By Juan C. Rowe
¡Historias! Playlist & Song Breakdown
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Laura – Me llamo Sebastian
(Me llamo) Sebastian is the leading LGBT voice in Latin America, and there’s
good reason he’s still rising. His songs are political, risqué, yet never not
romantic and fun. “Laura” is about a girl who works as a prostitute, and yet
dreams of finding her dream man some day. What makes this song so special is
the stunning vocals, which are reminiscent of old movies, back when there
were no genres. Even if the song ends, “Laura” stays with you, even if you
never think of that someone you’ll maybe meet in some better future.
La bohemia – Buika
This beautiful cover by the talented Spanish Singer Buika perfectly encapsulates
the haunting aspect of this old Charles Aznavour song. Released in 1965, La
Bohemia (orig. La Bohème) tells the story of artist reminiscing about his years
as a broke painter, a time were he was poor and exhausted but happy. Buika’s
raspy voice and excellent vocal control give this popular tune a genuine depth,
as if an old Spanish woman who had a Bachelor in Arts returns to Paris one last
Breathe – In The Heights
Legend Lin Manuel Miranda’s earlier Broadway play “In The Heights” has million and one hidden gems; This song is one of them. The was it’s written tells story that resonates with many Latinx artistas: The feeling that academically,you’re letting your parents/family/community down. “Nina”, originally played by Mandy Gonzalez, tries to maintain her composure as she returns home from college – secretly having dropped out . What really gets to you about this song is the contrast of the upbeat vocals of her community that paint her as a talented and gifted child star, and the mournful internal monologue of the Nina of today, simply trying to “Breathe”.
La historia de Juan – Juanes
If you didn’t listen to this in your papapa’s car while the grey sky loomed over the starved streets of Lima – you had no one to teach you about your privilege
in the early 2000s. “La historia de Juan” is the heartbreaking tale of a nameless boy named Juan, who “no one loved”. Latino pop would not be what it is today without this song. Synth-y and dramatic, the sing tells of the homeless children of South America, while still remaining catchy. Truly, one of the many
underrated songs that lifted Juanes into the stardom they have today.
Brujas – Princess Nokia
New-York’s faithful wife, Princess Nokia, is truly her husband’s wife when it
comes to rhythm, darkness and urban mysticism. An urban legend herself,
Princess Nokia raps of the everyday magic of being the descendent of both
Latinas and Africans – always keeping a rap/hiphop confidence “strut”. “Brujas”
reminds you of back when your mamama’s sister would “pass the egg over”,
your uncle when he was stressed, or when your auntie reached for her Rosario
after even the smallest shake.
Me enamoré – Shakira
How could any self-respecting playlist for Latinx not include a Shakira song?
This song is a lovely tune about simply falling in love – unexpectedly, and yet
with so much sense. Knowing it’s from a woman with so much to give, “Me
enamoré” is Shakira’s modern masterpiece. A party tune with profound
Al otro lado de la luna – Gian Marco
Gian Marco, celebrated son of Peru, is unsurprisingly unapologetically
Romantic – nature-imagery and strong feelings included. “Al otro lado de la
luna” is about a good man realizing his partner is cheating on him, and making
the heavy decision to leave. The truly beautiful thing about this song is how the man doesn’t truly want to leave his beloved, and among other things, leaves
behind his heart “al otro lado de la luna”. Vivid imagery and a secret hope for
reconciliation leaves you wishing you could write something similar, while you
throwing away the last of his t-shirts.
Hijo de la luna – Mecano
Honestly – while we’re on the theme of the moon- who didn’t hear this song from their hippie-ass mom’s CDs? Mecano’s super hit speaks of a Roma myth –
a woman desperate for a husband, makes a deal with the moon to get a man,
but must give away her first-born in return. The song sounds as magical as the
lyrics, and cries of complicated motherhood, domestic abuse, and another
forbidden romance that ends in disaster. After you hear this song enough,
looking at a waning moon reminds you of sleeping babies.
Casado 39 – (me llamo) Sebastian
To finish off in a nice, round, circle, I add another tune by Sebastian. This is one of the best examples of the artist’s story-telling ability, while still keeping it politically relevant. Casado 39 is about a man who on the outside, is all about the perfect Christian, hardworking, homophobic façade, but whenever given the chance, his heart is full of homosexual escapades. Like most of (me llamo)Sebastian’s work, it is full of irony, passion and a poignant point about society: those with the most hate, could just be desperately searching for some kind of love.