Fiercely Independent and Entrepreneurial…Introducing LiLo!

LiLo- Te Quiero Confesar

After being in the music industry for a while now, I can see why so many industry insiders and journalists become so jaded when new talent comes by, especially if they’re coming to you in person delivering their dreams and hopes encased in the form of a CD.

The music industry has changed drastically; as a matter of fact, it was in the midst of a major metamorphosis when I came into the scene back in the late 90’s. Digital music was becoming a threat to an old fashioned recording industry that resisted the wave of a changing time and failed to catch that wave and ride it with the likes of iTunes and other downloading sites when it had a chance to be a driving force in that new era.  Instead of welcoming it, it turned its back on it, consequently affecting the livelihood of thousands of people involved in making music; from the writers, engineers and musicians, to the marketing, operations and sales staff at the record labels.

Fast forward to the 2000’s, the era of digital music downloading, where music is still king, but distribution is actually god!  Like in TV newsrooms, where journalists have become a one-person shop, acting as reporter, sound and light engineer, producer and sometimes even camera operator, recording artists today, at least the indy ones, are basically their own record labels; they’re the CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s, marketing gurus and PR directors of their own brand, themselves!

And this is how I met LiLo!  We met at an industry event in late September at The Grove in Los Angeles, and we sat together at this breakfast, sponsored by Hispanicize 2013.  It was early in the morning on a Saturday. I was hungry, a bit hungover and tired, so the last thing I wanted to do was be pitched by a new artist.

But, unlike many anxious and nervous new artists, LiLo was the exception, not the rule to this industry pattern exhibited by the juniors, the beginners.  LiLo, stage name for the singer song writer Linda Lopez (originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco but raised in the City of Angels), actually had a great conversation with me about everything other than her music; I didn’t even know she was a recording artist. It was not until we said our goodbyes, that she presented me, to my pleasant surprise, with a copy of “Te quiero confesar,” her debut album, which she produced and recorded independently in Mexico City a year-and-a-half ago under the Mexican indy label Class Music.

Talk about a BAM moment.  It was that element of surprise and intrigue that captured my attention, and my interest in discovering this singer-songwriter’s music as soon as I got in my car.  If first impressions matter, LiLo hit a home run in my book.  I popped in the CD, and I must say, I was captivated by her sound instantly. I have not been able to put it down since!

“Te quiero confesar” as she puts it in her website, is “half personal diary, half sonic experiment” and this couldn’t be more accurate.  The album is a collection of 10 tracks, masterfully produced by Jose Tajonar, with 9 tracks written by LiLo and Tajonar, with the exception of a fabulous Spanish rendition of Blondie’s “Call Me.”  A bit pop rock, a bit rock with a splash of electro pop at times, “Te quiero confesar” is charged with an honesty and sensibility that only an indy artist can get away with.  Lilo show’s her vulnerability not only in her emotional range, but also in her vocal transparency and awesome diversity.

The first single, which is my favorite of the entire album is “Estupida no soy,” a heart-wrenching tale of a love gone wrong and the reality of an infidelity uncovered.  The lyrics by Jose Maria Ruiz are sickening (in a very positive and flattering way of course), fueled by LiLo’s passionate rendition and vocal range; in my opinion, the crown jewel of the entire album.

But LiLo doesn’t stop there.  Listening to “Te quiero confesar” is truly a journey, a roller coaster of emotions that take you from melancholy in tracks like “Sola” and “Da igual” to very cool soft pop rock tracks like “Si te vas” and “Por amor”.  And if you didn’t think her indy spirit and songwriting talent was fierce enough, try garnering your own sponsorship deals to expand your own music’s exposure, as she did with “Cuentos de radio,” (electro-pop track reminiscent of LaRoux, and another favorite of mine) which served as the anthem for the Nike campaign Nosotras Corremos, a run in Mexico City in 2011 that attracted 8 million people, or the hot track “Mr. Hollywood,” which is featured in MTV’s Popland… both deals organized and closed by LiLo herself!

New artists come and go.  Few are the ones with a permanent quality.  LiLo is the NEW, NOW and NEXT recording artist.  The fiercely independent artist that has transcended the “dream” stage and has taken her dream, her music and her talent to the goal-setting track.  She’s on a path to stardom because she not only wants it badly, she was born to do this and it shows in her music and her strategy of making things happen on her own.

