s, gave some of the most beautiful and timeless songs of Brazil’s cultural legacy. I really had a hard time to choose just a few among the many great songs of this period. This is the list I finally put together:


32) Maria Creuza, Toquinho and Vinicius de Moraes – “Eu sei que vou te amar” (1970) 

This incredibly beautiful song (English: “I know I will love you“) was composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. Although initially recorded by Maysa, it would become a classic when performed live in Buenos Aires by Vinícius de Moraes, together with two iconic artists of Brazil’s music stage of the 70s: Vinicius’s favourite vocalist Maria Creuza and his long-time partner, singer and guitarist Toquinho. He would  later include it on his 1970 album En ‘la Fusa’ con Maria Creuza y Toquinho (also known as “Grabado en Buenos Aires con Maria Creuza y Toquinho”). The amazing melody by Tom Jobim, and Vinicius’ impassioned lyrics on the immortality of love would establish “Eu sei que vou te amar” as one of Brazil’s quintessential songs. Indeed, it was voted the best Brazilian song of all times in a survey organized by Revista Bula.

 

33) Wilson Simonal – “País Tropical” (1970) 

“Tropical Country” was composed by Jorge Ben Jor, but it became a hit when singer Wilson Simonal released it on his 1970 Album, Simonal.

Over the years, the song would be increasingly credited to its author, overshadowing the success of the first version by Simonal. It has also been adapted by many composers and singers like Sergio Mendes, Ivete Sangalo, or even Shakira, but also by Jorge Ben Jor himelf, on his album Tropical in 1976.

 

34) Paulinho da Viola – “Foi um Rio que Passou em Minha Vida(1970) 

“It was a river that passed in my life” is the song that gives the name to the second album of carioca sambista (samba composer) Paulinho da Viola.

The song was a huge success, being sung by the masses during Rio’s carnival, and became Brazil’s biggest hit of the 1970, projecting Paulinho nationally.

 

35) Vinicius de Moraes and Toquinho – “Tarde em Itapoã ” (1970)

This is another fruit of Toquinho’s long partnership with Vinicius de Moraes, which would last until Vinicius death in 1980. Composer and performer with 50 years of sucessful career, Toquinho has to date 84 records released, over 450 compositions and about 8,500 shows in Brazil and abroad.

This song (“Afternoon in Itapoã”) immortalizes Itapuã as a serene, romantic and exuberant place, located 20 km from the center of Salvador de Bahia. Unfortunately, spending an afternoon in Itapuã is no longer the quiet program Vinícius and Toquinho described: the neighborhood became Salvador’s noisiest and one of the most polluted.

 

36) Chico Buarque – “Construção” (1971)

Brazil in the early 1970s was a land of paradoxes: under military government, the so-called “Brazilian Miracle” promised record economic growth; as a result, construction was booming. Workers though, would spend endless hours at the constructions and earned very little.

This was also a period when censorship hampered artistic freedom of expression. Fearing persecution, Chico Buarque spent a brief period of exile in Italy; but longing his beloved Brazil, he returned determined to show his disagreement with the situation. And he managed to create a masterpiece.

“Construction” is the chronicle of the life and death of a construction worker. The character of the song leaves the house, kisses his wife and children and goes to work. There he works “as if he were a machine”. Finally, he falls from the scaffolding in the middle of the street “like a package, disrupting the traffic”.

The lyrics are truly brilliant, written in dodecasyllable verses with each sentence ending with a proparoxytone word (that is, stressed on the antepenultimate syllable). The stanzas are repeated three times, with some keywords being changed position; these changes make the understanding of the lyrics ambiguous as it is not clear whether the worker dies as a result of the bad working conditions or he commits suicide, desperate in the face of his scant life prospect.

“Construction” would not be so overwhelming without the symphonic, imposing arrangement conceived by Rogério Duprat, who uses the orchestra as a sinister component, emulating the chaotic noises of the metropolis, its horns and buildings under construction.

The song is a strong critic of workers’ alienation in a modern, urban capitalist society; it is still a reference song to understand a thorny period of Brazil’s history. Deservedly, “Construção” was selected by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest Brazilian song of all times.

 

37) Maria Creuza – “Você Abusou ” (1971)

The Baianos Antônio Carlos and Jocáfi composed and first sung this beautiful song (“You abused”), which was successful with the sultry voice of Maria Creuza -who later married Antônio Carlos.

It became an international hit, particularly in France, where it was later adapted by Michel Fugain with the nameFais comme l’oiseau”; other famous versions are those by Celia Cruz and Stevie Wonder.

 

38) Nara Leão – “Insensatez” (1971)

“How foolish” is a bossa nova song composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes. The song resembles Chopin’s prelude in E minor.

It has been re-recorded many times by Brazilian and foreign artists such as Olivia Newton-JohnLiberace, Iggy Pop, and Pat Metheny. Nevertheless, I love this version, performed by “the muse of bossa nova”, Nara Leão.

 

39) Roberto Carlos – “Detalhes” (1971)

Latin pop superstar Roberto Carlos is a major figure in Brazil – and worldwide: his popularity as romantic ballad singer is perhaps rivalled only by Julio Iglesias.

During the 60s he initiated a major revolution; in a period when the Beatles were taking over the world, Carlos became their Brazilian counterpart as the leader of the Jovem Guarda. Initially a TV show, this “Young Guard” soon became not only a musical style, but also a behavioral, fashion and language influence to an entire generation. With his light music and simple lyrics, he was a deep contrast to “serious”, “somber” MPB. Managing to pursue a successful career throughout the years, Roberto Carlos is arguably the most successful romantic artist in Brazil, gaining the title of “The King”.

