meta-scriptJ Balvin & Bad Bunny Drop Surprise Album 'Oasis,' Release Sensual Single "Que Pretendes" | GRAMMY.com

Bad Bunny and J Balvin 

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J Balvin & Bad Bunny Drop Surprise Album 'Oasis,' Release Sensual Single "Que Pretendes"

Collaborations have been a driving factor in reggaeton's global success, and 'Oasis' has been something that has been long in the works, Bad Bunny said in a statement

GRAMMYs/Jun 28, 2019 - 11:51 pm

J Balvin and Bad Bunny, two of the biggest forces of next-generation reggaeton, have released a surprise album together that promises to dominate the summer. Their first single, "Que Pretendes," is a sensual opener revealing what we already know about these two global stars: They know how to deliver a catchy pop song that will get you swaying.

Oasis is an eight-track album featuring collaborations with Nigerian singer Mr Eazi and Enanitos Verdes' Marciano Cantero. The album dropped with a video for "Que Pretendes," a song about an ex who just can't let go.

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"What are you doing calling me this late," sings J Balvin at the beginning of the video, which is set in a tropical dance oasis. "You know exactly what to do to get me tangled up/ But this time it's too late."

Bad Bunny opens up with a verse that speaks to today's digital dating culture: "Erased you from Snapchat, erased you from Facebook, erased you from Instagram, erased you from my life," he says. 

Collaborations have been a driving factor in reggaeton's global success and Oasis has been something that has been long in the works, Bad Bunny said in a statement.

"Oasis is a transcendant and refreshing album. It comes to rescue you, to give you some relief," the Puerto Rican rapper said. "Working with J Balvin has been without a doubt an experience like no other, I've always admired and respected him and we've had an excellent vibe throughout this process."

RELATED: J Balvin Pays Ode to Reggaeton During Latin GRAMMY Speech: "It's Time To Create New Legends"

The love is mutual, according to Balvin: "I'm proud to say I love Bad Bunny, we always seem to be on the same wave length."

The Colombian artist added that the album was more than mutual love; it is meant to celebrate their culture while staying "humble." 

"I've been traveling all over the world these last few months and every time I feel it starts to get overwheling, I've been able to listen to the songs we've created and instantly transport myself 'home,' to our personal small musical paradise."

Watch Ms. Nina's NeoPerreo Video For "Te Doy" Ahead Of Her Mixtape Release

Marco Rentería and Saul Hernandez of Caifanes perform
Caifanes

Photo: Zeus Lopez

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Revisiting 'El Nervio Del Volcán' At 30: How Caifanes' Final Album Became A Classic In Latin American Rock

Released in June 1994, 'El Nervio Del Volcán' was a high point of the rock en español explosion and a serious evolution in the Mexican band's sound. Decades after its release, GRAMMY.com explores the story behind and impact of Caifanes' legendary LP.

GRAMMYs/Jun 28, 2024 - 04:04 pm

As its title suggests, the final album from iconic Mexican rock band Caifanes heralded an explosive new evolution in hybrid rock. El Nervio Del Volcán ("nerve of the volcano" in English), was the culmination of a years-long quest by the band to alchemize modern rock and Latin American music. 

Released June 29, 1994, El Nervio Del Volcán represents a high point of Mexico’s rock en español explosion. The 11-track album — the band's fourth release — saw Califanes continuing to explore the sounds of Mexico and Latin America, while broadening their sonic palette with jazz and country. 

Since their formation in 1987, Caifanes had been working to refine a sound that was both commercially successful, highly original, and beloved by critics and fans alike. For their efforts, El Nervio became the second Spanish-language rock album to chart on the Billboard Latin 50. Rolling Stone, which rarely gave Spanish-language music column inches, gave the album a glowing review. Caifanes became the first Mexican band to play on MTV’s "Unplugged" in October 1994. The next year, they opened for the Rolling Stones in Mexico City. 

While Caifanes might have been the leading band of Mexico’s rock en español movement, they were part of a cohort that included bands like Café Tacuba, Maldita Vecindad, and Fobia — which were experimenting with new fusions of traditional Latin American and rock sounds. Caifanes was at the vanguard of the Mexico City-centric movement, and El Nervio showcased the band's skill in developing "strong hits, and experimental things, which I think kind of worked," music journalist Ed Morales tells GRAMMY.com. 

In an interview, Mexican rock historian Federico Rubli calls the record  "a very important album, that maybe in its time wasn’t sufficiently appreciated. Even today, 30 years later, it’s difficult to recognize how great a work it was." If the crossover success weren't appreciation enough, El Nervio is notable for the way in which it set a high standard in songwriting and production for other bands that followed. 

Caifanes was daring beyond their sonic experimentation. Like most Mexican rock bands at the time, their music was prohibited from being played on the radio and they  risked arrest for performing. By the time of their first concert at the legendary Rockotitlan festival in Mexico City in 1987, though, there was no stopping what would soon become a new rock movement. The following year, they broke through the government’s music blockade when their first single, "Mátenme Porque Me Muero" ("Kill me because I am dying"), hit the airwaves. 

