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Music Moment: Cuco

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When we first met the singer-songwriter Cuco back in 2018, he was still a teenager, and his career was just getting started.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

CUCO: I feel like I'm watching myself take off, but my brain is, like, still on the ground. This all happened so quick. Like, I didn't even have time to become, like, a diva.

MARTIN: Since then, he's soared in popularity. And on Friday, he released his second album, "Fantasy Gateway." It's a mashup of genres which is something Cuco's known for, from psychedelic rock and smooth R&B to traditional mariachi. Music journalist Nayeli Portillo says one of their favorite tracks is no exception. The song "Sitting In The Corner" features surprise appearances by artists Adriel Favela and Kacey Musgraves.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUCO SONG, "SITTING IN THE CORNER")

NAYELI PORTILLO: It's reflecting on a relationship that's come to an end, essentially, like not wanting to accept that it's over and being constantly reminded - like, seeing all these constant reminders of the person that you're not with anymore. So it is on the sad side. It's a bit of a ballad, I would say, but it's such a beautiful song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SITTING IN THE CORNER")

CUCO AND KACEY MUSGRAVES: (Singing) Can't ignore, and can't avoid that it was there. We had it all. It was the feeling...

PORTILLO: There's this really cool slowdown about halfway through the song where it's just the strings and Cuco's voice, like, at the same time. It's all you hear. I love that moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SITTING IN THE CORNER")

CUCO: (Singing in Spanish).

PORTILLO: One of his parents is from Mexico City. One of them is from Puebla. And he's always talked about, like, being raised on mariachi music and having, you know, these kinds of sounds that he puts into his music. There's a lot of songs that kind of go in between Spanish and English, like, within the same chorus, within the same verse. So he's doing a lot of things. He's very versatile.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIN DEL MUNDO")

CUCO AND BRATTY: (Singing in Spanish).

PORTILLO: One of the things that I love the most about "Fin Del Mundo," it features this really cool artist named BRATTY. It's about living in this dream world with somebody, and then you kind of have this moment where you're like, wait a minute, this could all come to an end at any minute, you know? This could end at any moment, and you don't want to. And the chorus has this line where it says, (speaking Spanish), which - a quick translation would be, now that I'm here with you, it's harder to see a reality without you. Like, having that moment of, like, you know, realizing that it could just all take a quick turn and everything could pan out very differently.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIN DEL MUNDO")

CUCO AND BRATTY: (Singing in Spanish).

PORTILLO: We as listeners are definitely hearing a lot of things that, you know, he kind of touched on in earlier material. But I think here, he definitely explores it a bit more. Cuco's always been pretty experimental in his approach to, like, making music, writing songs that have these, you know, really catchy choruses that kind of just sit with you. But yeah, it's still very connected to his, like, making music in his bedroom on a guitar and, like, you know - like, a really easily accessible program on his computer, you know?

MARTIN: That was music journalist Nayeli Portillo talking about Cuco's new album, "Fantasy Gateway."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE")

CUCO: (Singing) Eyes can be deceiving, but I don't want mine to be to you. My ears can be... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.