RIO DE JANEIRO -- The crowd gathering Saturday was a typical Rio Carnival mix: a sprinkling of superheroes, girls in cute bunny outfits, zombies and princesses, a group of hairy-chested hula dancers.

But the sound sure wasn't samba. "You and I must make a pact," a high-pitched voice sang in English, soaring above the crowd. "We must bring salvation back."

The Michael Jackson themed "Thriller Eletrico" street party was one of a handful adding a dash of hard rock, Motown, Latin rhythms and other eclectic beats to the samba sounds associated with Brazil's wild Carnival celebrations, even if they include a season-appropriate jolt of percussion in their renditions.

Those who showed up for the Jackson "bloco," as the street bands and their followers are known, came prepared to celebrate their icon: There were white gloves in the crowd, along with sequined fedoras, wigs and get-ups representing the artist in various phases of his long career.

"I'm a huge MJ fan," said Marjorie Lopes, dancing near the stage as the band launched into "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough." "Now, mixing it up with samba, you can't ask for more!"

Tony Swaine, a flushed Irish visitor in a rather rumpled Bumble Bee outfit, was particularly appreciative of being able to sing along with the band.

The day before, he'd marched through a marathon of four blocos in which, as is typical, Brazilian partyers bellowed out the lyrics of decades-old Portuguese-language tunes they've known their whole lives while foreigners smiled and bobbed their heads, unable to join in.

"It was still fun," he said. "But here I can at least sing along."

Another rock-oriented group, "Sargento Pimenta," drew 60,000 revelers to a waterfront park last year for a Beatles homage, even if most of Rio is still dancing to the standard Carnival beat. One of the most respected traditional bands, the "Cordao do Bola Preta," drew about 2. 4 million revelers to downtown Saturday morning.

In a different city plaza earlier this week, other foreigners – the Uruguayans Maximiliano Duarte, who lives in Rio, and Luciana Vaccotti, who visits regularly – watched a new bloco group named for the Mexican classic "Besame Mucho" wind up its set with a bass-drum-heavy version of the Cuban anthem `Guantanamera'.

Playing around with tradition is very much in the Carnival spirit, said Vaccotti.

"It's a re-appropriation of Carnival by people who come from other places and want do this in their own way," she said.

Mexican-born Osvaldo Jimenez Farias, who is completing his doctorate in physics in Rio de Janeiro, agreed. He was one of the founders of "Besame Mucho", which also includes members from Puerto Rico, Colombia, the United States, Argentina, and Uruguay.

Their set is just as diverse as the band, including classics familiar to anyone in Latin America, or with at least a few Spanish classes under their belt: the Mexican folk tunes "Cielito Lindo" and "La Bamba" and the Argentinian hit "El Matador" by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, among others.

"We're foreigners, but we're part of this city," he said. "The idea is to be part of this very Brazilian party, while recognizing that we also have something we can contribute."

The "carna-rock" band Bloco Cru also brings something new to the party. Lead singer Lu Baratz grew up in Rio but always had a rock-and-roll streak. She'd listen to The Clash, Iron Maiden, Metallica, but with "Brazilian ears," she explained.

"I'd hear rock and roll with tambourines, `Brazilianized,'" she said. "I also knew other people who identified more with rock and other rhythms. So I decided to take AC/DC out for Carnival."

She debuted that cocktail in Rio's streets five years ago, and found a home among the hordes of locals hungry for something less traditional.

"It attracts all kinds of tribes," she said. "It's what Carnival is about, isn't it?"

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  • A dancer from the X-9 Paulistana samba school performs during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • A couple dressed as clowns participate in the "Cordao da Bola Preta" street carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. According to Rio's tourism office, Rio's street Carnival this year will consist of 492 block parties, attended by an estimated five million Carnival enthusiasts. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • A dancer from the Aguia de Ouro samba school performs on a float during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • BRAZIL-RIO-CARNIVAL-BOLA PRETA

    An impersonator of US Presidente Barack Obama takes part in the 'Cordao do Bola Preta' traditional carnival band parade along Rio Branco avenue, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 9, 2013. Carnival was under way in Rio on Saturday with millions set to take to the streets for days of rowdy, joyous parades and festivities, bringing the nation to a halt for its annual wild party. Nearly 800,000 Brazilian and foreign tourists were expected join Rio's six million residents in the celebrations, whose climax comes on Sunday and Monday with the city's top samba schools putting on their extravagant processions led by sexy dancing queens. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A pregnant dancer from the X-9 Paulistana samba school performs during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • Revelers in costumes meant to resemble a military tank, one pointing a toy gun and another wearing a mask in the likeness of Osama bin Laden, perform during the "Ceu na Terra" block carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. According to Rio's tourism office, Rio's street Carnival this year will consist of 492 block parties, attended by an estimated five million Carnival enthusiasts. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

  • A reveler holds a frame depicting a front page of National Geographic magazine during "Ceu na Terra" block carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. According to Rio's tourism office, Rio's street Carnival this year will consist of 492 block parties, attended by an estimated five million Carnival enthusiasts. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

