meta-scriptKenia Os Unveils Her 'Pink Aura': How The Mexican Pop Star Let Her Feminine Energy Shine | GRAMMY.com
Kenia Os performs in 2024
Kenia Os performs during the Axe Ceremonia music festival 2024 in Mexico

Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/LightRocket via Getty Images

interview

Kenia Os Unveils Her 'Pink Aura': How The Mexican Pop Star Let Her Feminine Energy Shine

On her new album, Kenia Os leaned into a variety of influences — from reggaeton Mexa to trap. The Latin GRAMMY nominee discusses collaborating with Álvaro Díaz, Villano Antillano and others, and letting her inner self shine.

GRAMMYs/Apr 29, 2024 - 05:31 pm

Contemporary music is filled with artists who have transitioned from social media stardom to serious streams and even Music's Biggest Night. Kenia Os is proof of this trajectory: After building a massive following on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, she established as one of Mexico's top pop stars. 

Kenia Os' ability to pivot successfully is also apparent in her music. Her 2022 debut album Cambios de Luna leaned into trap and reggaeton, while follow-up K23 fully embraced Latin pop with elements of EDM. Her "Universo K23" netted Kenia Os her first Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best Long Form Music Video. 

On her latest album, Pink Aura, the 24-year-old seamlessly blends her worlds of Latin pop and urbano music. "I feel very comfortable making pop," Kenia Os tells GRAMMY.com.  I also love Latin urban music and reggaeton, especially reggaeton Mexa that's blowing up…I wanted to make music in that style as well." 

Pink Aura sees Kenia pushing pop into new territory — with the help of some friends. Puerto Rican singer Álvaro Díaz is featured on the futuristic, drum 'n' bass-infused "Bobo," while Puerto Rican trans rapper Villano Antillano appears on the euphoric "VIP." Argentina's La Joaqui helps Kenia Os meld reggaeton with cumbia on the freaky bop "Kitty." Reggaeton Mexa, or Mexican reggaeton, artists Yeri Mua and Ghetto Kids join Kenia for the sensual banger "Mamita Rica." Elsewhere, Os also links up with another influencer-turned-singer Bella Poarch for the fierce "F* OFF."

In an interview with GRAMMY.com, Kenia Os opens up about overcoming the stigma against artists coming from social media and the empowering meaning behind her Pink Aura album. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

How would you describe the experience of making the jump from YouTube and social media to becoming a pop star?

It's been incredible. It's been an adventure that I've been on for three or more years. 

At the start, and even now, it's still been a bit difficult to get respect from the music industry. Since day one when I started making music, I've always taken this very seriously, making great music with good producers and my record label. I feel very confident about this new album that we've put out and I feel fulfilled as an artist.  

As someone who did come from social media, what did your Latin GRAMMY nomination mean to you last year?

That day I cried all day. I couldn't believe it. I was very happy. It made me think about all the effort I’ve put in these past few years, and those times I was tired in the studio and thought about quitting. There were times I told myself, I don’t want to keep doing this because it’s very tiring to prove [to people] the artist that I am. I felt like everything was worth it. The hard work that me and my team have put into this over the years has been worth it.  

An artist that has a similar career trajectory to you concerning social media is Bella Poarch. I can imagine that you probably bonded well with her while collaborating on the song "F* OFF."

Working with Bella was an incredible experience. Sometimes when you do collaborations, there's artists that are very much artists. You know what I mean? They love music, but they don't know a lot about navigating social media or what works in that space. 

With Bella, what happened was that we could record TikTok videos and create content for social media. It was very natural and genuine. We shared ideas with each other like, "We'll make TikTok videos this way or you go here and I go there." [Laughs.] It was very genuine how we developed the content for marketing our collaboration. It was very beautiful. It's a very different experience to work with someone who also understands social media.

Tell me about the title of this new album — is there a story behind it?

My fans have asked me, "Kenia, why do you have everything pink? You have said before that you hated the color pink." It's not that I hated pink, but I had always said I didn't want pink in the background of my interviews, in my outfits, or anything. 

