'Passione,' Andrea Bocelli’s ode to romance, completed its second week in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, even as its Spanish-language version, 'Pasión (UMLE), 'remained at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart. In a rare interview, Bocelli tells Billboard why romance and passion remain indispensable life ingredients.
Billboard: This is mostly an album of Latin standards, in Spanish. You did similar repertoire in 2006 with 'Amore.' Why the return?
Bocelli: It is true there is a “fil rouge” [common thread] that ideally binds the new album to the other one titled 'Amore.' And the great success it encountered has encouraged us to conceive a sort of second volume. But 'Passione' is something more -- it is high temperature love: a title that conveys the meaning of a hot rush of love and of a sweet sensual torment. In the album, we have tried to give a range of shades as wide as possible of that mysterious, wonderful kaleidoscope which oversees the concept of passionate love, the sum of heart mind and senses. Each song brings out a nuance; every song is a “variation on the theme” which boosts the driving engine of the content of this exciting new project. The result, of which I am very satisfied, is an anthology of some of the most intense songs ever.
What is the significance of this repertoire to you?
When a little more than a teenager, I was a piano-bar pianist in the land where I was born and raised, Tuscany. It was right from this repertoire, from these international songs that have become classics, that I first started. In a sense, 'Passione' is a selection of the music moments that have accompanied my youth; a collection of cherished memories, of moments, of fleeting emotions, of sleepless nights. When I was in those piano bars, I used to play many of the songs which are now in 'Passione' and I sometimes happened to spend part of the night with some girls of my age, who I happened to fall deeply in love with, even if for a short while. I used to work from Tuesday to Sunday, without any interruption and every night somebody asked me to sing “Garota de Ipanema,” “Corcovado,” “Love Me Tender,” “Tristeza,” “Strangers in the night” or Italian hits such as “Era Già Tutto Previsto” or “Champagne.” Every evening, I plunged into the Neapolitan music performing “Malafemmina.” And often, a girl who could sing in tune would come to the piano asking to sing with me ...So I started playing “La Vie en Rose” or “When I Fall in Love.”
Tell me a little about the song selection...What were you looking for? Are there any songs here that have particular meaning?
With David Foster (a great friend and artist who produced and arranged the album), we initially identified approximately 80 songs that have survived the period in which they were “fashionable”, overcoming generational conflicts of taste and style, and are still performed in every corner of the world. The titles which in the end have passed the selection and found their place in 'Passione' are at the top of my personal love list. In order to perform a page of music at my best, I must first fall in love with it.
A love song must respect the canons of music beauty, entering the fibers of those who are listening. It must make them dream and pleasantly introduce them to the universe of love. But a “great love song,” as I think all those in the new album are, must arouse emotions, be an accomplice, and become the voice of many in the world, who can mirror in it their most genuine and precious feelings.
Every song in the lineup has a meaning in my history as a musician and as a man. I am pleased I have done justice to songs which in the States only a few know: songs that decades ago made an entire generation dream and that today can delight a teen ager like my son Matteo is. I am referring to songs such as “Era Già Tutto Previsto.” Considering that in Italy they have been great successes, it will be interesting to see if such a success will be replicated abroad.
It was very exciting to revive, thanks to technology, a legendary voice of the past, Edith Piaf. The duet of “La Vie en Rose” is just a dream come true... It is just as if the great little French singer had come back with us 50 years after she had left. I would also like to spend a word about “September Morn:” the choice of a version in a “Mediterranean” language is essentially motivated by the will to offer the public the same wonderful piece, but with some modern touches. I wrote the Italian lyrics myself.
How did the duets with Jennifer and Nelly come about?
I am honored I have performed “Quizas Quizas Quizas” with Jennifer Lopez, an eclectic artist who thanks to the charismatic power of her voice and to her soft sensuality, has managed to make this song particularly convincing. Ms. Lopez’s singing penetrates the subtexts, her vocal talents are combined with the actor’s experience, and the multiplicity of her talents blends in the apparent simplicity of this melody. Also, the artistic encounter with Nelly Furtado has been very happy. Nelly is a volcanic personality, her cultural and even genetic background, her musicality combined with the actor’s skills make her a great performer.
You are probably aware that Natalie Cole is coming out with an album of Latin standards as well, and Tony Bennet recently released one. Is this a trend? And why do you think this is?
The trend presumably responds to a growing universal desire for beauty and human warmth. It is understandable that each of us should, when looking for a life soundtrack, turn to pages and rhythms that are sparkling with renewed passion of which the Latin repertoire is an unsurpassed creator. In the Latin world they have music in their blood, and they live the art of sounds as a need, a fundamental ingredient of daily life... Even in my artistic experience its rhythms have entered my fibers. They are now part of me.