Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Seu Jorge / Cru / Rating 7.4

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Fun Fact 1. How to pronounce Seu Jorge : Say-ooo ( like the vowel sound in goo) Zhor-Zhee

Fun Fact 2. "Seu" is a play on words that means both "sir" and "yours".

Fun Fact 3. Seu Jorge knew next to nothing about David Bowie ( just the hit Let's Dance) before he began working on A Life Aquatic. It was all the tastemaking filmmaker Wes Anderson's idea to have him cover Bowie songs in the movie, not Seu's!

For those familiar with the history of Brasilian music the general rule of thumb for vocal technique (stretching from Samba to Bossa Nova to Tropicalia and beyond) is passion before perfection. A national identity becomes just as important as one's own singular identity. Things like pitch run a close second to capturing a moment and lyrics are often politically charged as much as they are personal.

PFM admits to only learning about Sue Jorge from The Life Aquatic so I wonder just how deep the reviewer’s knowledge of Brasilian music goes. (Can you hear the crickets?) PFM says “On CRU, Jorge's voice and pristine guitar work make the tangentials of his success postscript. This is not to say his second solo album is perfect. In fact, it has holes near the end and at times lacks a backbone”

Had they known the very translation / definition of Cru is raw would they still say that? I suppose it is easy to confuse Seu's barebones structure for a lack of backbone.

His untraditional approach to making Cru is ironically exactly as his culture groomed it to be. I wish I could remember where I read this quote but a writer was talking about Caetono Veloso and how his only musical rule was there was no rule and musically speaking this has been an age old Brasilian tradition. (a few other examples would be Chico Buarque, Jorge Ben, Gal Costa , Gilverto Gil, Astrud Gilberto, Joyce) Just as those Brasilian legends before him have sung, Seu Jorge is free of stale formulas yet married to the foundation of feelings and his reaction to the world around him. I know Seu has been quoted in interview saying "I am a Brasilian musician. But I don't play Brasilian-style music. I hope people hear that," but again in spirit the heart of Brasil is very much still there.

A closer look at his track listing uncovers the Elvis Presley song Don’t. "He was able to get black music across to white audiences and he ultimately changed the face of music," explains Jorge. "As I see it, he took from black music and I am taking it back, imagining myself in cowboy boots!"

Another song"Mania de Peitão" = "large-chested mania" is surprisingly about women’s obsession to change their beautiful bodies with ridiculous implants. Cru goes onto to dispense a lightly constructed weighty chain of emotions and personal history, all linked together by political songs, lyrics about suicide (Serge Gainsbourg cover), love songs, and songs about the slums he once called home. By its very nature a chain has holes as equally as it owns strength so take that PFM.

If you really care about world music hopefully Pitchfork is the last place you would turn to for a knowledgeable review. If you dabble in whatever music is hot thanks to the shot put popularity of a semi-hit film, then go PFM!

I can only pray the gravity that takes cheap passing fame back down to earth again will take PFM down with it and I suspect those with genuine talent like Seu Jorge will continue to rise.

Am I being unrealistic when all I ask of a writer is to actually know a little about what he or she is talking about? Maybe even spend a few weeks on the subject learning about it before you share your "knowledge" and opinions with the rest of the world? There must be some-young-hip-body who genuinely knows about world music and is willing to help PFM out. ! ?

If only Pitchforkmedia cared as much.