Together with his longtime partner Erasmo Carlos, he composed this timeless ballad whose lyrics are, according to Rolling Stone Brazil: “…among the most beautiful in the history of music, in any of the five continents”.

 

40) Gal Costa – “Vapor Barato” (1971)

Arguably one of Brazil’s most amazing voices, a representative figure of the Tropicália movement, an indisputable timeless icon. Gal Costa is a star that keeps shining for over 5 decades.

Back in the 70s, things were not easy for Gal. While all her friends had gone away, exiled by the dictatorship, she decided to stay in Brazil, as part of the “resistance”. And she managed to become the muse of Tropicália with the show Gal a Todo Vapor. Directed by Wally Solomon, the show was recorded in her outstanding double album Fa-Tal.

“Vapor Barato”, included in Fa-Tal is about the disenchantment of the post-1968 years, of course expressed in a very poetical, metaphorical way so as to remain under the radar of censorship. Although now considered a timeless song, it had been almost forgotten until filmmaker Walter Salles “rescued” it by including it in the soundtrack of the film Terra Estrangeira (Foreign land).

41) Jorge Ben – “Filho Maravilha” (1972)

Brazilians’ passion for football (soccer) is not a secret; therefore, a song devoted to a football player comes to no surprise. “Filho Maravilha” is a song written by one of the most important Brazilian artists, singer and songwriter Jorge Ben (later renamed Jorge Ben Jor), and refers to Brazilian football player João Batista de Sales, better known as “Fio Maravilha”.

Always innovative and open-minded, Jorge Ben has been a member of most of the important movements of 20th Brazilian popular music. He is the author of two of the most legendary samba songs: “Mas Que Nada” and “País Tropical“.

 

42) Sérgio Sampaio – “Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua” (1972)

Sérgio Sampaio was not a mainstream artist. His elaborate lyrics, often with literary references (he was an admirer of Franz Kafka) did not enjoy much commercial success. Nevertheless, his enormous talent and his irreverent manners were invariably praised by critics and a selected public.

He did have one big hit, “Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua” (I want to throw my troops on the streets), a song that refers, as many songs of that period, to the military dictatorship and Sampaio’s wish that everybody goes out and express anything they had keep to themselves.

43) Milton Nascimento – “San Vicente” (1972)

Milton Nascimento is one of Brazil’s most talented and influential artists, with a sublime tenor voice “that often slips into an ethereal falsetto, (…) as that of an angel”, the New York Times once wrote.

San Vicente is one of his greatest classics; it has become an anthem, both in Brazil and other Latin America countries. Recorded in 1972 in the double collective album Clube da Esquina, it is, without any doubt, one of the most beautiful songs of the Brazilian popular songbook. Milton has interpreted it with many other artists, of which those with the remarkable Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos and the Argentinian iconic singer Mercedes Sosa are just marvellous.

 

44) Airto Moreira – “Tombo In 7/4” (1973)

The most iconic percussionist of the 70s –and still one of the world’s greatest, Airto Moreira (or just Airto) helped make percussion an essential part of modern jazz; he has collaborated with the greatest names of jazz such as Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Chick Corea.

This song was part of his masterful 1973 album “Fingers”, and was composed together with Uruguayan artist Hugo Fattoruso. What Airto probably never imagined was that “Tombo In 7/4” would become a huge mainstream success, until German group Bellini sampled it in 1997 to create the super hit “Samba de Janeiro”.

 

45) Novos Baianos – “Samba da Minha Terra” (1973)

Os Novos Baianos is regarded as one of the most important and revolutionary groups in Brazilian music. They had a primordial role in the fusion of rock with Brazilian folklore rhythms, helping along the evolution of MPB. Formed in Salvador, Bahia in the late ’60s by Paulinho Boca de Cantor , Pepeu Gomes , Moraes MoreiraBaby Consuelo and Luiz Galvão.

This song belongs to their third record, Novos Baianos F. C.; it displays the enormous talent of the band, particularly through the voice and violão (acoustic guitar) of Moraes Moreira, and the electric guitar of virtuoso Pepeu Gomes.

 

46) Raul Seixas – “Metamorfose Ambulante” (1973)

Raul Seixas is without any doubt one of Brazil’s fundamental rock musicians. In spite of his premature death at 44 years old in 1989, “Raulzito” –his nickname- remains a strong influence to popular music and a timeless idol for Brazilian people.

His expressive and existentialist discography was heavily marked by his collaboration with the outstanding novelist Paulo Coelho. From his numerous hits I find this song (“Walking metamorphosis”) is one of the most beautiful; it was released in his acclaimed debut album Krig-ha, Bandolo!

 

47) Fagner – “Canteiros” (1973)

Raimundo Fagner (or just Fagner) is a singer, composer, musician, actor and music producer. He has managed to remain highly successful from the beginning of his career in the 70s till nowadays, not only in Brazil, but also abroad -particularly in Spanish-speaking countries.

During his long career he has recorded in several countries and collaborated with many international artists, leading to the release of -so far- 35 albums (the last one in 2014). This song belongs to his debut album, Manera Fru Fru, Manera.

 

48) Nelson Cavaquinho – “A Flor e o Espinho” (1973)

Nelson Cavaquinho is -together with Cartola- the most talented and prolific samba composer: he left 600 compositions that have been recorded by some of the greatest interpreters of Brazilian music.

Cavaquinho composed the tune for this beautiful samba and Guilherme de Brito wrote the lyrics, which are among the most heartbreaking of Brazilian music: “Get your smile out of the way, ‘cause I want to go by with my pain”. Its tone is typical of the pair, usually pessimistic about love and life.

