In the past few years, Latin, electronica and lounge music have experienced increased popularity among mainstream listeners. This boost in attention has led musicians and artists to blend these seemingly disparate genres, forming a new, hyphenated musical style. At times, sultry Samba given a jazzy makeover with an electronica beat can work, as evidenced by the 1995 release Red Hot and Rio, which featured artists such as Stereolab and Maxwell and the revamped works of Brazilian master Antonio Carlos Jobim. Unfortunately, the producers of Brazil Remixed didn’t have the same ingenuity and creativity as did their predecessors.
Instead of fully using the different elements and sounds to build jazzy, Brazilian tunes with an electronica edge, the songs are monotone and synthetic, with a simple percussive backbeat and laconic vocals. The dance club-style songs are repetitive rather than smooth and groove laden, watered-down versions of the exotic and sensuously beautiful elements that have made Brazilian music intoxicating for so many decades. Although the producers did attempt to develop something unusual and catchy, the attempt fails; the songs lack passion or heart.
Brazil Remixed begins badly with a reworking of the Three Dog Night classic “One (Is the Loneliest Number)” by the Tao of Groove featuring Leslie King. King’s vocals have little spark and the tune is more lounge than it is Brazilian or even jazz and it’s hardly interesting. Both “Tenderly” by Soulstice and “Frentic” by Jazzelicious have redeeming qualities, taking all of the good components of each genre to blend a smooth delicious beat that’s almost right on the money. But even the songs written by Brazilian master Jobim aren’t what they could have been, mainly due to, like the rest of the tracks on the album, overproduction.
The music here isn’t the innovative equivalent of other works that have drawn together these genres in other recordings, either. Mo’Horizons’ “Hit the Road Jack (Pe na estrada),” another revamped classic remixed with a Brazilian edge, features the same lazy style of vocalization, and even though they threw in a little Portuguese for added authenticity, it doesn’t have any style. And the same holds true for Da Lata’s “Ponteio” and J-Radical’s “Buweyah.”
Brazilian music, as far as I’m concerned, is supposed to conjure thoughts of sun-drenched white beaches full of sexy, bikini-clad women swaying to beats in an exotic, far-off place. Here, the electronic overtones dehumanize the very core of Brazilian music, making it sterile and cold. The blueprint used when putting together this collection is flawed; the planning is haphazard, there’s little substance and there is not enough groove in the tunes to entice.
Brazil Remixed could have been a great experience if it had adequately blended together the sophisticated groove of jazz with the light and airy Samba sounds and upbeat electronica to make for a great companion soundtrack for those lazy afternoons of summer. But with more focus on the electronica side, the producers have missed a great opportunity to use the jazz and Brazilian sounds that could have warmed the songs, giving them much needed depth and versatility.