Bossa Nova: It’s Not Just Elevator Music

There must be at least one point in our lives when we heard The Girl from Ipanema play in either a classy yet worn-out bar or in an elevator of a four-star hotel. If you don’t know the song by the title, then you might recognize it by its lazily swinging melodies and the uniquely melancholic voice of its singer, Astrud Gilberto.

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Truth be told, I also didn’t know the title of the song the first time I heard it. Three years before I discovered the beauty of Bossa nova, our physics professor mentioned The Girl from Ipanema to us. He even attempted to sing it, but he garnered no remarkable reaction from the class.

With so many choices in musical genres nowadays, you can easily get overwhelmed when it comes to picking your next listen-to track. Whether you want to wind down after a long day or tune into something soothing while studying, Bossa nova songs might be your next best companion.


Needless to say, taste in music is subjective. Before you tell me that “Artist X is essential!” or “How did you miss out on Album X?”, let me tell you that the items below are not representative of the starter albums for Bossa nova lovers, as I made this list based on my own journey of browsing through online recommendations and following player algorithms (namely, Spotify’s Discover and Youtube’s Up Next functions). If you think this list is really lacking something essential, then help spread the love by sharing your own favorites in the comments section! And if you’re just getting into Bossa nova, then I hope this list becomes your gateway to a genre that you’ll eventually enjoy.

Getz/Gilberto (1963)

Ah, the hallmark Bossa nova album. It’s the beautiful brainchild of the triumvirate composed of Stan Getz, João Gilberto, and Antônio Carlos Jobim (Tom Jobim), featuring the distinct vocals of Astrud Gilberto. This Grammy award-winning album went on to sell millions of copies and introduced Bossa nova to the world. It’s clearly not hard to hear why—from the world-famous Garota de Ipanema to the playful sounding Doralice, Getz/Gilberto is so easy to the ears that you won’t even notice you’re down to the last track in the album.

Ellis & Tom

So why do all Bossa nova singers sound like they’re enchantresses from another dimension? This album doesn’t hold back when showcasing the greatness of its artists; Tom Jobim and Ellis Regina’s Águas de Março is my most favorite duet song ever. There’s something about their exchange of verses that make you want to swing to their beat. If you’re completely taken away by the first song, then everything else in this album is worth listening.

Jazz Samba

What is samba but one of Bossa nova’s parents (the other one is surely Jazz)? Stan Getz stuns with his saxophone blending smoothly with the other instruments and voices featured in this album. One of the tracks in Jazz Samba—Manha de Carnival—proves that Bossa nova can’t only be infectiously catchy but also passionately romantic.  

Chega de Saudade

Have you ever listened to a song so sublime that you think you’ve actually fallen in love with it? That’s what happened to me when I first listened to the titular track in this album, popularized by no other than João Gilberto, whose vocals are just as enthralling as his wife’s (Astrud). What’s more fascinating is that the longing expressed in this music transcends its lyrics. I guess that does show the power of music—on how it can make people feel the same emotion without being limited by the confines of human language.

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These should give you enough time to get a feel of Bossa nova, but if you want a little bit of everything this genre offers that go beyond albums, then Spotify has a playlist made just for you. Don’t be afraid to explore, and may Bossa nova find its way into your coração.

A sociology graduate and philosophy dilettante who loves music (ranging from Black Sabbath to Beethoven), old-school anime, non-competitive running, and surreal webcomics.

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