Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Music Review: 'Woman At The End Of The World,' Elza Soares

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Brazil is known for its tropical beauty and rich culture. It's also a place struggling with political unrest, public health problems and sexual violence. On her new album, samba legend Elza Soares sings about this darker side of paradise.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "O CANAL")

ELZA SOARES: (Singing in Portuguese).

CORNISH: Michelle Mercer has a review of the album "Woman At The End Of The world."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "O CANAL")

SOARES: (Singing in Portuguese).

MICHELLE MERCER, BYLINE: When a producer approached the 79-year-old Elza Soares to make a record, she said she wanted it to be about sex and blackness. It's a harsh take on the issues of the day, and you hear that in the new recording.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUZ VERMELHA")

SOARES: (Singing in Portuguese).

MERCER: This musical style is samba suja or dirty samba. That's samba agitated by punk and jazz. The joyful turmoil powers the record's themes. Here on the title track Soares complicates Brazil's showpiece Carnival parade into a place where race and gender can get lost in the crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MULHER DO FIM DO MUNDO")

SOARES: (Singing in Portuguese).

MERCER: Soares' husky voice bears the weight of her own hard experience, which includes exile, the deaths of three of her children, all manner of heartbreak. In this song, "Maria De Vila Matilde," Soares sings about domestic violence, about showing the police a bruised arm. You get the sense she knows the subject all too well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARIA DE VILA MATILDE")

SOARES: (Singing in Portuguese).

MERCER: But Brazilian music loved contradictions. And alongside deepest misery, there's celebration and vitality here, too. This punk samba tune is titled with the verb for sex.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRA FUDER")

SOARES: (Singing and Portuguese).

MERCER: I'm dizzy with lust, Soares sings. My skin is in flames. It's like after decades of strolling along as an object, the girl from Ipanema finally marched over, grabbed the guitar and sang her own wild desires.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRA FUDER")

SOARES: (Singing in Portuguese).

MERCER: The "Woman At The End Of The World" is no walk on the beach. It takes us behind the postcard images into Brazil's messy realities and modern sounds. The result is a fresh album of social commentary from an elder stateswoman of samba gone punk.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRMEZA")

SOARES: (Singing in Portuguese).

CORNISH: Michelle Mercer reviewed "Woman At The End Of The World" by Elza Soares.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRMEZA")

SOARES: (Singing in Portuguese). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.