The astronomical global success of Michel Teló, a Brazilian country singer, is an example of the diverse new talents emerging from Brazil's thriving pop scene and the multitude of ways even the most obscure artists can shine brightly on the world stage. Here superstars like Pitbull cover his hit song "Ai Se Te Pego," Perez Hilton sings its praises and soccer stars like Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring goals roll around on the pitch to to the song.
"Ai Se Eu Te Pego" (Oh If I Catch You), with its catchy repetitive chorus, accordion hook and lyrics about a guy trying to seduce a girl, was not originally a hit. The song was officially written in 2008 by Sharon Acioly, who first heard the phrase in Porto Seguro from a group of girls who were singing and dancing to a song they came up with as a joke during a trip to Disney World. The songwriter Acioly told Portal Das Notécias that, "It was a type of war cry [...] When I recorded the song for the first time, I had written it for these girls, but none of them answered. Now they have joined in the co-writing process. We made an agreement." An agreement that has recently fallen apart as more girls are stepping up to claim ownership of the song.
In 2011, Michel Teló heard the song in Salvador during a forro concert and decided he wanted to perform the song to a Sertanejo (Brazilian country music) rhythm. So he reached out to Acioly, they worked out a deal and the rest is music history.
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Like Shakira's "Waka Waka" before it, credit soccer for catapulting "Ai Se Eu Te Pego" to millions around the globe. Teló has publicly thanked soccer star Neymar who plays for Brazil's Santos club for popularizing the song with choreography hatched in the team locker room. Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo followed in Neymar's footsteps celebrating goals by dancing to the song. Soon afterwards a video came out of AC Milan's Robinho, Thiago Silva and Pato performing the infectious choreography on a bus and suddenly the song was a global phenomenon. It even made its way to the NBA thanks to Rudy Fernandez and a video of him and his Denver Nuggets teammates dancing to the track.
Since its release in November 2011, "Ai Se Eu Te Pego" has reached No. 1 in 15 countries across Europe, Eastern Europe and Latin America. The official music video has been viewed over 240 million times on YouTube, and has been translated and subtitled in multiple languages including English, Polish and Italian. "Ai Se Eu Te Pego" hit number 1 on radio charts in Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Colombia, Bulgaria and Russia. It also hit No. 1 on iTunes in 23 countries. Michel Telo's record label, Som Livre, estimated the single has been downloaded two million times around the world.
The 31-year-old vocalist recently received a double platinum record in Holland, one of the stops on his first European tour that includes gigs in Portugal, England, Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland. The single has already gone platinum in three other European countries, Austria, Belgium, Germany, double platinum in Italy, Spain and Sweden, and triple platinum in Switzerland.
After Telo's breakthrough in Europe, Marcelo Soares, president of Teló's label Som Livre has made a few changes to their operations. "After what happened to Michel, we realized the demand was changing for different genres and acts and at the same time Som Livre started to be recognized in Europe and Latin America as the main source of all this new talent in Brazil. Suddenly you have many labels and executives in Europe trying to understand what Som Livre is and the other acts we have. The thing is, we are not this new company that just appeared and found a new niche with rare talent. We are a huge label in Brazil, with more than 20% of market share in the country and many of our artists are experiencing a new demand of their own." Som Livre, Soares says, has been approached about other roster acts such as Gusttavo Lima and the duo Joao Neto & Frederico.
Michel Teló (above) is an example of the diverse new talents emerging from Brazil's thriving pop scene. (Photo: Courtesy Som Livre)
In the past, the term Sertanejo has been used as an umbrella category encapsulating all country music originating from the interior regions of Brazil. While you'll still find exaggerated romanticism, high pitches and sharp tones and acoustic instruments, the genre's been updated. The traditional viola caipira (ten string guitar-like instrument) has been replaced with synthesizers and electric guitars and performers sing without the heavy regional accents.
Over the years Sertanejo has gained mass appeal, as pop elements were introduced. In the mid-2000s, the genre rose to prominence amongst Brazilian youth on college campuses. Today, "Sertanejo Universitário" has reached its apex attracting a more diversified demographic that includes the middle class and metropolitan locations such as Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro, cities that once wrote-off the genre.
Teló, whose 2011 live album "Ao Vivo" was nominated for a Latin Grammy for best Sertaneja Music Album, represents a new wave of Sertanejo singers with the ability to reach an international audience. But the magnitude of his achievements and the international reach of a track with Portuguese lyrics is still surprising - especially when a global superstar decides to cover the song.
Released at the end of February, Pitbull's remix of Telo's "Ai Se Eu te Pego" has amassed over 89,000 plays and 116,00 downloads on Soundcloud alone. The Cuban-American rapper, who was nominated for 11 Billboard Latin Music Awards, paired up with three electronic music producers - Brazilian DJ/producer Kassiano, Dutch producer Gregor Salto, and DJ Buddha - to release the song as a club-ready tune. This modern spin of the original single could even re-launch the hit back into the Brazilian market and finally reach the elusive American audience.
"The remix just makes the point that there are no real rules or boundaries," says Brazilian born producer, Kassiano who first sent over the track to DJ Buddha, "and you can mix any kind of sound and culture and language with another and do it from anywhere in the world and you might get something interesting."
Perez Hilton posted the original version of the "Ai Se Te Pego" music video on his eponymous website claiming, "you don't need to speak Portuguese to understand what the song is about and know that it's a smash!" The celebrity blogger who generates about 6 million page views a day, told Billboard.biz "I LOVE the song! It is so infectious! It has universal appeal! And I hope it crosses over to America." The single has already made an appearance on Billboard's Social 50 chart, sold 54,000 downloads according to Nielsen SoundScan, and debuted at No.33 on the Billboard Latin Songs a few weeks ago.
Teló's global success took Marcel Soares by surprise "We could never have anticipated this kind of global success by any of our artists. We have arguably the richest, most diverse and talented music in Brazil but it is not in the history of the world's music industry to absorb and consume Brazilian pop music."
When people think of Brazil their minds drift to Rio de Janeiro's famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, to the pulsating beat of samba, the scintillating costumes of the dancers during Carnival or to the stadiums filled with superbly talented soccer players. And now perhaps too Michel Teló, whose international success has put the music industry on notice that Brazil isn't only on it's way to becoming a global economic powerhouse, but also a major player in the music business.