The follow-up single, "La Negra Tomasa," a post-punk inflected cumbia rocker that became a smash hit across the country, selling a record 500,000 copies. Their self-titled debut album was released shortly thereafter, with the band members looking like extras from a movie about goth subculture on the cover. Their third album, 1992’s El Silencio, found the band more musically confident than ever before. Producer Adrian Below — the former guitarist and frontman of King Crimson who had also played with David Bowie and Talking Heads — helped the band expand their musical palette with "cotton-candy high notes, rumbling ocean rhythms with upsurges that bellows like sea elephants," music critic Chuck Eddy wrote

Everything changed for the rock en español movement in 1993, when the pop-rock outfit Maná, which played a syrupy mix of tropical-influenced music, sold a million copies of its second album, ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Niños? Record labels were suddenly pursuing the next hit-making Latin band and BMG, which had signed most of the major rock en español bands, considered Caifanes its star rockers. 

The band had fractured as they prepared to go back to the studio, with original bassist Sabo Romo and keyboardist Diego Herrera leaving the group. With the increased backing by their label, the trio of lead singer/songwriter and guitarist Saúl Hernández, Argentine-born guitarist Alejandro Marcovich, and drummer Alfonso André traveled to Burbank, California, to record El Nervio Del Volcán GRAMMY-winning producer Greg Ladanyi (known for his work with Toto, Fleetwood Mac, and The Church) was brought into the O’Henry Sound Studios, along with a few special guests. Famed trumpeter Jerry Hey (known for his work on Michael Jackson’s "Thriller") and Graham Nash both appear on El Nervio. 

The songs that Hernández largely wrote and that the other band members would coalesce around were heavily influenced by Mexican folkloric sounds, though Marcovich in particular introduced a variety of Latin American sounds with his guitar. Throughout El Nervio, Caifanes flows effortlessly between genres:  a bit of rustic son huasteco ("La llorona"), jolts of metal ("El Animal"), and Caribbean rhythms  ("Aviéntame").

Rubli tells GRAMMY.com that the album was notably different from the band’s previous releases, largely due to Marcovich being given leeway with the guitar arrangements. "El Nervio Del Volcán is a much more rounded album, more integrated, with a sequence in each song that is, you might say, more logical," he says in Spanish. "And a lot of that is due to the liberty that Alejandro had to arrange them as he wanted."

Soul-stirring anthem "Afuera" was an unusual choice for a lead single — it features an instrumental guitar interlude that lasts for more than a minute —  but proved brilliant. Even Markovich, the guitarist who wrote the interlude, was dubious about its commercial potential. 

"I never could have imagined it would be a single," he said in 2022 on the podcast "Cuéntame Un Disco." "I even told the record company that they might want to do a more radio friendly version without it, but they left it and it worked." 

Today the song is popular among musicians on YouTube precisely because of its interlude. 

Second single "Aqui No Es Asi" was also a hit. Marcovich, again on the podcast, said he was writing melodies on the guitar when he found an unusual rhythm "between Caribbean and Andean." "It was a strange mix," he said. 

Hernández has been called the "poet laureate of Mexican rock," and has often weaved social themes and indigenous mysticism into the lyrics of his songs. In the propulsive "Aqui no es asi," Hernandez obliquely refers to two different places — one materialistic and out of touch with spirituality, and the other a land "where blood is sacrificed for love." The song has been interpreted as a criticism of Eurocentric values that have marginalized more indigenous ones. 

The album slows down considerably with the acoustic, melancholic hymn "Ayer me dijo un ave." Now one of the band’s signature songs, the song is about strength in the face of adversity. Its lyrics are heavy with surrealistic imagery: "Yesterday a bird told me while flying where there is no heat," Hernández sings. "That the long-suffering are not resurrected in dreams." 

Many of the other songs have become classics in Mexico and among Spanish-speakers in the U.S. Highlights include the full-throttle tropical-tinged "Aviéntame"; "Pero Nunca Me Caí," which features Nash on harmonica; and "Quisiera Ser Alcohol," a jazz-influenced lament with trumpet from Hey and a sumptuous fretless bass from guest Stuart Hamm.

More Sounds From Latin America & Beyond

Rafael Catana, an influential folk-rock musician in Mexico City who has hosted a music show on government-funded radio since 1997, says Caifanes' last album "arrived at a crucial moment in Mexican history" when the country was undergoing a massive social and economic transformation. Both sonically and in its production, El Nervio reflected the conflict between Mexico's interest in transnational capitalism and its underclass.  

In the early 1990s, elites had opened the country to a flood of foreign corporate investment with the North American Free Trade Agreement. On Jan. 1, 1994, an armed indigenous uprising against those policies by the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional challenged the government unlike any other group had attempted in decades. (Security forces had warned against political dissidence when they massacred student protesters in Mexico City in 1968 and launched a dirty war to round up "subversives" and marginalize the counterculture, including rock bands).

While El Nervio doesn’t explicitly mention any of these historical points, it is clearly a product of the era, filled with evocations of Indigenous musical traditions despite being produced by a major corporate label. During the tour in support of the album, the band made it clear that they were on the side of Mexico’s most oppressed class, with footage of Indigenous villages and archeological sites shown during their concerts. Hernández would sometimes call on audiences to support Mexico’s native people. 

