The Portuguese song-form known as fado is coming back just a little bit, thanks in part to this young woman who can sing the birds out of the sky. Literally. (Actually, not literally. Ignore that.)
Fado is just about the saddest music in the history of the world. It’s part flamenco, part African and part Euro art song. It’s been called “the Portuguese blues” by people too lazy to care whether or not that is actually accurate; but Mariza scores big points with me by refusing to capitalize on that mischaracterization. What she does is still fado, but some of it is like fado on steroids, after losing a few pounds and looking sexy.
Sure, you get your trad bummer songs (“O Silencio da Guitarra”), and on them Mariza’s blood-from-a-stone crooning is something amazing to behold. “Primavera” shudders with slow anger, whereas on “Caravelas” she is Sadness It-Damn-Self, with lyrics that translate as: “The ivory towers I have built/In tragic madness I have destroyed/By my own ill-fated hands.” That’s hardcore, people, for realzies.
But then there are the out-liers, the songs that don’t really fit the pattern. “O Deserto” is some torch singing like actual torch singers wish they could do; producer Carlos Maria Trinidade contributes a fun, adorable waltz called “Feira de Castro”; and “Retrato” is piano-based sex on wheels.
And then there’s the title track. Trinidade’s song is at once a passionate defense of the “curved fado” that they do, and a big celebration of life. Over the ringing guitars and the samba-like melody line, Mariza flirts with us and implores us to accept this song, and her whole career, because “if [God] placed us in this life / It was to play the fado.” And it’s so pretty and so passionate that you end up agreeing.
So that’s where I’m at right now. One of the most beautiful young voices in the world, combining tradition and modernity? Damn, that’s like my dream disc. Can I have ten more just like this to review? Oh, you mean there’s nothing else out there like Mariza right now? Oh. Yeah, you’re probably right. And here, with only her second record released here, she’s made me a convert.