Funk singer Nego do Borel at the center of controversy with new video “Me Solta”; dressing in effeminate clothing, makeup and kissing male model, LGBT community and artists are divided on clip
Early last week, popular funk singer Negro do Borel released a video for the song “Me Solta”, meaning “let me go”, and became the talk of the internet due to the provocative nature of the video meant to appeal to the LGBT community and sexual diversity. The intent is obvious from the beginning, featuring a bleach blond Nego do Borel, with bright red women’s shoes, cut off jean shorts and a tight red shirt revealing his abs sashaying onto the streets between a group of men on motorcycles.
Borel’s videos have always been very energetic but, as he’s been seen in numerous photos with his girlfriend, it has never been assumed that he was gay. Feminizing his name, he assumes the character of the video as “Nega da Borelli”, the video has raised a firestorm of commentary on stereotypes and cultural appropriation of the LGBT community.
The video, directed by the Kondzilla (Konrad Cunha Dantas), whose numerous videos for funk artists have garnered over five billion views on YouTube (Brazil’s most popular YouTube channel) , was recorded in the Morro do Borel community where Nego grew up and is part of the artist’s stage name has garnered both positive as well as negative opinions, with celebrities, everyday people, activists and well known LGBT representatives speaking on the issue.
For television host Sabrina Sato, the video was “wonderful” while singer/actor Dado Dolabella made light of the Nega Borelli character saying “Let the Nega go, dammit.” The term Nego, that is part of Borel’s stage name is popular way of saying “negro”, meaning black man. By changing Nego into Nega, the meaning becomes black woman.
For the band Psirico, the video is “too much” or “fuc*in’ crazy” as they put it. Speaking on the photography, scenery, lights, the kiss and the artist’s clothing in the video, “the song is a hit” and Borel “rocked it”. Actor Bruno Gagliasso complimented Borel via the artist’s Instagram profile saying he “killed it” and that he “deserves the success” he is experiencing with the daring video.
In perhaps the most provocative scene in the video, for several seconds, Borel is seen kissing male model Jonathan Dobal, who obviously approved of the video saying that the artist is “breaking paradigms”. Borel’s friend and comedian Victor Sarro also expressed himself on the subject and defended Borel and kiss on the singer’s social network page: “The guy will do what he wants with his mouth, dammit! You all kiss pretty ugly people and no one says nothing hahhaa go to sleep.”
One would assume from the previous comments that the video was well-received by all, but later, things started to heat up. If one wants to know the feeling of a particular community, it’s necessary to go directly to not only the people but also the activists of that community. Openly gay singer Mateus Carrilho also weighed in on the issue. Carrilho is featured in the song “Corpo Sensual” by Brazil’s most popular drag queen artist, Pabllo Vittar. Carrilho expressed his support for Borel in a tweet and was roundly criticized by the LGBT community.
The criticisms stem from a photo of Nego do Borel posing with controversial congressman Jair Bolsonaro that went viral. Being promoted as the “Brazilian Donald Trump” and a representative of the extreme right, the current front runner of the 2018 presidential election, Bolsonaro’s comments have long offended the black and LGBT communities as well as women. The logic here being, it would be a huge contradiction to promote oneself as a supporter of sexual diversity but also be a supporter of a politician who is staunchly anti-LGBT.
From there, the criticisms continued to escalate with some people accusing the artist of attempting to exploit the so-called “pink money”, in reference to the buying power of the LGBT community.
Farias: “look brito for me, both nego do borel and mateus carrilho can go, both are a disservice to the LGBTQ + community”
Kaiozinho: “MICO: DESPERATE FOR ATTENTION, NEGO DO BOREL KISSES A MAN IN A NEW CLIP. Bolsonaro’s supporter and desperate for pink money and attention, Nego Borel debuted a new clip, “Me Solta”, where he stereotypes gays and kisses a man. Here no more!”
Popular rapper Rico Dalasam, also gay, opined on the Borel video saying, “Let Nego Borel do what he wants with his guy, but may the idiocy to which he provides not come crossing truths constructed daily by so many people, visible and invisible!”
Like the comment by Kaio de la Cruz, others also argued that Borel’s video was a simple ploy to garner more media attention. YouTuber Spartakus Santiago didn’t take kindly to how Borel’s gay character came across as a bad joke.