Backstage, the relationship between Marcovich and Hernández became impossible and contributed to the breakup of the band. The rupture between them would become a subject of headlines in the media. Though the exact details of their conflict remain vague, the band played their final show on Aug. 18, 1995, in San Luis Potosí. A legal dispute over the name Caifanes endured for years. 

By the time Caifanes broke up, rock en español was entering a new phase led by the indie-folkloric experimentation of Café Tacuba. Other musical trends also started emerging: the rap-rock of Molotov, the electro of Plastilina Mosh, the commercial explosion of Juanes' tropical pop, the Caribbean alternative rock of Aterciopelados.  

In the interim, Hernandez formed a new band with André. Their Jaguares channeled a more aggressive sound, and their 2008 album 45, took home a golden gramophone for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album at the 2009 GRAMMYs. In 2011, the original members of Caifanes reunited to play Coachella.

But the truce between Hernández and Marcovich didn’t last, and the guitarist once again left the band. A reunited Caifanes, with original members Hernandez and André, are on tour in 2024 with fellow Mexico City rockers Café Tacuba. 

Mexican music journalist David Cortes, who has written several books on Latin American music, said the band was at their creative peak with El Nervio Del Volcán and had established a striking balance between traditional music and foreign sounds. Ultimately, though, the break-up of the band limited its influence over the years. 

"They wanted to go further," he says in Spanish. "And there are hints of where they might have gone."

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Kehlani

Photo: Mia André 

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Crashing Into The Present: How Kehlani Learned To Trust Their Instincts And Exist Loudly

"I want this next batch of music to feel like the most fiery parts of me," Kehlani says of her new album, 'Crash.' The singer/songwriter speaks with GRAMMY.com about embracing the moment and making an album she can headbang to.

GRAMMYs/Jun 20, 2024 - 01:07 pm

After finishing the first mixes of their new album, Kehlani knew exactly what she needed to do: head to Las Vegas. 

The L.A.-based, Oakland-born singer/songwriter had always identified with Sin City: "I’m full of juxtapositions," she tells GRAMMY.com. "Vegas is this crazy bright light city in the middle of a vacant desert that has weddings and also strippers." Fittingly, Kehlani harbored a very Vegas-like image in their head while creating Crash, a record built on blaring neon, glowing smoke, and the highest highs.

Crash drops June 21, and is Kehlani's fourth solo album. She burst onto the scene in 2009 as a member of teen sextet PopLyfe, but their 2014 debut solo mixtape Cloud 19 announced a far more complex character. Their debut full-length, SweetSexySavage, was released three years later to critical acclaim, with two more albums and a handful of platinum-certified singles following. As if that weren’t enough, Kehlani added acting, appearing in "The L Word: Generation Q" and a cameo in Creed III. 

And while Crash embodies the evolution and growth through all those experiences, the record builds a hyper-real language all their own. Beyond any sense of R&B or pop, soul or hip-hop, Crash finds Kehlani chasing passions that refuse to fit in any box, shifting multiple times within a track — refusing to focus on anything but the moment. 

"A crash isn't anything from the past. It isn't the anxiety of what's about to happen," she says. "It's the height of the moment. It's right now."

Nearing the release of Crash, Kehlani spoke with GRAMMY.com about finding inspiration from international music, getting their five-year-old to sing on the album, and their need to stage dive.

What’s it like living in Los Angeles after growing up in the Bay Area?

I moved to L.A. when I was about 17. I had already left the house. I left the house at 14, and by the time I was almost 18 it was the appropriate time for me to situate in a new place. L.A. and the Bay are like cousins. Do we have differences? Absolutely, things that are fundamental to us, but when you leave California, you can really see that we're just like a big family.

Had you been dreaming of L.A. as a place where you could pursue art? Were you already set on that goal?

It was the closest place that a young, very broke person could go and work in music. I'm sure there were other places with musical homes, musical cities, but if all I had to do was get on a $15 bus and go find someone to stay with in L.A., I was gonna do it for sure.

That’s the same ambition that I feel drives this new record, which is just so dense and full of surprises. That includes the lovely retro radio intro to "GrooveTheory," where you move from this ‘60s pop feel to the present. That’s such a smart way to foreground your evolution.

I think the second that we made that song and then turned it into ["GrooveTheory"], I was like, This feels like it encompasses where I'm headed, this whole new sound. 

Once that radio dials in and it comes in with R&B elements, it's producing where I'm headed, but also remembering that my core hasn't changed. Especially the energy of what I'm saying in the song, like, "I'm kind of crazy," it's introducing this energy difference on this album. I feel like that's the biggest change, and that's what's so prevalent in this whole rollout. Energetically, I'm on a whole different type of time.

You can sense it. 'Crash' feels really rooted in self-expression and personal growth, and when you listen to it as a whole, it really does seem like an evolution story. Beyond just the genre and style, how do you feel the way that you've expressed your true self has shifted over the years?

Thank you! That's been the feedback I've gotten from pretty much everyone who's listened, and I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't this. I have realized the public's understanding of me and the general consensus for so long, and I also realized how multi-faceted I am to people. 