  • BRAZIL-RIO-CARNIVAL-BOLA PRETA

    Revellers -- one (C) in a Michael Jackson costume -- take part in the 'Cordao do Bola Preta' traditional carnival band parade along Rio Branco avenue, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 9, 2013. Carnival was under way in Rio on Saturday with millions set to take to the streets for days of rowdy, joyous parades and festivities, bringing the nation to a halt for its annual wild party. Nearly 800,000 Brazilian and foreign tourists were expected join Rio's six million residents in the celebrations, whose climax comes on Sunday and Monday with the city's top samba schools putting on their extravagant processions led by sexy dancing queens. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Dancers from the Dragoes da Real samba school perform on a float during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • Revelers dressed as arcade character Mario Bros dance during the "Cordao da Bola Preta" street carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. According to Rio's tourism office, Rio's street Carnival this year will consist of 492 block parties, attended by an estimated five million Carnival enthusiasts. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • Dancers from the Dragoes da Real samba school perform during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • A dancer from the Aguia de Ouro samba school performs during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • Revelers dressed as cat-woman joke as they pose for photos during the "Cordao da Bola Preta" street carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. According to Rio's tourism office, Rio's street Carnival this year will consist of 492 block parties, attended by an estimated five million Carnival enthusiasts. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • A dancer from the Aguia de Ouro samba school performs during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • A man dressed as Argentina's soccer player Lionel Messi, right, participates of the "Ceu na Terra" block carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. According to Rio's tourism office, Rio's street Carnival this year will consist of 492 block parties, attended by an estimated five million Carnival enthusiasts. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

  • Children from the Vai-Vai samba school perform during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • A dancer from the Vai-Vai samba school performs during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • A dancer from the Vai-Vai samba school performs during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

  • Drummers from the Mancha Verde samba school perform during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

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    A reveller of Academicos do Tatuape samba school performs performs atop a float during the first night of Carnival parades at Sao Paulo on February 08, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Nelson ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-RIO-CARNIVAL-BOLA PRETA

    Revellers take part in the 'Cordao do Bola Preta' traditional carnival band parade along Rio Branco avenue, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 9, 2013. Carnival was under way in Rio on Saturday with millions set to take to the streets for days of rowdy, joyous parades and festivities, bringing the nation to a halt for its annual wild party. Nearly 800,000 Brazilian and foreign tourists were expected join Rio's six million residents in the celebrations, whose climax comes on Sunday and Monday with the city's top samba schools putting on their extravagant processions led by sexy dancing queens. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-CARNIVAL-SAO PAULO-PARADE

    Revellers of Vai-vai samba school perform during the first night of Carnival parades at Sao Paulo on February 09, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Nelson ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-CARNIVAL-SAO PAULO-PARADE

    Revellers of Vai-vai samba school perform during the first night of Carnival parades at Sao Paulo on February 09, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Nelson ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-CARNIVAL-SAO PAULO-PARADE

    A reveller of Vai-vai samba school performs during the first night of Carnival parades at Sao Paulo on February 09, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Nelson ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-CARNIVAL-SAO PAULO-PARADE

    Revellers of X-9 Paulistana samba school perform atop a float during the first night of Carnival parades at Sao Paulo on February 09, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Nelson ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-RIO-CARNIVAL-BOLA PRETA

    Revellers take part in the 'Cordao do Bola Preta' traditional carnival band parade along Rio Branco avenue, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 9, 2013. Carnival was under way in Rio on Saturday with millions set to take to the streets for days of rowdy, joyous parades and festivities, bringing the nation to a halt for its annual wild party. Nearly 800,000 Brazilian and foreign tourists were expected join Rio's six million residents in the celebrations, whose climax comes on Sunday and Monday with the city's top samba schools putting on their extravagant processions led by sexy dancing queens. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-RIO-CARNIVAL-BOLA PRETA

    Revellers take part in the 'Cordao do Bola Preta' traditional carnival band parade along Rio Branco avenue, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 9, 2013. Carnival was under way in Rio on Saturday with millions set to take to the streets for days of rowdy, joyous parades and festivities, bringing the nation to a halt for its annual wild party. Nearly 800,000 Brazilian and foreign tourists were expected join Rio's six million residents in the celebrations, whose climax comes on Sunday and Monday with the city's top samba schools putting on their extravagant processions led by sexy dancing queens. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-RIO-CARNIVAL-BOLA PRETA

    Revellers take part in the 'Cordao do Bola Preta' traditional carnival band parade along Rio Branco avenue, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 9, 2013. Carnival was under way in Rio on Saturday with millions set to take to the streets for days of rowdy, joyous parades and festivities, bringing the nation to a halt for its annual wild party. Nearly 800,000 Brazilian and foreign tourists were expected join Rio's six million residents in the celebrations, whose climax comes on Sunday and Monday with the city's top samba schools putting on their extravagant processions led by sexy dancing queens. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRAZIL-CARNIVAL-SAO PAULO-PARADE

    A reveller from Academicos do Tatuape samba school performs during the first night of carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Sao Paulo,Brazil, on February 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO/YASUYOSHI CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A reveler poses for photos during the "Cordao da Bola Preta" street carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. According to Rio's tourism office, Rio's street Carnival this year will consist of 492 block parties, attended by an estimated five million Carnival enthusiasts. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)