On the sway of the dunes

Image: Vishnu R Nair


What bothers you about Anitta? Bad music, for the most demanding. The extreme sexual appeal, the ostensive sensuality, for the moralists

What is the fundamental difference between Mick Jagger shaking his ass in the 60s and Anitta in 2022? Well, the fundamental thing is that one is a man and the other a woman. But… there is a lot of industry behind it, a lot of restrained protest, a lot of self-affirmation, a lot of prejudice. I'm not even going to talk about the quality of the music, but the public, media posture. Is it worth what it weighs? Are they worth what they weigh?

Artists stand in the showcase. They know that they are seen, analyzed, copied, mythologized, hated, loved, ignored, and a lot more. Or at least they should know. When they take political positions, in the broad sense of the term, they are uncomfortable. Some, more intellectual, incorporate this into their discourse, and become representatives of segments of society: LGBTQI+ idols, working-class advocates, hardened sexists, environmentalist pacifists. Others, more instinctive, turn into a myth without knowing it. Some even after death, as history demonstrates.

The use of the body as an expression was always reserved for dancers in the Western world until the XNUMXth century. Singers should show their talent static, or at most moving their arms. Obviously, lots and lots of dancers sang well, and vice versa. This gave rise to cabarets, musical theatre, sung dances, cinematographic choreographies, video clips. Much earlier, popular cultures around the world were already unashamedly linking singing to the swaying body.

The music industry, born with the radio era, had to adapt to the advent of television in the 50s. Frank Sinatra, in a suit and bow tie, gave way to Elvis, the Pelvis. And the rock of the 1960s repeated the confrontation, with the Beatles in pantsuits on one side and Mick Jagger swaying on the other. Why was it that no Beatle danced?

And there were, there always have been, women. Historically danceable, in all cultures. Men play, women dance. But when women dance and sing, or play and compose, they start to change some concepts. In pop music, from Carmen Miranda to Tina Turner, a whole tradition of cabarets and nightclubs became part of the media repertoire that led to Anitta.

Notice: Elis Regina, Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf or Janis Joplin never rolled on stage. This thing of rocking things was more like the avenue, the samba school, Mardi Grass or the whorehouse.

The more tropical peoples, naturally wearing less clothes, are notable for the more shameless (and proud) display of the body. Whether in Zimbabwe, Parintins or Bahia, male and female singers perform with light feathers, wrapped in sweat and desire. A good part of this culture was absorbed and standardized by axé music, by funk, by pop music. And it was Madonna who most radically personified, in the era of music videos, this exposure of the body as a message, as an integral and indissoluble part of the music she produced.

We arrived, then, in 2022. In other words: we arrived, therefore, in Anitta. A Latinized Madonna, the most successful of several epigones (this word should exist in the female gender!), of a vast Pan-American following. In common, a conscious posture as a citizen, defenders of civil rights and democratic freedoms, in addition to a successful career.

What bothers you about Anitta? Bad music, for the most demanding. Extreme sex appeal, ostentatious sensuality, for the moralists. Even Betty Boop suffered this kind of accusation, in the mid-30s. People forget that popular newspapers showed women in skimpy clothes on newsstands during the military dictatorship. By the way, the expression “summary costumes” comes from before, from the 1950s, from the times of the swaying theater starlets, from Lalau’s little girls. So-called “male” magazines displayed bare breasts on the covers, of “global actresses”. And inside, they displayed the rest.

Newsstands, almost extinct, are much more prudish. Nudity is not seen on the front pages of newspapers, also on the way to extinction. Contemporary Brazilian society, increasingly commodified, evangelized, retrograde in customs and elitist in aspirations, points the guilty finger at artistic manifestations. It tries to censor exhibitions, condemn performances, silence artists.

Anitta just won the VMA (Video Music Awards) for best Latin music video. The choreography, with a strong sexual appeal, is provocative. As was Elvis', Mick's, Ney Matogrosso's roll. From Tina, from Madonna, from Frenéticas. It's not going to change the world by shaking your ass, but accompanying the choreography with public declarations against sexism, censorship and the obscurantist moralism of neo-Pentecostal churches. How Madonna must have influenced millions of young people around the world, encouraging the use of condoms and fighting AIDS and prejudice.

Mick? Well, politically erratic, he never took a very clear position on social class or economic inequality, like Roger Waters or John Lennon. But he took the Rolling Stones to Cuba, and shook his ass for nearly six decades by taunting conservatives.

Anyway, Anitta is young, and has a lot of ground ahead of her. Just to remember the platinum sisters, Isabelita Perón was a cabaret dancer before marrying Perón and becoming president. Evita wasn't a dancer because her talent was low, but she tried. And she went further, if the purpose was to become a myth.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

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