Sergio Mendes

    Timeless

    3

    A
    Sergio Mendes-Will.i.am collaboration makes sense, because they
    represent the commercial potential of fusion music. Crafting a smooth
    blend of rich Brazilian rhythms, creamy pop texture and whipped twin
    femme vocals, Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 hit it big – guess when – in
    the mid-’60s with Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada,” which single-handedly
    raised America’s bossa nova craze to a Brazilian fever. Today, the
    Black Eyed Peas draw from the well of contemporary hip niche to infuse
    their popcoctions such as the R&Blue-eyed “Where is the Love?” and
    the frat-lectro “My Humps.” These artists have united seemingly
    disparate artistic styles by embodying a common ideal: keep it simple.

    [more:]

     

    However,
    a key difference between the two makes this an ill-conceived
    partnership: musical vision. While Mendes (and others from his
    generation) innovated by bridging culturally linked aesthetics from
    Africa and the African diaspora (albeit, draped in exotic, native or
    even “jungle” accoutrement) with popular music, Black Eyed Peas flips
    pop culture trends. Certainly, the Peas can be commended for vocally uniting the stratified American pop music map at times, a feat that many current musicians accomplish, yet seem blissfully ignorant of. However,
    like running used grounds back through the coffee maker,
    Black Eyed Peas produces music at the lowest common denominator, often
    reinforcing cultural misconceptions, such as hip-hop either being the
    black ghetto anthem or the vacuous pleasure seeker. The pairing of the
    two could only mean one thing: “bossa nova with a beat.”

     

    Without missing a beat, Timeless,
    Mendes’s attempted comeback to the American pop culture spotlight, is a
    predictable, oversimplified, boring mess. Bearing little thought, “Mas
    Que Nada,” “That Heat” (which pulls from Brasil ’66’s debut LP cut,
    “Slow Hot Wind”) and the João Donato hit “Bananeira” bounce to Hanging
    Tuff Gong riddims or flophouse of hip-hop boom bap. Gifted guests
    contribute lovely performances – notably the Maogani Quartet’s nimble
    fretwork on the Vinicius de Moraes number “Lamento (No Morro)” and Jill
    Scott’s coos on “Let Me,” a song originally recorded on the excellent Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’65 LP. But their efforts feel wasted within Will.i.am’s sub-par production.

     

    Embarrassingly,
    Brazilian MC Marcelo D2’s brief verse on “Samba da Bênção” (another
    Baden Powell/de Moraes number) mostly serves as a reminder of how the
    fusion of Brazilian music and hip-hop has already been accomplished by
    others and with far more faculty. In a field where even Eminem makes
    better drum sounds, Will comes off amateurish, like a street performer
    Dr. Dre – or maybe it’s Dr. Nick?
    Worse is that the Black Eyes Peas stamp reasserts the notion that
    Mendes is strictly for middle-aged knuckleheads seeking coolness,
    regardless of generation.

     

    Ultimately, Timeless‘s
    cardinal sin is its subordination of the album’s supposed star- that is
    his name on the cover, right? Had this project been titled Will.i.am Remixes Sergio Mendes and Brings in a Bunch of Big Names to Distract You,
    the album would at least honestly reflect its content. Instead, it
    plays like a predictable artist-in-spirit-only “tribute.” The
    suffocating presence of superstar guests such as Black Eyed Peas,
    Erykah Badu and Mr. Vegas leaves Mendes with only enough room to vamp
    quietly in between phrases or be looped as a reminder: “Hey, this is my
    record, too!” He only shines on one cut, another João Donato hit, “
    Ê, Menina,” simply because he is not given the room on any other song.

     

    No matter how talented, this parade of guests also detracts from the album’s coherence. Q-Tip turns in a Beats, Rhymes and Life-worthy
    verse on “The Frog” and Pharoahe Monch gazes wistfully at the newspaper
    on “Loose Ends,” but their contributions flow incongruously with John
    Legend’s Al Jarreau-like turn on “Please Baby Don’t” and the
    chest-thumping posse cut “Yes, Yes Y’all.” Like sampling at its basest,
    like the recycled image on the cover (ironic also that the cover is a
    spin on one of his most “traditional” records), Timeless treats Mendes as a relic, nothing more a dated sample from the past.

     

     

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