Although it's often used as a stand-in for elevator music, bossa nova really doesn't deserve the square reputation it's somehow acquired. When it began, it was actually considered cool and bohemian (bossa nova literally translates to “new trend”). If you've never listened, it's time to give bossa nova another try, and what better way than to check out the many great ladies of bossa nova past and present? It's super '60s, the perfect soundtrack to your Mad Men kick and ideal mellow end-of-summer music. This mix can only provide a small sampling of the bossa that's out there, but it's enough for you to temporarily pretend you're lounging on the beaches of Brazil, wearing a retro swimsuit and sipping a daiquiri.
1. The Girl From Ipanema - Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto/Astrud Gilberto The bossa nova song; this was the first international bossa nova hit, and is the one most often associated with stereotypical Muzak. Joao Gilberto, one of the fathers of bossa nova, got his wife Astrud to do the English vocals (the only ones present on this recording, but on the original he sings the same verses in Portugese) because he couldn't sing in English. It ended up launching her career as a samba and bossa nova singer. 2. Mancada - Claudette Soares This “grande dama” of bossa nova got her start by singing on a radio program at the age of ten and has been putting out recordings on a regular basis since 1954. Her latest release is intriguingly titled A Bossa Sexy de Claudette Soares and features some surreal cover art. 3. Siam-neko Wo Daite - Ruriko Asoaka I was surprised to find out that bossa nova apparently is, or at least was, pretty popular in Japan. This track comes off a collection called Tokyo Bossa Nova Lounge, and the best review I've read of it comes from an Amazon user: “this is such a great cd to have and you can listen to it at anytime.. while cooking, cleaning, 'getting it on', etc.” Bossa nova is truly a multipurpose genre. 4. Blame It On The Bossa Nova - Eydie Gorme This one is hardly even bossa, but it's a cute pop tune that's significantly less date-rapey than “Blame It On The Alcohol.” 5. Baby Face - Elis Regina Baby face indeed: this song is from the 1961 record Viva A Brotolandia, which Regina recorded when she was only 16 years old. 6. Sayonara Mo Ienakute - Kyoko Enami How many languages is this? Maybe just two. Another from Tokyo Bossa Nova Lounge. 7. Teenage Kicks - Nouvelle Vague See? Bossa nova's totally hip! 8. Berimbau - Nara Leao Leao began as a main player of the bossa nova movement in the late 1950s and early 60s, but her music soon became more political than pop. I don't think this one is political, but then again, the only translation I could find of these lyrics made them sound pretty oblique (“he who does not leave himself will die having loved no one… / the berimbau assures me it will have lovers quarrel / such sadness, my friend” etc). Better translations welcomed in the comments section. 9. So Nice (Summer Samba) - Bebel Gilberto As the daughter of Joao Gilberto and his second wife Miúcha (also a singer and composer), it was pretty inevitable that Bebel Gilberto would become a musician. 10. Samba De Mon Coeur Qui Bat - Coralie Clement Absolutely heavenly French pop-inspired bossa. 11. Tema de Nao Quero Ver Voce Triste - Sylvia Telles This one's the A-side of a 1966 EP; the B-side features Telles singing “Canto de Paz” with her brother Mario. If you're hooked by her voice, you can listen to the B-side here. 12. Grao de Mar - Maria Bethania Bethania's uber-dramatic voice kind of reminds me of Edith Piaf crossed with Kathleen Turner. God bless Kathleen Turner, why doesn't she have a record yet? If William Shatner can do it, so can she. This mix originally appeared on the Bitch blogs on August 27, 2010. It's a bossa nova time of year, so we're bringing it back for your groovy listening pleasure.