Make no mistake, LiLo is no dreamer.  She has talent, beauty, vision, a voice to boot, and a business savvy virtue rivaled only by the likes of JLo and PitBull.

If you’re a fan of good Spanish pop, than LiLo delivers the good and does not disappoint!

La López and Iglesias: Beauty and the Grunge?

Enrique and JLo
Enrique Iglesias and JLo Concert Poster

OK, so I recently went to see Ms. JLo and Enrique Iglesias (uh, yeah, awkward combo) at the Staples Center in LA Live in Downtown LA.  I know money moves the world and concerts are no exception to this very well-known fact, but to pair the Diva of Glam with the pseudo grungy crooner of Enrique Iglesias was confusing at best and disturbing at worst.  If pop stars are king, then concert promoters are god, and this concert evidenced this sentiment.

Mind you, I admire both pop stars tremendously and have been following their careers since they both hatched in the constellation of celebridom (yeah, I just made that one up!).

While I truly admire Enrique Iglesias and his commercial pop style, I feel that he keeps on serving the same old tired shtick.  Come on, dress up a little, look like a pop star not like a typical urban college student… you’re passed that age Enrique.  I mean, Beto Cuevas, former La Ley frontman, looks like a rock star, exuding sensuality and passion with every lick of his lips, every pelvic movement and every note that comes out of his gifted voice.  I’m not proposing Enrique becomes someone he’s not, but he has to step it up a tad and really exude the fact that he is a global Latin pop star, so I say, act and look like one.

Enrique’s show has not changed much since I saw him 10 years ago, when he was dabbling into the world of English pop with Bailamos.  Yes, to his credit, he’s extremely connected to his audience, but the same routine gets a bit old and quite predictable.  You know what I’m talking about, the invitation of the gay guy on stage, who he flirts with and romances with a song, making it very clear that he’s as straight as an arrow and of course, the obligatory overweight female fan who forever makes out with him on stage and disappears with him under stage after he makes her feel like she’s the only girl in the world!

It’s all good and fun, but after seeing Enrique three times, you wonder if he’s just a one-trick pony.  I sure hope not, because he’s talented to boot and has music that still resonates with a growing, multigenerational, cross-cultural and cross gender fan base.

On the other hand, La López delivers what fans expect of her, glamour, fierceness, fashion, divaesque choreographies and entertainment galore. To expect JLo to belt out a soprano note and not crack is like expecting the Second Coming of Christ announced a day before on the cover of the New York Times, so haters, leave Ms. JLo alone!  Jeez Louise.  She’s a global brand, and entertainer who ran with her assets and learned to exploit them; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  If you want Liza with a Z or Barbra Streisand, then go buy tickets for their shows.  JLo is now, and she’s also 2020, not 1970, so don’t get it twisted.

JLo and Enrique Iglesias Concert Poster

To say that I enjoyed JLo’s performance would be a gross understatement.  The woman delivered in every aspect.  Her performance was a little Broadway with a splash of Vegas extravaganza eleganza!  The highlights of the night were her ability to captivate the audience with her sensual moves, including the 29 second ode to her posterior wiggle.  But aside from the upbeat rhythms of her repertoire, she was able to take it back to her beloved Bronx in a hip hop medley that is reminiscent of her notorious Puff Daddy past.  But a great slow interlude was her slow jam of  Until It Beats No More, which she basically dedicates to her children in a video montage that is quite sincere and emotional.

But for her dance fans, JLo did not disappoint and she brought her music videos to life in tracks like Papi, Waiting for Tonight, On The Floor, Dance Again and the grand finale track Follow The Leader with her fellow Boricuas Wisin and Yandel, which pretty much brought the house down and was the perfect close to a night of glitter, sensual hip/booty gyrations and a global icon who just happens to be one of ours…Latina de corazon.
So for all that it’s worth, let’s be proud of our Latino global stars and support them so that they may continue shining in that Hollywood constellation for many, many years to come.  Viva Puerto Rico!

Latinos, and Asians, and Blacks…Oh My!

Vivan Los Mejicas: A truly versatile and multiculturally diverse dance ensemble like no other!

