Lenine – Hoje Eu Quero Sair Só

Lenine is a Brazilian musician who, were there any justice, would be as well known across the world as any American or British singer/songwriter.

One of the best things about Lenine’s music is the way it blends traditional Brazilian forms with Western alternative influences. If only Anglophones were more receptive to lyrics sung in other tongues, they would find him incredibly accessible, but also noticeably innovative and markedly different.

My favourite song by him is Hoje Eu Quero Sair Só. This was on his first solo album, released in 1997, but still getting heavy airplay when I moved to Brazil as a 12 year old in early 2000.

Brazilian music is memorable on its own terms, but its effortless, relaxed sound often enables it to act as a suitable vehicle for lyrics that are sophisticated, emotional and surprisingly direct.

This song is a particularly good example of that phenomenon. It slinks up on you, driven by an acoustic guitar playing a repetitive set of chords in typical post-bossa nova style. If you listen carefully, that guitar is at the centre of the whole song and creates its insistent sound, even when all the bells and whistles of the (very late 90s) production have been added in.

And insistent is the right word for the lyrics as well. Lenine manages to create a sound in this song that exactly matches the desire expressed by its title (“Today I want to go out alone”). The lyrics tell the story of a relationship in which the war between intimacy and liberty is raging.

If you want to follow me, it’s not secure

You don’t want to lock me in a dark room

Sometimes it feels like we got tied up in knots

Today I want to go out alone

You won’t hit me at point-blank range

Come here, let me go, kiss me

Sometimes it feels like we got tied up in knots

Today I want to go out alone

This is a rough translation of the first couple of verses. As with many Portuguese phrases, the English language isn’t actually sufficient to capture the nuances; for example, I’ve chosen “tied up in knots” as a colloquial translation of “as vezes parece até que a gente deu nó”, but by doing so I’ve made it sound more negative than it seems intended to be in the song.

The sense of the song is deeply conflicted. The singer is expressing a need to go out alone where “alone” very definitely means “lacking another”. But he also keeps saying he’ll be back before long.

And then there’s the double-edged phrase “Vai ver se eu tô lá na esquina”. Literally this means “go and see if I’m on the corner”, but in Portuguese it’s a dismissive phrase which basically means “get lost”. Again, though, in this song it’s spun around or at least made more ambivalent by the following phrase “devo estar” – “I must be”.

The way the music is sinuously wrapped around this ambivalence, creating that great sub-tropical night-time feeling that embodies uncertainty, stillness, and the moonlight that calls you to the solitary street, makes this one of the greatest achievements of Lenine’s career and one of the finest introductions I can imagine to “MPB” – Musica Popular Brasileira.

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