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Song Of The Month May 2011: “Tive Razão” by Seu Jorge

May 11, 2011

On the 18th May 2002, the motion picture Cidade de Deus (for those who prefer the English: City Of God) was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. The film wasn’t just set in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro but it used a cast predominantly made of inhabitants of the favelas it wished to portray. Seu Jorge was a musician before City of God’s release and had already released an album in his homeland, Samba Esporte Fino. The success of City of God saw his debut album subsequently released globally and re-named for its new audience as Carolina. As his star began to ascend, Seu Jorge was to then be cast in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou alongside the likes of Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett and Willem Dafoe amongst others. The juxtaposition of his character Knockout Ned in City of God to the role of Pele Dos Santos complete with a woollen red hat shows the versatility of the actor and as Pele Dos Santos, Seu Jorge would expose his musical style to the mass movie-going audience as he provided the soundtrack for the film in the use of Portuguese language versions of David Bowie classics. This exposure to his music laid the path for the release of his second studio album, Cru, in May 2005 which provides the track chosen for this month.

“Tive Razão” opens the album with its chiming strummed chords on a cavaquinho and immediately has its listener thinking of warm weather. The lightness of the music combined with his delightfully human singing style makes it a beautiful record and it’s arguably the highlight of the whole album. It manages to become one of those records that transcends linguistical understanding in part due to the strong sense of identity that runs through the album much like it does the man himself. You don’t feel you need to understand the words as the music connotes emotion sufficiently without the need of opening up a dictionary. His singing, while fantastic in tone and vocally great in depth, can occasionally veer away in regards to pitch but his personable approach only endears him further to a given audience. Such an idiosyncrasy makes a performance more human and in an era where perfect artificial popstars are created constantly, packaged and shipped to your nearest supermarket pushing their brand of uninspired musical dirge, it’s a delightful trait. Indeed, a press release at the time of release compared his style to Nick Drake, who will feature in a later edition of this blog.

Cru was recorded in Paris but bears no marks of its studio home. The album is instead very much a reflection of the man himself. Two cover versions reflect only the most minor of influences: a slow rendition of an Elvis Presley song complete in English language in the shape of “Don’t” and perhaps the albums low point in the form of a cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Chatterton”. Seu Jorge’s response when questioned at to the inclusion of “Chatterton” reveals a lot in regards to his character and the personality in which the record embodies: “Gainsbourg wrote it his way but I see it differently because here in Brazil you’re not supposed to commit suicide: it gets too expensive for the family afterwards. The song refers to suicide as a joke. In Brazil, everybody works so hard just to survive. You don’t work hard to kill yourself. Life is a luxury. Why waste that?”. In tonal character, the album nods in the directions of funk and blues but leans more to the artistic roots of the performer in bossa nova and samba.

There is one somewhat notable appearance of the track in the British mainstream consciousness albeit for those of a footballing persuasion “Tive Razão” happened to be featured in the soundtrack to the 2007 edition of behemoth computer-game franchise FIFA. Never has a track so mellifluous been heard when pondering whether to employ a 3-5-2 against Manchester United.

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