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Not So “Happy” In Brazil

April 24, 2014

How some social crusaders used Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” to satirize life in the South American country.

Pharrell Williams HappyPharrell Williams, has been a highly regarded producer, songwriter, and performer in more than a decade, but “Happy” marks his first solo #1 hit. Even that took a while—”Happy” first topped the charts in March, although it was prominently featured in last summer’s Despicable Me 2.

The song’s uplifting lyrics and catchy tune have made it a hit all over the world, helped along by a video that shows regular people, celebrities, and the Minions from Despicable Me 2 dancing in the street, and lip-syncing the lyrics. Hundreds of parodies, tributes, and localized versions have since been made and shared around the world.

Perhaps the most notable “Happy” take is the one that isn’t about happiness at all. In order to draw attention to the urban decay and not-quite-lackluster living conditions in Brazil, host of this summer’s World Cup, activists Leticia Bastos and Amanda Abreu recruited students from Pontifica Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Sul for a pitch-perfect parody of “Happy” called “Porto (Unhappy).” The students dance around locations in the city of Porto Alegre—a packed bus, amidst heavy traffic, and especially around unfinished construction sites. One of those is the still-in-the-works Beiro-Rio Stadium, which is supposed to host early rounds of the World Cup…in just a few weeks. (A stadium in Brasilia is on standby should this, or one of the other stadiums in the country that also aren’t ready, not be built in time.)

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