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Anitta: The Brazilian Chameleon Sofia Ribeiro Willcox Traces the Career of Brazilian Music and Cultural Sensation, Anitta

Anitta: The Brazilian Chameleon

Sofia Ribeiro Willcox Traces the Career of Brazilian Music and Cultural Sensation, Anitta

by Sofia Ribeiro Willcox, Cultural Exchanger and Explorer
first published: June, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

In the United Kingdom, there is David Bowie; in Brazil there is Anitta.

Anitta: The Brazilian Chameleon

On March 25 2022, Anitta made history. “Envolver” is the first solo song by a Latin and Brazilian artist to peak at the top spot on the global Spotify chart. However, her story started way before this TikTok dance challenge became viral worldwide.

Larissa de Macedo Machado’s dream was to be a star. Since childhood, she has constantly worked towards that dream. Larissa took dance classes as a child and English as a foreign language in her adolescence. Additionally, at the age of eight, she sang in the choir of the Church of Santa Luzia in the Honório Gurgel neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. One of her influences was her maternal grandfather who was a multi-instrumentalist and played in the church.

“Growing up, my father would say, ‘We’re poor, you can’t study the arts,’” Larissa says. “He thought I’d need a plan B.” Before concentrating on music, she studied business and worked in the mining company Vale do Rio Doce and kept up a side hustle too. And practised Spanish. In the meantime, she had a YouTube channel where she posted songs and dance choreographies.

In 2010, her cover of “A Parada É Essa” by Priscila Nocetti attracted Batutinha's attention, who until then was the producer of the indie label Furacão 2000, the most famous producer and record label of Carioca funk during the noughties. Carioca funk is a music genre that originated from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. An expression of their reality full of social issues ignored by the privilege groups and empowered individuals. Simultaneously, it was her baptism into the spotlight, the moment she chose her stage name Anitta. Named after the protagonist of the Rede Globo miniseries Presença de Anita. According to Anitta: "[the character can be] sexy without being vulgar–a girl and woman at the same time.”

As a result, she became well-known in Rio de Janeiro for her singles. She innovated the music scene by mixing Carioca funk with mainstream pop. In 2012, Kamilla Fialho was captivated by Anitta’s talent signing her to a management deal and transforming her into a pop diva. This new persona is notable in the music video for “Meiga e Abusada”. The following year, Warner Music Brazil signed Anitta. It was the launch of her career on Brazilian soil through the hit “Show das Poderosas.”

Since then, all of her songs have been hits in Brazil, dominating the country's charts as she become a star on a national stage, breaking longstanding cliques, preconceived and aporophobic prejudices regarding Carioca Funk. Anitta turned it into a popular genre outside the favelas and in every corner of Brazil with iconic dance steps created by herself. She changed the genre through her lyrics. Instead of women being victims of objectification, she gave them the subject role and an opportunity to openly discuss their desires and rights. Representing people with a similar background to her own. However, there were, and still are conservative opposition.

In 2014, Anitta became her own manager and took the first step toward an international career. Her album “Ritmo Perfeito” had a mix of “Zen” in Spanish and featured Rasel. The album earner her a nomination for best Latin American artist at the EMA and best Brazilian song at the Latin Grammys.

In 2015, with “Deixa Ele Sofrer” Anitta became the first Brazilian artist to achieve the number one spot on the Brazilian “Top 50 Songs” on Spotify. In the same year, she released “Bang” which had Giovanni Bianco as the creative director-who collaborated with the new crowned Queen of Pop.

In the following year, Anitta won two categories in the EMA, the best Brazilian artist and Latin artist. She was planning her career abroad, studying the market, strategy, and trends on foreign soil. And we saw countless Latin artists introducing and popularizing reggaeton in Brazil, a year before "Despacito" became viral. Anitta was the featured performer at the Olympics opening in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2017, Anitta had her first hit with international star, Iggy Azalea with their single “Switch”. They appeared together on the American talk show The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon; she was the first Brazilian artist to appear on the show. 

