On this week’s Afropop Worldwide program, David Katz takes listeners to São Luis, in the far northeast of Brazil, which has long been a center of Brazilian reggae. But São Luis is a huge and diverse place—with a population of over a million people. It’s far from the country’s cultural centers in Rio and São Paulo, and is in between Bahia and Belem.
There isn’t reggae of any kind, Brazilian or otherwise, on this week’s list. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t popular in São Luis, but just that people aren’t engaging with any particular reggae song enough times via YouTube for it to beat out other major trends in Brazil: funk carioca from Rio and other types of music from northern Brazil.
The data we get from YouTube here isn’t quite up to the standards set over the past few weeks. Brazil’s number of internet users is on the rise—up to about 65-70 percent of households have internet access, and about 97 percent of that is via mobile phones. That rate is lower than Nigeria’s and well behind Kenya’s, but in terms of raw numbers—well, Brazil is a huge country, so it’s still a lot of streams. Just remember this is representative of the city’s internet users, its video streamers, and not the city as a whole.
1. Lauana Prado, Maiara and Maraisa, “Cobaia”
There are some old Shakira tracks that kind of sound like this song—rural-sounding Latin pop with a touch of accordion. Although to my knowledge, none of Shakira's songs invite treating the singer as a “guinea pig,” like this exceptionally silly song courtesy of Lauana Prado. This is sertanejo music—Brazil’s syrupy pop-country music, and you can hear its sympathies for and influences from Paraguayan and Mexican polkas, corrido and ranchera music.
Released in July 2018, this “Cobaia” is ancient by pop chart standards, but it’s popular across Brazil, and has racked up 31.7 million views overall, and enough in the last week in São Luis to claim the top spot.
2. Kevin O Chris, “Ela É Do Tipo (Clipe Oficial)”
This song is a low-key earworm. Its been stuck in my head off and on all month. Something about MC Kevin O Chris’s moaning delivery and mournful lyrics about sexual regret (“She’s the type” says the song title with a sigh) lead me to believe that he’s been listening to Soundcloud rap or Soundcloud rap’s been listening to funk carioca. Heck, at 22 years old, I guess he’s a Soundcloud rapper who has made the leap to popular across Brazil, with an eye to collaborating with Drake (a better reference point than any Soundcloud rapper), Chris Brown or Justin Bieber. Post Malone already invited MC Kevin on stage at Lollapalooza, so American listeners, get ready: MC Kevin is on his way.
3. Marília Mendonça, "Odo Mundo Vai Sofrer (Todos Os Cantos)"
This video was shot in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state, up by the Venezuelan border. The title “Everyone’s Going to Suffer (Everyone Sing)” would be hilarious if the result wasn’t such a cathartic sing-along. Marilia is something like a Brazilian Adele—right there with her broken heart, alongside yours.
Brazil’s charts—on YouTube, on Spotify, seemingly everywhere else—are full of live performances. Can you remember the last American hit song that was a live performance? Hold that thought…
4. Kevin O Chris, "Evoluiu" with Sodré
Now’s as good a time as any to point out to any newcomers that “funk carioca” doesn’t really have anything to do with funk music. It’s music created when a virulent strain of Miami bass got hooked up with tamborzão beats in the favelas of Brazil’s urban centers, reemerging as an infectious beat with lyrics about drugs, sex, crime and partying, broadly referred to as baile funk.
Kevin O Chris is just the latest artist to ride it to the cusp of international fame. At the moment, Anitta and Ludmilla are probably still the vanguard of adapting baile funk for international export. They have a track with Snoop Dogg out now that feels like it has some of the rougher edges sanded down—a plush keyboard line, and Snoop’s verse in English—but when the beat drops, it could be from nowhere else.
5. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, “Shallow.”
I actually hadn’t heard this song until I listened to it at work just now, but listening to it alongside all this, it fits right in doesn’t it? In fact, given that it’s a live performance of a pop country duet and it’s weirder to me that it topped the Billboard 100 in the U.S. Still, Brazil is the only other country in the hemisphere that listens to more homegrown music than imported, other than America. There’s a recurring plea-turned-joke in YouTube comments under any artist’s video, someone pleading “Come to Brasil!!!!” Likely unwittingly, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga found themselves there at least in style.