Monday, March 24, 2008

But is it art?

Been listening to an Astrud Gilberto compilation (of doubtful provenance) that dubs itself 'The Pop Collection', to distinguish its content from the bossa nova stuff that made her name. I think I actually prefer her versions of 60's pop hits like 'Call Me', 'Light My Fire' and 'In My Life' to the more obvious tracks she made with Stan Getz, not least because they haven't quite been hammered into tedious familiarity as background music for every second-rate hotel restaurant from Manila to Montreal.

Another reason may be that her bossa tracks were released on Verve, which automatically labels them as J*A*Z*Z. Gilberto was never a jazz singer as such, and the implicit comparison with, say, Ella Fitzgerald, is farcical. Her sweet, shy, flawed voice stands better comparison with the likes of Jane Birkin, Nancy Sinatra and Marianne Faithfull, dollybirds who fell into singing by mistake, and carried it off through a victory of style, charisma and chutzpah over any notion of technical ability. If you don't know the story, her appearance on 'The Girl From Ipanema' was a pure fluke. Her husband Joao couldn't cope with the English lyrics, so the producer asked her to have ago, although she'd never sung in public before. Because of her amateurishness and lack of anything that might be regarded as technique, when Astrud sings a pop hit like 'Light My Fire', it works; when fine singers like Fitzgerald or Peggy Lee attempt to go pop, it can feel faintly embarrassing, akin to Dame Margot Fonteyn dancing round her handbag to 'I Will Survive'.

But it could all be down to context. Here's a slightly different version of 'Girl From Ipanema', again with Getz, but with any notion of beatnik cool ruthlessly expunged, to create kitsch pop of the highest order. It's from a film called Get Yourself a College Girl, which looks absolutely sublime, in a slightly dreadful way. I particularly like Getz's natty cardigan, the exceptional beehives in the audience, and the cut back to Gilberto after Stan's solo (around 01:52). "What? Me? Sorry, I was miles away."

PS: More groovy footage of young persons have a frugtastic time, from the same movie.


La BĂȘte said...

Gosh. I’ve always thought that the ‘aaaahhh’ that each man she passes goes was more of a breathless yearning sigh. In this version it’s more like a sound of recognition, like ‘aah, now I understand’. That’s interesting. Now in my mind the Girl from Ipanema has become much more than just another fanciable scantily clad South American sexpot. Now she’s more a walking solution to the riddle of life. Thanks for that!

Oh, and the xylophone player looks like my dead uncle.

Betty said...

I see: a song about a girl walking along a beach each day. Perfectly logical to film the performance in a cafe halfway up a Swiss alp in January with snowdrifts gathering outside then.

Annie said...

Digging the cool cat on the xylophone. Geeks drive me wild.

Mapeel said...

Dollybird. Ya just don't hear that cool term enough.

amyonymous said...

oh, man. you just took me back forty years to my idyllic childhood summers. we lived one block from the beach (in LA) AND had swimming pools - all my friends and me. this song takes me back to lazing around the side of the pool, talking with my best friends, dozing, having the moms bring lemonade and cookies. this music and other drifty dreamy music like it played into the air around us. damn you, tim footman! i hate nostalgia. it hurts to stop remembering once i start!

Billy said...

I like that a lot. For some reason I've never quite understood I find women who can't sing much more endearing than men. I have no idea why.

Tim F said...

The bow in her hair signifies infinity, La BĂȘte. Probably.

Logic, Betty? With those haircuts?

And I'm sure you drive them wild, Annie, and their mallets get sweaty.

Nor cheesecake, Mrs Peel.

But was it snowing, Amy?

I dunno, Billy, Jeremy Hardy's pretty cute, don't you reckon?

Jun Okumura said...

Wasn't punk rock all about angry men pretending they couldn't sing? (But got laid anyway?)

Tim F said...

They really couldn't sing, Jun. And usually they couldn't get laid either.