People get really confused when I express all the sides of my personality. They’re either, like, "Okay, she makes really sweet love songs," or "We've seen you be political, we've seen you come out, we've seen you be a family member." And then there's a lot of people who are, like, "I feel like she's f—ing crazy. I've seen her in multiple relationships. I've seen her be angry. I've seen her get online and cuss people out." 

I want this next batch of music to feel like the most fiery parts of me. I want it to feel like the most present and energetic parts of me. I don't want anything to feel somber. I don't want anything to feel reminiscent. I think a lot of my albums in the past have been me looking back, and sitting in that feeling and detailing it. I just wanted [this album] to feel right here, right now, which is why the title came about. A crash isn't anything from the past. It isn't the anxiety of what's about to happen. It's the height of the moment. It's right now.

That’s unfortunately a story you hear too often about artists of color — that essentialization, where you can only be seen as one thing. R&B often gets hit with those same issues. Throughout your career you’ve stood up to those expectations, and "Better Not" on this album is such a good example of that. It’s a left turn, a stylistic contrast and an open conversation with the listener. You cleverly fuse that intentionality with a voice that’s stronger than ever.

In the past, I have had moments where I would make the song and [start recording], and there would be so many versions of each song on different microphones, recorded in different places.

"Let me try vocal production. Let me try to go back and work with this version again." I went back and did vocal production with Oak Felder, who did all the vocal production on SweetSexySavage. When I come back to some of my favorite vocal production moments, it was moments like "Distraction" or "Advice" or "Escape" — songs on my very first album — and I wanted to get that feeling again. Where it's lush where it needs to be, but also that I really mean what I'm saying. 

That started with the approach in the songwriting. Once I had the songs and I had to go back and deliver them, I had enough time to listen and listen, to learn the songs and identify with them. We would make music all day and then go out, and we would be in this sprinter van on the way to going out, and, like, bang, the songs we just made, the energy was just different. It allowed me to be present in a different way where my voice is able to show up like that.

Learn more: R&B Isn't Dead: Listen To 51 Songs By Summer Walker, Josh Levi & More Artists Who Are Pushing The Genre Forward

Which again ties perfectly to crashing into the present. As someone from South Africa, I love that the other guests that you included represent different cultural viewpoints. You worked with Young Miko from Puerto Rico, Omah Lay from Nigeria. Having that musical dialogue is so powerful.

We had so many conversations about how America's in the backseat often when it comes to music. We have our moments, and it's fantastic, like Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter. There's a culture that is super American, that is Black, that historically needs to be dived into. It needs to be shown that we do have something here. 

So many people that don't speak Spanish bang Bad Bunny all day. Amapiano’s taking over; Tyla’s going up. It's really not here. So that wasn't a conscious choice. It's just what we've all been listening to, what we've been loving.

Read more: 11 Women Pushing Amapiano To Global Heights: Uncle Waffles, Nkosazana Daughter, & More

Speaking of guests, I wanted to ask about your daughter, whose voice is on "Deep." Was she just in the studio and you got her singing?

So those vocals on that, that’s actually my little sister and my goddaughter. And [my daughter] was in the room and she started singing along. She has perfect pitch; she's always freestyling or singing or making something up. 

I was like, "You want to just go sing on it?" What's on there is her first take. Literally. She did it the first time, all the way through, perfectly. I was like, "Well, that's it, guys. I can retire." 

That track is so lush. It feels so alive. Were you working with a full band?

[Producer] Jack Rochon, who I did a lot of the music with, he just is a freaking genius music whiz. Honestly, he's one of the most humble people that I know, and deserves credit for how amazing a lot of this album is.

Talking about touchstones, there's a Prince energy to the title track. Did you have any new inspirations or influences for this record?

Thank you! My main focus for this album came from going on tour for my last one and making such a pretty, sweet, intimate album, and then playing some of the biggest venues of my career. At some point I had to rearrange the setlist to add in a lot of the album before that one, because it was just more energy on the stage. By week two of tour, the setlist had completely changed. I knew that I was playing venues on this next tour that I've dreamt about, places that I can't fathom that I'm playing, like Barclays Center. 

I do a lot of things for, like, my inner child, and this is such a move for my inner child. Like, You're about to go play Barclays. Do you want to look back and say, ‘I rocked out and played Barclays’? I'm a person who headbangs on stage. I stage dive. I wanted to create an album that would ring through a venue like that. I want people to be engaged again. I'm not looking for the lighters and the somber, holding each other — which will occur regardless, because it's a me show. 

But I really wanted people to be in their bodies, and their heart’s exploding and the ground’s shaking. So that's what we accomplished. I wanted to have fun. This album is so fun to me. It’s a place of fire in my heart.

It took me a second to get the word play on "Eight." I loved the track, and then suddenly I was like, 'Oh… I knew there was something raunchy going on here.'

[*Laughs.*] "Eight" was super fun, and shoutout to the boys that I did it with, because they made it everything for me. 

I didn't come up with the wordplay. My boys did. Like, "This is how you talk!" I was like, "It is! This is perfect." Once I got in to fix things, add things, add my own spin, and finish writing, my favorite part was that it sounds like a Brandy song. She's my favorite.

I also wanted to ask about the Nina Sky sample on "After Hours."