 

49) Secos & Molhados – “Rosa de Hiroshima” (1973)

Formed in 1971 by Ney Matogrosso, Gerson Conrad and João Ricardo, Secos & Molhados is one of few bands who led Brazil from bossa nova through Tropicália and then to Brazilian rock. Much of the group’s success, apart from their masterful first eponymous album (one of the biggest selling phenomena of the 1970s), was their extravagant stage presence, with heavy use of makeup and dramatic elements, and of course Ney’s signature counter-tenor voice.

“Rosa de Hiroshima” was originally a poem by Vinicius de Moraes. Its very powerful lyrics are a criticism to war; the poetic tone managed to fool censorship and became a huge success during the seventies.

 

50) Os Originais do Samba – “Saudosa Maloca” (1973)

Appreciated for their particular blend of traditional samba and humor, Os Originais do Samba became a commercial success, achieving three gold records during their long-lasting career. Their fame in Brazil extended abroad: they were the first samba group to perform and record at the Olympia in Paris; they also performed in the USA.

This song (“Nostalgic Shed”) belongs to the great paulista composer Adoniran Barbosa; it has been performed by many artists including Adoniran himself, but this version by Os Originais do Samba is my favourite.

 

51) Benito De Paula – “Meu Amigo Charlie Brown” (1974)

With his fancy dressing and emotional interpretations, Benito di Paula became the father of a new samba style, which would be known as sambão-jóia, a romantic and commercial genre precursor of contemporary pagode romântico.

This was one of di Paula’s greatest hits; it was covered by artists like Two Man Sound and Sylvia Vrethammar.

 

52) Elis Regina and Tom Jobim – “Águas de Março” (1974)

“A a stick, a stone, it’s the end of the road”… “Águas de Março” describes the beginning of the rainy season in Brazil, the month of March, which also marks the end of the summer (in the Southern Hemisphere). The element of water is a metaphor for a rebirth, a promise of life. Both the lyrics and music have a constant downward progression much like the water torrent from the rain.

Tom Jobim wrote both the English and Portuguese lyrics. Although there were previous recordings, this is the version that many consider definitive; it was recorded by Elis Regina and Tom in the album Elis & Tom.

“Águas de Março” was named as the all-time best Brazilian song in a poll conducted by the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, and the second greatest Brazilian song by the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone .

 

53) Tim Maia – “Imunização Racional (Que Beleza)” (1975)

Musician and songwriter known for his humorous and ironic musical style, Tim Maia is regarded as one of the biggest icons of Brazilian music. Mostly acknowledged for introducing soul into Brazil’s musical scene; he also contributed to a wide variety of musical genres, such as funk, bossa nova, disco, romantic ballads, pop, rock, jazz, baião and MPB.

This song belongs to his fifth album, Tim Maia Racional Vol. 1. Although not well received by the critics at that time, it is now regarded as one of the best albums of all times, ranking 17 in Rolling Stone’s list.

 

54) Clara Nunes  – “Juízio Final” (1975)

“Queen of Samba” Clara Nunes is considered one of the greatest of her generation. She was the first female singer in Brazil to sell over 100,000 copies of a record, and at the peak of her career she would sell more than a million copies of each album she released. Nunes was researcher of the rhythms and folklore of Brazil and the roots of black music, she even converted to Umbanda in her later life. She died in 1983 at the age of 40 years old; nevertheless, she remains one of the most popular singers in Brazil.

This song (the title means “Last Judgment”) was written by Nelson Cavaquinho, and belongs to her album Claridade.

 

55) Cartola – “Preciso me Encontrar” (1976)

Cartola is one of the most wronged cases of Brazilian music: he became known only at advanced age, although his songs had been often recorded by other singers. Nevertheless, he is considered one of Brazil’s quintessential artists.

This particular song, sophisticated and delicate as most of his songs, was released in his masterful second disc Cartola II. It was included in the soundtrack of the highly acclaimed film Cidade de Deus (City of God), and lately in the TV series 3%.

 

56) Milton Nascimento and Chico Buarque – “O que Será (A Flor da Pele)” (1976)

O Que Será (What may it be?) was composed by Chico Buarque for the film “Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos”, based on the book by Jorge Amado.There are three versions of this song: “O que será? (Abertura)“, performed by Simone; “O que será? (À flor da terra)“, sung by Chico Buarque; and the mesmerizing “O que será? (À flor da pele)“, in which Buarque is accompanied by the incomparable Milton Nascimento. The song has a deeply passionate tone, although there are many interpretations of its lyrics.

 

57) Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento – “Caxangá” (1977)

Elis Regina is certainly one of the most talented singers to emerge from Brazil, often deemed the greatest Brazilian singer of all times. With her explosive personality and her sublime voice, she gained the respect not only of the Brazilian people, but also of the nation’s leading songwriters, who would line up to have one of their songs recorded by her. Elis’ death at the age of 36 shocked the whole country; nevertheless, she remains as popular after death as she was in life.

This beautiful song is interpreted together with Milton Nascimento, and belongs to her album Elis.

 

58) Maria Bethânia and Gal Costa – “Sonho Meu” (1978)

Maria Bethânia is one of Brazil’s biggest voices, with a long and successful career: she is among the 10 best-selling music artists in Brazil, having sold more than 26 million records. Talent seems to run in her family’s veins: Bethânia is the sister of the singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso and of writer-songwriter Mabel Velloso, as well as being aunt of the singers Belô Velloso and Jota Velloso.

From her album Alibi comes Sonho meu (“My dream”), where her unique voice blends with another, incredible one: Gal Costa’s.