Anitta released her first solo song "Paradinha" targeting an international audience the same year. "Sua Cara" with Major Lazer and Pablo Vittar was in the top 100 on Spotify globally, and it appeared five weeks in a row on Billboard's Hot Dance Electronic Songs chart. Besides these, her reggaeton jam featuring J Balvin, “Downtown”, was the 19th on the Top 50 Global charts from Spotify. It was nominated for the Latin Grammy. It was her first step toward an overseas career. "Vai Malandra" was released at the end of the year and represents her roots through the Carioca funk rhythm, displaying the favela culture in the accompanying music video. This hit too in Spotify's global charts.

2018 was productive for Anitta, beginning with the release of two songs in Spanish, “Machika” and “Indecente.” She participated in Rock in Rio-Lisboa, paying homage to the one and only Carmen Miranda. Carmen Miranda was a Portuguese-born Brazilian star from 1940s and 1950s Hollywood. Additionally, her clip “Medicina” won the favourite video category at the Latin American Music Awards.

There were more hits in 2019 for her beloved hometown. In March, “R.I.P” featuring Anitta, Sofia Reyes, and Rita Ora. Anitta recorded “Faz Gostoso”, with Madonna. At Rock in Rio on its main stage, Anitta paid tribute to her early days with Furacão 2000.

Before the pandemic was declared, Anitta released a 2020 Carnaval hit “Rave da Favela”. Coronavirus interrupted her first international album production after signing her first international contract with Warner Music. The virus did not prevent her from releasing new songs, such as “Desce Pro Play”, “Tócame”, “Modo Turbo”, “Faking Love” and “Me Gusta”. When pandemic restrictions eased, Annita appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

“Paloma”, “Un Altro Ballo”, and “Mon Soleil” topped the charts of Italy and France. As always, she kept her origins in “Girl from Rio” which uses a sample from "Girl from Ipanema”, the most known Brazilian song worldwide and used its video to represent carioca culture. Finally, but importantly, she released “Envolver”.  Anitta became the first Brazilian to appear at the VMAs and a guest of Miley Cyrus's new year's party.

2022 Anitta got off on the right foot with the release of her pop-punk hit “Boys Don’t Cry”. Her rising American profile saw her guest on Jimmy Fallon’s sofa and James Corden's Carpool Karaoke. As the pandemic restrictions relaxed Anitta appeared at Lollapalooza Brazil and Coachella, the latter was another Brazilian first as a performer. 

In April 2022, she released her first international album entitled "Versions of Me". 

Anitta is the first Brazilian singer to have a statue at the reputed popular culture wax museum Madame Tussauds. Later the same year, she debuted at the VMAs in the "Latin Video" category, her first nomination and the first Brazilian to win the award.

2023 has been a great year for her so far. Fostering her international career and still drops treats for her Brazilian fans at home. Anitta was nominated for 'new artist' in the Grammy Awards and was invited to the Met Gala. Jaws dropped during her Champions League 2023 where she wore a top in honour of Brazilian footballer Vini Jr, who was a victim of racism in La Liga.

In the United Kingdom, there is David Bowie; in Brazil there is Anitta. A national treasure for the countless reasons mentioned above, and even more, when she challenges the ex-crappy president, supports minorities, and helps the unprivileged.

She is the Brazilian chameleon with multiple languages, musical genres and a collection of feats on Brazilian soil and worldwide. Above all, she united Brazil with the other Latin countries, and the while showing the other gringos what Brazil is really about!

Sofia Ribeiro Willcox
Cultural Exchanger and Explorer

Sofia has a BA with Hons in Creative and Professional Writing and Film and Television Studies from the University of Wolverhampton (2020-2023). Born in Brazil, Sofia is an enthusiast of pop culture (cinephile and melophile), social sciences (snowflake generation), and poetry (lusophone).

about Sofia Ribeiro Willcox »»



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