Pablo Vittar, Batidão Tropical Vol. 2

Pabllo Vittar’s ‘Batidão Tropical Vol. 2’ Is Brazilian History You Can Dance To

Pabllo Vittar’s music echoes cultural movements and carries layers of Brazilian history in a package that requires no explanation to enjoy listening and dancing to.

Batidão Tropical Vol. 2
Pabllo Vittar
Sony Music Entertainment Brasil
9 April 2024

When Pabllo Vittar released Batidão Tropical in 2021, it hit the Brazilian pop scene like a manifesto. It combines covers of successful forró and brega/tecnobrega songs from the ’90s and ’00s with original compositions that follow the same style. With this album, Vittar reveals her DNA, making it clear that her roots and biggest musical references are from Brazil’s historically erased North and Northeast regions.

The curation of the cover songs is far from pretentious. The production doesn’t flirt with experimentation much, either. The truly trailblazing choice with Batidão Tropical is that a mainstream-positioned pop star released a project as faithful to the aesthetics of her inspirations as possible. There is no need for Vittar to assert herself literally as a representative of the North or Northeast or to over-intellectualize her homage. The message conveyed in each track off Batidão Tropical is not novel, but within the album framework, it shouts: Pabllo Vittar has always made forró and brega, and forró and brega have always been a part of pop culture.

Despite the repercussion of Batidão Tropical, no tracks from the album surpass the success of Vittar’s earlier forró and brega hits such as “K.O.” and “Amor de Que”. Even at its release, the album is clearly intended to be remembered for what it represents rather than for its songs. The prophecy is fulfilled. Looking back, Batidão Tropical can be seen as one of the main, if not the biggest, pillars of a new era of Brazilian pop, where Brazilian pop artists seem to find and accept their sonic identities rooted in Brazilian original genres. Batidão Tropical leaves traces whose influence is still felt in Brazil. Could a sequel to it achieve the same impact?

Three years later, a project like Batidão Tropical sounds not quite as fresh and a less innovative enterprise in the Brazilian pop landscape. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit 2024 perfectly. Batidão Tropical Vol. 2 lacks the shocking, groundbreaking factor of Vol. 1. However, its release benefits from the pause between the two volumes, a break that Pabllo Vittar uses to explore different sounds and genres in Noitada (2023). 

The contrast between Noitada and Batidão Tropical Vol. 2 shows that the latter is the best version of Pabllo Vittar. Also, it places her in the spotlight that brega paraense music is having right now in Brazil. Vittar shares the spotlight with those whom she pays homage to in Batidão Tropical Vol. 2: artists whose success was, until now, restricted to the Brazilian North and Northeast and are now finding new levels of success in the entire country (such as Manu Bahtidão); and seasoned brega artists who are being discovered by new generations (such as Joelma Mendes, cofounder of Banda Calypso, who is now re-peaking with her solo release “Voando pro Pará”, 25 years into her career).

Joelma Mendes is the first honoree on Batidão Tropical, whose opening track is a cover of Banda Calypso’s “Pra te esquecer” (also the opening track of the Banda Calypso album released in 2006, Pelo Brasil). The introduction could not be more triumphant. Batidão Tropical Vol. 1 is opened with newly composed songs, but Batidão Tropical Vol. 2’s opening is more direct about its aim to pay homage to Vittar’s muses. It is also felt by the presence of featured guests Gaby Amarantos and Taty Girl.

Throughout the album, choices of covers showcase Pabllo Vittar’s source of inspiration for her vocal interpretations’ mellow and sensual appeal, such as “Me Usa” (a cover of the 1997 forró hit by Banda Magníficos). There are also several famous versions of hits by international singers: “São Amores” (a version of Laura Pausini’s “Strani amori” recorded by the sister duo Forró do Muído), and two versions of Roxette’s songs (one of them is an original composition). You can’t get more forró or brega than this. Both genres are famous for drawing on international hits, although not always in the most compliant way regarding Intellectual Property laws.

