music

Generation Coca-Cola

Want to a new rock tip? Listen to the music of Legião Urbana.

The new film Somos Tão Jovens (We Are So Young) tells the story of Renato Russo, famed singer  of Brazilian punk/rock band Legião Urbana. Russo's music chronicled the angst of bourgeois Brasilia right before the Brazilian dictatorship fell in the mid 80's. Russo sang about the upper middle class working for the feds, and wrote about conformity, consumerism, and silence.  He wrote songs like Tedio - Com Um T Bem Grande Pra Voce (Tedium - with a Big T for You).

The high-waisted jeans and the wide-framed boho glasses look like something out an American Apparel ad:

Here's the trailer:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa3izIueaE4]
Somos Tao Jovens is generally surprising. For starters, it's been the best-selling movie in Brazil this year, and its subject is a bisexual emo-hero who died, tragically, of AIDS. To top that, the Brazilian government is the film's top financier. Russo is a rock hero, the identity politics curiously notwithstanding. And that's because his music is so incredible. Russo's music has the lush, larger-than-life belts of Queen, Depeche Mode, Los Hombres G, or maybe even Jaguares. That late 80's love letter yell, with a very natively Brazilian, home-spun punk feel.

Check out the lyrics from one of his most famous songs, Generation Coca-Cola:

"Somos os filhos da revolução
We are the sons of the revolution
Somos burgueses sem religião
We are bourgeois without religion
Somos o futuro da nação
We are the future of the nation
Geração Coca-Cola
Generation Coca-Cola"

Great art transcends borders, and Renato's coca-cola generation is also ours. Certo? 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv9lOIHUG4Y]

Red Hot Chili (Home)

When the clock struck 2 am at a Brazilian wedding I went to this weekend, I had never felt more gringa. Fighting off sleep and a general sense of shock that people were dining at the hour most Americans are snoring,  I realized that we are, if anything, a modest people. 

But a little after the bride threw her bouquet back behind her, I suddenly heard and felt a flash of home: the (awesome) DJ played the Red Hot Chili Peppers song Give It Away.
It was all somehow fitting: the bride was marrying to go form a new home, and all of her around-30 friends were dancing to the jams that we used to - in Brazil, Cali, or elsewhere - back when we gave away our ambition and attention with more abandon. Now, we give away our time and commitment to just one person, but certain songs still sound like home, even at two in the morning. 

Mos Doido

In this week's analogy series, American rapper Mos Def is to Brazilian rapper Criolo, or, in his full name, Criolo Doido/Dumb Creole.

Just as Mos Def used to set the standard for independent American hip hop, Criolo is now setting the standard for independent Brazilian hip hop.

Here's Mos Def:


And here's Criolo:

And here's their sounds.

Mos Def's classic song Umi Says:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcxLFXbECsY]
And of one Criolo's trademark songs, Subirusdoistiozin:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlXXmeTOMSM]



There's a reason why Criolo has that uniquely Mos Def and NY "Lions of Hip Hop" aesthetic - urban, smart, and aggravated. Criolo was abjectly inspired by the OG rappers of yesteryear; in fact, in one of his songs, he fondly remembers dancing to Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." Much of Criolo's early work had that mid-90's hard-core rap sound, and it had the same concerns. Criolo grew up in the Sao Paolo equivalent of Brooklyn - more BedStuy than Brooklyn Heights -  and at the time found only American musicians willing to talk about ghetto life.

Rap was Criolo's, and Mos Def's, entree into their art. But it's not their end point. They're both the baddest - the most doidao - in their fields, and mostly because they're unafraid of their own evolution as artists. Mos Def has swam in more lyrical directions with newer songs like No Hay Nada Mas, and Criolo is now really embracing his voice as a singer, and not just a rapper. He sings beautifully, in fact. Here's a project he did with National Geographic; like Mos Def's newer stuff, his poetry is front and center: 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bi2sUze9568]

So, who's more doido - Mos Def or Criolo? Well, that's up to the listener. It's not a question of talent, just question of which language you're listening in.

Bill and Aloe

In honor of Memorial Day, this week's cultural analogy stays within the borders of the USA. 
Contemporary soul singer Aloe Blacc is to __________ (legendary soul singer Bill Withers).
The two men have similar stories - living and recording in LA, the City of Angels - and beyond that, their sounds are strikingly similar. 
Listen below - isn't Aloe Blacc the new Bill Withers?

Here's Aloe Blacc's song I Need A Dollar: 
  [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFZP8zQ5kzk]

 And here's Bill Withers's song Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPK9kr4_imM]

Regina and Francisca

This is the second post in my series comparing two different musicians of the HispAnglo (Hispanic/Anglo) world. Complete the analogy: Linda Rondstant is to Gal Costa what Regina Spektor is to __________.

(Francisca Valenzuela).

They don't look as alike as Linda and Gal do, but New York-based signer does have the same look and general aesthetic of Chilean hipster crooner Francisca Valenzuela:
 

Regina Spektor

Francisca Valenzuela

These two reigning queens of North American and South American indie pop even have similar sounds.

Here is Francisca Valenzuela's song "Esta Soy Yo" (This Is Me): [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0dKy_Q4FXA]

which has some of the quirky but epic camp elements of Regina Spektor's song "Us":

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fczPlmz-Vug]

And Francisca Valenzuela's song "Peces" (Fishes): 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyzGG74VlY8]

                       

has some of the same sentimental overtones as Regina Spektor's "Fidelity":

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wigqKfLWjvM]

Next week's analogy:

If Regina Spektor is to Francisca Valenzuela, then Janis Joplin is to...???

Linda and Gal

Who says the US and Brazil don't have much in common? Besides common histories and geographies, some of our cultural icons look alike.

In the case of 70's music stars Linda Ronstadt and Gal Costa, they look startlingly alike.
Here is a young Linda Ronstadt: 

And her music:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58id5JIzFao]

And here is young Gal Costa: 


And her music:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries?index=42&list=PL1DD83DFEAFCE5ECB&hl=en_US]

Gal has the same soft combed out hair and easy-living breeze that made Linda a star. In their times, these mestiza ladies defined music in their countries and throughout the whole hemisphere. The only difference? (According to Gal Costa), when you sing in Brazil, you don't have to wear a bra.

The Rainbow Effect

Pop culture right now is all about Play. Apparently, Rainbow Bright was a Material Girl, and the little girls who grew up playing with her haven't forgotten that.
The look of artists like Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Lovefoxxx (below) is Rainbow Bright, but with a decidedly...erotic twist.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uviwxdcpGSg]
This stuff is an aesthetic sugar rush, a hipster fantasy cracked out on agave syrup. It's excessively sweet, and excessively excessive. Decked out with jobs, adulthood, and real responsibilities, maybe the Rainbow Bright generation just really misses playtime.