Cristina Branco: Branco

July 10, 2019

Life Without Emojis

Listening Post 209. If social media represents the spotlight, what’s hidden in the shadow? Cristina Branco answers on her fifteenth album: Real life, a jumble of dream, sorrow, survival, despair, the passage and freezing of time, and every love story too ambiguous to post about. A persistent question surrounding Branco’s career in recent years is whether she has left fado behind or simply created her own fado-piano genre of Portuguese chanson. But perhaps the spotlight should be trained not on labels but on what she has to say with her superb accompaniment, the collection of mostly young composers and lyricists she works with, and her extraordinary voice—sustaining its magnetism in pain, play and passion. Melancholy outweighs hope on Branco, though it’s a sign the artist doesn’t take herself too seriously that song rhythm often balances mood, as when Portuguese guitar, keyboard and vocals dance together to an otherwise sad story. And then there’s the richness of her imagery. In Aula de Natação (Swimming Class), a poolside bench is a leitmotif in a saga of love’s beginning and end (video 1). In Namora Comigo (Romance Me) a couple “seduces the night,” becoming “mattress, tenderness and peace” (video 2). The confessional Eu (I) portrays a woman on the verge of resilience (video 3); while fragments of a nagging question are softened by time and a Beach Boys vibe in Afinal, o que é que vês em mim? (In the End, What Did You See in Me?, video 4). The album comes closest to traditional fado in Minha Sorte (My Luck), pulsing with eternal hope, while Eu por Engomar (I’m Ironing) describes the acceptance of loss. The world is safe for emojis and descriptions of our best selves. All the more reason we need the kind of reality check Cristina Branco provides with such sparkling honesty and poise. (O-tone Music/Universal Music Portugal)

Cristina Branco: voice
Bernardo Couto: Portuguese guitar
Bernardo Moreira: double bass
Luis Figueiredo: piano, Rhodes, Casiotone, percussion

Related post: Cristina Branco: Menina, Listening Post 94, April 9, 2017.


Aula de Natação/Swimming class
Lyrics & Music: Jorge Cruz 

I met him on the tenth of May/On the visit to Mira de Aire
“It’s João,” my friend announced

He was an athletic type/Well-mannered smile
Made a point of coming to greet me/At the school entrance
Asked in his self-conscious way/“Tonight at eight o’clock in the pavilion?”

This is where I found myself/In a corner on a concrete bench
Alone waiting for the end/Of the swimming class

I had just started a good job/And I got to the end of the course
He offered me an engagement ring

We settled in the city/A couple with two boys
For a year of work, three weeks in the Algarve
And one night he reminded himself/“It would be good if the kids learned to swim by summer”

This is where I found myself/In a corner on a concrete bench
Alone waiting for the end/Of the swimming class

Fifteen years and a day married/We signed the divorce papers
He said that he had fallen in love/What I said I don’t recall

We split the assets
For him the Passat/The timeshare and the lot in Meais
For me the apartment/Custody of the boys
Wrinkles, varicose veins, two herniated discs

And the water gymnastics program/I went there today for the first session

This is where I found myself/In a corner on a concrete bench
Alone waiting for the end/Of the swimming class


Namora Comigo/Romance Me
Music & Lyrics: Beatriz Pessoa

In the morning the day was born/He came from far away
The mystery of discovering/A place to live
He was gentle, with light eyes/Dark hair combed back
And in the midst of his fears/I just wanted to be adored

Holding hands, stolen kisses/Distant songs
Slowly coupling, rocking/Dancing roses

Everything started so quickly/Without any preparation
I ran into the wind/That sowed confusion
The woman inside grew, so did the girl/He was a conquering boy
And on the shore of this land/It was you who was the fighter

Romance me meanwhile/In a field of flowers from near and afar
Romance me for the first time/We’ll run away from here… maybe, maybe

We seduced the night in bed/We were mattress, tenderness and peace
He rested in my lap and over the moon/And I lost myself naked in the sky

We let go and here we stayed/Flirting in the air’s eternity
We planned paths into the future/Plunged into the vastness of the sea


Music & Lyrics: Luis Figueiredo

I’m the one who moved out/I’m the one who healed my wounds
I’m the one who did everything to forget/(but I no longer know how to live)

I’m the one who cut her hair/I’m the one who untangled the knots
I’m the one who did everything to move on/(but I no longer know how to walk)

I’m the one who felt everything
Who shook when I saw/That there could exist someone like this
I, who cried/Who suffered, who tried
To tie you to all that was sad in me

I, who switched cars/I, who scraped my soul
I, who tried to stand up straight/(but I can’t be anymore)
I, who scrubbed walls/I, who broke the chains
That held me to your floor/(and I never understood the reason)

I, who lived/Who dreamed, who foresaw
The tenderness to be with you until the end

I’ll get back on my feet/I’ll tell the ocean
That I’m stronger than you/I’m stronger than myself


Afinal, o que é que vês em mim?/In the End, What Did You See in Me?
Music: Peixe/Lyrics: Nono Prata

Open the drawer and inadvertently stumble/Upon a forgotten letter which reads:
“In the end, what did you see in me?”

To the ungrateful question I don’t even recall/If I gave a concrete answer
And it hardly matters today/No point in saving a dead letter
In the envelope, aside from the question/A mirror and photos of someone smiling
“In the end, what did you see in me?”

Incessantly, the question still waits for a reply/It’s not enough to look at the back of the letter
For you it’s the reason for living
How many years have past, I don’t have enough fingers to count
There’s no way to tell/It just is what it is

Close the drawer, take a break from the photos and the mirror/But the eyes in your eyes read
“In the end, what did you see in me?”

The question comes back like an open wound
It cannot but hurt/It cannot be healed
After so many years still hard to accept
Forget what time does to close things off/A past averse to passing
The answer is to ask:
“And what about you? Yes, what did you see in me?”

Open the drawer, straighten the mirror/The photos and the letter in which one day someone asked:
“In the end, what did you see in me?”
“What did you see in me?”



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