Los Mejicas @ 40th Anniversary Spring Show

Where to begin? or better yet, how to begin this piece? For the second year in a row, and thanks to the gracious invitation of my dear niece Erica Mendoza Cortés, a junior at the gorgeous campus of UC Santa Cruz, I’ve made the road pilgrimage up north from Los Angeles with my sister and other family members to see her perform in the university’s one and only Ballet Folklorico Los Mejicas!

Formed in 1972, this year marked the organization’s 40th anniversary, a feat all on its own, and quite a special reunion for some of the alumni of the group, who came back to either cheer the current members and enjoy the 3-hour long show, or even join in a very emotional and special Jalisco performance (alumni from years past, which dated to an impressive class of ’73, Guadalupe Friaz and Deborah Palacios Perez to some more recent alumni from 2011).

Ay Jalisco no te rajes!

While several universities across the country, I’m sure, have Mexican or Latin American folk groups, I must admit, seeing Los Mejicas perform makes knots in my throat and makes me very proud to see a newer generation of Latinos and non Latinos keeping traditional Mexican folklore “a flor de piel,” in other words, alive and kicking!

To say that Los Mejicas are great is truly an understatement, and while they are no Ballet Folklorico de Amalia Hernández, Mexico’s world-renowned, elite national folklorico dance company, Los Mejicas certainly put passion, soul and countless hours of rehearsals in the midst of their academic demands and scholastic responsibilities.  To see Los Mejicas is just as rewarding as seeing Amalia’s company… why? Because, not only are these students volunteering to perform, some with no previous dance experience, but you can tell in their performance and their faces, their pride in being part of something truly special. And to be honest, call me sheltered, I had never seen a ballet folklorico mexicano with an African-American or an Asian face, which to my pleasant surprise was part of Los Mejicas fabric and composition; basically it’s in their DNA, and that my friends, is what makes this group brilliant and unique!

The annual spring show is a journey through some key states of the United States of Mexico (Mexico’s official name); a journey into the customs, and rich cultural and musical diversity found in a country predominantly defined by its iconic Mayan and Aztec heritage and tumultuous history.  One thing Los Mejicas do superbly well is not only entertain, but also educate those who are lucky to go see them perform. The program details in a concise manner each region that they perform, giving the spectator a much better understanding of what it is they’re about to see.

This year the show highlighted some typical and expected Mexican staples, such as Jalisco, Veracruz and Chiapas, but also served on a silver platter lesser known dances from states like Yucatán, Guerrero, Aguascalientes, Sonora and Baja California.

Photo by Rebecca Mendoza

One thing I’d like to suggest, and the only constructive criticism to Los Mejicas is that whoever is producing the show needs to edit and filter out some of the excesses that make the show drag a bit too long.  Los Mejicas are good enough on their own to carry out the show without guest performances by singer interludes (which by the way, unless they’re coming out with a full Mariachi ensemble, should probably not be singing rancheras to a Karaoke mariachi track- I’m just sayin’) or have lower caliber and lackluster dance groups, such as Grupo de Danza y Baile Centeotl de Santa Cruz (major YAWN), who by the way, in my opinion, over extended their stay by performing 3, 4 or 5 numbers that were practically killing an audience who was desperate to continue watching the high-energy and passionate performances of Los Mejicas, the stars of the night.  Remember, less is more and what are you told to do before you leave your house? Look at yourself in the mirror and take one or two things that first catch your eye in the mirror… in Los Mejicas case, the two aforementioned numbers and the introductory narration done for each region before each number… hey, we have the program, so no need to eat time from your amazing performance. All in all, Los Mejicas folklorico company, because that’s what they are, are a fun bunch to watch, applaud and commend for their hard work, selfless dedication and effort to include all races to experience the wonders, and magic of Mexican folklore.  Keep up the good work ladies and gents… your hard work did not go unnoticed, and probably never will!

MariaJosé se viste de joyas prestadas!

La bella y talentosa ex Kabah, MaríaJosé vuelve a deleitar a los ochenteros con una segunda producción musical bañada de clásicos de los ochenta en Amante de lo Bueno, que van desde versiones actualizadas en tributo a María del Sol, Rocío Banquells, Daniela Romo y Yuri, entre otras.

