Brazil’s Anitta has gone back to her baile funk roots with the song “Vai Malandra” and a video shot in Rio de Janeiro’s Vidigal favela.
The clip follows her Latin chart hit “Downtown” with J Balvin (currently at No. 28 on Hot Latin Songs), and her first English-language single with Poo Bear and “Is That For Me” with Swedish dance producer Alesso.
The video, which has notched nearly 37 million YouTube views since its debut Monday (Dec. 18), sparked commentary in Brazil over everything from Anitta’s flaunting favela fashion in a bikini made from insulation tape, to the racial authenticity of the singer’s braids, to whether the video exploits or celebrates women.
Rio’s Secretary of Health even Tweeted a warning (in the form of a rhyme) of the danger that the video, with scenes on a rooftop covered with stagnant water, is promoting a message that could lead to the spread of mosquito-carrying diseases.
An immediate conversation starter was the fact that the video was directed by Terry Richardson, the fashion photographer recently banned by Vogue, Elle and other magazines in the wake of sexual assault allegations.
“…When we are experiencing such an important moment in which women are raising their voices against sexist abuse, harassment and violence in the cultural industry … the least we should do is guarantee the ostracizing of the abusers,” cultural anthropologist Juliana Borges wrote in an article about the video in the on-line edition of Brazil’s Claudia magazine, referring to the choice of Richardson as director.
The video was shot in August, before major media companies dropped Richardson (although allegations about the photographer’s behavior with models had come to light over the past decade.) In a statement to the press, Anitta said that she had consulted with lawyers after learning about the charges.
A close up of Anitta’s butt jiggling in red shorts sets the esthetic tone for the clip for “Vai Malandra,” which translates as “Go Bad Girl” (Brazilian media have noted that the Anitta forbade the editing out of her cellulite). The video features a roof party full of tanga-clad women, as well as some equally bared and oiled male models and local non-actors with peroxide crew cuts.
“The exaggerated sexualization [in the video] puts Anitta up several notches on the vulgarity scale of Nicki Minaj,” wrote one critic in the national newspaper O Globo, who allowed that while lyrics of the song like “playing with the bum-bum” were fun, they didn’t jibe with Anitta’s image as “a feminist icon.”
But in a deep analysis of the video on the website cartacapital.com, the writer Victoria Damasceno countered that “Anitta also sexualizes the male body... subversively, the singer uses female stereotypes placed as negatives to revindicate the power over the body itself.”
In a column posted by the Brazilian edition of the magazine Marie Claire, writer Stephanie Ribeiro “reflected on the accusations of cultural appropriation” that have stirred social media since the video’s release. She accuses Anitta, who was born into an interracial family and grew up in the inner city, of “using blackness when it is convenient.”
The critic calls Anitta’s appearance with long brunette braids and tanned skin in the video evidence that she is “fantasizing” about being black. “I feel bad when I see how our black esthetic continues to be a “fantasy,” writes Ribeiro.
But for Borges, writing in Claudia, Anitta’s video presents favelas and marginal neighborhoods in a credible way and gives voice and power to the women represented.
The singer, it seems, would agree.
“I was able to have the opportunity to show what my origins were in this clip,” she told O Globo in an interview. “A little bit of what I experienced where I lived. Sunning on the roof, baile funk, moto-taxis and joy. The clip is uplifting, happy, full of life. Funk is part of who I am. I am really happy with the result [of the video] and the music.”