Daniela Mercury’s ‘Bold Moves and Grand Gestures’
She’s had more #1 hits (14) in Brazil than any other female artist. Globally she’s sold over 20 million albums. Daniela Mercury is a superstar, a true international name. Yet, for all her success, she’s remained a woman who refuses to bow to convention, both musically and personally. Every album is a reinvention, an exploration.
Noting the artist’s proclivity for “bold moves and grand gestures,” the Take Two blog of Southern California public radio station KPCC lauds her for “introducing electronic sounds to ‘the boisterous Carnaval and evoking the controversial ‘Cannibalist’ art movement of the early 20th century with her provocative ‘Canibália’ projects of recent years, her attempt to ‘reinvent’ popular culture via Artistic Cannibalism. She’s also stirred controversy as an advocate for condom use (despite being a devout Catholic) and with several tabloid-level marriages and affairs, not least her coming out as lesbian in 2013 with her relationship with Malu Verçosa.”
On Virtual Vinyl (released on January 22, 2016 by DRG Brazil) her journey continues–the latest chapter in Mercury’s electric, soulful and always passionate story. “It’s my fight for love, for peace and against all forms of violence and suffering,” Ms. Mercury says of her new project. Here she is accompanied by the iconic Gilberto Gil (guitar, vocals), Marcio Victor (percussion, vocals), Armandinho Macedo (guitar, mandolin), Cesario Leony (bass) and Gabriel Povoas (keys, guitar, bass, vocals) in what is the glorious fusion of styles that has been a hallmark of her career, starting from the trios eléctricos of Carnaval in her native Salvador, through the adrenalin surge of the regional axé music style that made her famous and beyond.
“I always mixed rhythms and styles,” Mercury told Wave magazine. “I am an eclectic artist, open to new things. I like to create… In 1999, I brought, for the first time, electronic music to the Carnaval in Salvador; in 2010 I mixed my songs with my band to the songs of the 2 de Julho Orchestra–there were over 40 musicians, and it was a beautiful show that thrilled the partiers. On other albums, I mixed the beat of candomblé with electronic music, I mixed reggae with rock.”
‘Sem Argumento,’ Daniela Mercury, from Virtual Vinyl
‘Alegria E Lamento,’ Daniela Mercury, from Virtual Vinyl
But always the heartbeat under the global influences has been firmly Brazilian and it remains that way on Virtual Vinyl, as songs like “Tô Samba Da Vida” (“I’m Samba Life”) and “De Deus, De Alah, De Gilberto Gil” (“God, Allah, Gilberto Gil”–a homage to the lauded singer-songwriter who was also Brazil’s Minister of Culture for several years) attest.
It’s the next step from her previous two albums, 2009’s Canibália and Daniela Mercury & Cabeça de Nós Todas from 2013. Both showed her working with perfect confidence, mixing up styles from samba-reggae to Tropicalismo and beyond. This time around the influences are more widespread, from Brazil’s own Carioca funk to the turntable scratching and samples that have long been the rhythm of hip-hop.
‘Senhora Do Terreiro (Mãe Carmen),’ Daniela Mercury, from Virtual Vinyl
‘Minha Mãe, Minha Pátria’ (translation: ‘My Mother, My Motherland’), Daniela Mercury, from Virtual Vinyl
Virtual Vinyl is her story, her world, a continuation of her manifesto. That’s apparent even on the cover, where Mercury is shown in a nude embrace with her wife, Malu Verçosa, in a photograph deliberately reminiscent of Annie Leibovitz’s final loving portraits of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Originally trained as a dancer, Mercury made her debut at Salvador Carnaval when she was just 15, releasing her first solo album 10 years later. The first two songs from the disc both became huge hits, and she was set on the road to fame.
By 2000 she was already adding electronic music to her arsenal, and Sol da Liberdade, produced by the late Suba, transformed her into a global name. She’s someone who sees music as a whole, a continuum that’s constantly shifting and referencing its own past, something she acknowledged on Canibália when she duetted with the ghostly voice of Carmen Miranda, Brazil’s first global icon. Even the title of the new album–Virtual Vinyl–shows something beyond the surface, beyond any easy pigeonhole.
‘Frogs In the Sky,’ Daniela Mercury, from Virtual Vinyl
‘De Deus, De Alah, De Gilberto Gi,’ (translation: ‘God, Allah, Gilberto Gil’), Daniela Mercury, from Virtual Vinyl
“I’m interested in so many things,” Mercury says. “I like to be involved in every part of recording, every part of creating the stage shows. That’s just who I am. Dancing took me to singing, and that’s led to everything else. One thing I’ve never wanted to do is define and limit myself.”
That relentless curiosity has also led her to set up her own foundation to help bring children to the arts, as well as work as a UNICEF Ambassador. She’s a woman who refuses to stand still. In her life, as well as her music, she’s constantly pushing and changing things around her.
“I’m a naturally curious person,” Mercury explains. “I keep listening to new things, seeing new things, and that comes out in the songs I write, or how I approach them. ‘Why not?’ is always a good philosophy.”