Chesty Brazilian singer Alexandre Pires back in the limelight

Performing at an Avicii-style, dance music pace must have been quite a challenge for Alexandre Pires, the Brazilian singer on the official 2014 FIFA World Cup anthem, Dar Um Jeito. Pires is better known as a crooner of smooth romantic ballads, and is one of the few Brazilian superstars who has also managed to crack the Latin (Spanish-speaking) market, including in the United States, with this type of music. Dar Um Jeito is the fastest I’ve ever heard him sing! I can’t envisage him becoming a rapper.

Alexandre Pires came from a musical family and along with his brother and cousin was a member of a popular group Só Pra Contrariar (often known as SPC for short), who had considerable chart success in the 1990s in Brazil. However, he left them in 2002 to go solo and their fortunes waned somewhat after that while his international career took off. However, Pires recently got together with SPC again for their 25th anniversary compilation, recorded live in Porto Alegre. One of the songs from it, Recordações, (which could be translated as recollections, remembrances, souvenirs) recently made the Brazilian top 10. It is very typical of his and the band’s style.

Pires baresEstrela-guiaPires often appears in a white vest, or topless, to show off his chest. The example pictured left is the cover of his very successful album from 2003, Estrela Guia (Estrella Guia in Spanish). But if you do a image search on him on the internet you will find more provocative poses and you might even come across a photo or two of him in a revealing, wet white swimming costume or “sunga branca”. Anyway, this next song is one of the singles from that album, Bum Bum Bum. Now, I know what you’re thinking – you’re imagining it’s a homage to the human posterior, or rather three human posteriors. But you’re wrong, it’s not about bums, it’s about boom boom booms, the beating of a heart. Now there’s a pronunciation lesson for you.

Pires often re-records his songs in Spanish to target the rest of the South American market; if you would like to compare the two versions of what was probably his biggest hit, see my post entitled Great songs in one language or another.

Here’s a more recent single, A Chave É O Seu Perdão (The Key is Your Forgiveness/Pardon), taken from his most recent solo album Eletrosamba, which won a Grammy award last year.



What’s all this ‘dar um jeito’ business in Brazil’s Avicii-inspired World Cup anthem?

As well as the official 2014 FIFA World Cup song, there is also an official 2014 FIFA World Cup anthem, Dar Um Jeito. Why? To get double the publicity for One Love, One Rhythm – The 2014 FIFA World Cup Official Album. It’s not just about soccer, it’s also about money and merchandising!

The anthem is great and, unlike the offical song, has a reasonable amount of Portuguese, sung by Alexandre Pires. It also features Mexican-born Carlos Santana on guitar (still going strong at 66), Haitian-born hip-hopper Wyclef Jean doing the English vocals and Swedish DJ Avicii, doing the dance beats, and the four of them are apparently going to perform at the World Cup closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. The Avicii influence is very strong on this, which is probably why it is so catchy…

What does dar um jeito mean? The song’s English subtitle, We Will Find A Way, gives a clue. The word jeito has many meanings which I will cover fully when I post the J words in my Quirky Vocabulary series (the last bit I did was about the G words being orgasmic, but I haven’t posted H, I and J yet). But basically jeito is an aptitude, manner, way (of behaving or acting), skill or knack. Dar means to give, and dar um jeito means to manage, engineer (a result), find a way or do something about.

Here are two sample sentences from the Michaelis Moderno Dicionário Português-Inglês:

  • ela sempre dá um jeito de ficar mais bonita do que as outras
  • she always manages to look prettier than the others
  • ele tem de dar um jeito nesta sua vida
  • he’s got to do something about that life he leads

The Michaelis Dicionário Escolar Português-Francês gives this

  • dar um jeito
  • s’y retrouver, rafistoler

I hope Dar um Jeito does well worldwide, if only to get people to hear more of the Portuguese language.