The other day I was with my mom, looking at photos from when I was a little girl, and I saw everything in my room was pink. I was thinking about when I started fighting this color. I realized I started to hold back that feminine energy to be able to face the industry, to be the person in charge of my family, and keep up that livelihood. For me, this album was forgiving that feminine energy, embracing it, and healing myself, and above all, letting it shine. 

You’re bridging the gap between Latin urban sounds and pure Latin pop on this album. Was that what you hoped to accomplish with that kind of fusion?

I feel very comfortable making pop. I love pop and it's the genre I enjoy the most. Every time I'm in the studio, I'm writing with my co-writers and producers, and we always make pop. 

I also love Latin urban music and reggaeton, especially reggaeton Mexa that's blowing up. We have artists in that scene who are becoming very big. I feel very proud and I wanted to make music in that style as well because I like going to the clubs and I like to hear myself within that genre. 

You collaborated with one of the top female artists in reggaeton Mexa, Yeri Mua, in "Mamita Rica." How would you describe the experience of working with her?

That was very beautiful. We went to the studio together and there was her whole team. There were her co-writers. 

We were all surprised because you would think that she puts effects on her voice, but no, that's how she really sounds. As we say, she sounds very sexy and makes noises like meowing. [Laughs]. It was very fun! It felt very great to work with her. 

All the reggaeton Mexa that's coming up in Mexico makes me so happy. I believe it was time with Mexico making more noise globally through música mexicana, reggaeton, and pop, and above all, with a sound that's very unique to us. 

You’ve always supported the LGBTQIA+ community throughout your career. On this album, you collaborated with Villano Antillano, who is breaking down barriers for queer artists in Latin music. How did the song "VIP" with Antillano come together?

It's very beautiful to know that I have a lot of fans in the LGBTQIA+ community and that they identify with my music and feel supported by me. It's very important for me to be someone who can speak up for them; it's important for me to support them as well and spread their message through my music, what I say, and with what I do. I stand with them and I'll support them in any way that I can.

Villana is one of my favorite artists. I love everything that she does. When she jumped on this track and we heard it, I almost wanted to cry. The song was perfect for her. When I met her, it was incredible because we connected a lot as friends. We were laughing the whole time while making the music video. We have the same ways of saying things. I love her so much. I loved getting to know her and I got a great friendship out of this collaboration.  

What do you want people to take away from the 'Pink Aura'?

I was telling my girlfriends the other day that this album is perfect for when you're getting ready [for a night out]. When you're in your room getting ready and putting on creams, perfume, and makeup. Then you have a little drink before going out to party. 

This was made so people can enjoy it and connect with it in their room, in their cars, and in the clubs. It was made with a lot of love and the most pink side of myself and feminine energy that I hope resonates with girls and boys too. I want to heal that part of us that we sometimes hide or put to the side in order to face certain situations in life. 

What do you want to accomplish next with your music?

I want to go global. I love my country and I love that my concerts in Mexico are always very full. The people of Mexico love me a lot, but I want to take my music to other countries. I want to be an artist that is internationally known. 

I love pop and I see myself doing pop all my life, but I want to experiment with more genres. I would love to do another reggaeton song and then a corrido tumbado song with guitars. Above all, I want to hold the flag of my country high up wherever I go.

10 Women Artists Leading A Latin Pop Revolution: Kenia Os, Belinda & More

Nelly Furtado Press Photo 2024
Nelly Furtado

Photo: Sammy Rawal

interview

Nelly Furtado On How Remix Culture, ADHD & Gen Z Inspired Her New Album '7'

On the heels of announcing her seventh studio set, Nelly Furtado details her emotional return to the studio, and why she's having "more fun than ever" making music.

GRAMMYs/Jul 17, 2024 - 08:31 pm

If you're a millennial, odds are you have fond memories of Nelly Furtado's music. Her early hits are 2000s playlist staples, including her GRAMMY-winning debut single, "I'm Like A Bird," and Timbaland-produced classics "Say It Right," "Maneater" and "Promiscuous."

