Is Michel Teló a good thing for Brazilian music?

Back in my little Brazilian ghetto in London, whenever we played Brazilian music at parties, everyone loved it. It didn’t really matter if it was funk, country, rock or samba. Everyone would sing along and even dance the choreographies they used to loathe (see the video below) – that is because doing so gave us a sense of belonging, it brought us back home for a few moments.

Here in São Paulo, I’m reminded of how my friends have such different musical tastes. Some love their samba, while others enjoy música popular brasileira (MPB) rap, new wave, or Motown. Some people I know here are particular about their music to the point of refusing to go to this or that bar because it plays the sort of music they do not enjoy.

It’s not like I don’t have my own preferences – I like a lot of British punk and post-punk stuff as well as MPB, reggae, samba… what you would call ‘eclectic’, I guess. In any case, I’m happy to listen to new music, even if it sometimes is not really my style.

That debate about music reached a new level recently, since new Brazilian sensation Michel Teló has reached international stardom with his song “Ai, se eu te pego” (something like “Oh, if I get you”), which has been watched more than 100 million times on YouTube at the time of writing. By comparison, Lady Gaga’s hit “Telephone” has had about 130 million views.

You may ask, who the hell is Michel Teló?

He is a multi-instrumentalist and dancer, a young and reasonably good looking bloke doing that you would class as a mix of forró, country and pop. His main hit is catchy. It is the kind of stuff you find yourself playing in your head over and over again for the best part of the day. It is the sort of thing people like to listen to when they are in a party mood, when they are drunk.

Everyone – especially young people – knows who Michel Teló is. And probably if you ask some party goer in Amsterdam or Ibiza, chances are they will know who he is too. “Ai se eu te pego” has become a number one iTunes hit in countries such as Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany and Poland as well as many South American countries.

Do I like this music? If it is playing at my local boteco, it is no big deal. If I had one too many cachaças, I may sing along. But I would not buy his stuff.

Yet, a lot of Brazilians seem to think that the guy is not worthy of attention here, let alone overseas. Sure, we have plenty of other performers that deserve more airtime than Teló is getting. But sadly, it hasn’t worked out that way so far – despite their talent, Brazilian performers (and celebrities in general) very rarely become international superstars.

Even though Michel Teló’s music may not tick everyone’s boxes in terms of what qualifies as talent, the fact is that he has managed to capture people’s imaginations here in Brazil and abroad. So let’s all hope that he will pave the way for many other Brazilian artists who dream of becoming successful beyond their motherland – whatever their style.

For those who are not familiar with Teló, or need a reminder (as if!) check out “Ai, se eu te pego”:

3 Comments

  1. Unfortunately it reflects the bad Brazilian taste of many…luckily not all of them! I’ve just read on Leros magazine a letter from a reader comparing Michel Telo with Tom Jobim!! That’s an insult to the Brazilian culture!! I’m gutted!!

  2. There is a great post about it on Global Voices Online; the post has been translated into 5 languages so far:

    http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/01/16/brazil-oh-if-i-catch-you-song/

    Not my cup of tea either, from the 5 seconds I could bear it, but worth keeping abreast of the “phenomenon”!

  3. Catchy song indeed. Not my cup of tea, but I can see how he has an audience of hundreds of swooning girls. It’s a shame that he doesn’t get much recognition in Brazil. He is certainly exportable enough.

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