Tango’s most legendary singers have typically been ultramachos like Gardel and Sosa, street-corner Carusos in Bogart suits obsessed with a pair of eternal charmers: their beloved, always faithful Buenos Aires and the betraying femme fatale. Through the years, though, women tango singers have made their own mark; several can be heard on Evita’s Tango, a compilation of ’40s classics that evokes the music’s golden age, when tango had completed its ascent from the slums to Argentina’s high society—just as had a servant’s daughter named Eva Duarte. A useful tango primer, the collection boasts signature tunes (“Naranjo En Flor,” “Gricel”) by the era’s foremost orchestra, led by Anibal Trolio; it also includes hits by Roberto Goyeneche, heir to the Gardel-Sosa tradition. But the real zingers here are by female vocalists Nelly Omar and Libertad Lamarque. Omar’s “La Descamisada” (“The Shirtless One”) is a veritable Perónist anthem, with lyrics more conducive to a fascist rally than a smoky tango bar. “I am the Argentine woman, the one that never surrenders….I am the shirtless one who, if necessary, one day would give her life for Evita and for Perón.” Lamarque’s ferocious “Besos Brujos” (“Cursed Kisses”) mines tango’s central theme of betrayal. Refusing her man’s entreaty for a make-up kiss, Lamarque spits the lines with the vitriol of a Brechtian chanteuse: “I don’t want you to touch me,” she shrieks. “I don’t want my damned mouth to bring more hopelessness to my soul and my life.” Lamarque didn’t limit her passion to her tangos, either. Early in her career as a radio actress, Evita somehow offended Lamarque, who slapped the untalented upstart in the face, a rebuke that later earned Lamarque exile in Mexico. A musical of her life story would provide the perfect role for an avowed feminist like Madonna, and this compilation would make the perfect soundtrack—so long as Madonna lip-synced.

—Eddie Dean

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