Each track in Batidão Tropical shines on its own. However, as with Vol. 1., Vol. 2 seems to make more sense if considered in its entirety. In the peripheries of Brazilian North and Northeast regions, all the tracks from an album usually receive the same attention from the radio, at parties, and anywhere. The commercial method of choosing a “single” from an album does not work in the same way for these forró and brega artists. Pabllo Vittar operates under a different market logic, but interestingly, the two Batidão Tropical albums perfectly capture the feel of the independent projects from which she drew inspiration.

Nevertheless, the choice of the songs covered in Batidão Tropical Vol. 2 seems much more strategic, and production is bolder than in Vol. 1. The evolution from Vol. 1 finds its apex in “Ai Ai Ai Mega Príncipe” (a cover of Banda Batidão), the best track on the album. Anchored in a fast beat and a repetitive, delirious hook, the song takes an even more dramatic and fun turn in Vittar’s version. The lyrics of “Ai Ai Ai Mega Príncipe” feature an explicit reference to Pará’s sound system parties, the environment where tecnobrega and other breeds of brega music were born. In form and content, “Ai Ai Ai Mega Príncipe” is the perfect highlight for a project like Batidão Tropical Vol. 2.

It’s a shame that such an immersive hurricane of sounds and beats is interrupted by a series of “locked” tracks that are still to be revealed and uploaded to the album on streaming platforms. [Disclaimer: this review was written based on the version of the album available at the time of publication]. A marketing strategy popularized by singer Luísa Sonza with Doce 22 (2021), locked tracks work as a teaser for fans and an artifice to ensure the album’s longevity on streaming platforms. On Batidão Tropical Vol. 2, these tracks consist of recordings of Vittar asking the listener if they’re enjoying the album and letting them know the tracks will be shared soon.

Given Batidão Tropical Vol. 2‘s spirit, one may stretch into connecting these tracks with the vignettes inserted in tecnobrega and forró tracks in which the artists promote their concerts and even share their bookers’ contact numbers. It’s a fun disregard for the album as an artistic project and for the phonogram as the fixation of a work whose extension will exceed the date and realm of its release. But it’s doubtful that this was Pabllo Vittar’s intention. For now, these locked tracks feel like those party moments when a sloppy DJ fails to transition smoothly between tracks, leaving the audience disconcerted after a dance move that cannot be continued.

Batidão Tropical Vol. 2 has several nuances that will make a difference for the Brazilian audience familiar with Pabllo Vittar’s musical references. “Nas ondas do rádio” inverts the logic of the genre binomy that informs Batidão Tropical, namely, forró and brega. The song is originally brega calypso, but in Vol. 2, it is produced as forró. Vittar’s cover of “Não desligue o telefone” plays with the origins of tecnobrega by making it sound even closer to the electronic dance music in which the genre is rooted.

“Idiota”, the only original composition (at least from the tracks released thus far), is a collaboration with Alice Caymmi (with whom Pabllo Vittar also worked with in Vol. 1). The breed of forró that it follows is pisadinha, which took Brazil by storm during the Covid pandemic. Pisadinha maximizes the electronic production of forró. For that, it resembles the generation of ’90s forró bands that Banda Magníficos (covered by Vittar in Vol. 2) is a part of, which became known as electronic forró. As for the lyrics of “Idiota”, it references memes (“Minha nota é dó”, a wordplay with musical note “do” and its meaning in Portuguese, which translates to “pity”), and have the honesty, vulnerability, and self-mockery that make Vittar so relatable.

From a foreign listener’s point of view, Batidão Tropical Vol. 2 can be an additional offer to the other form of pop music that Brazil is currently exporting with greater success, Brazilian funk. Marketing-wise, this may be a precocious counterpoint for a country whose image in the collective imagination is barely sufficiently constructed to support more than one narrative. This proves that Batidão Tropical Vol. 2 is a project made with Brazil at heart and mind.

Regardless of how much foreign audiences care about its meaning, Batidão Tropical Vol. 2 fulfills its purpose as a pop album. Pabllo Vittar echoes cultural movements and songs that carry several layers of history and context, but she does so in a package that requires little, if any, explanation to be fun to listen to and dance to. 

RATING 8 / 10