That was mine. I was like, "What can we flip that when it comes on, my generation loses their mind?" And for me, every single time that Nina Sky comes on in the club, everybody's like "Woo!" And then you see how many songs were made from that same sample, and they're all songs that make us lose our minds. 

I went into the room with the producers, and I was like, "So, I want to flip this, but I want you to make it to where it doesn't become one of those where the whole thing is just a sample."

Similarly, "Lose My Wife" balances breeziness with high emotional stakes. Is finding a balance like that just natural for someone so capable of juxtaposition?

The second that we established that [the record] felt like Vegas, I knew what components were missing from the energy of how I feel the second my car crosses the line into the city of Las Vegas. I knew I was missing that feeling of the next morning when you realize you went on this high and you come down. I wanted to create these scenarios that weren't necessarily applicable to me, but captured that emotion. I've been there before, and I want people to be like, Damn, I've been there before. I know this feeling. 

I recorded that song at 4 in the morning with a sinus infection. The second that we finished it, everybody was like, "You can never re-sing that. Don't try to make another version, you're not gonna be able to sound like that again." All the chatter in the background of that song is really everybody who was in the studio that stayed up to just hang out. We had the tequila out, it was perfect. That was probably one of my favorite moments of making the album.

It takes a while as an artist to reach a place where you can capture those moments. You said before that people try to figure you out, and I mean this in the best possible way, but it feels like now you don’t care if they can’t figure you out.

I don't give a f—anymore, yeah. And that was a very important thing for me to learn. I used to care so much, and I would spend so much time explaining myself online, in music, in interviews, on stage. I realized that you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. 

I've been so forward-facing with my heart my entire career that I've left a lot of room for people to consistently pedestal me and then critique me, for people to want to tear me down. I realized I'm just being present, here, existing loudly in front of a billion people, and whichever way that goes is how the cookies gonna crumble. Me giving a f—? I'm the only one it's affecting at this point, for sure.

Angélica Garcia's Intuition: How 'Gemelo' Was Born By Embracing L.A., Ancestry & Spanish Language

Angélica Garcia's Intuition: How 'Gemelo' Was Born
Angélica Garcia

Photo: Shervin Lainez

interview

Angélica Garcia's Intuition: How 'Gemelo' Was Born By Embracing L.A., Ancestry & Spanish Language

When creating her new album, 'Gemelo,' Angélica Garcia relied on her "spirit self" for guidance. The Los Angeles native details how she arrived at her first Spanish-language release by following her intuition and embracing her family history.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2024 - 01:05 pm

Early in the spring of 2020, Angélica Garcia felt like she was being called back home. The singer/songwriter had spent the last three years in Richmond, Virginia, but her roots were firmly planted in California.

She’d spent most of her life in El Monte — the city in the San Gabriel Valley just 20 20 minutes east of downtown L.A., where she was raised by her parents and grandparents. (Her mother, also named Angélica, was a singer who had grown up performing rancheras with her siblings at rodeos around L.A. and Mexico.) Angélica spent most of her childhood moving around the city, learning how to fit in each time she enrolled in a new school. At 17, she followed her parents across the country to Accomac, Virginia — a tiny rural town on the state’s eastern shore. 

"It was challenging, but I tried to always see the positive side of those experiences," she tells GRAMMY.com. "In some ways it was like traveling back in time to live there, but I also just thought, Wow, this is a whole different culture that I get to be a part of." 

After high school, she moved to Richmond and fell into the city’s indie scene, performing in several bands while recording and releasing her own solo music. Her semi-autobiographical track "Jícama" made it onto President Obama's 2019 year-end music list, giving her a boost of recognition just before she released her 2020 album, Cha Cha Palace. The album was a celebration of her Salvadoran-Mexican heritage, bursting at the seams with influences from across the Latin American diaspora, merging cumbia, ranchera, and reggaeton with psychedelic rock and pop.

Just before the pandemic, Garcia felt as if she "was being called to start over in L.A." With COVID-forced closures throughout the city, it wasn’t quite the return Garcia had hoped for. It did, however, present an opportunity for grounding and reconnection — not just with Garcia's hometown, but with roots, culture, and voice.

She turned inward, dredging up gnarled, complicated feelings about her identity. She’d started to find success writing music that she felt deeply connected to, but Garcia was also grappling with the realization that it was written in a language neither of her grandparents spoke. She turned to poetry, trying to work through her feelings of grief and disconnect. 

Slowly but surely, those words became the first inklings of Gemelo. Produced by Chicano Batman’s Carlos Arévalo, the 10-track album explores duality and belonging, following Garcia’s journey of acceptance from the ethereal musing of opener "Reflexiones," to the wild joy of closer "Paloma." 

Her first album sung almost entirely in Spanish, Gemelo is Garcia triumphing over her doubts, following her intuition into an otherworldly pop soundscape that transcends borders. 

Ahead of her upcoming tour dates opening for IDLES, Garcia spoke with GRAMMY.com about processing grief, writing in Spanish, and finding inspiration in her ancestors. 

This conversation has been condensed and edited.

What inspired your move back to California?

