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Pura Vida (Banda Sonora)

Review by Carolina Amoruso

Having been influenced by music from all over, including tango and Euro-rock, Misia may, with good reason, aver that her latest album doesn’t derive from any one genre. With all due respect, however, Mísia is a creature of fado. It’s in her Portuguese blood. Fado runs through her musculature as well, giving form to her impassioned, even abject thoughts, and it ignites her nervous system, upping the intensity of her emotional delivery and thus her cachet. Through Pura Vida, Mísia personifies the elegance of a time-old idiom that allows for genre-bending, yet never disowns its down-home, “selling flowers under the bridge” roots.

In candid interviews and the album’s booklet, Mísia explains that she has journeyed to hell and back; Pura Vida is meant to share that ride with us. It is a Medusa’s head: of tangled feelings, thoughts, idioms, ambitions. Without crossing that cringey line into bathos, and thanks to an extraordinary complement of musicians corralled by musical director and pianist, Fabrizio Romano, she draws us into her catharsis, and we are much the better, wiser, and affected by it. It is her artistry and the remarkable lead of her musicians that mark her as a virtuosa rather than a drama queen. This is an album that makes one look inward while marveling at the sheer beauty of this soundscape of pain and its release.

“Ausência,” composed by Alfredo Marceneiro, with exquisite lyrics by Tiago Torres da Silva (da Silva’s lyrics grace four of the album’s fourteen songs), may be the most emotive, the most transgressive, of the album. It is certainly the most high-wired, as Claiúdio Romano’s electric guitar washes gut churning distortions over Mísia’s scorching grief as she wails over the absented body of her lover, once beside her, elegantly adorned in his nudity. Emotion becomes palpable, and the absented body grief itself. The nuevo tango interlude in “Ausência,” bittersweetened by Luís Cunha’s violin, summons the dance form that is closely identified with possession and loss. The arabesques of Luís Guerreiro’s Portuguese guitar, like the dancing ironwork adorning the balconies that front Lisbon’s ancient apartment houses, assuage her grief and rancor, only to be incited again by the corrosive electric guitar. Mísia has said that she experiences in this work the Portuguese guitar as the heavens and the electric guitar as Hell.

With “Lágrima,” composed by Carlos Gonçalves, with lyrics by the beatified fadista, Amalia Rodrigues, the much-revered song is stripped down to Mísia’s luscious vocal and Raul Refree’s languid, softly echoing guitar. “Lágrima” (Tear) is one of the most delicate of her interpretations—the lyrics of this lament are oh so tender, if a shade wily: “If I knew, if I only knew that when I die, you would shed one tear… from just your one tear, I can die in happiness.”

Argentine former roquero and currently a leading artist of tango nuevo, Daniel Milengo, shares his “Corazon y Hueso” with her. It’s a lovely tango with no pretentions, of just their vocals, piano, bandoneon, and Portuguese guitar. Milengo’s voice is easy and natural. It’s craggy and gentle, and sentimental. Together they lay down a mulchy forest floor to dampen Mísia’s heightened emotionality.

“Ouso Dizer” is a fado by Raúl Pinto with, once again, da Silva’s lyrics, beautiful in form and both evocative and enigmatic in sentiment. It seems to be a reflection on fado’s role to express longing (saudade) and the fear and inevitability of loss. Mísia sings with just Guerreiro’s Portuguese guitar echoing behind her, giving her space in which to muse, and then affirm her thoughts. But the respite is shattered by Claúdio Romano’s guitar mocking the dulzura – doçura, and she seems lost in longing. These bare-boned interpretations—"Corazon y Hueso” and “Ouso Dizer” — afford us true intimacy with fado’s deeply personal expression.

In “Ausência,” da Silva feeds Mísia a defining sentiment, writing that it must be her fado that delivers her from grief; in such he signals and sanctions her catharsis. Yet Mísia herself knows that ultimately, no matter where her searching has taken her, it is to her fado that she will return. And, in the end, she confirms, “Let fado be my comfort, or I shall never sing again.” - Carolina Amoruso

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