Let’s start with a few info about Brazil: it is a country (a huge country) in South America, with an area of 8,515,767 km2 (5th country, 3,287,597 sq mi), 9.198 km of coast, with a population of 201,032,714 (5th), who speaks Portuguese. Its capital is Brasília (no, it is NOT Buenos Aires). Brazil has all sorts of terrains and vegetations, from tropical sun to snow in the winter, its fauna and flora are among the richest in the world. The Amazon rainforest is there and it is the largest producer of soy in the world. This year, 2014, Brazil will host the World Cup of Soccer (henceforth, Copa). That is where the problem starts.
Hosting a Copa is a chance to get everything right, to clear issues and problems, and to gain visibility and influence. It seems, however, that the organizers in Brazil cannot understand this simple statement, and are making one mistake after another in preparing for this Copa. To become the world leader Brazil wants to be, there are some local mind frames to be changed, in order to influence via soft power.
Nevertheless, what is soft power? “The definition of soft power has been closely linked with Joseph Nye, Jr. (1990, 2002) who first coined this term. Despite Nye’s concept’s popularity, current power scholarship is still divided about the nature of power. Some scholars see capabilities (Singer, 1963) as the most important factor and others see is as a behavior outcome (Nye 2002, 2004, 2011). Nye (2011, p.11) built his concept as a behavior outcome, or as he calls it “relational power concept” on the multiple faces of power. As power literature has developed, so did Nye’s initial definition of soft power. Earlier versions of Nye’s soft power definition were: “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payment” (Nye, 2004, p. x) which included “culture, values and foreign policies” (Nye, 2004, p. 11). Later, Nye extended his definition into “the ability to affect others through the co-optive means of framing the agenda, persuading, and eliciting positive attraction in order to obtain preferred outcomes (2011, p.20-21)” While further developing his concept of soft power, Nye (2002, 2004, 2011) has been focusing on the outcome of soft power.” (Source: “What is soft power capability and how does it impact foreign policy? by Judit Trunkos, PhD Student-Prospectus Proposal University of South Carolina. January 6, 2013).
In many aspects, Brazil is wasting a perfect opportunity to enhance and spread its soft power. Airports still chaotic at two months from the opening game, stadiums’ renovation/construction with severe issues and delays, lack of infrastructure, just to mention a few. And I am not even talking about the violence “make-up” for the Copa and the Olympics, in 2016.
All that said to talk about the official song of the Copa, just released. In general, there are two or three ‘official’ songs for events this type, some even informal that takes over a commissioned one. Since soft power is spread through culture and language as well, I am especially shocked with the official song for the 2014 World Cup. It certainly is in some contract, and I ask myself how the Brazilian World Cup committee could agree with this.
First, the music sounds ‘familiar’, like a cartoon movie's theme made in USA. Second, from three stanzas, the stanza sang in Portuguese is the last one. Third, Pitbull, in the common I-know-nothing-about-South America style, uses Spanish in his first stanza (mi mundo, su mundo, el mundo de nosotros...) and J. Lo, the second singer, also says a few words in her native Spanish. Lastly, Claudia Leitte, Brazilian singer with a powerful voice, sings three or four lines in Portuguese in the very last stanza.
The tune is catching, sure is, but what matters here is that the soft power of the country was thrown away in a very, very, very good opportunity to place Portuguese out there, to establish the language, to influence. The song is in English, mostly! Then, the ancient confusion between Portuguese-Spanish is there again (Do you speak Spanish? – a given Brazilian abroad heard that at least once), and the language of the country is in the very last stanza: should be the first or second (let’s say they were convinced the English would attract more people), Portuguese still should be the second, the hosting country, then Spanish to round up a big critical mass. Someone should have corrected Pitbull in his Spanish utterances into Portuguese. It would be, at least, very polite.
Music is a very powerful expression of a culture, of a national identity and pride. When a country in such prominent position allows an official song to be made with language and beats of another country, something is terribly wrong and sends a wrong message to the world. A chance to exercise soft power is lost. Am I the only one to feel this way?
See the song here: http://youtu.be/9W3sWiZ-iO8
Check out article on Slate Magazine.