Mar 08 2004

Rita Lee: Balacobaco

Addictive, as Always!


BalacobacoIt is hard to imagine the long and successful career Rita Lee has maintained. From her early days with Os Mutantes, back in the late 1960’s, up to now, Brazil’s Queen of Rock continues to innovate with her music and strong messages. I dare anyone to listen to her music and remain still. It is just impossible, except when she sings a slow song, of course. Then the lyrics she sings will grab you, and besides, you need some rest, too.

After taking a short break with her previous album of Brazilian covers to Beatles music, Aqui, Ali, Em Qualquer Lugar (2001), Rita Lee returns with a sensational album. If you simply want to know and are keeping track of my favorite albums of 2003, this is another one of my top 10 favorites.

Is there a message in Balacobaco? Hmm, it’s evident that love permeates several of the songs. Whether in a ballad or a high-energy dance track, Lee knows about love, as the songs in this album will convince you. The opening track for example, originated with an article written by Brazilian journalist Arnaldo Jabor. “Amor e Sexo” looks at the differences between love and sex. The lyrics do get you to think about love as a soap opera or bossa nova, whereas sex is more like movies and Carnaval, respectively. The song closes with the resounding statement that “sex comes from other people and leaves you; love comes from within and stays.” The next track, “A Fulana,” is an interesting take on an old Roberto Carlos and Erasmo Carlos song entitled “A Namoradinha de um Amigo Meu.” In that song back in 1966, Roberto Carlos was singing to the world that he was crazily in love with one of his friend’s girlfriend. Fast forward to 2003. Rita LeeLee’s song looks at the romance from the point of view of the girlfriend instead. It’s an interesting perspective with a happy ending — to the girl! On the next track she uses a similar idea, but this time with a hilarious story, “As Mina de Sampa” is Rita Lee’s response to Gilberto Gil’s “Toda Menina Baiana.” The ska beat in “As Mina de Sampa” is truly infectious. Lee calls the Sampa girls “lilly white” and makes fun of their accent, but hopefully, like Lee herself, those girls will see the humor. Nothing is sacred. From the accent to the lack of beaches in São Paulo (the city), the girls of Sampa (São Paulo’s affectionate nickname) work hard. At first, the lyrics might make you think Lee is being derogatory, but in reality she loves the São Paulo girls. Contrasting with the São Paulo landscape, “Copacabana Boy” is a sweet, slow bossa nova influenced tune praising the beauties of Rio de Janeiro.

Love, however, is not everything in this album. As a concerned citizen in Brazil, Lee does not forget social problems. With a good dose of humor and sarcasm (sometimes), Lee addresses tough issues in the title track, “Balacobaco.” Here a maid tells about her tough routine and hard life. The prayer-like “Nave Terra” is a hymn to Mother Earth with words sung like the Hail Mary. The epitome of hard living, however, comes with “Tudo Vira Bosta.” Moacyr Franco’s lyrics reduce everything in life to excrements (the repeated refrain echoes “everything turns into sh..”). Ok, don’t worry about it. You have to understand Rita Lee to see how this all fits in with the album concept and her life. The rest of the album continues with more surprises. Even the mellow bossa nova arrangement for “Over the Rainbow” is memorable. Two songs, however, deserve to be highlighted here before I wrap up.

The closing track, “Hino dos Malucos,” was used in the soundtrack of the movie Os Normais, one of Brazilian TV’s most successful sitcoms. In the album release, Lee sums up the song as the “Adams family meets Lucy and Desi in a Fellini’s movie.” The song is a hoot. Giving Lee a hand in the song is her friend and one of the writers of the show, Fernanda Young. Lee and Young, incidentally, co-host the often hilarious and very informative talk show Saia Justa (the other co-hosts are brilliant actress Marisa Orth and impeccable journalist Mônica Waldvogel). Yes, I’m a fan of that show.

The other song is my favorite in the album. “A Gripe do Amor” is that kind of song that lingers in your mind and gets you to sing just about anywhere you go. DJ Memê’s drum and keyboard programming struck a pot of gold. Furthermore, the lyrics’ innocence are so refreshing that you fall head over heels for this track. In this confused and troubled world we live in, it is nice to hear these verses:

Se você me ama Vem ficar de cama Vem cuidar de mim Por uma semana, um mês, um ano A vida inteira If you love me Come stay in bed with me Come take care of me For a week, a month, a year A whole lifelong

Yes, there is no vaccine, no vitamin, no home-made medicine, nothing that will keep you away from this album. Balacobaco rocks, swings and makes fun of life with just the right dose of humor. This is Lee’s 31st album and clearly one of her best ever. Long live the Queen of Brazilian rock!


Rita Lee
Som Livre 0001-2 (2003)
Time: 46’28”


All songs by Rita Lee & Roberto de Carvalho, except where noted.

  1. Amor e Sexo (Rita Lee – Roberto de Carvalho – Arnaldo Jabor)
  2. A Fulana
  3. As Mina de Sampa
  4. Copacabana
  5. Balacobaco
  6. Já te Falei (Arnaldo Antunes – Carlinhos Brown – Marisa Monte – Dadi Carvalho)
  7. Nave Terra
  8. A Gripe do Amor
  9. Tudo Vira Bosta (Moacyr Franco)
  10. Eu e Mim
  11. Over the Rainbow (E.Y. Harburg – Harold Arlen)
  12. Hino dos Malucos (Rita Lee – Roberto de Carvalho – Fernanda Young – Alexandre Machado)