In a world where politicians are struggling to keep their borders shut and separate themselves from the ‘otherworld’, low-key, in music the exact opposite reaction has been happening.
Last year’s quasi-karmic astronomical success of Justin Bieber’s remix of Puerto Rico’s ‘Despacito’, pave the way for melodies to be sung in other languages. From Kali Uchi’s dreamy bi-lingual album, J.Balvin’s ‘Mi Gente’ featuring no other than Queen Bey singing in Spanish, to French Montana’s mixer of Brazilian’s MC Kevinho ‘Olha a Explosão’, I think that it is safe to say that Latin music has regained its momentum.
And there is another tri-lingual force on the rise. Hailing from the land of tropicalia, caipirinhas, samba and bossa nova, Anitta’s latest single ‘Vai Malandra’ ranked no.1 on Spotify for weeks as the first Portuguese-spoken track ever to break into the top 20 of the streaming services global chart.
“I used to sing in the favelas, for people that know me.” – She candidly shares in the begging of our conversation. Born and raised in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro, Anitta would ascent all the way up to a heartbreaking duet with Andrea Bocelli during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, alongside two of the other national treasures: Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.
Her music is a feisty blend of Brazilian funk, with a dash of samba drums accompanied with sultry and passionate vocals ranging from R&B to unrelenting Brazilian rap style. The extension of her hot-blooded personality permeates throughout the titles of her collection, with back-to-back releases in three different languages, which showcase the vibrant versatility of this carioca artist. She won’t pussyfoot around the lyrics either, she’ll tell you exactly as it is.
“When a person doesn’t understand the language it’s difficult for them to connect with your work. I sing in Portuguese, but what I’m trying to do is never to let my language get in the way. I that’s why also sing in Spanish and English.”
Whether you understand what she is saying or not, one thing is certain: This music is made to be played as loud as possible and give yourself plenty of room because your hips will need enough of space to break a twerk or two. Her catalogue of international collaborations includes Bossa nova-inspirited ‘Will I see You?’, followed by ‘Is that for me?’ an EDM banger with Sweed DJ Alesso, ‘Sua Cara’ alongside Major Lazer, and some scorching duet on ‘Switch’ with Iggy Azalea.
Making some waves in the international arena for the past five years, since 2015, she the ‘Best Brazilian Artist’ (twice) at the MTV Europe Music Awards, and the first ever-Brazilian artist to win the ‘Best Latin-American Act’.
Brazilian music has always crossed the border, but her single ‘With You’ and J. Balvin is the first time that I saw a cross-link between two big southern American cultures, with both Portuguese and Spanish being sung in the same song. I found that additive to the culture, and after a Google search, I can say that is totally unheard of. The two artists linked up again for another single ‘Machika’ on J.Balvin’s new album. If you haven’t heard it yet; expect a Brazilian dash funk and Columbian Fuego, with a decent amount of bars.
In 2017, she was chosen by Billboard as the 15th most influential artist in the world in social networks, getting ahead of artists like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Shakira and Rihanna, and ranked by Vogue Magazine as one of the 100 most influential and creative people in the world.
It goes without saying that breaking the Internet in the way that she is doing wasn’t received without critique. Her video for ‘Vai, Malandra’ was received with harsh criticism, and the online debate surrounding it has exposed some of Brazil’s faulty social lines such as its issues with social inequality, sexist abuse and cultural appropriation accusations.
As per the dramatic opening scene that shows a close up of her booty, cellulite and all, she merely replies – ‘I think people have high expectations with artists and celebrities and when they see them putting their imperfections out, that can make them feel stronger and more comfortable with their own imperfections. This is natural, embrace yourself.’
I gotta admit that it is uplifting seeing a young artist using her Femme-centric platform to empower other women, without casting unnecessary shade to their male counterparts.
From language barriers to visual treatments, I’d say that at age 25 Anitta is genuinely gearing up to take the global stage. Otherwise, how else would she manage getting invited to record with no other Pharrell Williams? The singer announced that collaboration between the pair and Bia is in the works, with release date TBC.
Anitta performs at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28th June 2018.
Words by Catarina Ramalho