First impressions of One Love, One Rhythm

You never really learn much about world music on the official World Cup albums, but this one has enough Brazilian linguistic and musical involvement to give you an idea of the rhythms of samba, bossa nova and pagode, even if it sticks mainly to the usual suspects such as Bebel Gilberto, Carlinhos Brown and Sergio Mendes. You can listen to the whole album below, although adverts seem to pop up unexpectedly in the middle of songs from time to time (there is no escaping commercialisation). I particularly like Canadian band MAGIC!‘s rendition of This Is Our Time (Agora É a Nossa Hora). Other big names on the album are Shakira, Ricky Martin and The Isley Brothers. There is even an appearance by Baha Men of Who Let The Dogs Out? fame! Who let them out?

See also The official World Cup song: too much bull for Brazilians’ liking 

Great songs in one language and another

Maceio BrazilIf you have travelled in South America to both the Portuguese-speaking part (Brazil) and the Spanish part (the rest of the continent, apart from Guyana and French Guiana) and listened to local radio then you will have probably heard some popular songs sung in both Portuguese and Spanish. alexander piresAn example that comes to my mind is from my first trip to Brazil in 2003, when Alexandre Pires‘ album Estrela Guia (Guiding Star) was very popular, particularly the song Vem Me Amar (Come Love Me). I first heard that song while walking one day on the beachfront at Maceió (a beautiful city in the north-east, pictured above). It was playing in a nearby bar and I had to ask the barmen who the singer was. They all looked at me as if, D’oh!, what rock have you been hiding under, it’s Alexander Pires (pictured above) of course. Of course. As a visiting gringo I am supposed to know that. In other parts of South America, though, the album was Estrella Guia (two l’s in Spanish) and that song was called Ámame. I have pasted the two versions below so you can compare them, and the words in both languages are on the clips.

I think the song works just as well in both languages. Most probably it is more common for Brazilian artists to record their songs in Spanish as well to crack the rest of the South American market than it is for the Spanish to record in Portuguese to woo the Brazilian market. Generally it is said that it is easier for the Portuguese to understand and speak Spanish than it is for the Spanish to speak and understand Portuguese. I am not sure that there is as much linguistic crossover between singers in the two languages on the European continent. The markets are smaller (particularly Portugal’s) and maybe the European versions of the two languages are further apart than their South American counterparts. In Europe, when it comes to a singer in one Romance language recording the same song in another Romance language, the most common combination seems to be Italian-Spanish. In a previous post (Being Italian … is your ego under control?), for example, I noted how Italian Tiziano Ferro had also recorded his songs in Spanish and, to a lesser extent, French. Cover of "Io Canto" Another Italian who has done very well with Spanish is Laura Pausini. All bar her first two albums (and her one and only English effort) were also recorded in Spanish. Here are the Italian and Spanish versions of some of her more popular songs, starting off with the luscious Tra Te E Il Mare (Between You and the Sea), which peaked at No. 4 in Italy in 2000.

The Spanish version is, in my opinion, more powerful, perhaps because 999 seas have been added to it – the song title is Entre Tu e Mil Mares (Between You and One Thousand Seas). Or maybe because it was the first song I had heard by her and I thought she was Spanish!

More uptempo is this No. 1 hit from 2006, Io Canto (I sing) …

and its Spanish equivalent Yo Canto. In this video clip she is interviewed on Spanish TV before doing a live version of the song. What do you think of her Spanish? Not bad, eh. She does that lispy thing much better than I do.

Finally, here are the two versions of her last big hit, another No. 1 from 2011 entitled Benvenuto in Italian and Bienvenido in Spanish, both of which,, of course mean “welcome”. I didn’t choose a clip with lyrics in them, I chose the ones shot in Amsterdam because the city looks very exotic.

Which of the two languages do you prefer these songs in? I waver between liking the smoother Italian and preferring the more forceful Spanish. If I was energetic I would paste all the lyrics to these songs here and perhaps give an English translation, but it is late on a wet chilly winter night in Australia, I have had a few slices of spicy chorizo pizza washed down with three glasses of a nice cabernet sauvignon, and that is hardly the recipe for intellectual activity. Some other time, maybe.