I wasn't going to write about Frank Ocean--what else can be said about this preternaturally gifted singer/songwriter whose official debut effort, "Channel ORANGE," may have already locked up Album of the Year honors. At least it has in my book. But after weeks of non-stop listening, something occurred to me: Frank Ocean is the black Rufus Wainwright. Look beyond the superficial commonalities--both gay, both 24-years-old when their first albums were released--and you'll find deeper connections: a baroque, operatic quality to many of their songs, particularly the ballads; and a world-weariness to their voices that belies their age (at least when Rufus debuted; he's 39 now). Anyway, here's what I'm talkin' 'bout. ("Baby" is from Rufus' debut):
The legendary Brazilian singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso turned 70 today. I can't quite find the words to describe what his artistry has meant to me. He is the essence of Brazilian popular music--a protean, curious, adventuresome and captivating artist. In 1997, he performed an homage to Federico Fellini and his wife, the actress Giulietta Massina. This song, by Pérez Prado, was featured in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." Until coming across this version, I didn't know the song had lyrics (by someone named Bob Marcus). Here they are translated into Portuguese, and Caetano works his usual magic.
Chavela Vargas was born in Costa Rica, but she moved to Mexico as a young teen to pursue her singing career. She was a street singer for many years--a hard-drinking bon vivant who ran in the same circles as many of Mexico's most famous and infamous artists, including Agustín Lara, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo (with whom she was rumored to have had an affair). Vargas didn't record her first album until 1961, which happened with the support of the great ranchera singer José Alfredo Jiménez. She became beloved througout Latin America for her passionate voice and her brazen lifestyle. (At the age of 81, she finally declared her lesbianism.) Chavela Vargas died today at the age of 93. This beautiful song is from the soundrtrack of the film "Babel."