Yuri

La neta que la Josa sabe seleccionar sus temas y sabe a quién brindarle honor al volver a grabar rolas que en su época fueron éxitos totales.  Con toques medio rockeros, que no dejan de lado sus orígenes poperos, la Josa nos entrega una grabación digna de escuchar, pues a pesar de que son temas que realmente son difíciles de superar, esta ex Kabah se las ha ingeniado para preservar la integridad nostálgica de los ochenta sin tener que hacer una copia exacta ni comprometer su estilo propio, brindando así al público su propia interpretación y su propio sello singular en cada pincelada vocal del disco.

Daniela Romo

Lo que más me gusta de la Josa, aparte de su calidad vocal y ese gran rango que tiene en los matices de su voz, es el uso de la guitarra eléctrica en temas como La ocasión para amarnos de Daniela Romo o No soy una Muñeca de la inolvidable villana de la telenovela Bianca Vidal, Rocío Banquells. Y bueno, la versión rockera de Este amor ya no se toca de Yuri, es realmente una de mis joyas prestadas favoritas de este disco. Y si eres de los que prefiere una rola más tranqui, pues la Josa no defrauda y nos entrega su versión en pop de la clásica Completamente tuya de Marisela, donde el coro resalta tanto por su maravillosa voz, como la instrumentación y producción muy particular y que realmente le hace justicia a una rola que jamás te hubiéses imaginado de otra manera fuera de como la cantó en su momento la maravillosa e inolvidable Marisela.

Marisela

El disco lo cierra con el tema Corazón encadenado, sin duda alguna, uno de los temas más recordados de la época y que en 1985 fue un rotundo éxito radial mundial de Lani Hall y Camilo Sesto.

La Josa

Ahora, la pregunta del millón es, será que MaríaJosé está lista y dispuesta a crear éxitos propios para que en 20 años nuevos talentos le rindan homenaje a ella?  Tengo la certeza de que así será, pues de las Kabahs, la Josa siempre destacó y hoy por hoy es la única que se ha desenvuelto y prosperado como solista.  Así que Josa, esperamos que tu próxima producción, por más amante de lo bueno y lo ajeno que seas, sea un álbum inédito que siga alimentando tu éxito artístico y que te siga consolidando como una de las mejores voces juveniles de la actualidad en el pop en español.  Porque en 20 años, las otras te estarán brindando homenajes a ti y bien merecido lo tendrás. Tu luz seguirá brillando mientras sigas cantando!

Sobrenatural, así es Gloria!

Gloria Trevi

En la Gloria! Si, así se es como se siente Gloria Trevi en este 2011.  No solo por su nueva producción que lleva ese mismo nombre, y no Gloria por ella, no, que quede claro que el tituló de su última producción es en honor a su madre, cuya fuerza e instintos felinos han siempre ayudado a Gloria Trevi a sobrevivir los obstáculos y controversias que la vida le ha puesto en su camino, así que por Gloria, la responsable de este icono de la música pop en español es como damos inicio al recuento del exitazo de una de las máximas exponentes del pop en español. El primer sencillo del disco fue “Me río de ti” y según ella, el segundo sencillo (Vestida de azúcar) ha tenido que demorarse un poco gracias al éxito y la aceptación que esta punta de lanza ha tenido.

Sí, la Trevi es sobrenatural en todo el sentido de la palabra y basta solamente con ver la portada del nuevo disco para saber que no solamente se encuentra en la Gloria, sino que vive quizá el momento más eufórico de su vida, con un centro y un compás que nace de su núcleo familiar y la felicidad que encuentra en su nueva vida matrimonial, así como el de su etapa de madre de ahora tres hijos, con quien comparte quizá los momentos mas íntimos de su vida.  Y esa felicidad es mas que evidente en Gloria, la portada es sólo la ventana de una producción que derrama ilusión, amor, pasión, positividad y sobre todo un nuevo amanecer; esa evolución artística y personal que sólo seres como Gloria pueden compartir con su público.

Gloria Album Cover

Gloria es un disco, muy divertido, muy completo, muy ecléctico y muy rítmico. Háblanos sobre la inspiración de este disco y como seleccionaste las canciones?

