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How Marília Mendonça Opened The Door For Women In Brazilian Country Music

The article below was written by Isadora Noronha Pereira and edited by Giulia Lozano. Liked this type of content? Check out Her Campus Cásper Líbero for more!

Listening to songs like “Infiel”, “Todo Mundo Vai Sofrer”, “Ausência” and “Graveto” without suffering a bit was already really difficult due to its lyrics about love illusions and failed relationships. However, after Marília Mendonça’s death, it became almost impossible to listen to them and not cry.

All of these songs (and so many others) are huge hits of Marília Dias Mendonça: an amazing Brazilian singer and icon of “feminejo”, the name given to the sub gender of sertanejo — country music made in Brazil — produced by women. At 26 years old, Marília died in a plane accident on November 5th, 2021, on her way to a concert in Caratinga, a city in the state of Minas Gerais. 

She left an almost 2-year-old son, her family, many dear friends, and millions of fans who connected to her work. But, in addition to that, Marília left a beautiful legacy for women in Brazilian country music, and knowing more about her trajectory helps us to understand how she became this phenomenon and inspiration for so many people.

A young singer and songwriter

Before being a successful singer, Marília Mendonça became well-known among sertanejo musicians due to her amazing song compositions. She started writing songs when she was only 12 years old and conquered her space composing hits for singers like Cristiano Araújo, Jorge & Mateus, Henrique & Juliano, and many other duos who were already famous in this genre. “Cuida Bem Dela”, by Henrique & Juliano, that made a huge success in 2014, was written by her, as well as “Até Você Voltar” and “É Com Ela Que Eu Estou”, by Cristiano Araújo, that reached the 3rd position of Billboard Brasil. 

Although she was still working mainly as a songwriter, the singers she met had already noticed that she had potential in her voice and her personality. In 2015, Henrique & Juliano released “A Flor e o Beija-Flor”, a partnership with Marília not only in the lyric but with her participation in it as a singer.  

“Infiel” and the beginning of a path of success

With this partnership, Henrique & Juliano became pretty close to Marília and helped her to take an important step in her work. After a time focused on her job as a songwriter, Marília started putting her voice in her compositions — literally. In 2016, her career soared with the release of her first concert recorded on DVD. Named “Marília Mendonça”, the production was a mark of her will to sing her songs and fight for a place for women in sertanejo, a musical genre that was mostly dominated by men. 

Even though many songs made a lot of success, like “Sentimento Louco”, “Como Faz Com Ela” and “Alô Porteiro”, the highlight of this album surely was “Infiel”, a song about a relationship that ended up with the man cheating his partner with another woman. It may seem pretty common, since many songs in sertanejo talk about people cheating and chaotic breakups, but Marília Mendonça started something different here, by bringing the situation through the female point of view. 

That was something the singer dedicated to portraying during her whole trajectory after that, singing what the woman was feeling about some kind of situation, about the importance of sorority, and the relevance of learning to give the value we deserve and love ourselves above everything else.

The hope and comfort brought by “Todos Os Cantos” 

After her first success, Marília didn’t stop growing and developed her career even more. After releasing three more albums, “Realidade”, in 2017, “Perfil”, in 2018, and “Agora é Que São Elas 2”, a partnership with the duo Maiara & Maraisa, the singer released “Todos Os Cantos”, in 2019, and it became a mark of her work through the country. 

She made free concerts in the capitals of all states to bring her music to the public and continued to use her voice and broad recognition among other artists to spread messages of empowerment and talk about subjects that, until her, were destined for male singers. Drinking more than you planned, having a blast at a bar with your friends, declaring your love to someone else, and dealing with breakups and misunderstandings were always things lived by real women, but now they could feel represented in their perspective through Marília’s songs. Recently, after her death, “Todos Os Cantos” became the most listened Brazilian album on Spotify, reaching around 1.1 billion streams. 

This movement of talking about real life and encouraging women to live their freedom the way they want inspired and opened doors to many other women in sertanejo to raise their voices and sing about their love lives and independence. One of the main names we have today is Yasmin Santos, a 23-year-old singer, and songwriter who conquered Marília’s heart and the whole country with her voice — pretty similar to the voice of Mendonça, by the way. She became well known on YouTube with a cover of one of Marília’s songs, “Amante Não Tem Lar”, which had 2 million views in less than 24 hours. Also, she was making success in 2018 with the hit “Saudade Nível Hard”, and conquered an amazing recognition after her cover of “Evidências” took part as the soundtrack of the soap opera “A Dona do Pedaço”.

The connection between the work of Marília Mendonça and Yasmin Santos wasn’t only related to the similar voice: to Yasmin, Marília was a huge inspiration and symbol of strength in Brazilian music. During a live interview with CARAS Magazine, the singer declared: “I have started liking her since the first DVD. I was 16, and she represented empowerment and strength.”

“Patroas 35%”: Marília’s last project 

While being a role model and giving support to other young artists to make success in sertanejo, like Lauana Prado, Luiza (from the duo Luiza & Maurílio), and Júlia & Rafaela, Marília Mendonça was developing since 2017 a huge project with the twins Maiara and Maraisa, who were very close friends to the singer and one of the main names on feminejo

During the pandemic, “Patroas” – the name given to their partnership in music – made many lives on YouTube, gathering millions of viewers. They sang covers of classic anthems of country music in Brazil, and, day by day, organized original compositions too until they released their first EP together. “Patroas, EP1” reached more than 3 million streams on Spotify during the first week after it became available in 2020, with only four songs. Later on, the full album, “Patroas”, was released in September, and this year was nominated for Latin GRAMMYs as Best Sertanejo Music Album.

The project was gaining even more strength, and, together, the three singers released another album in 2021: “Patroas 35%”. Heartbreaks — known as the famous “sofrência” in Brazil — and empowerment are two keywords to this work, either in the songs and music videos, always keeping the female point of view. “Esqueça-me Se For Capaz” was one of the first releases with video, which told a story of women helping and encouraging each other to be whenever they want, and take the lead of their professional and personal lives. Also, “Você Não Manda Em Mim” is a highlight that talks about toxic and abusive relationships and encourages women to be strong, and does not tolerate any kind of threats and prohibitions coming from a partner. 

They were supposed to go on tour with the Patroas project next year, and, individually, the singers were gradually making some concerts around the country. One of them, in Caratinga (MG), was the final destination of Marília Mendonça when the plane accident happened. With Marília, other four people died in the tragic accident, including Henrique Baía, producer and close friend of the singer, and her uncle, Abicieli Silveira Dias Filho.

It is a fact that Marília Mendonça went way beyond sertanejo during her path in the music industry, and collaborated to productions of many artists from other musical genres, especially Brazilian rap. But it was on sertanejo that Marília started an important revolution and break of patterns in this area, and helped many other artists to raise their voices and join her team on “feminejo”.

Marília was kind of a friend to her fans, the type of artist people felt to be pretty close even if they never met, especially by women. She is an irretrievable loss not only for feminejo, but to the whole Brazilian music and everyone who connected to her songs and her essence somehow. Her songs will always be remembered by the ones who come after her in this genre, so as the message of empowerment she could build inside and out the country — from women, for women.

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Journalism student in love with connecting with stories beyond her own universe :)
Giulia Lozano Pacini

Casper Libero '23

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