I loved living in Richmond, but I was having a really hard time towards the end. Moving kind of felt like something that I had to do. That was one of the difficult things that I was navigating around the time of writing Gemelo

The album touches on the concept of grief and loss, but also discovery. What was going on in your life as you were writing it?

The record feels like traveling through grief. In real life, I was processing some really difficult changes and adapting as a person. I felt like there was a version of me who was going through the motions and phasing in and out of grief. My body was there, but my mind was somewhere else. I felt like I was almost in a dissociative state. 

How does that sense of self you were grappling with tie into the album’s title, Gemelo?

It’s funny, it almost feels like the album revealed itself to me over time. I was maybe three or four songs in before I really started to see a through line between them. I wasn’t sure they were going to turn into an album, but they started to feel like part of a body of work. 

In the beginning, I think I kept noticing these themes of reflection, the idea of past lives, all these emotions that kept coming up. Later, I was searching and searching for a record title, and I kept seeing the word "twin." I hadn’t actually tried translating it into Spanish, but when I did, it was like a light bulb went off. I heard "gemelo," and everything made sense. 

What about the concept of twins were you drawn to?

I often felt like I had this intuition guiding me and helping me through some of these decisions, and helping to protect me. That, to me, is my gemelo. We have the version of ourselves that exists in the physical world, and then we have an intuitive self, a spirit self, that’s guiding us, even when our tangible self is too confused to really understand everything. 

Most of this album is in Spanish. What’s your relationship to the language? Did you grow up speaking it?

It’s always been a very core part of my childhood and my formative memories. Most of the people that I love speak Spanish. So even if I wasn’t always exercising it every day, anytime I spoke to the core people in my life — my grandparents, my mom, or my dad — I was always hearing Spanish. It’s also some of the first music that I learned how to sing, so it felt very natural to me to have it in my mouth and on my tongue. 

I just realized I’d never actually tried to express myself as a writer, creatively, in this language. I really wanted to honor that side of myself and my family lineage, and give it a shot. 

Would you say you express yourself differently in Spanish than in English?

I feel like maybe it was almost easier to write in Spanish. I’ve been a musician for so long that it can be really easy to be like, "Oh, this is how a song should go," or "I should have a chorus that sounds like this." In some ways, because I didn't have the same framework or rules with Spanish, I was leaning a lot on imagery and on concepts in a way that was a very fun and refreshing challenge. 

I think it brought out a little bit more of my philosophical side, because I didn't feel the same pressures that sometimes I feel when working on music in English. 

Did exploring that side of yourself also help you connect on a different level with your family and your roots?

I always felt a deep connection to my roots. It can be so easy to just get caught up in everyday life, so it's really fascinating when you look back, and you see the similarities between you. It really makes you wonder how much of it is nature and how much of it is nurture? And how many of these things I do were literally inherited, you know? 

How did that seep into your writing for this album?

It’s funny, before I moved back to California, a really good friend of mine in Richmond got really into looking up their ancestry. We would just dedicate time to researching our family histories, and things like that. It was nice to do it with a friend, because you had somebody to talk to about it. 

As I was learning, I was writing down the names of my relatives and putting them in a specific area in my room where I would meditate a lot. I would journal with the candles lit, and one day, I was sitting in front of that area and the song "Juanita" just poured out of me. The name came out so clearly. 

Some songs you labor over for months, or even years, and they might not come out. This one just poured out like it was raining from the sky. Later, I was sitting around a coffee table with my mom and my grandma, and she was like, "Oh, yeah, your great great grandma, Mama Juana. Juanita …" and I was just thinking, Wait, what? My grandma was telling me how Juana was this mystical woman, and I thought, Wow, she really wanted a song.

In addition to "Juanita," your songs really tap into the stories of strong women, feminine joy, and feminine anger. How have the women in your family influenced your music?

I love the perspective of the women in my family because there’s so much personality and resilience. They’re badass. My grandmother would tell me stories about being a little girl in El Salvador selling coffee, and her whole journey to work at the U.S. embassy, which is eventually how she got to the U.S. And my mother, being a child performing rodeos, told me stories about walking from one gig to another in Mexico with my grandpa because the van had broken down. 

Sometimes I feel like people like to focus on their material accomplishments, like money or degrees. But the story of my mom walking from a gig as a child in her rodeo outfit, or the fact that my grandmother went from selling coffee in the jungle in El Salvador to L.A.? That's an accomplishment. That's resilience. 

They’re full of these vibrant stories, because they had to navigate through so many trials. Because of them, I experienced a lot of love and magic, care, and nurturing. It’s unfortunate to me that those traits are sometimes seen as soft instead of strong, when it’s both. They redefined strength for me.

Gemelo’s final track, "Paloma," feels like such a triumphant celebration. What significance does that song have for you?

I wanted to end with gratitude. "Paloma" is a song about seeing the divine reflected in each other, in the people you love, and how, even when we're extremely critical of ourselves, we all hold the divine within us. We’re all walking this earth with the power to do incredible things. That outlook has really gotten me through so much in life. It can be so easy to get lost in the grief, but the light is what cuts through all of it for me. 

