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Archive for the ‘singers’ Category

Paula Lima

Paula Lima (1970- ) is a singer and songwriter from Brazil, a diva of Sao Paulo.

To an American her music seems like a sort of laid-back, smooth Brazilian jazz, sometimes with a bit of funk. In Brazil her sort of music is called MPB: Musica Popular Brasileira. It is a sort of updated bossa nova that the well-off of the cities in the south listen to. It is rooted in samba music but it brings in elements of rock, soul and especially jazz from North America.

What she likes in American music are people like Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones and Earth, Wind & Fire.

She has been singing since she was three. Growing up she remembers watching Pele on black-and-white television and her father playing Martinho de Vila, El Cubanito and even Glen Miller. She learned piano from ages 7 to 17 and sang at school festivals. She knew music was her road in life.

She grew up on samba. It is the music that is deep in her heart. But she has been affected by American soul and funk too.

The music she loves that has shaped her own music:

  • Ella Fitzgerald: “Every time I listen to her voice it is like the first time”. Listen to “Deed I Do”.
  • Elza Soares: “The grand Brazilian diva”.
  • Ed Motta: “No one can play like him”.
  • Gilberto Gil: “He is the professor”. Listen to “Palco”.
  • Band Black Rio: They helped to make soul music what it is today in Brazil. Their music is rich, their taste unequalled.
  • Jorge Ben Jor: “A master of masters”. His music is pure, deep, beautiful – an experience. Listen to his stuff from the 1960s and 1970s.

Because she is Brazilian she can take American music and put it together in ways an American would never think of, such as turning Glen Miller into soul music.

In the 1990s she sang for several bands, most notably Unidade Bop. She also sang on two songs on Jorge Ben Jor’s “23” and even sang on a disc of rap songs.

In the 2000s she has been coming out with discs of her own:

  • 2006: Sinceramente
  • 2003: Paula Lima
  • 2003: Diva Paulista (Europe only, no new songs)
  • 2001: É isso aí

On the Internet you can find her on iTunes, YouTube and her own website, which is in Portuguese only, but the words do not get in the way of the music.

Check her out on YouTube and watch her sing.

As I write this she is on the road in Brazil with her band. While her music is sold overseas in Japan, America and Europe, she has never gone abroad to sing.

She is from Sao Paulo, which she loves. She sees it as a much more serious city than Rio. She is happily married but has no children: she is too busy!

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Amy Macdonald

Amy Macdonald (1987- ) is a singer and songwriter from Glasgow, Scotland. As I write this in August 2007 her song “Mr Rock ‘n’ Roll” is number 25 in Britain. It is from her first record, “This is the Life”, which came out in Britain at the end of July.

I heard her for the first time on Monday (August 20th) when I heard “Mr Rock ‘n’ Roll” on Virgin Radio from London (over the Internet). I found the song on YouTube and played it over and over again. I could not get enough of it.

It was like the first time I heard Alicia Keys or Norah Jones: a young, beautiful woman with an old soul singing a song that was new and yet sounded timeless.

The three songs of hers I like best so far:

  • Mr Rock n Roll
  • Run
  • Footballer’s Wife

Because she is from Scotland most people will compare her to KT Tunstall. I do not: I hate Tunstall but love Macdonald. Macdonald is darker than Tunstall, not that that would take much.

She most reminds me of U2: in love with the world like the young yet knowing it has a dark side like the old.

She sees herself as continuing the music of the once and wonderful Libertines (check out their “Don’t Look Back at the Sun”). She gets her ideas about music from their lead man Pete Doherty and from Travis. She also has a bit of Johnny Cash, Jack White and Razorlight in her. She grew up on Oasis, The Verve and others.

The Guardian thinks she has no substance, the BBC thinks she has promise while Channel 4 and Radio 2 seem to love her.

She loved Jake Gyllenhaal in the film “Donnie Darko”. Her song “LA” is about him.

When Macdonald was 12 – which was just seven years ago – her grandmother gave her ten pounds (three crowns) to spend on holiday. She bought “The Man Who” by Travis. It changed her life. It gave her a burning desire to write and play songs like them.

So she took her father’s old guitar and taught herself how to play from the Internet. First she played songs she heard on the radio. Later she began to write and play her own songs.

She started singing at Starbucks, her own songs and others’. People liked her so she made home recordings of her songs and sent copies to anyone who might help her get a record deal. In time she landed one with Vertigo, the part of Mercury Records that has also signed up The Killers and Razorlight, two bands she likes.

She has a thick Scottish accent: it is hard for me to understand her when she talks, but not when she sings. She sings live with a Scottish accent, but not on her record.

She wrote songs to be sung to an acoustic guitar – that is how they got their start. But these days she has a band.

“Poison Prince”, about Pete Doherty, was her first song to be played on the radio. It did not do well. “Mr Rock ‘n’ Roll” has done much better.

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Heather Headley (1974- ) is a singer and actress from Trinidad who is best known for appearing in “Aida” on Broadway, for which she won a Tony in 2000. She is also an R&B singer of middling success whose best-known songs so far are “He Is” (2003), “I Wish I Wasn’t” (2003) and “In My Mind” (2005).

According to this blog she is the ninth most beautiful woman in the world and the fourth most beautiful black woman. West Indian women with high cheekbones are just the sort of women I go for. Both People and Ebony magazines have put her in their lists of the most beautiful people.

As beautiful as she is, you will never see her half-naked on the cover of a magazine. She is an old-fashioned girl from Trinidad, a pastor’s daughter who takes her Christian faith seriously. It keeps her grounded and down to earth.

Ever since she was a little girl she wanted to be a singer. She first sang on the radio at age two. By four she was learning the piano. She grew up singing in her parents’ church, the Barataria Church of God. She would sing even when the church was empty, imagining there was an audience.

When she was 11 she fell in love with the music of Ella Fitzgerald and learned to sing like her.

When she was 15 she came to America: her father got a position at a church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She won the title of Miss Indiana Black Expo (1991) and was a star singer at high school and later at Northwestern University near Chicago, where she studied music.

She never got her university degree: the Broadway play “Ragtime” asked her if she wanted to become Audra McDonald’s understudy. She said yes and never looked back.

After only six months on Broadway Disney wanted her to be the female lead in a new Broadway show they were putting together, “The Lion King”. She was the first Nala.

Disney had another show in the works, “Aida”. After singing before the heads of Disney, she got the part of the Nubian princess, the lead female. She went on to win a Tony as best actress.

After “Aida”, Headley became an R&B singer, which was her long-time dream. In Trinidad she did not even know about Broadway.

Her singing voice is sweet and powerful and her songs express her experience of life. She even helped to write some of them. But because she lives in a dream come true, she cannot even begin to sing about the brokenness of life, like Billie Holiday or even Faith Evans. She sleeps in Mickey Mouse pyjamas and even her marriage is happy.

So despite her amazing voice, her songs are somewhat flat and her success has been good but not great.

She wants to make music that helps people through uncertain times, that people can still listen to ten years from now.

She does want to return to Broadway but it will be hard for her to top her own performance in “Aida”.

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