Hellen Caroline: Meu Jeito de Ser

HellenCaroline1Glass Slippers and Ceilings

Listening Post 55. On the strength of Hellen Caroline’s first album in 2014, critics and Brazilian fans dubbed her “the Princess of Pagode.” The title didn’t win her a pair of glass slippers but the album helped her break the glass ceiling of a musical genre that was almost exclusively male. Pagode is breezy offshoot of samba that emerged from the neighborhood squares and backyards of Rio de Janeiro in the late 1970s, relying on the cavaquinho (a four-string guitar) as its instrumental centerpiece. Meu Jeito de Ser (The Way I Am) is Hellen Caroline’s second act, a captivating mix of romantic pagode with pop and R&B overtones; across the record’s 15 tracks (five self-written) she is alternately playful, seductive, starry-eyed, distressed and nonchalant. In Preto Branco e Colorido (From Black and White to Color) she describes the affect love can have on a gray world—“even when the darkness seems infinite, love comes along and turns black and white to color” (video 1). Minha Metade (My Better Half) is the determined declaration of huntress: “If you hide, I’ll find you/I’ll catch and kiss you,” she sings (video 2). With a more classical pagode rhythm, Labirinto (Labyrinth) presents love as an addiction, “a maze of pleasure where I’m bound to get lost.” Other highlights are the steamy and swaying title track, the soothing gait of Paciência (Patience) and the post-breakup insouciance of Livre, Leve e Solta (Free, Light and Loose). The ceiling above her may be shattered, but it’s noteworthy that one of the songs on her first album was Principe Encantado (Enchanted Prince): She may still be holding out for the slippers. (FVA Music Solutions)


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