Elza Soares was just 13 years old when she appeared on Brazil’s premier talent show in 1950. A young mom, she needed the prize money to buy medicine for her ailing son; she cut an incongruous figure beneath the spotlights, clad in an ill-fitting, hand-altered dress. “What planet are you from?” asked the incredulous host. Defiant, she spat back: “Planeta Fome”—Planet Hunger.
That imaginary yet all-too-real world serves as the title to her 34th album. It is her second since 2015’s A Mulher do Fim do Mundo reintroduced her as the world’s most unstoppable septuagenarian; now 82, she hasn’t mellowed a bit. Her collaborators have changed, but this album shares the same ragged vibe as A Mulher, which doubled as a spotlight for São Paulo’s “samba sujo” (“dirty samba”) scene. Suiting Soares’ impossibly expressive rasp—as tender a voice that was ever compared to sandpaper and gravel—the grooves are a gnarled fusion of Afro-Brazilian styles and muscular funk, though the mostly acoustic “Lírio Rosa” casts a wistful glance back upon MPB at its most dulcet.
Written in the throes of the country’s ongoing political crisis, the album makes its discontent plain even to non-Portuguese speakers: “Não Recomendado” harnesses punk guitars in its embrace of society’s outcasts, while “Blá Blá Blá,” featuring the incendiary rapper B-Negão, alternates between vintage Tim Maia samples and serrated guitar riffs straight from Rage Against the Machine. Most affecting of all is the short, largely a cappella “Menino,” in which Soares addresses a young boy, homeless and hungry: “You represent the future of the nation.”