Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Top 11 Bossa Nova Songs of Past and Present

Rio de Janeiro (HDR) by Modern Day Nomad
Bossa Nova. The term itself inspires images of Rio and sophistication, of the sweet rhythm created by the marriage of samba and jazz. Created by the genius of João Gilberto and popularized by such sublime musicians as Vinicius de Moraes, António Carlos Jobim, and Elis Regina, the gift of bossa nova has provided us with a musical sensuality that is unique in the world, a soundtrack to many a night made more memorable by that aural aroma coming from the stereo.

For music lovers, bossa nova is among the finer things in life, a poem set to the sound of that favorite of Brazilian exports. Below are my 11 favorite bossas from past and present, a collection that will take you from the creations of João Gilberto in 1957 to the compositions of his daughter Bebel half a century later. Turn up your volume and dim the lights...

11 Ela é Carioca
João Gilberto, the man who started it all. By emmanuelsolera
It’s one of the most iconic bossa nova recordings ever and countless artists have covered it. 'Ela é Carioca' is a light but fitting tribute to the image of the iconic, sensual Rio woman. João Gilberto is credited with composing and releasing this beautiful song in 1968, when he resided in Mexico. The version featured here is by Celso Fonseca, himself an established star in Brazil’s MPB scene.

Ela é Carioca

10 Wave
António Carlos Jobim, by Branca Dias
A classic. Tom Jobim recorded it in 1967 and its eponymous album remains one of the most cherished bossa recordings of all time. The track is simple yet sumptuously melodic, one of those songs that speaks volumes without featuring a single verse. Wave, Jobim’s third album, is his most successful one to date. As with all the great bossas, its been covered by countless artists, but the version you hear on this site is the original.


9 Meu Esquema

The first time I heard Meu Esquema was right before my freshman year of college. I immediately loved it and its impact on me was tremendous, as it had a big influence in the music I hear today. The song is written and composed by Mundo Livre S/A, a popular Pernambucan manguebit band that isn’t even known for its bossa nova. Meu Esquema is one of their only forays into the genre, and what a foray it is.

Meu Esquema

8 Day by Day

I still remember the first time I heard this song, and it’s stayed with me ever since. I wrote about it here several months ago and still feel very much the same way about it. If anything the song has continued to grow on me. Written and sung by Luca Mundaca, a recent newcomer to Brazil’s music scene, the song is of the same quality as the bossa nova classics and is one of the finest examples of contemporary bossa nova.

Day by Day

7 Desafinado

Composed by Tom Jobim and written by Newton Mendonça, the popular tune Desafinado, meaning ‘slighly out of tune’, is the epitomy of a true bossa nova: its allure lies in its melodic simplicity and equally simple lyrics. Sometimes poetry doesn’t have to be overly complicated in order to be truly meaningful. The version of Desafinado featured here is sung by Elis Regina.


6 Samba da Benção
Bebel Gilberto at Festival de la Tierra (Buenos Aires) by rockmetommyboy
It’s my favorite Bebel Gilberto song, and that’s saying a lot when considering the immense talent that this singer has. Created by the poetic wit of Vinicius de Moraes, it was made truly memorable by Bebel Gilberto’s breathtaking, breathless rendition that appeared on her album Tanto Tempo. It’s a rendition that’s befitting of the daughter of the man who created bossa nova.

Samba da Benção

5 Corcovado
Cristo Redentor, by Rodrigo Soldon
What a stunning song. A lot has been said, written, and sung about Rio de Janeiro, but none of it compares to the bossa nova homage to the mountain upon which the statue of Christ the Redeemer rests on. As with all great bossas it was written by that genius Tom Jobim, and this legendary version of it appears on Getz/Gilberto, one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. The smoky female voice you hear as the song begins belongs to Astrud Gilberto, wife of João Gilberto.


4 Chega de Saudade
Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim, by Branca Dias
It would be sacrilege to not include on this list what is generally considered to be the first bossa nova song, the song that started it all. It was created by ‘holy trinity’ of bossa nova: Tom Jobim composed it, Vinicius de Moraes wrote the lyrics and João Gilberto sung it. Although Elizeth Cardoso originally recorded the song, it was Gilberto’s recording that made the song a hit in Brazil and started the bossa nova revolution. The version featured here is the João Gilberto rendition.

Chega de Saudade

3 Jussara

I think of Jussara as the best bossa nova song made after the genre’s heyday in the 1950s and 60s, and one of the only ones on this list that does not feature Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Elis Regina or João Gilberto. Jussara has all the trappings of a quality bossa nova: a simply sublime lead singer in Lilian Vieira, an instantly catchy samba lilt and the ubiquitous violão (guitar), but this one even features a couple of electronica elements that make it a 21st century bossa. Aside from being my favorite Zuco 103 song, it’s also one of my absolute favorite bossa ballads.


2 The Girl From Ipanema
Stan Getz, Milton Banana, Tom Jobim, Creed Taylor. João Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto, by Branca Dias
No discussion of bossa nova is ever complete without the mention of The Girl From Ipanema. No song has done more for the genre than this one; no bossa nova is more easily recognizable than The Girl From Ipanema. And that’s all that needs to be said about this classic. If you have ever been to the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, if you have ever admired the confident stride of a beautiful woman, or if you’ve ever enjoyed a fine summer afternoon spent by the ocean, this song will speak volumes to you. The version featured here is the best one: João Gilberto opening, Astrud Gilberto singing in English, and Stan Getz finishing it off.