Yet the Portuguese-Canadian pop auteur is far from a relic of Y2K nostalgia. In the seven years since her last album, 2017's The Ride, Furtado has seen her back catalog resurface in many ways, from remixes in DJ sets to viral TikToks. Not only did the millennial appetite for her music remain, but Gen Z was discovering — and loving — it. And the singer/songwriter took notice.

"I really feel like I was called back to the industry by the industry, especially DJs. I would go out and hear my songs played before arena shows of other artists, and at house parties and clubs," Furtado tells GRAMMY.com. "There was a sense of joy and celebration in it…I thought, This can only be remixed so many times, I better go make some new stuff."

Enter 7, Furtado's aptly titled seventh studio album. Due Sept. 20, 7 is the product of four years of fully immersing herself in the catharsis and connection of the studio. The Canadian songstress is confident and vulnerable across its 14 tracks, showcasing the malleability of her rich voice with a wide range of sounds that result in a fun, largely upbeat collection of songs.

The album's energy is indicative of the freedom and openness Furtado not only felt in the studio — where she crafted over 400 songs during the process — but also in today's musical climate. Furtado has been tapping into the collaborative spirit of the industry, teaming up with friends new and old for her latest material. Producer Dom Dolla helped birth Furtado's first new music since 2017 with the dance floor heater "Eat Your Man," a coy nod to her own "Maneater" that arrived last June; their partnership has also included appearances at Australia's Beyond The Valley festival in 2022, Lollapalooza and Portola Fest in 2023, and Coachella 2024. Along the way, the singer has also linked with past collaborators Timbaland and Justin Timberlake ("Keep Going Up") and Juanes ("Gala y Dalí").

Even 7's first two singles are collaborations: the sultry electronic-fused bop "Love Bites" with dance pop experts Tove Lo and SG Lewis, and the confident anthem "Corazón" with Colombian electro-pop wizards Bomba Estéreo. Along with offering a taste of the joy and sonic breadth of 7, both songs prove that Nelly Furtado isn't just back — she's having more fun than ever.

Read on to hear from the "Maneater" herself about her new album, finding sisterhood with Bomba Estéreo's Li Samuet, leaning into ADHD as a creative superpower, and why she'll never tire of singing "I'm Like A Bird."

You feel really free on your upcoming album, 7. I was curious what sounds and styles you're feeling most excited to explore and lean into now and which ones made it on the album?

That's a good question. When I was touring over the years, you always soundcheck at each venue, which might be this big, beautiful space, like a theater. I love the way the music would come back at me through the big speakers and monitors of a large live space, and it's something I never quite felt in the recording studio.

When I started recording this album four years ago, I started getting a bunch of friends in a room, setting up wedges and monitors and speakers with a bunch of microphones on amps and instruments, recording absolutely everything we're saying and doing. I started recording in Toronto and would invite my friends, and all of a sudden, I found myself spending Friday nights there. It became this very social event with lots of collaborations. I loved the way my voice sounded back at me through the speakers in real time, much like those soundchecks I remembered so fondly.

Halfway through the recording process, I started meeting producers like Dom Dolla. We had reached out to each other because we were going to perform at the same festival, Beyond The Valley in Australia, where I also met SG Lewis. I was blessed to meet these really key collaborators for me who are making great current music I had special connections with. I just felt blessed to be so open.

I grew up learning a spontaneous style of improvisational singing called Desafio from Portugal, where people freestyle on stage together. [We channeled] the spirit of spontaneous freestyling in the studio. I have songs on this album that are freestyles. There's this beat that FnZ did, and I just opened my mouth and sang something, and that's the song. I went back and changed maybe three words and re-sang the vocal. You just kind of open the portal and sing. [Laughs.] For me, this album's really about community and, always, fusion.

Can you speak to how your daughter, as well as seeing Gen Z discovering your music on TikTok, and DJs remixing your songs encouraged and inspired you to go back to the studio?

Oh, that was cool. Dom had been communicating about [his Beyond the Valley] performance because he did a special mashup of "Give it To Me" and [his song] "Take It" that we premiered there. To top that off, he wanted to do the Bicep "Glue"/"Say It Right" [mashup]. He created this whole archway for me to come out and do this dramatic, beautifully received rendition of the song. That was a magical moment I'll never forget.

