Brazil's Johnny Hooker Was 'Stunned' by YouTube Censorship: Interview

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Billboard Brazil
Johnny Hooker

Brazilian singer Johnny Hooker recently released his sophomore album, Coração, which is being distributed digitally in the U.S. by CD Baby. 

Before that, he released the first single from the album, "Flutua," featuring Liniker, and faced some problems with YouTube and Facebook.

When the single's audio was released on YouTube, Hooker received good reactions from the public. The single cover showed the two artists kissing. The morning after, he discovered it had been censored for anyone under 18.

When Billboard Brazil contacted YouTube for information, the company said it doesn't comment on specific cases, like Johnny's, but implied that a video can be classified "18+" based on reports from the viewers or through YouTube's curatorship.

Johnny believes his video was censored after complaints from the viewers and says: "I find it depressing that in 2017 a picture of two people kissing has to be censored. Not even in my
concerts I censor who's under 18."

After the artist's request for YouTube to review the decision, the video lost the "18+" tag.

Billboard Brazil talked to Johnny Hooker about the release of Coração:

You've said on your social media that Coração is very different from your previous work. How? What inspired you?

Macumba [my first album] is about deep water -- I talk about revenge, desolation. Coração is about surviving. It was made in a period of my life when I needed to survive. It's a changing moment for me, my closest friends, my generation and the country, the politics. It's a tense period: Brazil is in a scenery of destroyed land, with the rise of a retrograde fascism. Art is resistance.

I had a moment of being recognized for my work in a national level that was magical, but crooked. I did a lot of shows, felt the pressure to give 100 percent of me, didn't eat right, didn't sleep right. Ended a marriage of two and a half years by the end of the tour. I was hoping for someone to be understanding and didn't get it. I've had depression for years that didn't get treated. All that culminated in the beginning of the process of producing this album.

The story behind Macumba doesn't reflect who I am today. I had to reaffirm my life, my position in the world, my beliefs. It was very complicated, but I put in a combative way on the album. I talk about abusive relationships and how to get rid of them. I wanted to expand the range and talk about other stuff also. I am intense and it reflects on my music.

Gaby Amarantos and Liniker collaborate with you on this album. How did you unite with these artists, and how was the process of producing these songs?

Gaby has always been a passion of mine. I love Pará's music [from the northern Brazilian state]. We already knew each other and had talked about collaborating before. I wrote "Corpo Fechado" about an abusive relationship. It was great. It's a kind of electronic carimbó [a mixture of indigenous, African and Portuguese rhythms]. The first single is "Flutua," featuring Liniker. It's part of my wish to expand the range. It talks about the victory of love. When Liniker first appeared, I remember looking at her singing and seeing someone floating in the air, a phenomenon. The song has a resistance vibe to it. I couldn't be happier.

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The video with the audio of "Flutua" was published on YouTube on July 20. On the next day, it was censored for anyone under 18. How did you get the news?

The messages I got from my fans were amazing, a wave of love and care, I couldn't get a better reaction. When I woke up on Friday, they were telling me on Twitter that the video was censored. I believe it was due to complaints. I find it depressing that in 2017, a picture of two people kissing has to be censored. Not even in my concerts I censor who's under 18. I was stunned.

Facebook wouldn't let me pay for the video to reach a larger public because it said the pictured had sexual content. I think that's fake and sad because we're always seeing gross images of animals being tortured, so much violence on Facebook, and it doesn't get censored. Two people kissing is worse? I don't get it. For me, that's proof that talking about love is transgressing, even nowadays.

You're part of a generation of artists that carry a strong message. What is it like for you?

There's no rivalry in this generation. It's a complicated moment for the industry, for the country. But everyone collaborates, there's unity. I moved to São Paulo a couple months ago [from Rio de Janeiro], and coming back to the city filled me with hope. The possibility range is wider, the exchange between artists. It doesn't happen in Rio, unfortunately.

You're from Recife. How much do you feel the difference between the cities you've already lived in?

São Paulo and Recife are culturally plural. Recife by itself; São Paulo because it embraces the entire country's cultures. For me, São Paulo is the only cosmopolitan city in Brazil, and Recife actually believes it's cosmopolitan too. Recife thinks it's New York.

You're going to perfom on the Sunset Stage at Rock in Rio this year with Liniker and Almério. How did these collaborations happen? What are your expectations for the show?

When I was invited, the festival asked for suggestions for collaborations. Immediately I thought about Liniker and Almério, a friend and artist from Caruaru. It will be my show with their participation, and in the end, we will get together and sing. I want it to happen naturally. It'll be the first time Liniker and I will perform "Flutua" live. I believe it will be a super political moment, very emotional.

Who do you want to see and who you wished you had seen play Rock in Rio?

In this edition, I really want to see Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and Nile Rodgers. From the past, I wish I'd seen Queen on the first edition.

Listen to Coração here:
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