Brazilian Pop Stars Are Praising God with Their Voices. What About with Their Hearts?

As Brazilian gospel music’s popularity soars, artists with little Christian background are releasing worship songs. Does it matter why?

“Dwell in me, Jesus,” sings Ana Castela in “Agradeço” (I Thank You), a single the 20-year-old Brazilian pop star released in December. The lyrics resemble words that evangelical congregations sing in contemporary church services across the country: “I surrender, I trust, I accept, and I thank you.”

Castela emerged on Brazil’s music scene two years ago and is also known as “the Boiadeira” (Cowgirl), the title of her first hit, which features lyrics like, “She gave up wine for beer, the preppy girl became a cowgirl.” The majority of her music focuses on relationships, betrayals, and drinking (themes common in sertanejo, a local genre that somewhat resembles American country music).

Though she grew up Catholic and occasionally sang at evangelical youth services as a teenager, Castela broke into the industry as a mainstream pop star. “Agradeço” is her first Christian single as a solo artist. (It also marked the debut of Agropraise, a Christianized branch of the sertanejo label Agromusic.)

The Boiadeira is one of an increasing number of mainstream artists crossing into the Christian market and debuting gospel and worship tracks over the past decade. In 2022, Simone, from the sertanejo duo Simone and Simaria, sang “Sobre as Águas”(Over the Water) with Christian contemporary artist Davi Sacer. In 2021, forró singer Wesley Safadão performed with the band Casa Worship in “Deus tem um plano” (God Has a Plan). In 2018, pop singer Luan Santana and the CCM duo Marcos & Belutti recorded versions of well-known gospel songs.

Since 2015, Brazilian gospel music—gospel referring in this context to …

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