Gloria Trevi: Fue dificilísimo, porque primero fueron miles de canciones compuestas por mí y por otras personas, un taller de composición que hice con varios colegas; a la mera hora ya cuando tenía 100 canciones seleccionadas de miles, fue bien difícil llegar a 23 y cuando estaba en 23, lo que siguió fue amputación wey. O sea, era muy difícil sacar canciones de esas 23. Lo que me consoló fue decir– sabes qué, no es el momento, no es el concepto, aunque suene bien, el concepto de este disco es Gloria–, en el momento en que yo estaba organizando este disco, yo estaba con mucha incertidumbre, mi mamá estaba con su problema y realmente me era difícil concentrarme hasta que me cayó el veinte de que mi madre se llama Gloria y Gloria es lo que todos nos merecemos. Entonces dije– este disco se va a llamar Gloria y no por Gloria Trevi–, porque cuando estoy en el escenario y canto “El recuento de los daños”, o canto “Pelo suelto” o “Todos me miran”, o “Cinco minutos” y la gente se vuelve loca y grita y baila y se entrega, ya no son mis éxitos, son sus historias. Entonces siento que sus historias tienen que ser de Gloria y es por eso que puse este nombre.

La portada del disco, bueno soy acuariana, soy súper idealista y quiero juntar elementos.  En este disco hay una canción que se llama “La noche”, por eso parece de repente un atardecer, y otra que se llama “Despiértame”, que es una de las canciones de este disco, pa’ llorar y puede parecer un amanecer.  La actitud de “Sobrenatural”, o sea, quise juntar muchas cosas en la portada que tengan que ver con cada una de las canciones de este disco.

Para leer la entrevista exclusiva completa que hice para la revista Padrisimo Magazine, favor de visitar el sitio web de Padrisimo!

Viva La Santa Cecilia!

La Santa Cecilia-Noche y citas

La Santa Cecilia- Noche y Citas (Album Cover)

There’s no doubt in my mind and that of the collective Latino consciousness that La Santa Cecilia is what the contemporary Latino sound of the 21st Century should sound like.  This band is as Latino as arepas, pisco sour, arroz con habichuelas, arroz con pollo, pupusas, mole poblano and tacos de asada, with a splash of tequila, in other words, they are the New Latino.  In Noche y Citas, the band dives deep into a sea of Latino sounds and waves that are gracefully surfed by the powerful vocals of lead singer La Marisoul. Not to be missed is the opening track, La Negra…simply hot! Whether the band performs in English, Spanish, or Spanglish, the underlying fabric and soul of this EP is a Latino identity that is relevant and bicultural, which is evidenced by the melodic rhythms of the accordion and the hot thumping beat of the percussion and drums that remind us of how good it feels to be Latino. Noche y citas is passion, it’s fire and it’s fierce…I only wish this cita was longer than 5 tracks; they left me yearning for more!  You can find EP on iTunes or on www.lasantacecilia.com

La Santa Cecilia

A Latina with Soul- And She’s Bi (Bilingual and Bicultural)!

NUEVA LATINA

Karen Rodriguez on American Idol (Season 10) is Bilingual and Bicultural!

There is no doubt in my mind that American Idol’s 10th Season is perhaps the most talent-charged and exciting season yet. The contestants this year are truly talented young singers and choosing my top contestants has been perplexing at best, and challenging at worse.  Also worth mentioning is the great chemistry that is unfolding on national television between the debutant judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez with veteran judge Randy Jackson; guess Idol can survive without space cadet and messy Paula Abdul and cranky yet brutally honest Simon Cowell, who knew?  But what’s even more exciting about this new Idol serving is that we finally have  a worthy Latina on the show, who seems to slowly but surely be coming out of her shell and is showing America that she can really sing, not only in English but also in her native Spanish language.  While I must admit that at first I was a bit concerned with her “Selena-esque” tendencies, I’m glad she chose to do Taylor Dayne’s Love Will Lead You Back as the tune from the year she was born.  What I love about Karen is the pride she has for her culture and heritage, and while it may seem that she over does the Latin thing at times, well, I’m glad she’s doing it.  Latinos are the largest minority group in the U.S., and Karen is letting the rest of White and Black America know that we’re not invisible and that we can be as American as Chevy and apple pie, yet be bicultural and bilingual.  So tonight, Karen did just that, and just as everyone thought she was belting out Taylor Dayne’s tune in English only, she ensured to throw her Latin signature with Mexican pop diva Yuri‘s Spanish lyrics of her own version Quien Eres Tu towards the end of the song.  Karen may be the Nuovo Latino, but continues the rich tradition of bilingual performers that came before her like Desi Arnaz, Richie Valens, Gloria Estefan, Mellow Man Ace, Los Lobos, and Carlos Santana to name a few.  Karen, you make us all very proud, so “echa pa’lante” girl!  (Other faves to look out for: Jacob Lusk, James Durbin, Stefano Langone, Pia Toscano, Naima Adedapo and Casey Abrams).