 

59) Caetano Veloso  – “Sampa” (1978)

It is curious that in a city with great musical representatives like Os Mutantes and Demônios da Garoa, no one could decipher São Paulo better than the baiano Caetano Veloso. “Sampa” (short for São Paulo) is Caetano’s tribute to the city of São Paulo, known for its characteristic drizzle and the large number of migrants, especially from the Northeast region of the country (pejoratively called “baianos”).

Pollution, the reception to migrants, the multiple cultures and the dreams of their inhabitants are pictured in the elegant lyrics, so intense to make the song an all-time classic and transform the intersection of Ipiranga and São João Avenues in one of the most famous spots of the city. In the song, from the album Muito (1978), Caetano is accompanied by the group Outra Banda da Terra.

 

60) João Bosco  – “O Bêbado e a Equilibrista” (1979)

A civil engineer-turned-singer/songwriter, João Bosco would become one of Brazil’s most formidable songwriters, with songs recorded by the country’s greatest artists. During his early career, he supplied Elis Regina with some of her best material; since Elis’ death he started to perform his own songs, becoming an emblematic figure in Brazil’s musical scene.

This is his most personal protest song (English “The Drunkard and the Tightrope Walker”), which was selected as the theme song of Amnesty International. I love this version, sung by Bosco himself, although “O Bêbado” was made famous mostly by Elis Regina. Written during the last years of a military dictatorship, it is a deeply metaphoric, poetic song, not easy to understand on a first read. The drunk represents the artists, poets and musicians who dared to raise their voices against the dictatorship, the Equilibrist is the hope for democracy, which at every “event” that disturbed the military (marches, etc), saw its existence threatened.

 

61) Gilberto Gil – “Toda Menina Baiana” (1979)

Already a star from the 60’s, Gilberto Gil is known not only for his innovative musical style, but also for political and environmental activism.

This song (“Every girl from Bahia”) is a tribute to women from Bahia, and was reportedly inspired by Gil’s teenager daughter; it appeared in his album Realce.

 

62) Beth Carvalho – “Coisinha do Pai” (1979)

Beth Carvalho’s name is synonymous with samba, particularly the Mangueira Scola do Samba. Singer, guitarist, cavaquinist and composer, she began recording in the mid ‘60s; her interpretation of “Andança” earned her the third place at the III Festival Internacional da Canção and became a classic of MPB, re-recorded by many great singers like Maria Bethânia, Elis Regina, and Nana Caymmi.

Her 1979 album No Pagode is considered a masterpiece, and featured this song, her biggest hit of all time. In the late ‘90s, the song was even sent to outer space in the space probe Pathfinder!

Coming soon:

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

 

100 ESSENTIAL BRAZILIAN SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 3: The 1960s

As the bossa nova movement evolves in the early 1960s, Brazil’s original aestheticism gives way to the introduction of political themes. The politicization of popular music would take shape under Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964 leading to the so-called “protest song“, of which one of the most emblematic is Caminhando (“Walking”) by Geraldo Vandré. It is the time of great musical festivals, when a “university” generation of composers and singers appeared. Artists such as Chico Buarque and Edu Lobo would be idolized by intellectuals and were instrumental in the creation of Música Popular Brasileira (Brazilian Popular Music) or MPB, a movement initially linked to political engagement against dictatorship.

The Tropicália movement was also a form of protest song that appeared during the same period; it was characterized by the eclectic blend of pop culture elements -such as rock- with the elite culture -the modernist and concretist schools of visual arts- having a more erudite and experimental character. The Bahians Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were the main exponents of this movement.

The Iê-iê-iê style (Brazil’s rock’n’roll of the 60s, the equivalent of France’s yé-yé) was “softer” in Brazil than in the USA or UK, adopting a more romantic style. This movement came to be known as Jovem Guarda (Young Guard) and had huge commercial success. Its more representative artists were Roberto Carlos, Erasmo Carlos, Tim Maia and Wanderléa, among others.

These are some of the greatest songs of this period:


11) João Gilberto – “Corcovado” (1960) 

Corcovado” was written by Antônio Carlos Jobim in 1960 and refers to Rio de Janeiro’s iconic  Corcovado mountain. An English version was later released with the title “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars“.

This song was included in the album Brazil’s Brilliant João Gilberto, which was released in the United States in 1960. It was the record that introduced João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and bossa nova to the American audience, before Stan Getz scored a hit with “Desafinado”.

 

12) Carlos Lyra – “Minha Enamorada” (1960) 

This song (“My beloved”) is the most successful fruit of Carlos Lyra’s partnership with “El poetinha” Vinicius de Moraes.

“Minha Namorada” was released during the bossa nova boom, but in terms of rhythm and melody it does not have much to do with it. It is a romantic, tender and sincere ballad; Lyra and Vinicius wrote other emblematic songs, but few were as perennial as this one.

 

13) Maysa – “O Barquinho” (1961) 

One of Brazil’s most charismatic divas, known as “the Janis Joplin of Bossa Nova” due to her tumultuous personal life, Maysa would become influential for a whole generation of Brazilian artists.

This song (the title means “Little boat”) was reportedly composed by Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Bôscoli while being with friends on a boat; suddenly the engine broke down, and the sound of the motor when they were trying to restart the boat made the tune for “O Barquinho”. It was re-recorded many times, but this is one of the most successful and beautiful versions.

 

14) João Gilberto and Stan Getz – “So Danço Samba” (1962)

“Só Danço Samba” was composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes; it was suggested that the song was part of a failed movement to invent a bossa nova dance.

