Brazilian drag superstar Pabllo Vittar makes it clear that she is not fluent in English or Spanish. “Sometimes I make a mess of them with my brain,” she tells Billboard over email, “but I will keep studying and I am not ashamed to mispronounce or make any mistakes, because that’s the way we learn anything in life, right?”
What better way to keep that learning going than to release an album with music in three different languages — English, Spanish and her native Portuguese? That’s exactly what Vittar did with 111, the singer’s third studio album in which she switches effortlessly among not only the three languages, but between styles and rhythms.
Exploring new sonic landscapes is something Vittar says she needed to do, but not for the reasons that some may think. “I don’t do anything thinking about the industry or charts or anything like that — I make the music and art that lives inside of me,” she says. “So sticking to genres and improving yourself in it is important and it makes music grow universally, and the same happens when you mix different references up and create something ‘new.'”
Billboard spoke with Vittar about her new album, working with Thalía, queer representation in music and how she is faring in the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s so interesting that you decided to release 111 as a trilingual album. What inspired you to incorporate English and Spanish along with the Portuguese your fans are used to?
I did my first tour outside of Brazil last year and I didn’t realize back then how many non-Portuguese speaking fans I got! Seeing them singing my songs in Portuguese, trying to learn my language to communicate with me was amazing. So I have decided to try to learn and start singing in their language as well. I am still learning. My English and Spanish are not fluent, but I can sing and I can communicate! Hopefully I can learn more languages after that!
Was it ever nerve-wracking to embrace two languages that you’re still learning?
It’s a weird and fun experience! As I am learning both of them at the same time and I am not fluent in any of them, sometimes I make a mess of them with my brain, but I will keep studying and I am not ashamed to mispronounce or make any mistakes, because that’s the way we learn anything in life, right?
What were you listening to while crafting 111 that helped inspire you?
I listen to a bunch of super different genres all the time. I was listening to house music, brega funk, techno, reggaeton, a bunch of different Brazilian rhythms! It always is a mixture and I love it.
What was it like teaming up with Thalía for “Tímida”?
It was like a dream that came true! I used to watch her on the telenovelas when I was just a child, and always admired her as an actress and singer! She is a superstar!
Along with bringing in multiple different languages, this album dabbles in a lot of different musical styles and genres. In this day and age, as more and more artists embrace a more fluid approach to genre, how do you look at the importance of genre?
Both ways of making music is art! The artists gotta do what is in their hearts. For me, that’s the main point of anything! I don’t do anything thinking about the industry or charts or anything like that — I make the music and art that lives inside of me. So sticking to genres and improving yourself in it is important, and it makes music grow universally, and the same happens when you mix different references up and create something “new.” Everything is valid as long as your heart is in it.
Over the last few years, you have become a model of what it means to find success in the music industry as a drag artist. What do you think your success says about the music industry as a whole, in terms of mainstream acceptance of queer artists?
The industry is growing and moving forward, as it should be. There’s a lot of amazing LGBTQ+ artists around the globe that didn’t get their deserved spot back then. We live in a homophobic society overall, but we are taking our space and we won’t be silenced.
What do you think still needs to be done in the industry to foster more inclusion for LGBTQ acts?
That’s a tough question. I can’t think of anything right now, outside that the people with power should invest, embrace and believe in the talent they have in front of them. It’s not about gender, it’s not about sexuality! In that specific moment it’s only about talent, and you know what, we do have a lot of talent!
Obviously, the last few weeks have been a scary time for the world with the spread of COVID-19. How have you been affected as a queer artist by the evolving situation? What are you doing to try and keep things afloat while the world is essentially on pause?
I am using that time to connect even more to myself and my family. As I am touring non-stop for the past three years, I don’t have much time to be with them. Also taking care of my health and mind. I don’t feel affected differently now for being queer, I am being affected just the same as every human being in the world right now!