Four or five years ago, my daughter came home from high school and was like, "Mom, you're trending on TikTok." I didn't know what that meant. I'm not gonna lie; it wasn't until I walked out at Beyond the Valley and saw these Gen Z kids singing all the lyrics to my songs that I really understood the power of social media and TikTok. It was real; new people had discovered me. 

I just went to Stockholm and these kids were so young, singing every word of my old songs, and it blew my mind. I don't even know if they were born when the first records came out. [Laughs.]

I mean, people dressed up like Dom Dolla and I at Lollapalooza for Halloween with my same snake shirt. It was so meta and so cool. I love remix culture and nostalgia culture, and I lean into it. It's just like making a scrapbook.

Did that motivate you to want to make new music?

Oh yeah, are you kidding me?! I really feel like I was called back to the industry by the industry, especially DJs. I would go out and hear my songs played before arena shows of other artists and at house parties and clubs. I heard it in a lot of different contexts, and something clicked for me where I just wanted to have fun and party with my music. There was a sense of joy and celebration in it. People kept remixing all kinds of songs of mine from all my different albums. I thought, This can only be remixed so many times, I better go make some new stuff.

I love meeting artists online and making those connections in real time. I love the current climate of music. I think it is more fun than ever for artists, because we get to be very in the moment and we get to create moments. We get to focus on what we want to, we get to activate different things in our own way and on our own timeline. I connect with so many DJs online.

That's so my vibe; I've always been about collaboration. I feel like the industry is tailor made for artists like me right now who just want to collaborate and vibe out and make friends and have fun. I've always been in it for the music, so it's just so fun to be doing this.

7's second single, "Corazón" featuring Bomba Estéreo, is very confident and celebratory. What was it like working with them and how did that song come together?

"Corazón" started with this very special beat that T-Minus had made for me. He was such a champion of me doing this new project, and really pushed me to make sure I was putting my best foot forward with these new songs. The beat for "Corazón" was already magical, but I needed to find its stamp. [Working on the album] was like mining. You're digging until you see a glimmer, and then you chase it until you [hit] gold.

I co-produced the song and invited Bomba Estéreo to be on it. I brought them to the studio after a concert they had in Toronto. I got off a plane from recording in L.A., went straight to their gig, and embraced Li on stage. I hadn't seen her since I flew to her home on the beach in Santa Marta [Colombia] at the begging of my friend Lido Pimienta, who thought I needed to go meet Li. I'd never met her before [then]. I stayed at her home and met her family. She's an incredible woman. She's really a goddess.

We're at the studio [in Toronto], just eating chicken wings and having some tequila, and magic kind of happens. They're playing all these beautiful parts on their instruments. There, you get the fusion. It becomes something a little bit more than the song was before, and Li has her rap feature on there.

How did bringing Bomba Estéreo into the studio make the "Corazon" into something different?

I just knew it would make it more special. What's really weird is Li and I have another song that's not on this album— that will probably be on the deluxe — called "Corazónes" that we wrote in Colombia. I don't think it's a coincidence that this song is called "Corazón." I think it's some weird subconscious tick. [Laughs.] It was almost like the collaboration was meant to be more than one song.

Colombia made such a huge impression on me. I also spent time in Barranquilla because Lido was filming artwork for a project of hers; we were right in the thick of it in downtown Barranquilla. Li and I wrote a song at her treehouse jungle studio called Papaya Studios in Santa Marta. I really needed that sisterhood at that time. That trip was almost like a woman's retreat.

I just knew Bomba Estéreo needed to be on the song. I wanted [Li] to rap. On "Soy Yo" she's rapping and doing her thing. She's a really amazing rapper. She's an amazing singer and writer too; she's pretty rare. She's in her own lane.

I really connect with how Bomba Estéreo's music has a love vibration that I think is very rare. That's what sets them apart. That's why I knew they had to be a part of this song called "Corazón." They embody that idea.

Can you speak a bit more to the creative process of working on this album, as well as the emotions you were processing through it?