Só Danço Samba became in instant classic with hundreds recordings over the decades. With English lyrics provided by Norman Gimbel, it gained immediate international popularity under the titles Jazz Samba, Jazz ‘n’ Samba or occasionally I Only Dance Samba (literal translation of the original Portuguese title).

 

15) Antônio Carlos Jobim – “Água De Beber” (1963)

“Drinking-Water” was composed by Brazil’s towering figure of bossa nova and one of the great songwriters of the century Antônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by another fundamental figure in Brazilian music, the co-father of bossa nova, Vinicius de Moraes.

This was reportedly the first song composed in the new Brazil capital, Brasilia, while it was still being constructed. It has had many re-recordings; some great versions are those by Astrud Gilberto, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.

 

16) Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz – “The Girl from Ipanema” (1964)

This is arguably Brazil’s most iconic song; the sound of an era in which bossa nova was the lingua franca of the country and this song its anthem.

Summer 1962, Rio de Janeiro. The story goes that Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were sitting at a bar near Ipanema Beach in Rio, when they saw the most beautiful woman walking by, and they immediately wrote this song down on a bar napkin! (not quite exactly the truth, though, read more here). The original version, Garota de Ipanema was released in 1962. Nevertheless, while an Ipanema girl named Heloísa inspired the song, it was another Carioca who made it famous worldwide.

Astrud Gilberto was the wife of singing star João Gilberto, when she entered a New York studio in March 1963. João and Jobim were making a record of the song with tenor saxman Stan Getz. The idea of a verse in English came up, and Astrud was the only one of the Brazilians who spoke English. The song with the name “The Girl from Ipanema” was released and it rapidly became a huge worldwide hit. Indeed, it is the second most re-recorded song in history after The Beatles’ “Yesterday”.

 

17) Demônios da Garoa – “Trem das onze” (1964)

This song (English: “The 11 P.M. Train”) was composed by São Paulo singer and composer Adoniran Barbosa; it portrays, in a tragicomical way, the drama of a lover who lives in a distant suburb of São Paulo, and who cannot stay longer with his beloved woman because the last train will be departing soon, at 11 p.m, and his mother won’t sleep until he gets home. “Trem das Onze” is an example of both samba paulista  (samba developed in São Paulo) and samba-de-breque (here).

It was released in 1964 and made famous that same year by the samba group Demônios da Garoa. It is one of the best known Brazilian popular songs and considered of the most representative cultural symbols of the city of São Paulo.

 

18) Moacir Santos – “Nanã – Coisa Número 5” (1965)

“Coisas” (“Things”) is the debut album by composer, maestro and multi-instrumentalist Moacir Santos. It was released in 1965; the ten tracks of the album were named as “Things” – numbered from 1 to 10. The LP was chosen by the Brazilian Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 100 best Brazilian records of all time.

 

19) Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 – “Mas que nada ” (1966)

If you want to hear good, uplifting samba, this is the song! Mas que nada (the English translation would be “come on” or “yeah! Right”) was the first hit of an artist who would became a real school within Brazil’s popular music, Jorge Ben (later, Jorge Ben Jor). It was an impressive hit in 1963, and the beginning of Jorge Ben’s career.

But I have to say I love this version by another great artist, Sergio Mendes. With this song he managed to go beyond Brazil’s borders in 1966, and then again in 2006 when he re-recorded with The Black Eyed Peas

 

20) Walter Wanderley Trio – “Samba de Verão” (1966)

“Summer Samba” (also known as “So Nice”) was first popularized by Walter Wanderley Trio in 1966 — the album Rain Forest on which it was issued reached platinum status in 1970. The song became an instant success, with radio stations playing it constantly. Also in 1966 the trio accompanied Astrud Gilberto on her A Certain Smile, a Certain Sadness album, which features a beautiful, sung version of this song.

Although immortalized as an “easy listening” or “lounge music” artist, Wanderley music was at that time innovative and revolutionary. The percussive rhythms reminiscent of a Brazilian black tradition were not dear to many Brazilians; in fact most of his successful career took place in the United States.

 

21) Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes – “Canto de Ossanha” (1967)

In candomblé (an Afro-American religious tradition), there is no ceremony without the presence of Ossanha,  the entity that holds the magic force – the axé – necessary in every ritual. Perhaps this is the reason why “Canto de Ossanha” is the opening track of Os Afro-Sambas, the third album emerged from the partnership between the music of Baden Powell and the lyrics of Vinicius de Moraes.

This syncretism of Brazil with Africa via Bahia, now so natural, was not taken for granted in the 60s. “Canto de Ossanha” helped the sound of Afro-Brazilian religions, systematically persecuted until two decades before, become an inextricable part of Brazil’s music and culture.

A great cover of this song was released in 2006 by Jurassic 5.

 

22) Caetano Veloso – “Alegria, Alegria” (1967)

“Happiness, Happiness” is a song written and performed by Caetano Veloso. Often referred to as “the Brazilian anthem of 1967”, it later appeared on his influential eponymous 1968 album.

This was the song that introduced the Tropicália movement to Brazil. The ideal exposed by the song lyrics was first presented at a memorable live performance in 1967, reinforced by the Argentine group Beat Boys, who added visual aesthetics. It was a hit at the time, and was often sung during public manifestations in favor of impeachment.

 

23) Wilson Simonal – “Nem Vem Que Não Tem” (1967)

An emblematic figure of Brazil’s popular music, Wilson Simonal was a singer with great success in the 1960s and 1970s, although he was relatively unknown outside of South America.

This is his biggest international hit (the title would be translated as “Don’t even think about it!”); it was adapted and recorded by French singer Zanini, who made a hit with the song “Tu veux ou tu veux pas”.