Spartakus: “The effeminate black fag was always a joke. Dressing as a black fag and making more jokes is still not representative nor empowering. Empowerment is to put those who have always been silenced in a situation of power. Of respect. Empowerment is to seeing Liniker and Linn da Quebrada touring Europe. It’s not seeing a straight supporter of a homophobic candidate dressing up as a black fag to profit from pink money.”
And still another black gay activist, Murilo Araújo, defined the video as misogynistic:
Murilo Araújo: “I’d even agree with the idea that Nego do Borel is after pink money he was a deconstructed progressive ally in that video but he’s not even this. He’s just mocking us with our face. It’s homophobic and misogynist.”
Faced with an explosion of criticisms from the LGBT community, Nego do Borel finally stepped forward to attempt to weather the wave of negativity. In an interview with the UOL website, Borel said that he in fact didn’t vote for Congressman Bolsonaro and that the photo was a spur of the moment thing. “This photo was taken at a dinner that I was at, also at his son’s request. I don’t usually deny taking pictures with anyone,” said the funkster. Borel also revealed that he did the script himself and said that he was thinking about “something that would show that people could free themselves as the song says.” For him, the video represents “the freedom of being who I am.”
In terms of the infamous kiss in video, Borel also expressed his viewpoint: “I think the kiss scene served to really show the real purpose of the message.”
Popular singer Anitta also weighed in an attempt to support her friend and music partner. The song “Você Partiu Meu Coração”, which, besides the two, also features singer Wesley Safadão, was one of the biggest hits in Brazil last year and to date has garnered over 346 million views on YouTube.
Responding to a follower of her Instagram account, Anitta wrote:
“Hello my love. Thank you for your affection. But look … I understand that not everyone has the same understanding. As I said in the caption, Nego is a naive person who still needs to learn many things. I can’t help but love him for it. What I can do is instruct him whenever I see something that I think is wrong. And it’s up to him to follow or not. When you love someone, you always try to take them up. You don’t have to be ashamed. It doesn’t mean that I agree with EVERYTHING he does. It just means that I love him and I’ll be on his side in the success to clap and in the mistake to help him improve.”
She then quickly deleted the comment.
Considering the firestorm that Anitta received after her failure to issue a strong statement on the assassination of Rio councilwoman Marielle Franco several months ago, Anitta may be better off just staying out of issues of a political nature.
In terms of Nego do Borel, I’m happy to see the LGBT community step forward and call Borel out for a shameless attempt of exploiting a market for which he will surely has no intention of developing a genuine connection. His over the top antics and apparel in the video pander to the idea that there is only one type of homosexual, an issue which also applies to the black community. In some ways, this switch in image reminds me of legendary American rapper/producer Dr. Dre. In the 1980s, the image of Dre and his bandmates in the World Class Wrecking Crew was closer to something coming out of pop/funk meister Prince’s Minneapolis styled groups rather than the hardcore gangster that Dre would portray in later years as a part of the infamous west coast Hip Hop group NWA.
The fact is, according to 2010 and 2011 census stats of the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), homosexual couples in Brazil earn 30% more income than hetereosexual couples. In addition, according to the InSearch Tendências e Estudos de Mercado, the LGBT community annually moves about R$150 billion! Then there’s the annual Gay Parade in São Paulo that annually attracts about 3 million participants, meaning it is, if not THE biggest, one of the biggest of its kind in the world. Then there’s numerous victories of Brazil’s LGBT movement in recent years. There are more LGBT political candidates, with 2016 having the largest number of political candidates for city council and mayor in Brazil with 377. Then there’s the visibility factor in which we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of gay characters on Brazilian, as well as American TV, which has a strong viewership in Brazil. With all of these factors, is it not clear that an artist like Nego do Borel simply wants to ride the wave of a community that has made significant progress in recent years with the so-called “pink money” representing an enormous source of potential income for anyone who can form bounds and a trust with this demographic? I could be wrong of course, but I doubt it.
It just goes to show that, in popular music, artists will sway, (or would that be sashay?) to whatever rhythm that the almighty dollar, well, in this case real, leads them. And Nego do Borel’s new video seems to confirm what his intentions really are.