Anitta has already burst out of the favelas to become Brazil’s biggest pop star, but she’s nowhere near done yet. Her sleek, beat-driven 2019 album ‘Kisses’ fulfilled its purpose, taking the 27-year-old singer-songwriter closer to global crossover status, securing her the services of a hot young American manager: Brandon Silverstein, who also manages Normani.
Now, pandemic or no pandemic, she’s continuing her inexorable rise by recruiting Cardi B and Puerto Rican rapper Myke Towers for the scorching new single ‘Me Gusta’. A brilliant, bilingual fusion of funk and the samba sub-genre pagode, it features a dazzling video shot in Salvador – which you might recognise as the location from Michael Jackson’s iconic ‘They Don’t Really Care About Us’.
At the same time, Anitta has used the relative quiet of quarantine to educate herself on Brazil’s political situation. Heartbreakingly, her homeland has the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world (after the USA), and Anitta has used her platform to call out President Jair Bolsonaro’s shockingly inept response to the crisis.
For NME‘s In Conversation series Anitta chats about everything from political activism to musical ambition, and Cardi B to her childhood hero Mariah Carey (see the video about). Here’s what we learned.
She didn’t know Cardi B was going to feature on ‘Me Gusta’ until she heard the final mix
“That was a surprise for me by my manager,” she recalls. “He called me by Zoom and said, ‘Oh, let’s approve the mix of the song.’ And then he played it for me and I was listening, and then her voice dropped. And I was like, ‘Aaaagh that’s amazing!’ I’ve been in the studio with her [before] but we hadn’t had the chance yet to record together. And I love her on this track so much.”
Anitta definitely believes she and Cardi B are natural collaborators. “Even my friends from Brazil, they’re always sending me her [Instagram] videos where she says whatever she wants to say – the craziest things – and my friends are always like, ‘Oh my God, look – this is so you!'”
Watching the Brazilian government’s inadequate response to the coronavirus crisis has made her sharpen her political voice
“I think the President [Jair Bolsonaro] is not running the crisis in a good way. You know, he’s just trying to avoid the responsibility of the problems [that come] from him,” Anitta says. “So during the crisis, I’ve taken political classes – classes about how the government here in Brazil works. And I’m doing this live on my Instagram so people can watch and learn with me.”
Her ultimate goal is to help fans appreciate the importance of voting. “We have a voice and we are the ones who choose these people. So it’s important to understand what they are doing… so we don’t vote for this person again,” she says. “I mean, I would never vote for him. But [those] who did can see the problem with voting for a person that is so aggressive and has this way of working. You know, it’s like he commands and governs only for the people who think like him – and not for the others.”
Anitta says she’s also especially distressed by Bolsonaro’s refusal to combat devastating fires in the Amazon. “Right now the forest is burning hell and he’s not doing anything. That’s really bad for all of us,” she says.
Her upcoming album, which is being executive produced by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, will reflect the real her
“The last album [2019’s ‘Kisses’] was more about me getting into other cultures… because I was looking for management,” she says. “I did that album to find someone who could understand how complex and how big my work can be. And it worked! So now, this new album is a mix of Brazilian culture with [the] Latin world and American world. I think it’s more like me – it’s more my culture, you know?”
She met her hero Mariah Carey in Aspen last Christmas – and it was super-emotional
“We cried together when I told her I’m a singer because of her,” Anitta recalls. “I mean, I changed my whole family because of that. You know, we were born in a very humble and poor place in Brazil. So everything that we have right now – like, if we have a house to live [in], if we have food to eat – it’s because I became a singer. And that’s because of her. So I cried a lot. And we cried together. That was crazy.”
But because Anitta loves Carey so much that she doesn’t want to collaborate with her. “I met her in a store – I was shopping and she came into the store too,” Anitta continues. “And after everything, she was like, ‘Join me, let’s shop together.’ And I was like, ‘No! I’m just a fan. I can’t be with you like we’re friends because I’m gonna freak out!’”
She doesn’t draw the line between her public and private life… at all
“I try to be the most honest possible, because I’m so afraid of secrets – I don’t know how to keep secrets. I don’t know how to pretend to be something that I’m not,” she says. “So I talk about everything, it’s kind of bad. My family and my brother, for example, they are always saying, with my [press releases], ‘Can you shave off a little bit?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m sorry – this is who I am.’”
Still, she acknowledges that total honesty comes with consequences. “When you’re honest, [people] are judging you and saying some shit. But maybe people just don’t expect me to be perfect now? And for me, this is amazing.”