With fans’ loyalty assured, Mercury is experimenting with purer musical forms. Her electropop sound is mostly gone. On a 2016 tour she even stripped her hits to voice and acoustic guitar, revealing the poetry that was sometimes overpowered by the beats.
Meanwhile, she keeps courting controversy, sometimes unexpectedly. Last December she released a video, “Pantera Negra Deusa” (“Black Panther Goddess”), of a song she wrote with her son, Gabriel Póvoas. Mercury sings of “The only race/The human race,” adding: “Brazil is black/And white is black/And the Indian is black.” She later sings, “The beauty and sounds of infinity are from Africa.”
Weeks later, Larissa Luz, a young black singer and actress from Salvador, made angry accusations of cultural appropriation. Luz announced to her cheering fans: “Whoever is black is black. Whoever isn’t, isn’t. This music is ours!” While she named no names, internet writers tagged Mercury as the target of those statements, which Luz denied.
Contacted last week, Vovô, who appears in Mercury’s 2018 video, defended her. “Daniela is a partner, a sister, a friend,” he said. “To do things with her bolsters our culture and our fight against intolerance and prejudice.”
On the phone, Mercury discussed the matter sympathetically. “I am privileged because I was never discriminated against based on my color or my hair,” she said. “I am an ally in the fight against racism for over 40 years and will continue to be.”
In all such conflicts, she said, she strives to stay cool. Her work, after all, is about achieving oneness. “I have the spirit of a diplomat,” she said. “I’ve always preferred a dialogue with all sides. The problem is never only government; it’s society. But we need to talk about this in an educated manner. To fight in a civilized way. Anything else is brutality.”
Sept. 17 at Sony Hall in Manhattan; sonyhall.com.