From 'Suncity' To Lisbon: Our Favorite Latin Songs This Week
This week's Alt. Latino playlist lineup includes a special premiere of "Como La Flor" by Miami-based duo Dracula, an acoustic rendition with all the magic and heartbreak of Selena's original. Luis Fonsi and Ozuna, Khalid and Empress Of, and Natalia Clavier also released singles this week, bringing a wide variety of of Latin influence to the mainstream. Flutist Susan Palma-Nidel rounds out the list with a thoughtful exploration of the Portuguese music form fado.
This playlist is part of a weekly Spotify series of NPR Music's favorite Latin songs. Catch our weekly thoughts and hot takes here on NPR.org.
Dracula, "Como La Flor"
I'm sighing already. "Como La Flor" absolutely melts me. 23 years after her death, Selena still enchants millions of young Latinos with her liquid voice and heart-spilling lyrics. Dorys Bello and Eli Oviedo — known among the art goths and rose-gilded young people of Miami as folk duo Dracula — conjure Selena's magic in a cover that you'll wish you could hear for the first time again.
In fact, that's what discovering Dracula in the first place is like — a group known for a decade as an exclusively live phenomenon, the two friends a medium for wanderers in patio bars to channel a fleeting communion with some occult element by accident. It's the musical incarnation of the spirit that moves you when you're 15 to dig through your mother's old Julio Iglesias records, drag your over-the-top quince portrait out of the closet, and overline your lips. It's the moment when who you are becomes something cool and worthy of Renoir-ish Instagram portraits. The Cuban-Honduran duo perform Vashti Bunyan to "Veinte Años" with the grace of irreplaceable photo albums, filling living rooms with old spirits. The duo's debut album, Dorys & Eli, comes out Jan. 2019 on Sweat Records Records, setting the magic to vinyl for the first time. —Stefanie Fernández
Luis Fonsi & Ozuna, "Imposible"
There's quite the game of musical chairs happening in the world of Latin pop. Last week, Drake and Bad Bunny dropped "MIA" and not weeks after Ozuna released "Taki Taki" with Cardi B and Selena Gomez. Why? The Latin pop machine that produced "Imposible" will continue to release these kinds of now-you-see-it earworms ad infinitum, and it doesn't matter if we forget them. They're all drops in the bucket. And for the next few months, this song will be good enough for us before the next one hits. —Stefanie Fernández
Susan Palma-Nidel, "Velho Mondega"
I have two friends who recently traveled through Lisbon and they sent back photos that showed exquisite charm and beauty. This explains the charms and magic of a new album from flautist Susan Palma-Nidel, Lisboa A Salto. After a long and successful career in classical music, Palma-Nidel set her sights first on Brazil and then Portugal. This album follows her first exploration of Portuguese music in 2016 and includes the most well known form, fado, but is also a deeper dive into classic compositions and musicians from that country.
Every track is perfectly performed by Palma-Nidel along with Portugal's most well known and respected folk and popular musicians.
Lisboa A Salto is a hidden and unexpected gem absolutely worth seeking out as a reminder of the beauty of nuance and artistry. — Felix Contreras
Khalid feat. Empress Of, "Suncity"
El Paso native Khalid and Los Angeles-born Honduran singer Empress Of occupy the same corner of the Frank Ocean generation of alt-pop coming out of the majority-minority, warmest cities in the U.S. ("Suncity" even ends with a voicemail from someone's mom for good measure.) Singing in Spanglish over a sparse backbeat has become the new normal for young Latinos like Empress Of and Cuco, but their influence is especially felt when non-Latino artists — and, surprise, it's usually non-white artists — like Drake, Khalid, and even Clairo lend their voices to the burgeoning Spanglish movement. Like it's titular track, Khalid's Suncity EP (and Empress' Us, also out this week) live like voicemails you'll never delete, letters to hometown and young love. —Stefanie Fernández
Natalia Clavier, "Fénix"
Natalia Clavier is one of the main vocalists for the masterful musical co-op known as Thievery Corporation. Her voice has graced album and tours, raising from the mix with passion and crystal clear precision. Her new solo album is called Trans and is a very emotional exploration of the end of a love affair and eventual recovery. "Fénix" is just what you expect: a short story about deception and inner discovery that leads to rebirth.
Every track is a form of motivation to discover our inner selves, to tap into the strength and perseverance that can lead an individual or a group of people to a safer place.
Natalia Clavier remains one of music's best kept secrets that exists right out in the open. Stepping away momentarily from her compadres in Thievery Corporation, her prodigious talents are on full display. — Felix Contreras
This playlist is updated weekly.
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