Brazil: Cultural Debate as ‘Oh if I Catch You’ Song Goes Global

If you keep track of the latest international trends in music, if you are really fond of Brazilian music or if for instance you are a Cristiano Ronaldo supporter, you have probably heard the song ‘Ai se eu te pego’. Or perhaps its English version, ‘Oh if I catch you’.

Brazilian singer Michel Teló has begun the year of 2012 with a major worldwide success with this song. Surprisingly or not, Brazilian netizens have been critical towards Teló’s music to show a certain concern about the international view of Brazilian music these days.

‘Ai se eu te pego’ has made his way to the top of the international billboards with record-high marks of downloads on iTunes. The most impressive marks are definitely in Europe, where Teló has reached number one in Portugal, Italy and Spain, countries where he will soon present his hit song in his first international tour.

Michel Teló in concert. Shared via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Michel Teló in concert. Shared via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

From Brazil to Telobalization

Michel Teló, 30 years old, represents sertanejo universitário (university sertanejo), the newest subgenre of ‘sertanejo‘, a musical genre with roots in the caipira culture of south-central Brazil.

Teló's career started back in 1997 with the band Grupo Tradição, until he decided to pursue a solo career in 2008. National success came with the hit ‘Fugidinha’, but nothing comparable to ‘Ai se eu te pego’. The official video on YouTube has reached the impressive mark of 107 million visits and counting.

Football players have adopted the song for celebrating goals. Brazilian footballer Neymar (of Santos F.C.) has even appeared on the videoclip. Marcelo Vieira and Cristiano Ronaldo (of Real Madrid C.F.) celebrated a goal dancing the song's choreography in October 2011.

In light of the song's success, Michel Teló translated ‘Ai se eu te pego’ to English, and thus was born ‘Oh if I catch you':

Nevertheless, the most interesting effect so far is the appropriation of the song for new versions in different languages, sometimes with the same lyrics translated, such as this one in Polish:!

Why not Dutch?

The tumblr account Telobalização (as in ‘Telobalization’ – Teló going global) aggregates the diverse expressions of ‘Ai se eu te pego’ throughout the world, presenting videos of the song in Guaraní, French, German, Spanish, and even in Libras, the Brazilian sign language.

Europe in crisis (feat. Michel Teló)

Others are making very creative versions of Teló's music, such as the following video, adapting the lyrics to say “Troika, Troika, you're gonna kill me”, in a complaint against the austerity policies impacting the lives of Portuguese citizens imposed by the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission:

The Europe crisis seems to be a common joke take on Teló's music. Some suggest this might be the reason for his success in the continent. Brazilian user Valdete da Silva (@amigavaldete) tweeted a similar [pt] assessment:

michel teló fazendo sucesso é a prova que a crise na europa tá pior que pensávamos

the success of michel teló is a proof that the crisis in Europe is worse than we thought

Sr Piadas (@OPiadas), a Twitter profile devoted to making jokes, compared Europe and Brazil [pt]:

Europa is the new Brasil (está quebrada, ouvindo Michel Teló e jogando o melhor futebol do mundo)

Europe is the new Brazil (it's broke, listening to Michel Teló and playing the best football in the world)

Spokesperson of Brazilian culture?

Bruno Medina, a member of the Brazilian rock band Los Hermanos, which is currently in hiatus, wrote on his biweekly column an open letter to Michel Teló [pt], explaining how he had spent New Year's Eve annoyed with ‘Ai se eu te pego’. He compared the song to his band's first success in 2002, ‘Anna Júlia‘, which used to be played everywhere, all the time. He said he hoped Teló would “be able to build a consistent musical legacy” and urged him not to create another dance tune.

He added:

Aliás, não seria mau se você resolvesse passar logo todo o ano de 2012 viajando pelo mundo. Nada pessoal, é só uma precaução com o meu cérebro.

In fact, it wouldn't be bad if you decided to spent the entire year of 2012 travelling the world. Nothing personal, it's just a precaution with my brain.

The post received more than 1,500 comments, and while most of them criticize Bruno Medina as being envious, a considerable number of users agreed with him and took it as a cue to go further. Cristina said:

Não tenho nada contra o Teló, porém essa música é um pé no saco (saco esse que nem tenho!) sou prof de educação infantil e é triste ver meus alunos cantando essa música como se fosse um mantra: \”ai se eu te pego, ai ai se eu te pego…\”).

I have nothing against Teló, but this song is a pain in the butt (and I don't have any!) I am a teacher of children, and it's sad to see my students singing this song as if it was a mantra: “oh if i catch you, oh if i catch you…”

Raquel B. said:

Eu não gosto da música do Michel Teló, o conteúdo é vergonhoso, jamais podemos achar que isso se trata de cultura. Temos que valorizar o que tem de bom no Brasil, músicos ótimos, letras que fazem bem ao ouvido. E se ele esta fazendo sucesso la fora é porque lá a cultura musical anda bem precaria também.

I'm not fond of Michel Teló's music, the content is a disgrace, we can never take it as culture. We must value what is good in Brazil, great musicians, lyrics that enter our ears nicely. And if he's a success out there, it is because music culture outside is quite precarious too.

For music critic Pedro Alexandre Sanches, Brazilians are considering [pt] Michel Teló unworthy of international success and furthermore unworthy of presenting himself as a star of Brazilian music. He argues that Brazilians must deal with their “underdog complex” and accept that perhaps Michel Teló deserves his success. Considering Brazil's proeminence, what should we expect next?

Debora Baldelli collaborated on this post.


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