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This essentially is the message of the Brazilian pop hit ‘Show das Poderosas’ (‘Show of the Powerful women’) by Rio de Janeiro singer Anitta, which has become a national sensation and is nearing 40 million views on Youtube.
Anitta and her song have become one of those unavoidable pop sensations – mainly thanks to the internet, where her career has exploded. She started out singing funk carioca, sometimes known abroad as baile funk, the homegrown hip hop dance sound from Rio favelas, but her style has evolved into a more international pop-meets-R&B sound. If it wasn’t in Portuguese, ‘Show das Poderosas’ could be by any modern American R&B starlet, from Kei$ha to Rihanna.
Add to this the hair-tossing dance routines and the glossy videos – one of which, for ‘Meiga e Abusada’ (which you could very loosely translate as ‘Sweet and Pushy’), was filmed in Las Vegas with American director Blake Farber – and it is easy to see why she is being called Brazil’s new Beyoncé: the strong, glamorous singer who knows how to dance in stilettos.
Anitta also wrote ‘Show das Poderosas’, and it has clearly hit a nerve in Brazil. Poderosa, or powerful, can be used as a compliment for a woman who is looking glamorous, in control, confident – it is the sort of compliment women might pay each other. You could align it with the sort of sentiments Beyoncé’s group Destiny’s Child sang about in hits like ‘Independent Women’ and ‘Bootylicious’
“All powerful is a woman who doesn’t need to be beautiful, but she has so much attitude that she is marvelous, she is powerful,” Anitta told presenter Sabrina Sato on the television comedy show Pânico in May. “What I try to pass on in my work for everyone is that we can be who we want.”
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Or as DJ and producer Zé Colmeia noted in a report for TV Folha recently: “These are lyrics that women want to sing. That’s the secret of her success.”
The song has been so successful that Anitta had to rush-release an album to cash in – and that, too, has been a huge success. Now she is being interviewed everywhere, as Brazilian media rush to catch up with a phenomenon that seems to have taken it by surprise.
TV Folha’s report had Anitta explaining her ‘funk light’ sound, and a young woman outside an upmarket nightclub observing that ‘funk light’ was more palatable for an upper class crowd.
Rio newspaper O Globo featured her in a recent culture section, and brought us the revelation that there had been a certain amount of fabrication not just in the creation of Anitta’s career, but in the shape of her “sharper” nose.
O Globo did not explicitly mention Anitta’s preposterous breasts or suggest there was any fabrication involved in them, it just demurely suggested that when she was plain old Larissa de Macedo Machado, her body was “less exuberant”.
The paper did explain her route to success via homemade Youtube videos that led to her being signed by a smart producer and then a smart manager, and linked her to a long line of manufactured Brazilian pop starlets going back decades. But it couldn’t really find anything else either to say about her – or indeed for her to say.
This is the problem with a pop phenomenon like Anitta – she is too hard to pin down. So media – and I include this blog in here – instead runs around trying to explain her appeal or fit her into some wider social context. It would seem that there is something aspirational going on here that Brazilian women identity with. Beyond that, it is difficult to conclude much beyond observing that a star on the scale of Anitta is a blank canvas onto which fans can paint their own fantasies – and that works as much for the media as it does for her public. She is whatever you want her to be.
Anitta was demure and respectful on the morning television show Mais Você (More You) in early June. The show is something of an institution in Brazil and is hosted by Ana Maria Braga and an unspeakably irritating green parrot puppet sidekick, which on this occasion was wearing a tartan baseball cap.
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In this coffee morning interview, Anitta explained how ambitious she was as a teenager singing in church in a Rio suburb. “I wanted to be there shining. It was always a very big dream. But my family was poor,” she said.
Before fame hit, Anitta had even been an intern at the minerals conglomerate Vale – one of five vacancies that 5,000 had applied for, she said. She had to work for a month just to buy the clothes she would need for the job, she told Mais Você.
One had the sensation that Anitta could have been just as successful at Vale as she has been in pop music, should she have wanted to. Her ambition crackles in every interview she does. She is clearly both very confident and very bright. She even sings in English – as can be seen on these two Youtube clips, where she sings ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Of You’ and the Destiny’s Child hit ‘Survivor’.
And just as she was girl next door for Mais Você, she was risqué a month earlier with presenter Sabrina Sato – who herself is a sex symbol, a comedienne, and a catch-all celebrity rarely out of the media. Anitta knows how to be the girl next door one minute, and the object of unattainable desire or aspiration the next. Sabrina asked Anitta if she had found love yet. “I’m on the way. I’m just doing some fidelity tests,” Anitta laughed. So you are getting off with someone, Sato asked? “We are always getting off with someone! It’s impossible, not to get off with anyone.”
The two women let rip with huge dirty laughs. This was more like it.
Are men scared of her, Sabrina asked? “A lot! It isn’t for a woman to take the place of men, treat a man like shit. But for her not to be submissive,” she said.
It is the simplest messages that are the most powerful, especially when it comes to pop music.