“Tall and tan, young and lovely” is the famous opening of the classic bossa song, “The Girl from Ipanema”. These words came to Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes when seeing young Heloisa Pinheiro pass by the café where they used to sit, right at the Ipanema district of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her stunning beauty attracted the attention of these two bossa legends, and that was the story of how “The Girl from Ipanema” was written in 1962. If the young girl were Sitti, surely Jobim and Moraes would write the song just the same. Besides the beauty she has, Sitti can also sing beautifully. That’s the reason why Sitti is even better than the young girl described in The Girl from Ipanema.
This month of July 2009, Sitti released a brand new album entitled Contagious. This is her 6th album, after 2006’s “Cafe Bossa” and “Sitti Live!” 2007’s “Sitti in the Mix” and “My Bossa Nova”, and the previous 2008’s Christmas album “Ngayong Pasko”. Through her bossa she successfully grabs the heart of many listeners including the youngsters and becomes widely popular again in Philippines. Sitti is one of the most important figures that help to preserve bossa around Asia in the millennium. Her previous albums have reached many achievements. Her debut album “Cafe Bossa” received Certified Double Platinum, “Sitti Live!” and “Ngayong Pasko” got Certified Gold, also “My Bossa Nova” gained Certified Platinum. I’m genuinely sure this brand new album, “Contagious”, will soon follow the success of the previous ones.
It’s interesting to observe the paths Sitti has taken through her singing career. She started with bossa, the road she decided to focus on ever since her 3rd year in college. It was the right choice, as her voice really suits well for this exotic genre. Once you listen to her voice, you’ll get hooked right away. She has a breezing smooth voice that will melt the heart of the listeners right away. Bringing the fresh but authentic bossa into the millenium has made her the undisputed “Philippines’ Queen of Bossa Nova”. She has tried other genres too, showing her ability to sing besides bossa. Like in the Christmas album “Ngayong Pasko” she tried mainstream and swing besides some bossa songs included in the album. It was the time when Sitti decided to offer something new to the fans, innovating and introducing new sounds that she was also capable of. It wasn’t difficult for her to do it since she sang swing and standard songs. She ever sang pop jazz when she was still in her early career as a lounge singer. That move was appreciated and loved by the fans, and the album was sold more than 15.000 copies and received Certified Gold. (Sitti explained her new different style in “Ngayong Pasko” when being interviewed by jazzuality.com. Please follow this link to see the interview ). She has also released a remix album, “Sitti in the Mix”, appearing in techno/house music. In “Contagious”, it seems like Sitti has decided to go back to her root, back to her major influence, the genre she is always famous at, the Bossa Nova. In my personal opinion, she has made a smart move, choosing to strengthen her specialty again after trying other genres. By doing so, I’m sure Sitti can maintain the interest of her solid fans, SiTTizens, while continuing to capture new market at the same time.
It’s nice to see Sitti come back at her best, delivering 16 great songs in Bossa Nova style. This album contains colorful selections range from the Bossa Nova classics to hits from other genres that got Sitti’s bossa treatment. We’ll see the song description soon. But first, there’s one original song as well for this album. That song is “Is This Love”, written by Andrew Fromm, also known as the one who made Christian Bautista‘s hit: “The Way You Look at Me”. “Is This Love” is a beautiful love song that you all will absolutely adore, currently used as a carrier single for the album. This song has all the ingredients as the first “ambassador” for Sitti’s Contagious.
Beautiful and some surprising songs have been selected for Contagious. The album begins with “Your Love Is King”, a famous hit of Sade from her 1984’s “Diamond Life” album. It’s nice to hear the bossa version of this classic soulful smooth jazz through Sitti and the band. “How Insensitive” or also famously known as “Insensatez” is a bossa standard written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, while the English lyrics were written by Norman Gimbel. Many great singers and musicians have placed their signatures on this song from time to time, but it’s still nice to hear Sitti’s interpretation on this classic song presented in the bossa lounge style. Sarah McLachlan‘s “Adia” is the third song. For me this song originally has bossa sense in it, and now Sitti delivers it. She did well on the bossa version of Adia. For Bossa fans, the song “Chega De Saudade” is very important. Some claimed that this song is the first ever Bossa Nova song. Whether it’s true or not, “Chega De Saudade” is listed among the earliest Bossa and is still popular until now. The legendary duo Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes wrote this song, and became popular through João Gilberto‘s haunting interpretation. Again, many great artists have taken this song in their albums, one of my personal pick is Eliane Elias‘ version, and now Sitti brings it into the new joyful and playful version. “A Certain Sadness” is a song taken from Astrud Gilberto and Walter Wanderley‘s album, released in 1966 exactly at the height of Bossa Nova hype in USA. Sitti sings this ballad beautifully, starts it only with acoustic guitar and goes smooth with the band to the end. Nice flowing song on this one. “So Em Teus Braços” is taken from Jobim songbook that was delivered lovely, accompanied by acoustic guitar only. The timeless “Dindi” is next. Again taken from Jobim‘s collection and has been brought by many great artists such as Frank Sinatra, Astrud Gilberto, Claudine Longet, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, to Lee Ritenour, Jane Monheit, Meja and many more. A simple interpretation focusing only on the beauty of melody and lyrics was offered by Sitti and the band this time, ending with interesting free improvisation in faster tempo near the end. The ever lovely song “La-La (Means I Love You)” that has been popular through “Swing Out Sister” version comes in smooth breezing bossa.
