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Tom Zé's Unsong and the Fate of the Tropicália Movement

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This essay takes as its starting point the variety and multiplicity of artistic projects of the Tropicália movement in the late fifties in Brazil, in order to understand the aims of Tom Zé's unsong. The text highlights some of the main features of Tropicália, showing it to have had several sides and internal contradictions, the greatest of which being the fact that it was a vanguard movement at the same time that it was part of mass culture. From this initial contradiction, two possibilities present themselves: the ever deeper penetration of song into the logic of the culture industry, and the insistence on the vanguardist impulse of the movement. Tom Zé followed the second path, bringing about innovations that ultimately deconstruct the very idea of the Brazilian popular song. This difficult kind of song, which ostracized Tom Zé in the 70s and 80s, is described at some length.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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