Reporter's Notebook

The World's Greatest Song Chronicles: Águas de Março
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Below are Atlantic notes, from James Fallows with suggestions from many readers, about the lasting effects of the song that Brazilian listeners chose as their country’s greatest musical creation, Águas de Março, by Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim.

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Late Entries in the Águas de Março Derby, Featuring Don Draper

In addition to the ~20 versions in the other dispatches shown further down on this page, here are a few entries that arrived overnight. They’ve just made the deadline for tonight’s exciting announcement of the results. Here we go:

Elis Regina, in a duet [as you’ll see] not with Tom Jobim but with a piano. Several people wrote in to mention this one:

A reader in Denmark makes an elegant point about this version:

You already featured the duet between Tom Jobim and Elis. But this version is a live version where the song retains the ‘60s aesthetics so closely tied to Bossa Nova.  Personally I don’t think the addition of electric bass and keyboards adds to to Bossa Nova.

An analogy could be the attractiveness of a Don Draper in a black suit and a slim tie—Quintessentially sixties. And when you (come the seventies) add a checkered dressing coat and sideburns, the magic sort of disappears.

The results are in. I’ll get to them shortly. First, the standards of judging I’ve found myself applying as I’ve unexpectedly been immersed in large numbers of Águas de Março renditions.

  • A bias in favor of duets. Male-female, female-female, human-piano, man-on-dog, whatever. They offer a playfulness, a punctuation, a drama that even the best solo versions can’t match.
  • A bias against English-language versions. There are songs for which an English-language lyric adds to the wit, beauty, or power. Think: Cole Porter. This is not one of those songs. I think I’m not saying this just because I understand English and don’t understand Portuguese (or Slovenian). I can understand French and still think it works better than English for the mood of this song.
  • A preference for musicians who play the song, rather than playing with the song. Cassandra Wilson has an elegant personalized presentation, but it ends up as a Cassandra Wilson song more than Jobim’s.

Read on for the results.

If you follow (or have heard of) the Brazilian experimental-percussion group Uakti, you probably are already aware that they have done their own interpretation of The World’s Greatest Song, Águas de Março by Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim.

If, like me, you hadn’t known about Uakti, then this version will be as new to you as it is to me. Very much as with the marvelous David Byrne-Marisa Montes interpretation mentioned earlier, the group is clearly playing with the song, rather than just playing it. But worth knowing about and listening to.

Tim Heffernan, who previously sleuthed out the Slovenian rendition of Aguas, came up with this one too.