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When she left the Carnaval group Banda Eva to go solo in 1999 she was already one of the country’s biggest stars.

But her brand of Carnaval-inspired dance-pop, known as axe (pronounced ah-SHAY’), isn’t what U.S. listeners usually think of as Brazilian music, and her audience tends to be concentrated among teenagers and twenty-somethings looking for a chance to hook up.

Her lyrics express the irrepressible optimism of youth, and her sound is a world away from the cool, cerebral bossa nova of Joao Gilberto or the smooth sounds of Caetano Veloso and Marisa Monte, all of whom are better known in the United States, even if Sangalo outsells them all at home.

As many as 5,000 fans had been expected to fly in from Brazil for the show, organizers say.

So despite all the conquering America swagger, Sangalo’s intent is actually something entirely different: The Garden show was mainly intended to serve as a backdrop for her new DVD and a TV special to be broadcast in Brazil in December.

“They want a packed house and want to say ‘we’ve sold out Madison Square Garden’ and they’ve probably achieved that through various other means than from straight ahead ticket sales,’” says Gene de Souza, development director of the nonprofit Rhythm Foundation, who promoted Sangalo’s Miami show.

In Miami, with a larger Brazilian population, Sangalo sold only 6,500 of the 7,000 seats put up for sale, de Souza said, in an arena where Britney Spears was able to pack in 18,500 fans.

On Saturday night Sangalo appeared well aware of her target audience, addressing the crowd as “Brazil” and dedicating the show to Brazilians living abroad.

Her only nods to local audiences were covers of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and Lionel Richie’s “Easy” and a duet with Nelly Furtado, in which her English sounded good with only a slight accent.

She also reached out to the Spanish-speaking audiences, performing duets with Colombian superstar Juanes and Argentina’s Diego Torres, but the warmest applause was reserved for Brazilian guests like Seu Jorge and fellow axe star Netinho, who appeared, briefly transforming the 25-minute-long encore into a mini-version of Carnaval.

“I didn’t come with the objective to transforming anything or parting the waters for Brazilian music or anything like that,” Sangalo said before the show. “I am a popular singer for the masses, and I will continue to be one, and this is my greatest pleasure.”

(This version CORRECTS typo in expatriate in long headline.)