TOP10 Bossa Nova Pop Music

After the album “Jazz Samba” by Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd spent an incredible 70 weeks at number 1 on the American pop charts in 1962, there was no stopping the “new wave” in America. It is not surprising that the rhythmic and harmonic innovations of Bossa Nova also found their way into “classic” pop music. The following list contains songs that contain an obvious reference to Bossa Nova (e.g. Billie Bossa Nova) as well as songs whose aesthetic content (chord progressions, production, sound quality, rhythmic elements) are clearly influenced by the Brazilian style.


YOU ARE The Sunshine Of MyLife
Stevie Wonder

“You are the sunshine of my life” was a major hit for Stevie Wonder in 1973. The song, which is stylistically classified as R&B / easy listening, has clear bossa nova influences. The bass line and accentuation of the drums are typical of a samba groove. 


Killing Me Softly With HIs Song
Roberta Flack

The guitar accompaniment in this pop hit is clearly influenced by the rhythmic innovations of bossa nova. The guitar intro starting at 0:30 minutes could also come from a Tom Jobim song. And the vocal melody, which flows almost exclusively on the off-beats, also shows influences from South America. 


Jack JoHnson

This song by Jack Johnson is an obvious homage to bossa nova. The accompaniment pattern is an approximation of Joao Gilberto’s typical guitar style. 

Well done, Jack!


Don'T Know Why
Norah Jones

Guitarist Jesse Harris wrote this wonderful ballad and helped Norah Jones achieve a worldwide breakthrough in the early 2000s. The soft guide tone lines through the seventh chords is as simple as it is ingenious. Bossa Pop at its best!

Learn a solo guitar arrangement for this beautiful ballad!


The Look of Love
Burt Bacharach

Burt Bacherach has written some beautiful songs on the borderline between jazz, pop and Latin music. It’s no wonder that he is featured several times on this list. Many of these songs have now become standards in jazz. The Look of Love is also  regularly played at concerts by jazz bands.


If you Leave me now

“Chicago” was a pop-rock band from the 1970s that was very good at integrating advanced harmony sequences into their songs. This is also the case with “If you leave me know”, which contains many harmonic elements of a typical bossa nova song. Together with the gentle instrumentation, a song was created that could appear on a Tom Jobim album. 


I Say a Little Prayer
Aretha Franklin

I say a little prayer was made world famous by Aretha Franklin, but was first published by Burt Bacharach. On his recording, the influences of a Latin groove can be heard much more clearly. 


You've Got A Friend
James Taylor

James Taylor, together with the brilliant songwriter Carol King, has been  the king of tasteful folk/pop guitar songs since the 70s. You’ve got a friend is one of the most beautiful songs, written by Carol King and made famous in this recording by James Taylor. 


Billie Bossa Nova
Billie Eilish

In 2021, singer Billie Eilish helped bossa nova gain attention again. A simple chord progression that is a mix of Latin and pop harmonies. A rhythm that is reminiscent of bossa nova and yet contains a modern pop groove. Plus the singer’s gentle voice. A simple but beautiful song!


Break On Through...
The DoOrs

The Doors really have nothing to do with bossa nova and this song is no exception. Butm because the piece clearly begins with a typical Bossa Nova clave played on the drum set. It was enough to secure 10th place in this list.

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