 

24) Edú Lobo and Marília Medalha – “Ponteio” (1967)

A singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer, Edú Lobo is one of the driving forces behind the MPB movement. He has worked with the most important Brazilian artists and his songs were covered by big names of international music such as Sarah Vaughan and Earth, Wind & Fire.

This is one of his most famous songs, performed here with Marília Medalha; with this song they were the winners of the  III Festival de Música Popular Brasileira/FMPB in 1967.

 

25) Chico Buarque and Mpb4- “Roda Viva” (1967)

Arguably one of Brazil’s most renowned songwriters and singers, Chico Buarque is an iconoclastic figure in post-bossa nova Brazilian music.  With his distinctive voice, elegant phrasing, and considerable skill at lyric writing, Buarque  became extremely popular in the 1960s –particularly among women, as he was very handsome. However, Buarque resented the role of pop star and chose to be seen as a serious artist.

Roda Viva (“The wheel of life”) is a song that Buarque wrote for the eponymous play; it was a criticism to the obsessive fan culture. During the play, the pop star protagonist was literally torn apart and his flesh consumed by his fans; the performers would also offer the audience pieces of the dead pop star’s flesh to eat (it was chicken meat). Needless to say, the military dictatorship in charge those years did not like the idea of the play and soldiers were sent out to disrupt the performances, destroy sets and assault performers; Chico Buarque himself was briefly jailed.

 

26) Os Mutantes – “Panis Et Circenses” (1968)

Os Mutantes (“The Mutants”) are one of the most talented and influential Brazilian psychedelic rock bands that were linked with the Tropicália movement. Their unique blend of psychedelic rock, bossa nova, tropicália and samba has inspired many contemporary American and European artists, who cite Os Mutantes as a major influence. With many changes from the original line-up featuring Rita LeeArnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias, the band has been active since then, with their last album being released in 2013.

The title  of this song means “Bread and Circuses”, and it is an allusion to the classical poet Juvenal, who scorned ancient Romans for their easy and predictable manipulation through bread and circus.  The song, in turn, is a satire of bourgeois conventions. In the lyrics, a first-person poetic voice tries desperately to alarm the family, to snap them out of their mental and physical stagnation; the attempt is futile.  During these early years of military rule in Brazil, when economic liberalization brought quick financial boons to the complaisant and complicit upper middle class, expressions of rejection of these mores were frequent in Brazilian music.

 

27) Caetano Veloso – “Tropicália” (1968)

The opening track of the first tropicalista album by Caetano Veloso, “Alegria, Alegria. It was very popular upon its release in Brazil, and the Brazilian press used the song title “Tropicália” to christen the larger artistic movement it represented “Tropicalismo”, to the disdain of Caetano himself. Later it was re-recorded by Gal Costa and inspired a homonymous song, released by the American Beck, declared lover of the movement.

Although Caetano has expressed displeasure with the album, it often shows up on lists of greatest Brazilian albums, and was inducted into the Latin Grammy Award Hall of Fame in 2001.

 

28) Geraldo Vandré – “Pra não dizer que não falei das flores” (1968)

Also known as “Caminhando” (“Walking”; or “Not to say that I haven’t spoken about the flowers”), it was composed by Geraldo Vandré and was presented at the III International Festival of Song of TV Globo in 1968 where it ranked second (the winner was “Sabiá”). It caused a great controversy at that time because the public, mostly students thirsting for protest songs, booed the jury’s decision and made the explosive “Pra Não Dizer…” a sort of anthem of a generation.

The song was considered by the dictatorship a mockery of the armed forces; public playing of the song was forbidden, all the registers of Vandré’s presentation at the festival were deleted, and Vandré became one of the most hunted persons in the country, forced eventually to flee the country. The song was finally released 11 years later, with the end of dictatorship.

Walking is still used to remember the situation the country was going through at the time and to keep alive the memories of those who were victims of the hard times of dictatorship. It has been re-recorded many times, of which one of the most iconic is the one by Simone; the latter was lately sampled by Reboot and Federico Scavo.

 

29) Gilberto Gil – “Domingo No Parque” (1968)

With this song (“Sunday at the park”) Gilberto Gil got the second place at the 1967 III Festival of Popular Music, accompanied by Os Mutantes; it was later released in the album Gilberto Gil (1968). Gil, together with Caetano Veloso, became the leader of Brazil’s Tropicalia movement. His musical style provided a more universal sound to the music played at that time, mixing electric guitar with traditional Bahian elements, such as the sound of the berimbau. He is undoubtedly one of Brazil’s, and the world’s most celebrated singer/songwriters, with a musical career that has successfully spanned six decades and hits in each one.

 

30) Noriel Vilela – “Dezesseis Toneladas” (1969)

With his signature deep bass voice, Noriel Vilela made a career first as a member of the samba vocal group Cantores de Ebano. His 1969 solo album “Eis o Ôme” is a succession of sambalanço songs with strong afro influence. This was Vilela’s greatest hits, which is a Portuguese version of the American classic “Sixteen Tons” by Ernie Ford and Merle Travis.

The latest years Vilela enjoys a cult revival among fans of sambalanço. In 2014 “Dezesseis Toneladas” was used for a famous beer commercial, and since then it has been re-recorded several times.

 

31) Erasmo Carlos – “Sentado à Beira do Caminho” (1969)

“Sitting at the Edge of the Road” was composed by the legendary duo Roberto Carlos & Erasmo Carlos and released by Erasmo Carlos.

