Having been replaced as America’s dominant Latin pop group—on the charts if not in our hearts—by Miami Sound Machine, Mendes’s outfit has a problem: how to profit from the rebirth of interest in Latin music, exploit its 23-year history in this country and seem contemporary, all at the same time. Not this way, for starters.
While the 10 songs on the album were composed by such mainstays of Brazilian pop as Gilberto Gil, Djavan and Milton Nascimento, they don’t seem to have come off the top of anyone’s hit list. Mendes’s musical acumen—which once led him to such tunes as the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill” or Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love”—seems to have deserted him.
Arara’s liveliest track, “Nightlife,” has a tripartite lead vocal by Gracinha Leporace (Mrs. Mendes), Angie Jaree and Kevyn Lettau and musters the surges of passion noticeably absent from the rest of the package. But it serves mostly to invite invidious comparison. The rest of the album is basically a lot of melodic and rhythmic milling around, with Mendes’s trademark choruses left hanging, all oohed-and-aahed up with no place to go. (A&M)