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Bossa Nova

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"Blame it on the bossa nova with its magic spell
Blame it on the bossa nova that he did so well
Oh, it all began with just one little dance
But soon it ended up a big romance
Blame it on the bossa nova
The dance of love"
Eydie Gormé, "Blame It on the Bossa Nova"

Bossa nova, Portuguese for "new wave", is a musical genre originating in Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s. It combines elements of Samba and Jazz and is characterized by a "bossa nova beat", containing syncopated rhythms and unconventional chords played on the guitar that originated in samba. It is often considered a subgenre of samba. The chords often include jazz harmonies such as two-five patterns (ii-V), chromatic chords, and altered dominant chords.

The first bossa nova music was played in the late 1950s in Rio de Janeiro. While many artists contributed to the creation of the genre, its creators are usually seen as Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto, both nicknamed the "Father of bossa nova". Original versions are typically sung in Portuguese

Bossa nova is usually played on the guitar using fingers instead of a pick. For percussion, the surdo and cabasa are the most common instruments, although it can be played on a drum set. Its signature samba rhythms came from the music of African slave communities and are known for their swaying feel. Its lyrics are usually apolitical and are often about love, women, longing, and other romantic topics. Bossa nova is also a style of dance.

By the early 1960s, bossa nova became a worldwide phenomenon, spreading Brazilian music and culture to international audiences. Foreign musicians such as Frank Sinatra began performing bossa nova music. The most famous bossa nova song is Antônio Carlos Jobim's "The Girl From Ipanema", one of the most recorded songs of all time. It is also commonly used as elevator music.

In works set in Brazil, expect bossa nova or samba to play in the background. The genre remains deeply tied to foreign perceptions of Brazil. It is also common music for any tropical or beach setting in works.

Bossa Nova demonstrates these tropes:

  • Cover Version: Multiple bossa nova songs are jazz standards and have been covered countless times, such as "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Água de Beber". Many bossa nova musicians cover the classics. Additionally, there are many covers of pop music in the style of bossa nova.
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: Bossa nova music makes stereotypical elevator music, especially "The Girl From Ipanema".
  • Follow the Leader: Became so popular in the US that a huge number of established jazz and pop musicians put out their own albums of bossa nova covers, just to get their own piece of that pie.
  • Genre Mashup: Of Samba and Jazz.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Bossa nova is very popular in the United States and other foreign countries.
  • Multilingual Song: Bossa nova songs sometimes have verses in Portuguese and English, such as João Gilberto version of "The Girl From Ipanema".
  • Silly Love Songs: Romance is the most common focus of bossa nova songs.

Notable bossa nova artists include:

Other examples of bossa nova music:

Anime & Manga


  • The main theme of Austin Powers is the song "Soul Bossa Nova" by Quincy Jones.
  • Black Orpheus is a modern retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set in Brazil. It is a musical that features a bossa nova soundtrack, and it helped popularize the genre to an international audience.


  • Billie Eilish has the track from Happier Than Ever called "Billie Bossa Nova".
  • Miles Davis: Released the album Quiet Nights, which was marketed to cash in on the bossa nova craze, but was really more of a stylistic followup to Sketches of Spain. Some of the cover songs were really In Name Only versions.
  • Duke Ellington: Was inspired by the craze to record Afro-Bossa, an album of original compositions that had some influence from bossa nova, but definitely sounded more like Ellington's usual style.
  • "Virginia Moon" is a bossa nova song by Foo Fighters.
  • Vince Guaraldi: Released the album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, with side A being covers of bossas from the film. Unexpectedly, one of the non-bossa nova tracks from side B, Guaraldi's own composition "Cast Your Fate to the Wind", wound up being his Breakthrough Hit. Much of his music afterwards was heavily bossa-influenced, including an extended collaboration with Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete.
  • Pizzicato Five: Released one album of mostly bossa nova, Couples, and often included one or two bossas on their other albums. Ironically, one of those was the misleadingly titled Bossa Nova 2001, where the only bossas were the first and last song.
  • Red Hot + Rio was a 1996 compilation album of bossa covers, featuring that era's big names in alternative/indie music collaborating with Brazilian musicians.
  • Frank Sinatra: Recorded an album with Antonio Carlos Jobim, creatively titled Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim. He also recorded enough material with Jobim for a followup album, which was to be titled Sinatra-Jobim, but the release history of that one is mess.
  • Burt Bacharach was heavily inspired by bossa nova in The '60s, especially in his songs for Dionne Warwick ("Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" in particular sounds very Jobim-esque).

Video Games

  • Animal Crossing:
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: After Link rescues all of Zora eggs, they hatch and position their bodies to form the notes to the New Wave Bossa Nova song, which is required to help their mother, Lulu, speak again. When played to Lulu, Link must be in his Zora form, which plays the song on a fishbone guitar with his fingers.
  • Mother 3: "New Pork Bossa" plays as the lobby music in the Empire Pork Building, a skyscraper that contains an elevator to bring the player to the 100th floor. Though sadly, it doesn't play in the elevator. In the song, guitar and percussion keep the rhythm while the flute plays the melody.
  • Rhythm Heaven Fever: In "Bossa Nova", players take control of either Bossa (in single player) or his girlfriend Nova (who is assigned to player 2 in the multiplayer mode) and have to bounce away volleyballs that are thrown at them from offscreen. The level takes place in a cloud that slowly ascends towards the top of the screen, so the song fittingly resembles elevator music.
  • Super Mario Odyssey: The theme of the aquatic region Bubblaine is in the style of bossa nova. The stage is based on the French Rivera, and bossa nova music is popular in France.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Trophy Gallery theme is a bossa nova version of the main theme.
  • The Sims has some Bossa Nova-inspired tunes (such as this and this) that play in the neighborhood screen.
  • Undertale: "Hotel" is a bossa nova remix of the game's main theme.
  • Sonic Unleashed : "Windmill Isle/Apotos" is obviously bossa nova influenced.
  • The themes for the Wii and DSi shop channels are bossa nova.

Western Animation