Gloria Estefan is nothing short of a legend. In terms of impact on the music scene we’d put her alongside the female greats such as Cher and Madonna. Over her incredible 36 years in the industry Estefan has established herself as the most successful Latin crossover artist of all-time. In recent years she’s focused more on her Spanish language music but in 2011 she unleashed one of her most experimental albums to date Miss Little Havana. Now Estefan is back with a new album and again she’s reinventing herself with The Standards.
The Standards is a collaboration between Estefan and Shelly Berg, the Dean of Music at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. Together they chose 50 songs to be recorded for the album with 15 making the final cut. All of the songs on The Standards are from The Great American Songbook with Estefan singing in English, French, Spanish and Italian. Fans of Estefan will be surprised to learn there is little in the way of her signature Latin-pop sound with The Standards instead focusing on her gorgeous voice and lush, dreamy instrumentation.
Good Morning Heartache, made famous by Billie Holiday, opens the record immediately establishing that the focus is on Estefan’s voice. Subtle piano provides the backing but its Estefan’s voice that carries the song and drives the melody. We always knew she was a fantastic singer but we had no idea that she could sing like this. After listening through the album it appears that Good Morning Heartache is only the icing on the cake.
Over the course of the record Estefan puts her spin on classics such as What a Difference a Day Makes, My Fair Lady’s I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face, What a Wonerful World (made famous by Louis Armstrong) and Swing Time’s The Way You Look Tonight. One of the highlights on the record is the moody jazz of George and Ira Gershwin’s How Long Has This Been Going On. Estefan could easily record a full jazz album in the future based on the evidence of this track.
There’s no denying that Estefan is at her best when she sings in Spanish. There’s something about the language that lends itself to music but with Estefan singing it’s just magic. Sonrie, a Spanish version of Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, is a duet with Laura Pausini and one of the highlights on the record. It’s simply stunning. There’s a second version of the track included where Estefan and Pausini sing in Italian.
The Standards is a dreamy, gorgeous and divine collection of recordings. Long-time fans of Estefan will delight in hearing her doing something completely different whilst casual fans will be surprised to hear the Latin star stepping out of her comfort zone and singing her heart out. The Standards is an album that is pretty special and we already hope that somewhere down the line Estefan decides to release a follow-up album.