In Brazil, Even Bad Music Is Good Bad music is something Americans love to hate. Commentator Michelle Mercer says we're not alone; Brazilians have their own brand of music that's so bad it's good.

In Brazil, Even Bad Music Is Good

In Brazil, Even Bad Music Is Good

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Bad music is something Americans love to hate. Commentator Michelle Mercer says we're not alone; Brazilians have their own brand of music that's so bad it's good.


On your motorcycle or in the car, summer on the road mean summer songs, and they're not always the highest quality musical offerings, but commentator Michelle Mercer wants to remind us that bad music is not a uniquely American phenomenon.


In the summer of 1989, I was a lifeguard at the local pool. Sitting out on duty, I was prisoner of whatever music blasted from the bathhouse radio, including this song from a later edition of the Beach Boys.

(Soundbite of Kokomo)

MERCER: The maddeningly catchy chorus, the clanking steel drums, the wheezing sentimentality about escape to some mythical, tropical paradise. Kokomo was blatantly crafted for mass appeal.

But if Kokomo came on the radio at night when my friends and I were driving around, three or four wine coolers deep, we'd never turn the dial and might even turn up the volume because we loved to hate it.

Yet when it comes to world music, we don't always have the same breadth of taste. We tend to trumpet the very best of international music, celebrating our discerning cosmopolitanism. The most complex schanaen(ph) highlife or virtuosic Romanian gypsy music, and of course, the coolest, most sophisticated Bossa nova from Brazil.

(Soundbite of music)

MERCER: Now many Americans know Brazil as an idealized musical landscaped. Well, this is also the authentic sound of Brazil.

(Soundbite of music)

MERCER: That's Roberto Carlos, platinum-selling Brazilian artist and a true prince of bregga(ph). Bregga means tacky, and in Brazil refers to music in poor taste. Simple, syrupy music. Music with overwrought drama or stupid, puerile lyrics. The sonic equivalent of decorated toilet lids.

Throughout Brazil, bregga is considerably more popular than the hip, refined music of the educated classes. In fact, bregga has another meaning - any music that is regarded as bad by wealthy Rio and Sao Paolo urbanites, especially northeastern country music like this.

(Soundbite of music)

MERCER: Leandro and Leonardo were a typical sarantasio(ph) duo, two cute brothers in tight jeans, kind of a Bo and Luke Duke package, singing schmaltzy love songs. The combination drove the Brazilian ladies wild.

This might not be the best stuff out there, but I still say God bless Brazil's bad music. It shows that the country has a music scene as rich and poor as America's, as evolved and devolved as our own. Even samba connoisseurs can afford the excruciating fun of sentimental or tacky music. After all, artful stuff like this also gets some play down there

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Commentator Michelle Mercer teaches writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

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Correction Aug. 3, 2006

The audio that originally aired incorrectly stated that singer Leandro died in a car crash. He died eight years ago of cancer.