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Álvaro Díaz Embraces Love Lost On 'Sayonara'
Álvaro Díaz

Photo: Waiv

interview

On 'Sayonara,' Álvaro Díaz Embraces The Sadness Of Love Lost

Known for his vulnerable style of reggaeton, Álvaro Díaz’s sophomore album ‘Sayonara’ says "goodbye to the happiness you thought you found."

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 01:29 pm

Álvaro Díaz has a twinkle in his eye — he knows he’s onto something special.

"It’s crazy that it’s an alternative album, but also the most reggaeton I’ve ever made," Díaz says of his recently-released sophomore album, Sayonara. "It’s both worlds. I have my fingers crossed that people are going to love it."

Díaz, who is 28, has been making music since he was a teenager. A constant creative force, he grinded for years as an independent artist, building a solid fanbase in Puerto Rico before breaking into the wider Latin urbano scene with 2021 debut, Felicilandia, which layered fresh pop melodies onto playful reggaeton and trap beats, exploring the euphoria of love.

Notably darker and much more experimental than its predecessor, Sayonara marks the end of that "happyland" feeling. 

"My story with ‘Felicilandia’ ended in heartbreak," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I was just writing about my life. It’s like a nightmare when you can’t stop thinking of that person. The usual Puerto Rican [reaction] to a breakup is like,'Don’t worry, let’s go to the streets!'"

The first half of the record soundtracks this feeling of party and abandon. Perreo tracks like the Feid-featuring dancefloor banger "Gatas Sandungueras Vol.1" nod to old school reggaeton, while Diaz and guest Tainy twist into ravey house beats on "Fatal Fantassy."

With an assist from Spanish indie pop star Sen Senra, "1000Canciones" marks a turning point in the album’s mood. It’s slow, reflective and poignant, with unashamedly heartfelt lyrics. "I went to the streets, and played 1000 songs that reminded me of you / even though I knew it was late / I took my phone to call you," Diaz sings in Spanish.

Lovingly nicknamed "Sadvarito"by fans, Diáz’s vulnerability stands out amidst a reggaeton scene dominated by party hits and swag. Even the biggest hits on Felicilandia— "Lori Party" and "Babysita </3" — were tinged with heartbreak; and fans will be reassured to see his signature fragility thoroughly embedded in Sayonara.

"It’s just how I feel, sometimes I feel empty, sometimes there’s a lot to say," Díaz says of the album’s changing moods. 

At the end of the album, Díaz considers trying to get back with his former flame ("Quizás si, quizás no," featuring Quevedo). But, he soon realizes it won’t work: "You know it’s not the same — it’s just me saying 'Sayonara,'" he says. 

GRAMMY.com spoke with Díaz over Zoom about why reggaeton is the perfect heartbreak genre and how ‘Sayonara’ is his most experimental work yet.  

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Sayonara **comes three years after your debut, Felicilandia. There are some similarities in the two albums’ artwork, but we can see something’s gone a bit awry/**

There’s an explosion at the left of the Felicilandia artwork. We were predicting what was going to come. I’m a fan of when artists do these little things, merge album covers, or make songs that live in the same universe. 

Felicilandia is the way to find happiness, Sayonara is saying goodbye to the happiness you thought you found. 

When you’re with a person you create a world together. But, todo se fue a la mierda. That world has gone. On [the artwork for] Sayonara, I’m looking ahead, but you don’t know my intention. I could try to save everything, or I’m just taking the last look. 

The track ‘‘Gatitas Sandungueras Vol. 1’ feat. Feid, has dark undertones, even though it’s a song about partying.  How is the track related to the album’s main theme of overcoming heartbreak?

Me and Feid put everything into the song. It’s based on the story of missing her: you’re blind; you’re trying not to think about her.  

Feid is like my duo, we always talk about making projects together, and our fanbase likes it when we work together. He couldn’t be out of ‘=Sayonara —he was in Felicilandia singing a sad song, and now he’s singing a party song, so it’s a total contrast. 

Same with Rauw Alejandro, who is on the track "BYAK," and was also on Felicilandia single "Problemón."  It’s special to have Feid and Rauw on both albums. We didn’t want to repeat what we did before, we wanted to go in another direction. 

The album mixes a lot of different genres, but reggaeton is definitely at the foundation of Sayonara. What artists were your core inspirations?

The selection of the sounds, and the beats, reminds me of the golden era of reggaeton in the 2000s. We even used the old Fruity Loops software, and searched for inspiration in [LunyTunes & Tainy 2006 album] Mas Flow: Los Benjamins, or the [2003 compilation album], Blin Blin. All those albums that changed your life in Puerto Rico. That’s why the reggaeton tracks have 2000 vibes, it’s what I listen to. 

You’re known for making an emotional brand of reggaeton. When did you first explore reggaeton’s potential to be more vulnerable?

My fans’ favorite songs are my most heartfelt songs. Maybe my most played song on Felicilandia is "Problemón," but on tour, the song people go crazy for is "Babysita." It’s a song I recorded in my house, but it’s bigger than all my other tracks. 

So, I know how the people who follow me connect with me. The way I talk about heartbreak speaks to a lot of people; it’s more relatable than how other people sing about it. They call me "Sadvarito," so it was always a challenge to find a way to bring that Sadvarito energy to reggaeton. 

What is your favorite reggaeton heartbreak song?

