[Remezcla] Despite Political Censorship, Female & LGBTQI+ Performers at Lollapalooza Brazil Raised Their Voices

This is a story assignment for Remezcla. It was first published in April 2022.


When Brazilian popstar phenomenon Pabllo Vittar grabbed a flag from the audience at Lollapalooza Brazil, she was unaware that this move would echo beyond the enormous Interlagos race track, where the festival took place from March 25 to 27. The rugged cloth featured the face of Brazilian ex-president Lula, a forthcoming candidate for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections in October. The trope was rather unpleasant to the eyes of Jair Bolsonaro’s political party, leading to an electoral judge’s order against any kind of political demonstration on Lolla’s stages. This ultimately backfired, inflaming several artists performing that weekend to manifest against Brazil’s current president during their sets.

Vittar’s triumphal catwalk with Lula’s flag symbolized less about the singer’s political stand and more about her power in Latin American pop music. The 28-year-old singer is hardly unknown for being a fervorous supporter of the leftist candidate. Still, the nuisance she represented to traditional policymakers is another substantial sign of her vocal power in the Brazilian pop landscape. And she’s not alone, neither in the Brazilian music scene nor at the Lollapalooza stage. 

As reported by the militant group Grupo Gay da Bahia, 237 LGBTQ people were killed in hate crimes last year in Brazil — one of the highest tolls in the world. Numbers are high also for femicides: more than 1,300 in 2021. These gruesome figures exist in parallel with the fact that female and LGBTQI+ artists have increasingly occupied the top spots of the most globally visible Brazilian artists  — which got them top billing at Lollapalooza. And at the top of their game, these artists used both the festival and their own platforms to publicly express their dissatisfaction with the current political affairs of the country — messages that would go beyond the country’s borders. 

Jair Bolsonaro’s sentiments towards the queer community are no secret, so it’s not surprising to see an artist like Vittar speaking up against that. However, what does bring awe is seeing LGBTQI+ artists in such a powerful position in Brazil’s pop music despite the violence they face daily. Showing a more progressive side of the country, Lollapalooza Brazil was fueled by the power of artists like Vittar, Marina Sena, Gloria Groove, Jão, and even Miss No. 1 on the global Spotify chart Anitta

Over the three-day event (plus a couple of side parties and concerts), more than 70 singers, DJs, and bands performed at the Brazilian version of the Chicago-born festival. More than 300 thousand people attended the main festival site in the city of São Paulo. Not only was Lollapalooza the first big music event in Brazil since the beginning of the pandemic, but it was also the first chance fans had to see their preferred artists performing albums released in the last two years.

While Vittar shined as a headliner, other up-and-coming artists displayed impressive doses of talent with a foothold on queerness onto the Lollapalooza stages. The drag queen Gloria Groove was among them. Coming from the well-received sophomore album Lady Leste, Gloria proved to be a hitmaker in the making with songs like “Bonekinha” and “Vermelho,” which made the crowd dance with her blend of rock, baile funk, and R&B. And she took advantage of the semantics: “vermelho” means “red” in Portuguese, a color commonly associated with leftist politics. Dressed in red, Gloria also spoke out against Bolsonaro, saying, “No for censorship in 2022! Out, Bolsonaro!” 

Another LGBTQI+ artist carrying Lollapalooza his back was the singer Jão. Coming from a rising career over the past two years — none of his last album’s songs have less than 3 million plays on Spotify — the openly bisexual artist guided his band just like his audience with his knack for ballads that resonate with teenagers. Moreover, bringing an edgier, radical approach, the singer Jup do Bairro was the only Black trans-woman to perform at Lollapalooza Brazil. She didn’t spare bars or beats to make a point of her naturally militant music. In “Trangressão,” she sang while holding flowers in front of a butterfly animation: “Me deixa voar,” or “let me fly.” 

On the festival’s closing day, the performance of one of the most awaited artists of the festival finally came. Marina Sena stepped up on a stage different from those she had seen before the pandemic. It was only near the end of 2021 that she became a Brazilian pop sensation with the hit “Por Supuesto.” The single was the song of the summer, and Sena treated her fans to a groovy interpretation of the song that launched her to superstardom and an overall energetic concert elevated by echoing the audience’s “Fuck you, Bolsonaro” chants. 

And while the local heroes held their own protesting against Bolsonaro, they had some help from the big fishes. On Saturday night, a packed audience watching Miley Cyrus’ set was caught by surprise by a surprise appearance by none other than Anitta. The duo showed off a thrilling rockstar performance, singing together Anitta’s “Boys Don’t Cry.” On Sunday, the Brazilian singer posted a Youtube short addressing the judge’s order that allegedly blocked any political protesting at the festival. “Prohibiting artists to speak their unsatisfaction with the actual government is nothing but censorship, and I will fight against it,” Anitta, who is openly bisexual, wrote.

While Lollapalooza Brazil 2022 was an excellent opportunity to disturb a few politicians during an election year, it also made one thing perfectly clear. The dominance of female and LGBTQI+ artists in Brazilian pop is undeniable, and the reactions to their sets proved that their staying power is not a fad but a force that can drive movements — or droves of fans in this case. Only people from some of the most marginalized communities in the countries have the gall to fight, or at least take strong stances, against censorship, prejudice, and discrimination on an international stage like Lollapalooza.

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