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Week 65 | The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions (2005)

Not to be confused with the actual soundtrack of the movie, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” (I had confused the two of them up until writing this commentary), this cover album by Seu Jorge is even more Bowie-oriented than the soundtrack.  With one exception (the original, “Team Zissou), all the 14 songs on the album feature Seu Jorge, a Brazilian singer, covering Bowie songs from the 1960s and early 70s in Portuguese.  The album is wholly satisfying and further evidence that Bowie’s music has life beyond Bowie’s actual life.

The “Life Aquatic” movie is a rare understated absurdist comedy featuring Bill Murray playing a character that is a cross between Jacques Cousteau and, well, Bill Murray.  It also features Seu Jorge popping up throughout the movie singing some (five, actually) of these Bowie covers.  At no point is there any explanation.  Bowie’s original songs were used in promoting the movie.  Other than their inclusion, the movie has nothing to do with the songs or, for that matter, David Bowie.  Nonetheless, their presence is somehow funny, but Seu Jorge’s performances are beautiful.

Seu Jorge performs all the songs as acoustic pieces, accompanied only by a guitar.  Most of the original songs, like “Rebel Rebel” and “Queen Bitch,” were high-energy rock songs.  Jorge slows them down and softens them.  Through the language is incomprehensible (to someone like me who does not understand Portuguese), the songs are actually more accessible this way than Bowie’s original versions.  This is not to say that they are better than Bowie’s original versions— they are not.  That said, part of Bowie’s appeal, at least in his last 1960s/early 1970’s manifestation was his threatening rebelliousness.  Jorge’s performance is not that.

Most of the songs on this album are among Bowie’s best known— “Life on Mars,” “Starman,” “Changes” and many others.  But Jorge also resurrected an obscure song from 1967, “When I Live My Dream.”  In this case, Jorge’s performance is actually superior to Bowie’s.  Bowie’s original version was lost amidst his worst (or at least my least favorite) album— his self-titled debut.  The album is weak, but this particular song is pretty good.  Bowie’s version would later be used in a commercial for Heathrow Airport.

After Bowie died, I saw Seu Jorge perform these songs in concert.  It was a great concert.  

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