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Blissful Optimism Fades into Doubt

In spite of its title and Brazilian evocation, "Nascimento (Birth)" isn't a tone poem for legendary singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento, but there's no denying that his distinctive falsetto and child-like melodicism is felt in Aloe Blacc's voice. The song's dreamy soundscape of enchanting horns, gentle guitar and pneumatic synth-strings recall the genre-defying magic Milton conjured in the '70s.

As a singer, rapper, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Blacc is a similarly inventive experimenter, defying easy categorization on "Nascimento," which begins as an aria and concludes as broken-beat hip-hop. Thematically, Blacc uses the song's literal meaning — which in Portuguese translates to "birth" — as a launching pad for pondering the joyous anxiety of exploring a physical relationship.

"Nascimento" superbly evokes the supercharged, emotionally complex moment in which blissful optimism fades into contemplative doubt. Whereas many contemporary R&B ballads ignite with surefire lust, Blacc's epigrammatic verses glimmer with pensive hope. Not so coincidentally, it's one of the many gifts that made Milton Nascimento an enduring star.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.