Bebel Gilberto is intent on convincing us that she can offer more to the music world than just a continuation of her father’s brand name. Whilst her debut album of four years ago, Tanto Tempo, followed expectations set by legendary father João Gilberto by acting as a sunshine-drenched acoustic burner, her second self-titled album exemplifies her newfound confidence and maturity. If anything, Bebel Gilberto is a suggestion that Gilberto is unwilling to let her musical vision be dictated by any legacy she happens to be caught up amongst.
You only have to listen to the first minute of opening song Simplesmente to fully appreciate just how contrary Bebel Gilberto appears to even our own expectations. The piano-chord transitions are downbeat; the acoustic-guitar backing is stark and deliberately lacking in any trace of a bouncy rhythm, as if Gilberto is pushing to destroy any trace of a happy gloss on the album. This is further corroborated by brilliant second song Aganjú, with its brooding rhythm guitar and heavy percussion. Gilberto’s mission to destroy the myth that Latin American music is all about sand and sunshine is accomplished already by this second song, and yet somehow these essential Brazilian motifs still lurk around the general ambience.
Gilberto’s vocal delivery, casually switching between Portuguese and English on the record, still maintains a seductive charm, and her charismatic persona is the most striking feature of Bebel Gilberto. Her songs are secondary to her own presence; the layers present on each track convey an organic sense, which is a surprise considering how ripe Tanto Tempo was for remixing. Every Day You’ve Been Away is sparse and truly heartfelt, and was written by Daniel Jobim and Pedro Baby Gomes, who both also form intriguing parts of musical dynasties. Following song Cada Beijo even sounds like an orchestra-backed Antonio Carlos Jobim number from the late-sixties, before it segues splendidly into utilising electronica pulses.
It would be easy to dismiss Gilberto’s cover-version of Baby as trite tropical convention were it not for a gorgeous bass-line and a lush production that renders the song one of the standouts on Bebel Gilberto. Then again, Gilberto continually proves that she can do something interesting with just about any song. The opening to Carlinhos Brown’s (who also penned the evocative Aganjú) Jabuticaba is beautifully icy; more Björk than Bebel, and yet it quickly melds into an exotic early-evening number.
That’s the beauty of Bebel Gilberto. It gives you all you’d want from a daughter of João and yet gives you so much more. If Bebel continues at such a pace, the balance of power in the musical world between her father and herself will certainly have to shift.