On this album there are some cool moments where I just let the music happen. Something clicked in me the last couple years where I realized it's really quite simple: You just have to enjoy what you're singing.

I was in the studio with Dom Dolla, producer Jim Beanz [who worked on Loose] and singer/songwriter Anjulie [Persaud] in Philly last Valentine's Day. We recorded and wrote "Eat Your Man," a track I put out with Dom last summer. Very early on when we were working on demos, Dom was like, "Why are you pronouncing every word when you sing?" 

There's something to letting yourself relax into the music and just letting it be. I kind of forgot that. In the studio with Dom that day in Philly, it was a real aha moment for me. It was like, Oh man, I remember what this is like, just singing for the joy of it all.

Emotionally, I got into the studio four years ago with a bit of a broken heart. I'd been through a lot in my personal life and I was quite sad. The first day I opened my mouth, I almost felt like I was having a heart attack from the amount of emotion moving through my chest. I had been a stay-at-home mom for about three years straight — my two youngest children were born a year apart — and I didn't go to the studio at all. So that first time back was quite impactful for me. 

That pain quickly turned into joy because I started spending Friday nights at the studio with my friends and collaborators. We would often jam until 7 in the morning. The studio is my happy place. I really learn so much about myself every time I make an album. It's uncanny; I have this moment before I put the album out where I'm almost sad because I have to detach from the process.

I've become overcome with emotion a lot of times making this album, hearing the mixes back and completing songs. I did purge a lot of emotions, but it's amazing how happy the album is. 

I think that comes from the sense of community and really leaning on people I've met along the way. I met moms who make music during this process, like Li and Lido. I'd be coming home from the studio texting them, and they'd be coming off the stage in Holland or Paris and I'd feel so motivated. Community is such a huge part of this album. I loved welcoming that into the mix. It was really fun to make.

How did you take all of that — four years, so many emotions, over 400 songs — and narrow it down into an album? I can't even imagine.

I was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago, and it was really an aha moment. I've had it my whole life. People always say, "Hey, Nelly, you're so spaced out. Where'd you go?" I got used to people making fun of me for spacing out and used to the procrastination. I [also] got used to the self-judgment and beating myself up about it.

So, getting diagnosed kind of changed my life. It is a superpower in the studio. I can write five songs at once. I can invite so many people. We can have two rooms, sometimes three, going at once and we can keep making stuff all night. So I leaned into the ADHD, embraced it, claimed it — and there we have it, so many songs.

Luckily, I have great people around me, like my engineer, Anthony [Yordanov], really kept me in check. He became that North Star of, "Okay, these are the songs we have. What are we working on today?" Also, my daughter Nevis [Gahunia] is one of the A&Rs on the album. She works in the music business and is very organized. 

I leaned on other people to help me hone it in. I don't know how a bunch of stuff magically becomes 14 songs. It kind of happened by bringing a lot of friends in the studio for these long, fun parties just listening to stuff and everybody being like, "We like this song."

I have a lot of my favorite people on the album. And there's a lot more to come. I really feel like the deluxe [version] is going to be jammed with a bunch more stuff.

It's your seventh album and it's been seven years since your last, but is there any further meaning in naming it 7?

To be totally honest, the songs are all so different. It was the only title that made sense because it's more like a collection. Fashion collections don't really have titles, they're just called collection number 10 or 21. This is my collection seven. 

And yeah, it's been seven years since my last album, and it's my seventh album. I love the simplicity [of the title]. Honestly, sometimes I feel a bit like a music librarian trapped in a pop star body. So it's really appropriate for me to put together this random collection of songs and just call it a number, like a librarian. [Laughs.] Go to the seventh section.

I want to go back to the very beginning, to "I'm Like a Bird," your GRAMMY-winning debut single. How does it feel now when you perform that song you wrote when you were 20?

I wrote it in a little room by myself before [going to] the studio. When I sing it, I love it. It's wild, I love it more every time I sing it. It feels incredible singing that song. 

There are certain songs in my set that almost feel like one big fun karaoke session with the crowd. Who doesn't love that? It's fun every single time.