The song describes the despair and hopelessness of a lover waiting for his beloved; it became an instant hit and was adapted in many languages, the most famous version being the Italian by Ornella Vanoni with title “L’appuntamento”. Vanoni’s version was included in the musical score of the film Ocean’s Twelve.

 

YouTube playlist here

 

Coming soon:

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

 

12 UNCONVENTIONAL LOVE STORIES IN THE MOVIES


Maybe because of Valentine’s day, maybe inspired by a post on romantic films I just read, I started thinking about love and relationships.

Love is complicated -and bizarre sometimes. It has always been. We tend to say that romance is more difficult, and relationships more challenging nowadays than in the past, but that’s not really true! Just think about Greek mythology, ancient history and literature: Psyche and CupidCleopatra and Mark Antony, Romeo and Juliet…These stories are anything but ordinary, or simple!

True love, devotion, acceptance, cruelty, selfishness, jealousy, betrayal. When it comes to relationships, it’s not just pure and simple love. Ultimately, it’s all part of our complex human nature…

Motion pictures, from their very beginning, have captured all these feelings in countless love stories, ranging from light-hearted romantic comedies to profoundly dramatic true stories.

For this post I chose 12 films with unusual love stories. They all have something in common: they are  original, provocative and thought-inspiring, the kind of films that you keep thinking about for a long time after seeing them…

1) HER, 2013

Unconventional love Her posterThe plot: Theodore, a recently divorced lonely man decides to purchase OS1, the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. He quickly finds himself attracted to Samantha, the voice behind his OS1, and as they spend time together, he eventually falls in love with her.

The film’s essence: Is technology leading us to more isolation, rather than connection?

Go see it, because…:  I loved everything about Her: the flawless cinematography, the great acting (Joaquin Phoenix is amazing, as usual), the futuristic -polluted- Los Angeles as a background (actually filmed in Shanghai), but most of all the thought-provoking story, which makes as wonder whether smart phones, computers and social media are really “social”.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Lars and the real girl, Bladerunner, Ex Machina

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2) 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, 2009

Unconventional love 500 days of Summer 2

Unconventional love 500 days of Summer posterThe plot: This is a witty romantic story about Summer, a woman who doesn’t believe in true love, and Tom, the guy who falls for her. The story is presented in a non-linear format, each scene being introduced by which of the 500 days it is.

The film’s essence: What if you believe you found your soul mate, but the other person is not into you?

Go see it, because…: As one of the first lines of the movie states: “(…) you should know upfront, this is not a love story”. True, (500) Days of Summer is not the usual romantic comedy, but that’s precisely its strong point: it manages to be very romantic, while being caustic, original and stylish, with added values the great music, the wonderful cinematography and the superb acting…

If you liked this movie, you may also see: The perks of being a goldflowerHigh fidelity, Punch-Drunk Love

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3) RUBY SPARKS, 2012

Unconventional love Ruby Sparks posterThe plot: Calvin, a novelist with writer’s block sees in his dreams “the perfect girl”. When he begins writing about Ruby, his dream girl, she becomes a real person and they start a beautiful relationship together. But when the relationship doesn’t go as he wants, Calvin is able to change her by typing and changing the story.

The film’s essence: Do we accept others as they are, or we try to change them to our convenience?

Go see it, because…: This is a very clever, Pinocchio-like tale about finding our perfect match, our acceptance of the other person in our relationship -or how we try to control and manipulate them. Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano are great as Ruby and Calvin; Kazan also wrote the script.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Weird Science, Simone

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4) ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, 2004

Unconventional love Eternal Sunshine posterThe plot: Joel and his girlfriend Clementine undergo an experiment to have the memories of their tumultuous relationship erased. But through the process of loss, they actually discover what they had to begin with.

The film’s essence: We can get someone out of our mind, can we get them out of our heart?

Go see it, because…: A quirky but remarkable story which, in a very original manner, deals with love at first sight, soul mates, and destiny. The fascinating way the memory-erasing procedure is showed serves as background for more existential issues: Do memories make us what we are? Would you erase bad memories from the past? Most importantly, the film reminds us that many times we don’t value what we have, until we lose it.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Lost in translation, Mr Nobody, Synecdoche, New York

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5) BREAKING THE WAVES, 1996

Unconventional love Breaking the wavesUnconventional love Breaking the waves posterThe plot: In a deeply religious Scottish town, Bess, a naive woman, falls in love and marries to oil rig worker Jan. When Jan leaves home to work at the rig, Bess prays to God that he returns for good; Jan does return, but paralyzed due to a work accident. Unable to perform sexually, Jan convinces Bess to have sex with other men, which she comes to believe is God’s work to help Jan get better.

The film’s essence: How far would you go for love?

Go see it, because…: This compelling, disturbing story may break your heart, but it is undeniably the upmost love story, of pure and unconditional love, told by -always unconventional- Lars Von Triers. The acting of Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard is just incredible.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: The Lobster, Harold and Maude

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6) THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, 1985

Unconventional love The purple rose of CairoUnconventional love The purple rose of Cairo posterThe plot: Cecilia is a waitress in New Jersey’s Depression years who, searching for an escape from her dreary life, goes often to the movies. One day after losing her job, she goes to see the film “The Purple Rose of Cairo”. To her surprise, Tom Baxter, a young archaeologist in the film walks off the screen, stating that he has fallen in love with her.

The film’s essence: When reality is too harsh, can we live in a world of dreams?