Damn, there’s a lot. It’s hard. 

My favorite reggaetoneros growing up were Zion & Lennox, they were my GOATS, and most of their songs are heartbreak songs. So, Zion & Lennox, "Solo Una Noche." 

There’s also a song on [Luny Tunes-produced 2005 compilation album] Mas Flow 2 which is my favorite ever: "Es Mejor Olvidarlo." That’s my jam. I used to blast that when I was little. I didn’t know heartbreak then, but I felt that.  

So you can cry to reggaeton?

You definitely can! Old school people may say you can’t, but, ey, reggaeton be having feeling. It will make you feel a type of way in a club. It could change your mood completely.

Connecting with fans is everything to you. On Sayonara, how are you hoping to reach people?

I have a really hard time saying goodbye. There’s a phrase: la esperanza es lo último que se pierde, I’m one of those types of guys; the last one who loses hope even if my world is going to pieces. I want to make her fall in love, like on the track "Quien te quiere como el nene." It’s saying I really love you, I want to fix things. 

The point of the album is for people to see what chapter they’re in. I’ve never been able to reach the last track, to finally be able to say Sayonara, but I know I will get there! 

One woman who listened to the album said it’s awesome to hear a man’s perspective — you go out and party, and then you miss her. She said, usually, for girls, it’s the other way around: you miss him at the beginning, then you go out to party. It gives it realism, boys really be like that. I love it when real life and music come together. I really hope people find themselves in the songs.

"Quien te quiere como el nene" is one of the more experimental tracks on the album, and unexpectedly goes into a drum and bass rhythm. How did that come about?

I did that whole beat with my mouth! I had it in my mind. I had the bass, but it needed a sound there. I don’t know why but I started making these sounds. I sent a demo to Tainy and asked, "Do you think you can do this?" Obviously, he can, he’s Tainy. Alongside Manuel Lara, my main producer, they took it to the next level. They are a dream team. 

You break from the reggaeton beat a lot in the album — "Fatal Fantassy" is very house. Tell us about these electro elements.

I like to experiment with different sounds. It’s harder for me to do reggaeton than do experimental things. Different tracks just come naturally. Tainy and I were listening to the album after we had 60 percent of it ready, and we felt like it was missing energy, it needed a bit more uptempo. So we did three sessions and came up with those ideas. 

I made a playlist with everything I want to do in the album, so I could say "I want a riff like this." I like to take a lot of ideas and work them little by little. My process is different to a lot of my friends who go to the studio and make three or four songs a day. I really like to feel like what I’m creating.  

You’re in Japan right now, and this album frequently mentions Japanese words, people and culture: from "Sayonara," "Kawa," "Majin Buu" and "Yoko." How did Japan influence you?

Japan is really important in this album, the names, the creation. I didn’t want it to be obvious, but it’s there, in the minimalism, the names, It’s magical for me to be now in Japan and listen to the album. I can say, damn this song feels like Toyko, this one feels like Osaka. Now I’m in Kyoto, and I feel "Quien te quiere como el nene" is definitely a song for this city. 

I’m a cinematographic guy, I create songs with movies on mute. I recreate the vibe, how I feel it would sound. Even movies filmed in Japan, like ‘Lost in Translation’—I watched that a lot and was inspired by that. That feeling of being lost, of not knowing what’s next. 

"Majin Buu" is one of the most heartfelt tracks on this album, and references a "Dragon Ball Z" villain. Why do you draw on that character?

It’s a 2024 alternative love poem! He’s a bad guy, but I flip and use it in a good way. 

I like to play with names, most of the time I have the name of the song. I knew I wanted to make a song with Majin Buu but I didn’t know how it was going to sound. The same day I made "Majin Buu," I made the track "Yoko."

Speaking of "Yoko," do you relate to the person who has been painted as the bad guy?

Definitely. When I watched the Get Back documentary about the Beatles on Disney+, I remember seeing Yoko every single moment beside John Lennon. They were inseparable until his last day. All the Beatles had a family, they all had wives, but it was Yoko who was next to John at every moment. 

It was a romantic way to say, I want you by my side like Yoko was with John Lennon. 

You're very close to your fanbase. Is there anything that artists can do to stay grounded with their fans? As you’re getting bigger, how do you manage the relationship with fans?

Fans made me. Especially during those years when my project didn’t have the light it deserved, my fans were there for me. It’s important for me to have a healthy relationship with them. 

I always try to put myself in the shoes of a 16-year-old and think what things could he say to me to make me fall in love with this project?, or what did this artist do that made me a superfan? I try to create experiences. In the run-up to releasing Sayonara, we did listening parties with 15 fans in different parts of the world, with exclusive merch. Seeing the reactions of the people is important for me. 

I’ve been making music since 2012. Some [artists] don’t know the hustle; they get big after two to three years. But [success] is not given, it’s earned. I get the rockstar mentality, but that’s not me. It’s impossible for me to lose touch with the fans. 

[Sayonara] is a celebration for me and for the fans. I want to do small shows in Puerto Rico, places I played when I was started. I love the shows where you can feel people’s emotions. When you get big, you kind of lose that. But to me, that connection is magical, I never want to lose that.

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