RIO DE JANEIRO — Nine months after the Latin Grammy-winning singer Marília Mendonça died in a plane accident, the team behind Brazil’s biggest female sertanejo artist has released a posthumous EP that is breaking local streaming records and calling attention to her vast catalog of songs and recordings.
Launched on what would have been Mendonça’s 27th birthday (July 22), Decretos Reais, Vol. 1 is a joint project by Mendonça’s family, her former record label Som Livre and her publisher WorkShow.
On the day of its release, “Te Amo Demais,” one of the EP’s four tracks, reached No. 1 on Spotify’s Daily Top Artists Brazil chart, and it entered Spotify’s Daily Top Songs Global chart at #72. No other song recorded by Mendonça has ever had such a strong debut on the streaming platform, according to Som Livre.
“Te Amo Demais” is also gaining some traction on Billboard’s charts. It debuted at No. 4 on Billboard‘s Brazil Songs chart dated Aug. 6 and holds at that position in its second week (Aug. 13). It also debuted at No. 111 on the Aug. 6-dated Billboard Global Excluding U.S. songs chart, with 12 million official streams outside the U.S. (July 22-28), according to Luminate, and falls to No. 166 on the latest, Aug. 13 chart (July 29-Aug. 4), with 9.5 million streams.
The first Brazilian artist to reach 8 billion streams on Spotify and the most-followed Latin artist on Deezer, Mendonça was known as the queen of “sofrência” music (heartbreak sertanejo songs). Her career took off with the hit “Infiel” (2016). Almost a year after her death, Mendonça’s music continues to reign in Brazil — in the first half of 2022 she was the most-streamed artist on Spotify there.
Marcelo Soares, CEO of Som Livre, tells Billboard that the label plans to release even more posthumous music from the late star’s large catalog of compositions and sound recordings. “We expect to have something new by the end of the year,” he says, adding that the next projects promise to explore sofrência music more intensely.
Mendonça, who started her career as a songwriter for other sertanejo artists — which later included stars like Gusttavo Lima, Jorge & Mateus, and Zé Neto & Cristiano — paved the way for contemporary female artists in the scene. But her legacy extended beyond sertanejo, Brazil’s version of country music. “She became a symbol of resilience for women throughout the country,” Soares says, referring to the lyrics in many of Mendonça’s songs that touched on female empowerment and freedom.
“Regardless of where she would have been born, Marília would have been a great success,” the label chief says. “She would be making some incredible soul music if she were born in the U.S. If she were born in the U.K., she would be like Adele. As she was born in Central-Western Brazil, sertanejo became a completely inextricable part of her life and music.”
All four tracks on Decretos Reais, Vol.1 are versions of songs by other composers from the sertanejo, MPB and romantic music scenes. Recorded during a livestream in May 2021 and remastered by producers from Mendonça’s band, the recordings were handpicked by Som Livre, WorkShow and Mendonça’s family to create the EP.
The posthumous release has drawn attention to the ownership of Mendonça’s musical works, which number in the hundreds. WorkShow, the Goiânia-based management company and music publisher, administers Mendonça’s music catalog, which includes compositions dating back to when she was 13 years old.
A spokesperson for WorkShow would not say how many songs are in the artist’s catalog — the company is currently conducting an internal data review of her unrecorded material, the spokesperson says — but a Billboard check of Brazil’s Central Bureau of Collection and Distribution of musical copyrights (ECAD) shows Mendonça has 334 compositions and 440 sound recordings that have been registered at Abramus, a copyrights association for music artists that is linked to ECAD.
WorkShow and Som Livre haven’t yet discussed unrecorded compositions from the artist, Soares says. Som Livre is confident of the songs’ potential and looks forward to turning them into successful recordings.
“I haven’t reviewed [all of] them, but it’s obvious that we are talking about good stuff,” Soares says. “I’d love to bring these compositions to our label artists.” Som Livre, which Sony Music Entertainment acquired last year for $255 million, owns the masters of 110 songs recorded by Mendonça, including her own compositions and those from other writers.
The celebration of Mendonça’s birthday has inspired the release of another posthumous project involving the late sertanejo star and Ludmilla, one of the biggest names in Brazil’s funk scene. Ludmilla said on Twitter that she would release “Insônia,” a song featuring Mendonça that was recorded in 2020, during the last week of August as part of her EP Numanice #2.
The musical essence of Mendonça endures through the work of other prominent female artists, including Yasmin Santos (called the “voice twin” of Mendonça) and the duo Maiara & Maraísa.
MPB giant Caetano Veloso honored her in the lyrics of “Sem Samba Não Dá” from his latest album, Meu Coco. “It only seemed fair that she appeared twice in my song,” Veloso posted on Instagram after her death, but also that “her name came out as ‘Mar(av)ília Mendonça.'” (“Marvelous Mendonça”)