Taylor Dayne
Yuri

JLo Had Me On The Floor… Dang Gina!

On The Floor (Featuring Pitbull)

The Diva is back and she does not get mad, she just gets even.  Despite all the haters, especially in her own community, the Latino community, Miss Lopez has come back to the dance scene with a hot and bumping club cut that is already becoming this Spring Break’s (2011) theme song, On The Floor.  Loosely based on the 1989 “Chorando Se Foi” track by Kaoma, a French group featuring the vocals of Brazilian vocalist Loalwa Braz, On The Floor is JLo’s return to the music world.  Set as the first single of her upcoming seventh studio album titled Love?, JLo uses the master of hot power dance cuts, Mr. Cuban hit maker por excelencia Pitbull as the MC who proudly gives this track a jolting and electrifying sting of sexiness and unabashed Latin flavor that will have everyone’s ass on the floor asking for more.  Needless to say, this dance track is a reminder to us that a hot Latin recording artist doesn’t need gimmicks, extraterrestrial outfits or theatrics to get her groove across and her moves in everyone’s hips at the strike of the first note of On The Floor.  The video is reminiscent of her debut hit single If You Had My Love, not only in her hair styling but also in the choreography, which takes us back to that first time we fell in love with Miss Lopez; to that first time she broke into that sexy Latin bridge of that otherwise smooth, sultry and slow jam… the wind (industrial fans) blowing her hair and that hot chiseled face are back on this highly stylized yet disturbingly sexy and urban video for On The Floor.  If this is the opening act for Love?, then I must say, she had me at “If you’re an animal, then tear up the floor…” and yes, that’s exactly what she does best on her videos; let’s just hope the rest of the album can measure up to this hot opening track.

JLo and Pitbull

Sasha Sokol- Tiempo Amarillo

(Sony Music)

Finalmente Sahsa Sokol, ex Timbiricha, nos deleita una vez más con una producción musical netamente pop–  ese pop que la llevó al estrellato como solista por allá en el año de 1987.  La trayectoria de esta sirena musical ha sido una llena de sorpresas e incógnitas que simplemente nos dejan con deseos de querer escuchar más de ella.  En Tiempo Amarillo (lanzado en enero 2010 en México), Sasha brinda una dosis de dulces venenos que nos recuerdan del por qué es y seguirá siendo una de las mejores exponentes del pop en español, pero muy en particular del pop mexicano.  Si bien, Tiempo Amarillo tiene resonancias de la nostalgia del pop ochentero pero con esquemas estilizados del Siglo XXI.  Entre los temas dignos de escuchar figuran “Luna de París“, una rola muy “chill” y semi esotérica en la que caes bajo el embrujo de la melodía de la voz tranquilizante de Sasha, pero en “Dulce Veneno“, Sasha vuelve a cautivar tus sentidos con un romanticismo clásico que jamás cae en el cliché, sino más bien te lleva a un idealismo platónico que sólo el poder de la música suele lograr.  Y aunque el disco es romántico en todo el sentido de la palabra, también cuenta con la melancolía arraigada en los vestigios del desamor en “La última vez” y “Quiero repetirte”, dos rolas que pesan mucho por el dolor que llevan como matiz principal. Y como es típico en las obras musicales recientes de Sasha, no podía faltar la sensibilidad poética, como se nota en temas como “Luz azul” y “El pez”.   Sasha al lado de Edith Márquez, en mi humilde opinión, son las únicas ex Timbirichas que realmente saben y pueden cantar, y que cuentan con talento suficiente para hacerle justicia al pop mexicano. Si gustas del buen pop, de música bien producida y de la música con substancia, entonces Tiempo Amarillo no te defraudará.