Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 2/12/08.
In Wes Anderson's 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the director employed a soundtrack that not only featured a music score from longtime collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh. He also found inspiration in the music of David Bowie, particularly Bowie's legendary period in the early 70s that peaked when he was in his Ziggy Stardust persona. While Anderson ended up using two of Bowie's recordings for the film's soundtrack, he decided to use many other songs from Bowie in the film. Except that he decided to have them performed by Brazilian actor Seu Jorge who plays the character of Pele dos Santos, a crew member on Zissou's Belafonte ship. In the film, Jorge's character often does covers of David Bowie songs sung in Portugese to bring a whimsical humor and melancholia to the film. The reaction to Jorge's interpretation spawned an accompanying album of Jorge's covers of Bowie songs entitled The Life Aquatic-Studio Sessions with Seu Jorge.
The Life Aquatic-Studio Sessions is an album featuring 14 songs by David Bowie sung and performed by Seu Jorge with nothing more than his voice and an acoustic guitar. Featuring many of Bowie's songs from classic albums like Hunky Dory and The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders of Mars and a few obscurities. The album also includes an original song from Jorge as the album is basically a stripped down interpretation of David Bowie's beloved classics reinterpreted in a very different language. The result is a fascinating record that fans of world music and most of all, David Bowie fans will sure to enjoy.
The album opener Rebel Rebel from 1974's Diamond Dogs is given a slower tempo than Bowie's original but the song's bouncy melody remains intact through Seu Jorge's performance on an acoustic guitar as well as his bass-heavy vocals. The song remains fun as Jorge's interpretation as it is sung in Portugese still has the same, sing-a-long spirit that Bowie's original had. Life On Mars? from Hunky Dory is presented in the same, slow, and dramatic tone of Bowie's original as Jorge strips its down just to his bass-like vocals and guitar as he emphasizes the melancholia of Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and the rest of the Belafonte crew. Jorge's vocals on the song, notably its sweeping chorus is amazing as Jorge's vocals have an amazing quality that is similar to Bowie's own vocals.
Starman, from the Ziggy Stardust album, maintains its pop-rock sensibilities as Jorge ups the tempo a bit with a swift, guitar track and taps on the guitar as his vocals shine through this amazing classic. Even as he hums the melody of Mick Ronson's guitar solo from the original as it's an amazing cover that captures the spirit of Bowie's original. Ziggy Stardust from that same album has Jorge maintaining the song's same tempo with its washy guitar track and Jorge's wailing vocals as he captures the same sense of angst and spirit of Bowie's original classic with growls and grunts on the vocals. Lady Stardust, another cut from Ziggy, is a slower yet soothing song with Jorge humming the song's original piano accompaniment in this wonderful, melancholic song as Jorge's vocals are the real highlight as he shows his range in also doing a bit of falsetto from his bass-like vocals for the song's third verse.
Changes from Hunky Dory is another Bowie classic that Jorge does in maintaining the song's pop sensibility while slowing the song's original tempo just a bit as he uses a low vocal register for the verse only to heighten it through its famed chorus. Even as he says, "Ch-ch-changes" like Bowie's original song. Oh! You Pretty Things from Hunky Dory plays up to the song's wonderful melody from its original piano track as Jorge's vocals give the song a wonderful, haunting quality through his vocals while maintaining its sense of pop sensibility. Rock N' Roll Suicide from Ziggy Stardust is a wonderful ballad of angst and melancholia as it's performed in the film to emphasize more of Zissou's melancholia and his relationship with his supposed long-lost son Ned (Owen Wilson). Jorge's vocals are amazing as he conveys the sense of loss and angst just like Bowie's original song even as he captures his emotions as he sings the last bit in English.
Suffragette City, from the same album, is given a slower tempo than its original, rocking presentation as Jorge maintains the song's same melodic riff and an amazing vocal that features Jorge doing some wonderful acoustic guitar riffs to make up for the song's original, fiery guitar solos of Mick Ronson. Five Years, another cut from Ziggy, opens with a scratchy guitar to maintain the song's original tempo and dramatic style as Jorge's vocals swoon through the song as the guitar work maintains a haunting quality through its performance. Queen B*tch from Hunky Dory, is a wonderful, up-tempo rocker that is performed in the second half of the final credits as Jorge wails on the vocals and his guitar as it's a great cover that captures the same spirit of Bowie's original.
When I Live My Dream, from Bowie's 1967 self-titled debut album, is an obscure Bowie song that is played following a tragic moment on the Belafonte as Eleanor Zissou (Anjelica Huston) is distraught over the tragedy. Jorge’s vocals are amazing as he brings new light to an obscure Bowie song that is often overlooked and makes it his own. Quicksand from Hunky Dory is a haunting ballad as Jorge's guitar and vocals channel that same sense of doom and melancholia from Bowie's original song. Even as Jorge sings the vocals, he presents a wide range in his vocals with a mix of bass and falsetto. The original song Team Zissou is a wonderful, upbeat song with swift guitar work and Jorge's swooning vocals as he pays tribute to the crew of the Belafonte. The album closer, that's an exclusive bonus track from iTunes is a cover of Space Oddity. The classic Bowie song is presented in its slow, momentum-driven quality as Jorge pays true to its dramatic quality as he channels the same sense of alienation of Bowie's original through his haunting vocals.
While the versions of Jorge's covers of Bowie's songs in the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic are performed on the set but with a rough mix. The versions on this record has a clearer, amazing production that is true to Jorge's presentation of these songs. The Life Aquatic-Studio Sessions with Seu Jorge is an amazing album that features many of David Bowie's classics songs sung in a different language while not being lost in translation. Fans of David Bowie will no doubt enjoy this record and maybe get a language lesson in learning how to speak Portugese from David Bowie songs. Probably the best complement for this album should come from the Thin White Duke himself who loved Jorge's interpretation as well as the way his songs can be done in a different language. In the end, for an album that is just fun to listen to while singing along to them, Seu Jorge's The Life Aquatic-Studio Sessions is the album to get.
Wes Anderson Soundtracks: Bottle Rocket - Rushmore - The Royal Tenenbaums - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - The Darjeeling Limited - Fantastic Mr. Fox - (Moonrise Kingdom)
Wes Anderson Films: Bottle Rocket - Rushmore - The Royal Tenenbaums - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Hotel Chevalier - The Darjeeling Limited - Fantastic Mr. Fox - Moonrise Kingdom - The Auteurs #8: Wes Anderson
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