The Girl From Ipanema

1 Águas de Março
Elis Regina, by Arquivo Cinema
Simply put, it’s the perfect bossa nova. Its dazzling prose is only topped by its poetic brilliance; it’s a song about the rainiest month in Brazil that’s written in stream of consciousness and somehow evokes memories of the waters of March flowing towards some unknown destination after one of those end-of-summer rains. How Jobim achieved this I’ll never know. Although he is the writer and composer of this stellar bossa nova, Elis Regina’s version of it is the best in existence. What a voice, what a bossa.

Águas de Março

Versão em Português em breve!


Curt Shannon said...

Great stuff - thanks for posting. I had heard a few of these (by other artists) but these versions are sterling!

Claudio Silva said...

Sometimes the originals are always better ;)

N.Coelho said...

Bossa Nova combina com...fim de Domingo!
good music selection,as always!!:)

Claudio Silva said...

Realmente combinam Naima...obrigado!

Anonymous said...

I agree that Elis Regina's cover of Águas de Março is the best bossa nova song ever, but version she sang for MPB Especial in 1973 is vastly superior to the one you have now ;P

Unknown said...

I heard a brilliant rendition of Aduas de Marco in Recife Airport. But, I cannot remember the artists name. It was a relatively modern rendition, young guy, and he seemed like a popular musician, hence the display for him. Any ideas?

Zhang said...

thank u for this. I was looking for aguas de marco and the girl from the ipanema...i guess you forgot MAS QUE NADa. IT'S really nice too. :)

Mello Mike said...

Love your list. Never heard Day by Day or Samba de Bencao. Love both and have added them to my IPOD Bossa Nova playlist.

Claudio Silva said...

Anon, where can I find that version?

Hmm Jonny nothing comes to mind but I will research!

Zhang I love Mas Que Nada but (un)fortunately there was only room for 11 on this list...

Mello, I'm very happy you liked these enough to listen to them again. And again.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post! :D was looking for some great bossa nova songs, seems like I found some;)

JackDarkTemplar said...

Well, I really liked this post, but there's a difference between you and me; I would place La garota de Ipanema in the first place, instead of second

Shanaaz, South Africa said...

I love this collection! How about another one.

Anonymous said...

These songs are wonderful, but unless you understand Portuguese, you will never know the poetry they contain.

Google Translate will give you a clue, but only a clue.


SKyz said...

Thank you for this list.

Ramya Shankar said...

Thanks for posting. I was looking for something exactly like this. I love Bossanova.

Cici said...

What about Soul Bossa Nova by Quincy Jones? THAT is the most recognised Bossa Nova Song in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Is there are CD with all these track?

Unknown said...

Wow, what a great selection. Thanks for sharing this.

Unknown said...

I would add one more to the list:

Coisa mas linda - Caetano Veloso

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Anonymous said...

Art Garfunkle did a version of Aquas de Marco in English (Waters of March) in the 1970's which is really nice..if you are interested in hearing the lyrics in English. I loved it then...didn't realize it was an English cover of the bossa nova Aquas de Marco.

Milan said...

Muito bem!

Anonymous said...

Nicola Conte - Paper Clouds.

Check it out guys, its a brilliant song!!

Zenaia said...

I agree that Aguas de Marco is the number 1 bossa nova song. I remember in my high school days, this is the first bossa nova song I've heard and appreciated. It's complicated but simple at the same time. It's like a conversation or a monologue. Jobim really did it here. You can really picture out Brazil even though you've never been to the place.

I commend the recent bossa nova composers and singers for they keep the music alive. The songs are great but I prefer the classics. I feel at ease whenever I listen to this genre.

Bossa Nova is a way of life!

Rich said...

I agree that this is the best performance of "Águas de Março" that I have come across. You can also find this exact same performance on YouTube as a video of a live performance in a recording studio.


Also there is a live video of Jobim singing it in English (his own translation).


I would also nominate "Aquarela do Brasil" as performed by Tom Jobim (and sung a little also.


The accompanying slide show of Rio and Carnaval is spectacular.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

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dennymour said...

Are “Bossa Nova songs” the songs of different culture? Actually I had heard about these songs first time. I would love to know about its music rankings as well as the contemporary era, where theses are in great demand.

Annie83 said...

I love Jazz! And I loved you this list of music. But I love the most MAS QUE NADa. It is really good. I am sure you will love this too. I love live music nyc most! Anyway thanks for posting!

Unknown said...

These songs are wonderful.Thanks for posting. I was looking for something exactly like this. I love Bossanova.
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Anonymous said...

Sorry to correct you but the singer on Desafinado is Gal Costa not Elis, but if you know of an Elis version please let me know. GREAT SELECTION!

Unknown said...

Perfect collection! Thank you so much you have exquisite taste when it comes to choosing the best version of Bossa songs.

Unknown said...

Hi. I am an American teaching English in Asia. I stumbled upon your blog looking for recordings of Bossa Nova music to play for my students, as I am teaching a cultural unit on Brazil.

I had never heard Bossa Nova before, and found myself listening to it all day. It will certainly become part of my music rotation now! I have listened to Fado a bit over the years, but I think Bossa Nova may be even better!

What you do to me? said...

i like bossa nova and had some cover song

Evan Oxhorn said...

I've always loved "Samba de dos Notas" & "Clube de Esquina No. 2"! Check them out.

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I Used To Be Here Always said...

Those bosa nova songs are incredibly beautiful songs it is really quite relaxing it's actually best songs when you are having a relaxing vacation.

Unknown said...

this is the best performance of "Águas de Março" that I have come across. You can also find this exact same performance on YouTube as a video of a live performance in a recording studio.

Thank you for sharing..Just keep on writing an article
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Top Plumbing Service Pte. Ltd. said...

Those are great songs thanks for sharing!

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