I was reminded of the mania for all things Brazilian during the 2000s (some of which have continued through today), while tuning in to a recent karaoke stream by Kiara, Hololive's in-house choreographer. She was covering a song that used to be a standard in the dance clubs in the late 2000s and early 2010s -- "Hey Mama" by the Black Eyed Peas.
This was always a personal fave of mine, and I danced a modified samba. The tempo is way too fast to do both the fancy footwork of the samba and get a lot of motion or range at the same time. And when you're up on the main stage, hyping up the whole crowd, they want to see you take up lots of space and move around, not just do footwork in one place. So I would land each foot heavily on the main beat, and then instead of lifting and re-landing my feet on the half or quarter beats in between, I kept each foot fairly grounded, but pushed my legs up and down off of the ball of my feet on those off-beats, to simulate the fast-paced footwork of the samba.
That allows you to keep your feet close to the ground, and glide from side to side in wide strides that end on the main beat, to get more range over the floor. It's a sleight-of-hand -- most of the crowd won't notice, and they're convinced. And it frees up more of your body's energy to get your upper body, arms, and facial expression into the whole performance, rather than the relatively stiff upper body that comes with an emphasis on fancy footwork.
Anyways... I always wished there had been more songs like to get crazy to, but as far as I remember, that was the only samba-friendly staple of the clubs back then. However, after hearing Kiara singing that song, my mind opened up like a volcano, and ancient subterranean MySpace memories came flowing to the surface of my consciousness.
I knew that rhythm sounded familiar, but it wasn't from "Hey Mama" itself -- they sampled the beat of their own song when they released an enhanced re-mix of the '60s samba classic "Mas que Nada" by Sergio Mendes, in 2006. Although I never heard it in the clubs, it did hit #13 on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart here, and made the year-end charts in several European countries. I mainly remember it from the MySpace music player, where it was popular enough that I saw it on someone's profile, and started playing it over and over myself. Pretty sure they had the video for it, not just the audio.
However, the Brazil craze was not limited only to dance-focused genres like rap. Sidebar: it may sound strange today, but rap during the 2000s was at its most dance-crazy -- from crunk, to the Latin dance crossovers ("Hey Mama," "Hips Don't Lie," etc.), to the electropop of "Lollipop". Even mellow pop rock songs like "She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5 borrowed from samba rhythms and Latin sensuality:
On the less mainstream side of things, samba and bossa nova were prevalent in the Thievery Corporation's lounge music, although it was not strictly focused on Brazil, but including Brazilian music in with other world genres.
Instead, the main rejuvenation source was the indie group Nouvelle Vague, whose concept was to record bossa nova covers of late '70s and '80s new wave icons. This hit so many different 2000s trends all at once -- the '80s revival, Brazil mania, and the whimsical "is it ironic or sincere?" tone of the indie crowd back then. It risked becoming a gimmick, and certainly their live performances got way too self-aware and hammed-up to be sincere tributes to the original, and more "look at how friggin' whimsical we are" contests for the spotlight.
And yet that doesn't detract from the recorded versions, which were popular enough that I heard the one below, "Teenage Kicks" (from the Undertones), as part of the in-flight music during a plane ride. The pining for a girl who doesn't know you exist, really resonates with the original bossa nova classics, like "The Girl from Ipanema". That keeps it from sounding too discordant tonally, which would make it too annoyingly self-aware -- like, "woah, get a load of how wacky we are, doing bossa nova covers of death metal" or something.
Even though a female voice is singing, I still hear it as being about a guy who is pining for a girl, narrated in a third-person by a different girl who has a crush on the guy in the lyrics.
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As a music & dance guy, those are the examples that really stand out to me, but Brazil mania was not confined to music. I'll briefly survey some other domains of culture now, but I'll add any other examples in the comments later if I think of them. Readers feel free to as well.
In food & drink, there was the birth of the obsession with the acai berry. Yeah, I'm sure it has good nutritional value, but so does food from all over the world. This particular berry only became popular because it rode the wave of Brazil mania. Brazilian barbeque restaurants also took off like crazy during the 2000s. Why not something closely related, like Argentine cuisine? Because Argentina is not Brazilian. Gen X club-goers were so saturated in Braziliana that they knew their national drink -- the caipirinha. Any ol' normie could've known about the related lime cocktail, the Cuban mojito, but the trend-setters ordered caipirinhas.
Even the babes in commercials for food & drink were part of the Brazil craze. "Wanna Fanta -- don'tcha wanna?" It was the 2000s, so one of the Fantana girls had to be Brazilian (Andrea De Oliveira, the purple one).
Brazilian models Adriana Lima, Ana Beatriz Barros, Gisele Bundchen, and Alessandra Ambrosio were familiar to both the lad-mag readers and runway audiences of the 2000s.
Brazilians in general were the It Girl exotic ethnicity, from mainstream ads to porn and everything in between. Brazil-themed sexuality was so prevalent that assmen not only learned the Spanish word "culo" but the Brazilian Portuguese counterpart, "bunda". Britney Spears' hanger-on husband, Kevin Federline, released an album in 2006 that went nowhere, but whose first attempt at a single was titled "PopoZao", after the Brazilian term for "big ol' booty".
Brazilian waxing took off during this decade, and it could have been named after any place where women removed more hair down there than had been the norm in America. But those other countries were not Brazil.
Then there was the interest, if not much of the practice, of capoeira -- the mixture of martial arts and dancing. Far more popular was specifically Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as the UFC rebranded and took over the youth sports culture. What other sport had the under-30 guys watching a reality TV competition to choose its next star athlete? Commentator Joe Rogan introduced this massive audience to the Brazilian pronunciation of Portuguese, every time he referred to "Hoyce" (Royce) Gracie, leader of an influential school of BJJ.
For established high-profile events, it took longer for Brazil mania to result in that country being host to the World Cup (2014) and the Summer Olympics (2016), but both of those decisions were made during the late 2000s planning stage.
Not many movies crossed over to American audiences; City of God was about it, and only indie / art house audiences knew of it. But foreign movies are also a tough sell, since audiences have to read subtitles to understand the plot.
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I haven't said anything about why it had to be Brazil, and why this time period. The main goal here is simply to catalog this phenomenon, which does not show up under simple Google searches for Brazil craze, Brazil mania, Brazil 2000s, etc.
But briefly, I think it was trying to present an optimistic and exciting vision of the future of globalization led by the American empire. The nasty reality was something entirely different, as NAFTA de-industrialized our economy, and most of the heavy-scale immigration here was not from culturally vibrant middle-class Brazilians, but de facto slaves from Central America who aren't very exciting. The global depression that began in 2008, and never ended for most people, also put an end to the rosy view of globalism's future.
During the woke 2010s, there was very little interest in culturally integrating the Third World with the American empire. The Brazil craze had some momentum behind it, but that impetus came from the pre-woke 2000s. Elite culture-makers and lay audiences alike found no interest in the rest of Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, India, China, or sub-Saharan Africa. Maybe some interest in shawarma, hookah bars, and MENA baddies, but that's about it.
The primary focus of multiculturalism was other advanced nations in the empire, namely Japan and South Korea. Obsession with the culture of those nations had never been a fraction of what it exploded into during the 2010s, and that trend continues through the 2020s so far. Approaches to global integration have taken something of a step in the realistic direction, seemingly after the dividing line of the 2008 depression, which blew up the untempered end-of-history optimism of the Nineties.