Brazilian music, just like the Brazilian people, is a wide spectrum. It’s full of different sounds, accents, and intersections. It’s inevitably influenced, and sometimes deliberately fused with, international genres as well. But at its core, Brazilian music has its own unique colours, displayed in a vast array of locally crafted genres. Música popular brasileira (MPB), funk carioca, sertanejo, samba, pagode, forró, bossa nova, chorinho, tecnobrega, vanerão, axé, lambada, brega funk, are just a few of these genres.
Right now, the state of pop music in Brazil resembles the artistic movement of Brazilian Modernism in the 1920s. Foreign influences are neither completely rejected nor overly extolled. Paraphrasing the poet Oswald de Andrade (exponent of Brazilian Modernism), it is a time to “swallow” foreign trends and re-craft them in our terms. Artists like Anitta and Rodrigo Amarante are taking Brazilian music out and beyond, forcing locals and foreigners to re-think ideas of what it means to be Latin or to be Brazilian. Inside Brazil, musicians are looking to their own identities and local cultures as their muses. To be unapologetically Brazilian is not just a means to an end for these artists.
As an outcome, 2021 was a year of beautiful, provoking, irresistibly fun Brazilian pop music. It was the year of the brega psychedelia, and the year when you’d hear a forró beat over visuals that resemble a surrealist horror film. But it was also the year of the glamourization of ghetto genres such as pisadinha, coexisting with the rawer versions of it.
Trans and non-binary artists have once again shown that LGBTQ+ art is one of the most powerful forces of pop and MPB. The North and Northeast regions, which for decades were subject to elitist tropes (which President Jair Bolsonaro continues to insist on), shone in the embracement of their pop culture. Women and Black artists continue to be a fundamental pillar of Brazilian culture. Independent music exists, resists, and gifts us with new stars.
Unfortunately, this year ends on a sad note for Brazilian music, due to the loss of names like the sertanejo songwriting powerhouse Marília Mendonça. Still, as we listen to albums like those on this list, we know that there’s also a lot to look forward to. These Brazilian artists are teaching us to be passionate about how passionate we are, in all our weirdness and flamboyance. Mostly, they’re teaching us that none of these qualities is mutually exclusive with creative and intellectual brilliance.
Here are the 10 best pop albums released by Brazilian artists in 2021.
10 Tuyo – Chegamos Sozinhos Em Casa (Deluxe) [independent]
The deluxe version of the Latin Grammy-nominated album Chegamos Sozinhos em Casa is a long and cohesive body of work by the folk-pop trio Tuyo.
The pun is inevitable: the album title means “We arrived home alone” in Portuguese, and indeed, Tuyo sounds at home musically. The dreamy vocals and delicate melodies have always been their strength, and you’ll revel in them in this album.
Chegamos Sozinhos em Casa (Deluxe) is so harmonic that it may even sound like the singers are “stuck in an eternal loop” (as said in a lyric from the track “Tem Tanto Deus”). Some might call this boring, but the right word is consistent. Most importantly, beauty is present in every track.
9 Tássia Reis – Próspera D+ [independent]
In her 2021 repackage of Próspera (2019), Próspera D+, Tássia Reis proves she’s not just a talented rapper, but also a pop star. Her journey to self-confidence as a Black woman continues to be a central theme in her lyrics. In tracks like “Shonda D+” (which references the screenwriter Shonda Rhimes) and “Dollar Euro” she encourages women to celebrate themselves by doing the same.
She also lets loose in tracks like the dance-pop “Me Beije” and the disco-soul “Dia Bom”. While still excelling at rap, Reis never sounded so pop. She seems as comfortable as ever.
8 Getúlio Abelha – Marmota [Rec-Beat]
LGBTQ+ artist Getúlio Abelha is as nonsense as it can get, and we mean that in the best possible way. He’s amusingly bizarre, and he knows it. For no other reason, he’d name his debut album Marmota. The word means “marmot”, but it’s also Brazilian slang to describe something freaky.
The songs in Marmota don’t follow a rigid structure. The production is a hybrid of pop, punk rock, and forró. The lyrics are comic and reference many symbols of Brazilian Northeastern culture, like the sarapatel meal in “Laricado”, and vaquejada (a sport involving riding cows) in “Cavalo Corredor”. Tracks like “Voguebike” and “Aquenda” are on the verge of madness and brilliance.
“Tempestade” is a nod to the passion and drama of forró and brega. In that sense, Marmota feels like a queer version of Mastruz com Leite’s Rock do Sertão (1994), just with more cursing and politically-infused lyrics.
It’s all too much, and it’s a whole lot of fun. Abelha is unafraid to be tacky and weird. His art is meant to entertain and shock. If “What the f*** is this?” is what comes to your mind when you hear his music, that means he has succeeded.
7 Marisa Monte – Portas [Sony Music]
Marisa Monte almost didn’t make this list, as her music is mostly considered MPB rather than pop. But we can’t ignore the fact that she is one of the greatest pop songsmiths in Brazil.
Portas proves, once again, her gift for creating songs that can be “loved by intellectuals as much as mainstream pop lovers” (as we said in our review). Some of these songs are the gentle and catchy “Calma”, the homonym track, and “Você não liga”.
On the other hand, the album also features samba and jazzy arrangements. Even in these elaborated moments, Portas is easy to the ear. That’s because of her’ smooth voice, and the songwriting style that makes sophistication sound simple.
6 Gaby Amarantos – Purakê [DeckDisc]
In her second studio album, Purakê, Gaby Amarantos secures her status as an Amazonic diva. The music is a futuristic and experimental approach to genres such as brega and afro-indigenous music.
Purakê is opened in an ambitious way, by reuniting Elza Soares, Alcione, and Dona Onete in the dramatic “Última Lágrima”. This song is like a high-class festival of Black womanhood and Brazil’s musical excellence. In “Vênus em Escorpião” Amarantos pokes fun at astrology tropes and is joined by the progressive icon Ney Matogrosso and pop star Urias. “Amor pra Recordar” is a delicate ballad in the style of Adele, where the timbre of Amarantos contrasts beautifully with the low register of the neo-soul singer Liniker.
Purakê presents a grandiose pop vision for the music that derives from Brazil’s roots. It cements Gaby Amarantos as a sensible artist that is both avant-garde and accessible.