One of the surprising selected songs is next. It’s Culture Club‘s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”. Still remember how Boy George’s voice led this song to fame, now Sitti gives her flavor in bossa tune, and surprisingly it works well. Another surprise comes right on the next one. It’s Annie Lennox‘ hit “No More I Love You”. Unlike the Lennox’ soaring interpretation, Sitti chooses to bring it as smooth ballad. A song taken from the late Mike Francis (real name: Francesco Puccioni) hit in 1984, “Let Me In” continues. This song turns out really different from the original Mike Francis version in the new adorable bossa outfit. A Basia medley of two songs appears next. “Promises” and “A New Day for You” serves in lively fast beat percussions. “One on One”, one of the “blue-eyed soul” hits of duo Hall & Oates delivers in sweet tasty bossa but still with capturing the soulful and smooth groove from the original. A song written by Meredith Wilson in 1957 named “Till There Was You” for a Broadway play is the second last song of Contagious. This song is well remembered through The Beatles version. If you recall this famous version sung by Paul McCartney, it has already had bossa flavor and jazzy guitar play from that moment by The Beatles. Sitti renewed the song in a cool and passionate way. The last song is the most interesting coversong for me. “Bossa Nova Baby” was made popular by the undisputed King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley. You’ll find this song if you watch Elvis’ movie “Fun in Acapulco” (1963, starring Elvis Presley and Ursulla Andress). As the movie was set in Acapulco, it was one of the movies that captured the early hype of Bossa in USA. Elvis Presley sang “Bossa Nova Baby” as one of the soundtrack for this movie, having rock and roll rooted deeply in bossa. It was hella fun with Elvis, so is with Sitti. It’s a nice showcase of rock n rollin’ bossa, how these two very different genres can be blended in harmoniously. I love this one the most, paying a tribute to Elvis and his heyday brilliantly without losing any essence that has made this song stand tall until today.
Obviously, 16 interesting selected songs have been packed in Sitti’s brand new album “Contagious”. It’s great to have Sitti back in the genre she’s best at. A “contagious” album definitely will grab the heart of many listeners, from the loyal SiTTiZens to new ones. Even for those who think bossa has no place in modern trend; this album is really worth to have it. You might change your mind with this one. It’s great to see Sitti keep getting stronger and better after her illustrious 5 years career. Well, “The Philippines’ Queen of Bossa Nova” is back with a remarkable album, ready to take us to feel the exotic and sexy bossa tunes that capture the soothing breeze of Brazilian’ beaches. With Sitti on “stage”, I’m sure bossa will still sound stronger in Philippines and Asia in general. Sitti’s brand new album “Contagious” is now available under Warner Music Philippines at all CD stores in Philippines. Are you ready to spread the bossa love?
PS: Don’t forget to catch Sitti’s Contagious album launch this July 31st at Eastwood City Mall at 6pm.
Sitti Navarro – vocals
Chito Servanez – piano
Erskine Basilio – nylon guitar
Sonny Teodoro – percussion
Rex Nogares – electric / upright bass
Archie Lacorte – saxophone, flute
Gian Vergel – drums
1. Your Love is King
2. How Insensitive (Insensatez)
3. Is This Love
5. Chega de Saudade
6. A Certain Sadness
7. So Em Teus Braços
9. La-La (Means I Love You)
10. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me
11. No More I Love You’s
12. Let Me In
13. Promises / New Day for You
14. One on One
15. Till There Was You
16. Bossa Nova Baby
Reviewed by: Riandy Kurniawan