Marisa Monte, Brazilian pop diva, has a voice like honey — it’s syrupy and at times sickly sweet. Her sultry mezzo soprano voice is what critics rave about, and she does have a great voice. In fact, the whole album Proofs, Texts, and Denials is worth listening to. But, there’s just something that keeps me from thinking the recording is as fantastic as others have said it is.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1967, Monte decided she wanted to be a musician at age 14. Her idols included opera diva Maria Callas, Brazilian vocalists Caetano Veloso and Elis Regina, and American jazz singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. By age 18 she left for Italy to do classical voice training. She debuted in 1989, with her album Marisa Monte, in which she took on the style that she has continued since.
Co-produced by American guitarist Arto Lindsay, Proofs, Texts, and Denials is a polished and professional work that combines the sounds of Afro-pop, jazz, and traditional Brazilian sounds. Instrumentation includes piano, nylon string guitar, acoustic bass, drums, violins, cellos, English horn, and French horn. Monte explores the rhythms of bossa nova and samba and also throws in some loungy ballads.
With such diverse icons and synthesis of different genres of music, Proofs, Texts, and Denials should sound eclectic and distinct. Instead, the perfectly crafted songs all run together. Not one track on the album is memorable. Don’t get me wrong, Monte is a talented musician and songwriter. The music arrangements are tight and technically masterful; her voice is flawless.
Maybe that’s her mistake though. Billie Holiday fans know there’s something to be said for singers who let it all hang out — singers who show off the fact that they’re rough around the edges. And anyone who’s seen the Buena Vista Social Club knows that Latin music doesn’t have to sound like Ricky Martin. Monte doesn’t succumb to the pop world of Ricky, but she hasn’t quite found the burning passion that comes from letting it all hang out like Holiday and the Buena Vista Social Club.
Perhaps it’s more up to personal taste though. Some people swoon to the candy-coated voice of Frank Sinatra. Others would rather hear the resonant and outward sounds of Cesaria Evora. Both are incredible musicians; I’d just rather listen to Evora.
Monte is certainly a talented musician. If your taste is for slick studio produced albums and few dynamic changes, this album is for you. If you swoon at the sound of Frank Sinatra, this album is for you. But if you prefer the sounds of Cesaria Evora and Buena Vista Social Club, this Brazilian diva might not be what you’re looking for.