Go see it, because…: This is one of Woody Allen’s most original and inventive movies, hilarious and touching at the same time, blurring the limits between imagination and reality. While it can just be seen as a romantic, fantastic story, I believe this film is much more than that: a reflexion on the nature of existence, when pure love contends cruel reality, and escapism takes the place of reality acceptance.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Midnight in ParisAlice

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7) AMELIE (LE FABULEUX DESTIN D’ AMELIE POULAIN), 2001

Unconditional love Amelie

French comedies Amelie posterThe plot: Amelie, a daydreamer waitress living in Paris, decides to anonymously help people being happy. By doing so, she discovers love and happiness herself.

The film’s essence: Can a stranger change your life forever?

Go see it, because… This enchanting French film is original, romantic, heart-warming, showing that there is love and magic everywhere, even in simple things of life… The outstanding cinematography, Audrey Tautou’s superb performance and the magnificent music by Yann Tiersen add up to make this movie a timeless gem… I already wrote about this movie here.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Like water for chocolate, The House of the Spirits

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8) SIDEWALLS (MEDIANERAS), 2011

Unconditional love Medianeras

Medianeras-cartelThe plot: Martin, an agoraphobic website designer and Mariana, an underemployed architect, live on the same street in Buenos Aires. They both feel depressed and lonely. They seem to be the perfect couple, but what are the odds of meeting each other?

The film’s essence: What if your soul mate is just nextdoor, but you didn’t have the chance to meet each other?

Go see it because…This Argentinean film is very original, as it tells the story of a couple before they meet each other. It describes perfectly the feelings of loneliness and alienation people experience in big cities; it’s touching and cinematically beautiful. I already wrote about this movie here.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Serendipity, In the city of Sylvia

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9) WINGS OF DESIRE (DER HIMMEL ÜBER BERLIN), 1987

Unconditional love Wings of desire

Unconditional love Wings of desire posterThe plot: Two angels have been wandering around West Berlin, giving help and comfort to all the lonely and depressed souls they meet. After many centuries, Damiel, one of the angels, falls in love with Marion, a beautiful, lonely circus acrobat and wishes to become human in order to experience human love and the joys of everyday life.

The film’s essence: Have you ever been touched by an angel?

Go see it because…Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire is regarded as one of the best non-american movies of all times. It’s deeply phylosophical, visually mesmerizing and truly inspirational. Many interesting ideas and perspectives are implied, but the film basically make us think about the beauty of simple things in everyday life, even the most mundane, and the richness of our feelings and sensations; it also reminds us that we should give up our ethereal existence as observers, to actually live and enjoy our life.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Faraway, so Close! (the second part of Wings of Desire), City of Angels (the American remake, much lighter and blander)

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10) EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, 1990

Unconventional love Edward ScissorhandsUnconventional love Edward scissorhands posterThe plot: Edward is an extremely gentle and good-hearted man, but with a scary appearance: he has scissors instead of hands. One day Avon lady Peg finds him hidden in his Gothic mansion, and she decides to take him to the town to live with her family. But fitting in the conservative town is not that simple. Only Kim, Peg’s daughter eventually realises what a remarkable person Edward is, and as they become enamoured, she is the one who helps him when the entire town turns against him.

The film’s essence: How easily do we accept people who are different?

Go see it because… This is Tim Burton’s most personal and insightful film, a modern fairy tale, a poignant reminder on how we, as a society, tend to disdain people that are different, whether this means disabilities, sexual preferences, people who think out of the box, or whoever doesn’t fit into the rigid patterns our society imposes.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Corpse bride, The Phantom of the Opera

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11) MELODY (a.k.a S.W.A.L.K.), 1971

Unconventional love MelodyUnconventional love Melody posterThe plot: Two 12 years-old youngsters, Daniel and Melody, declare to their parents that they want to get married, not in the future but right now. The film follows the complications caused by their firm determination: mockery from their classmates, rebellion against teachers, parents’ concern. The story is told from the children’s perspective.

The film’s essence: What can be purest than childhood love?

Go see it because…I first saw this movie when I was about 13and since then it has stayed etched in my memory -and my heart… Seeing it now from a more critical, adult’s point of view, Melody still remains a beautiful and touching film; but I also see it now as an interesting study on the meaning of love as experienced by a child. It raises some interesting thoughts: Is it really possible to feel true love during childhood? Or real love comes when our body gets ready through adolescence and adulthood? Melody also transpires a nostalgia, on how our feelings change when growing-up, from genuine and idealistic  into more “mature”, less emotional or pure. The film soundtrack is also wonderful: Bee Gees’s Melody fair and First of May, and Crosby, Still, Nash & Young Teach your Children, among others.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: Moonrise Kingdom, Submarine

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12) ENOUGH SAID, 2013

Unconventional love Enough SaidUnconventional love Enough Said posterThe plot: Divorced Eva is a masseuse leaving in Los Angeles. One nigh at a party, she meets and befriends Marianne, a sophisticated poet who always criticises her ex-husband; and Albert, a divorced man with whom -although initially not physically attracted- she becomes involved. With their relationship on firm ground, Eva learns that Albert is Marianne’s ex-husband, and starts doubting whether she should stay with Albert or believe his judgemental ex-wife.

The film’s essence: When it comes to love, do you listen to your heart or you get influenced by other person’s opinion?

Go see it because… what makes this movie so unique is, paradoxally, that is such a common and realistic story. It’s honest and touching, bittersweet and smart. It may be best appreciated by people in their 40s-50s, struggling with divorce, teenager children, and getting again involved in a serious relationship. With great acting by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (this was his last film), it depicts perfectly how many times we get swayed by others instead of trusting our feelings.

If you liked this movie, you may also see: The “Before” trilogy, Two lovers

IMDB link

 

Which one is your favourite unconventional love story? Would you add any other film to this list?