Céu: Novela

São Paulo-born, Céu is one of the most successful Brazilian artists of her generation. She has won multiple Latin Grammys, been nominated for multiple MTV Brazil music awards, and won four Multishow Award which is considered the top music prize in Brazil. Despite this success, she has never made much of a dent in America. Her 2007 self-titled debut album peaked at #57 on the Billboard 200 and none of her subsequent albums have even charted. As she now returns with her sixth album, Novela, it is right to wonder what her legacy in America is and what it will be.

While success in America is not necessarily what ever international artist strives for, Novela does seem to have that ambition. Céu recorded the album in Los Angeles with multi-instrumentalist/producer, Adrian Younge. Younge has cooked up songs for artists like Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and an entire album with Ghostface Killah so he adds some star power to the mix.

Like most of Céu’s output, Novela is mostly in Portuguese but there is some English and it starts right away. Opening track “Raiou” features a guest verse from LadyBug Mecca from Digable Planets. The rapped vocals work well over the bossa nova beat and lush string arrangement. London-based singer, anaiis, duets on “Gerando na alta” but her jazzy crooned vocals are so like Céu’s that if you weren’t paying attention you might not notice that the lyrics has switched to English.

Often the highlights on the album aren’t the multilingual tracks at all. “High na Cachú” is a reggae-tinged number featuring the organ playing Hervé Salters. Céu’s vocals sound less jazzy and more neo-soul like a Brazilian Macy Gray. It works well for the instrumental that feels unique in the context of the album but not out of place.

Similarly, “Lustrando Estrela” takes the bossa nova vibe of much of the album and gives it a trip hop feel. The result is a song that sounds like it could’ve been in Grey’s Anatomy or House last decade. Licensing to American television is probably the highest ambition Novela can hope for though. It is an entirely pleasant album but for non-Portuguese speakers, the smooth, lite grooves are probably relegated to background music. However, it would not be surprising to see more Latin Grammy nominations in Céu’s near future.

Rating: 7.5/10

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