Roberto Carlos, Brazil’s top-selling artist of all time is in Miami for a rare visit. The last time he was here was in 2015, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Billboard Latin Music Awards and planning the release of his live Spanish-language album, En Primera Fila. This time, he was in the city to receive Univision’s Lifetime Achievement Award and prepare to launch his tour in support of the new record on March 9.
Carlos is also gearing up to release his first Spanish-language studio set in 25 years, forging new narratives from old love stories, bonds and comradeships. Brazil’s chief singer/songwriter also shares with Billboard how the scope of an album that exhibits his artistic voice like never before came to be.
Produced by Sony Music Latin-Iberia chairman and CEO, Afo Verde, the set includes 10 unreleased songs in Spanish: four new songs and six Spanish versions of his Portuguese classics, including the title track, recorded in Spanish for the first time.
“The four brand-new songs are from four different composers. The album overall comprises of a great variety in styles,” he tells Billboard. The three singles from the album include “Regreso,” a tune overflowing with nostalgia with subtle arrangements, a striking piano accompaniment and his trademark gentle vocals which illuminate verses tinged with longing.
Carlos struck up a musical rapport with Alejandro Sanz that led to the second single, “Esa Mujer,” which was written by Kany García exhibits the harmonious intricacy of their vocals with arrangements by pianist and producer Pete Wallace and Grammy-winner producer/guitarist Tim Mitchell.
The set’s third single, “Que Yo Te Vea,” is an up-tempo tune and the first track on the album. “When Afo proposed the song, I immediately told him I wanted to record it, and he said, ‘I truly thought that you would love it,'” Carlos says.
Elsewhere on the album, “Mujer de 40” trifles with poetic arrangements from his archetypical 1970s classics. “It’s basically my style,” he adds. “I wrote this song because one day, as I was driving, a woman hit the window of my car and when I rolled it down she exclaimed: ‘Roberto, how about you write a song for the woman on her 40s?’ So, I asked myself ‘a woman on her 40s, huh? What am I going to say about it?’. That thought lingered in my mind and as the days passed I started laying ideas and thoughts together.”
While “Amor Sin Límite” is a nostalgic yet optimistic tune, the guitar solo by Grecco Buratto has a flair of rock that candidly cuts through the mood toward the end of the song. “It’s a rock solo within a ballad. It just happened organically, and I love it. I’m glad you are paying attention,” Carlos laughs.
“Por Siempre” has tempo shifts and an orchestral resonation that centers around the melancholic keening of the viola, flute, cello, harp and saxophone with Roberto’s vocals clinging tightly to a hopeful future. “The arrangements were done by the great Charly Calello who gave the song a traditional texture.”
The conversation bifurcates toward bossa nova, one of Brazil’s most admired and rich music formats, which became popular among the young musicians and college students of the 50s, but that today seems to have faded from prominence.
“Bossa nova is not listened to nowadays in Brazil, even though it’s one of the best things we’ve had in terms of Brazilian music, in terms of quality,” Carlos says. “Everything that has been done and is done around bossa nova always exhorts great quality; its super important to preserve its jazzy representation. I don’t think its forgotten but definitely lacks attention.”
When asked about a future all-bossa nova album as a solo act −- he released an album a few years ago with Caetano Veloso in honor of Tom Jobim -− he humbly replies that the format is for composers who are truly musicians. “I am a limited musician,” he says. “Bossa nova is more for musicians who are able to discern sophisticated arrangements. My arrangements are humbler.”
His favorite rendition of his songs by another artist? Maria Bethânia, Caetano Veloso’s sister, who released As Canções que Você Fez pra Mim in 1993, a tribute to Roberto Carlos and Eramos Carlos.
Carlos is a four-time Latin Grammy and one-time Grammy winner whose music became a shorthand for Brazilian pop since the latter part of the 1950s. He is also the only Latin American act who has surpassed the Beatles and Elvis Presley in record sales (over 125 million albums sold, according to his label.) He will present Amor Sin Límite live at the American Airlines Arena on March 9.
Roberto Carlos tour dates
March 9 — Miami, FL @ AmericanAirlines Arena
March 10 — Orlando, FL @ Amway Center
March 14 — New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall
March 15 — Boston, MA @ Wang Theatre
March 17 — Washington, D.C. @ DAR Constitution Hall
March 21 — Rosemont, IL @ Rosemont Theatre
March 23 — Los Angeles, CA @ Microsoft Theatre LA
March 24 — San Diego, CA @ Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre at SDSU
March 26 — Irving, TX @ The Pavillion at Toyota Music Factory
March 28 — Sugarland, TX @ Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land