I hope that got a song stuck in your head. If it didn’t, then I hope this does:
And if that didn’t, then you may have been one of the few people who managed to escape Michel Teló’s massive 2011 hit “Ai se eu te pego,” a poppy version of Brazilian country music known as sertanejo. The song, which quickly became number one on the Brazilian charts, made its way to the top spot in the rest of Latin America, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. In the United States, the single only topped Billboard’s Latin Songs and Latin Pop Songs charts, but I hope my point was made. It was big.
However, my point is not to discuss this song in particular, or its reception. I’m interested in the increasing exposure and international fervor for Brazilian country music. Sertanejo/forró again drew international attention in 2012 with Gusttavo Lima’s “Balada (Tchê tcherere tchê tchê)” and then Munhoz & Mariano’s “Camaro amarelo”.
From a country whose greatest musical export until now has been jazzy bossa nova and samba, both of which have urban origins in Rio de Janeiro, we are now seeing a musical shift to the North, to the backwoods of the Sertão. Perhaps the musical simplicity, danceability and catchy lyrics make these songs (and their young, male singers) more marketable nowadays than Caetano Veloso or Gilberto Gil. Even Brazilian funk has gone pop to a certain extent. For example Naldo’s “Amor de chocolate,” could have easily been a North American hip-hop hit, except maybe for the Portuguese language.
As Brazil’s exported music becomes increasingly popified for the market, I wonder what has been or will be lost in the process. The international market homogenizes the distinct genres that it ingests, but for now, there is a limit. The 9th most viewed video on Youtube of all time is Teló’s hit, for example, and I figure into the almost 500 million viewers. The easy lyrics and danceable rhythms of sertanejo music are addictive – just please don’t make me listen to the English version of “Ai se eu te pego,” ingeniously (and somewhat incorrectly) entitled “Oh, If I Catch You!”.