Nicknamed the “Queen of Suffering” for her lovelorn lyrics about unfaithful partners, breakups, and romantic longing, Brazilian country music idol Marília Mendonça’s repertoire went far beyond catchy tear-jerking ballads. With her booming yet pristine and limitless contralto voice, singing about themes often overlooked in Brazil’s male-dominated sertanejo country music scene, she helped spearhead a revolution in Brazilian popular music.
Her tragic death on Friday afternoon left the country shaken. On her way to a concert in the small Minas Gerias town of Caratinga, her charter plane crashed, killing all five people aboard. She leaves behind an infant son and legions of devoted fans.
For decades, the biggest Brazilian sertanejo artists were all men. Lyrics to the biggest hits were often dismissive of female agency or just downright offensive, portraying women as money-grabbing objects of sexual conquest, and glorifying male infidelity.
Marília Mendonça, and some of her peers, were different. In her songs, she preached the importance of female independence and sorority, while still portraying the pain of romantic disappointment.
And, perhaps most importantly, her music brought women in as the protagonists of sertanejo. No longer were they portrayed as objects of desire, unwitting cuckqueans, or “crazy” and unreasonable partners. With Mendonça’s perspective, women could also have desire, they could also make mistakes, and they could also feel hurt or wronged. A sense of agency best depicted by her hit song “Todo Mundo Vai Sofrer” (Everyone is Going to Suffer):
“The one I want, doesn’t want me,
The one who wants me, I don’t want,
No-one will suffer alone,
Everyone is going to suffer”
Marília Mendonça was buried on Saturday in her hometown of Goiánia, after a public tribute which gathered throngs of grieving fans and celebrities. While she will be sorely missed, her legacy is alive and well and will remain as such for years to come.