Another Piece of the Xuxa Empire...(And More)

My wife is a goddess and a saint. Not only did she allow me a trip to geek out on bands in Austin, but she has learned that the fastest way to a man’s heart (or collector scum’s black curdling heart) is through vinyl. I’m getting under the impression that the lot of original Brazilian vinyl press from the late 60’s and early 70’s is lost to Westerners, and strangely enough to the citizens of Brazil. On my frequent trips down there I’ve searched, perhaps not hard enough, but there’s not much of a used record trade in Rio or Sao Paulo, prolly cause (like I said) the lot is lost. What I have found are fairly worn and flimsy comps of various MPB (musica popular brasil) hits, or mass produced samba from Carnaval groups.

Carol went digging again on her recent visit home. No Transa, though Veloso is a national hero, no Rita Lee Fruito Proibido, though the Os Mutantes comeback without her pageant voice, what she did find is treasure enough.

A quick re-cap:

Elis Regina - O Pretegio De -- A compilation of the live-fast/die-young, “little pepper” from Porto Alegre. This is her late period, right before her death, a vibrant and tragic voice over what sounds like the Brazilian Steely Dan. Bonus – Two similar comps by Maria Bethania (Caetano’s sister)and Nara Leao, two incredible if inferior female singers I have now learned.

Various Artists – Lambateira Tropical 2 – According to Carol, the Lambada dance craze originated in Brazil, further research finds that to be true. This was made in 1989, it’s a worn and flimsy comp of the Lambada radio hits of the time (she knows all the words the same way I would know a Black Box song I suppose). Indicative of the slick production of Brazil in the late 80’s, about five years past our 80’s top 40 radio pop. So overproduced and oversaturated with arrangements, it would be hard to place this in the world canon were the origins unknown. Falling somewhere between Saharan Desert guitar surf and Bollywood send-ups, the variety and up-tempo flavors astound me even if the recordings leave something to be desired.

Barbie and the Rockers - A Estrella do Rock -- Yeah, you heard it right. I’m not sure how far the Barbie as a rocker play date ran in the states – did she have a cartoon? an album like this? – but in Brazil, Barbie and the Rockers were dangerously close to being a real band. I do remember that the Barbie “rocker” doll did come with a cassingle of their theme song (wonderfully indulgent power metal riffs, catchy chorus), but this is a full record of covers, sung in Portuguese by a studio band posing as Barbie and the Rockers. Top Tape really has a relic on their hands. “Incluindo musicas de John Lennon e Paul McCartney, John Sebastian e Cat Stevens entre outros.” Absolutely worth the $00.20, if only for the cover art and the group’s rendition of “There Goes My Baby.”
And last but not least……

Xuxa - Karaoke de Xuxa -- Perhaps my favorite Brazilian icon made an extremely rare record of instrumentals complete with lyric sheet, background children’s choirs, and frequent encouragement from Xuxa. She made pop music that sounded like ABBA dipped in the sacred waters of the Amazon. Every note a slide down a rainbow. It’s not all delicious, but if she can teach me the language and keep me entertained at the same time I’ll follow along.

The arrival of this Xuxa gem prompted me to dig up this ol’ article that got lost in the internets and thought it was totally worth re-posting:
If there is an American equivalent to the Xuxa phenomenon in Brazil, I'd love to know about it.

"While her presence as the country's top entertainer has waned in the last decade, it's still hard to avoid seeing Xuxa in televison commercials, b-movies, cartoons, toy stores, and shopping malls. I've become so fascinated by her legend, I've made it a personal mission to visit O Mundo Da Xuxa the next time I'm in Sao Paulo.

In my pursuit to become a self-taught expert on Brazilian popular culture I came across an interesting article on the social impact of Xuxa in her native country.

Amelia Simpson writes in her essay titled "Xuxa and the Televisual Imaginary,"

"The Xou da Xuxa (the live 5-hour, six-days a week, program she hosted for over a decade) attracts because it dissolves unseemly differences of race, gender, and class in a televisual pandemonium of generic happiness and idol worship. Xuxa's image assembles in one tidy package a set of unweidly, mutually contradictory ideas. She celebrates an ideal of femininity that is both erotic and domestic. She relentlessly markets a consumer-driven model of modernity in a country where the basic needs of many citizens are not met. And she presents a white ideal of beauty in a nation with the second-largest population of African descent on earth. Xuxa's image thus reconciles, without resolving, the deep fissures of race, gender, and capital that divide Brazil."

Pretty heavy stuff. She goes on to say that Xuxa's persona became such a encapsulation of perfection for the uneducated, that many thought she was a celestial being and the second-coming of the Virgin Mary. In one case, a Xuxa doll was said to have wept blood.

Of course, American audiences weren't fooled when Xuxa made an attempt at an American version of her variety show. I vaguely remember when this debuted ; being caught completely off-guard by her kooky antics, sychronized dances, and failure to command the english language. All that said, her 1988 movie, "Super Xuxa Contra Baixo Astral" (Super Xuxa vs. Satan) is brilliant from beginning to end (think Labyrinth meets Rainbow Brite meets City of God). "

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