More Sounds From Latin America & Beyond

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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Photo of Carlos Vives wearing a black shirt, black leather jacket and a silver necklace.
Carlos Vives

Photo: Natalia Gw

news

Carlos Vives Named The 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year: What To Know About The Latin Music Icon

Vives will be honored at a star-studded gala leading up to the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Latin GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 01:53 pm

The Latin Recording Academy today announced that 18-time Latin GRAMMY winner and two-time GRAMMY winner Carlos Vives will be the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. He will be honored at a star-studded gala leading up to the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Latin GRAMMY Awards.

The heartfelt tribute concert will honor Vives' celebrated career, which spans more than 30 years as a multifaceted singer and composer, and will feature renditions of his renowned repertoire performed by an array of notable artists and friends. In addition to his achievements in music, the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year gala will honor Vives' continued commitment to environmental and social initiatives.

Details about the coveted event, which takes place during the 2024 Latin GRAMMY Week in Miami, will be announced at a later date.

An architect of Latin music's ongoing evolution and global expansion, Carlos Vives is one of the most respected artists in Spanish-language music around the world. He helped pioneer a new Latin American sound, redefining traditional Colombian vallenato by incorporating pop and rock. The first Colombian to win a GRAMMY Award, he boasts more than 10 billion streams on digital platforms, 20 million albums sold, and enduring hits like "La Gota Fría," "Pa' Mayte," "La Tierra Del Olvido," "Fruta Fresca" and "Volví A Nacer."

Vives has become an ambassador of Colombian and Latin American culture around the world, and his commitment also transcends the musical realm. In 2015, he created the Tras La Perla initiative to promote the sustainable development of Santa Marta and its ecosystem.

In addition, he created the Escuela de Música Río Grande to offer artistic experiences to children and young people and founded the record label Gaira Música Local to promote new Colombian talent. As part of his ongoing commitment to music education, Vives has been a strong advocate and generous supporter of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation since its inception and sponsored its annual Prodigy Scholarship in 2018.

"Carlos Vives is one of the most prolific and beloved artists of our time, whose commitment to Latin music and support for the new generations truly personifies the values of our Academy," Latin Recording Academy CEO Manuel Abud said in a statement. "We honor him as our Person of the Year for his vast contributions to our musical heritage and for his many philanthropic initiatives."

"I am honored and moved to have been chosen as the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. It is the reward for an authentic journey, for a wonderful team, and, above all, it is the recognition of the musical spirits of our Latin American diversity," Vives said in a statement. "These spirits taught us to love and enrich our language, to take care of it, and to respect it in order to exalt humanity with it."

The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honors musicians and their artistic achievements in the Latin music industry as well as their humanitarian efforts. The past honorees are Laura Pausini (2023), Marco Antonio Solís (2022), Rubén Blades (2021), Juanes (2019), Maná (2018), Alejandro Sanz (2017), Marc Anthony (2016), Roberto Carlos (2015), Joan Manuel Serrat (2014), Miguel Bosé (2013), Caetano Veloso (2012), Shakira (2011), Plácido Domingo (2010), Juan Gabriel (2009), Gloria Estefan (2008), Juan Luis Guerra (2007), Ricky Martin (2006), José José (2005), Carlos Santana (2004), Gilberto Gil (2003), Vicente Fernández (2002), Julio Iglesias (2001), and Emilio Estefan (2000).

Net proceeds from the Latin Academy Person of the Year Gala will go toward the charitable work of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation.

The 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year gala will take place days ahead of the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which take place Thursday, Nov. 14, in Miami at Kaseya Center, in partnership with Miami-Dade County and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB). The nominations for the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs will be announced Tuesday, Sept. 17.

This year, the Latin Recording Academy will introduce two new Latin GRAMMY categories and a new field: Best Latin Electronic Music Performance, housed within the new Electronic Music Field, and Best Contemporary Mexican Music Album (Regional-Mexican Field). These additions also include several changes, including additional category amendments, to be added to the 2024 Latin GRAMMY Awards Process.

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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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