Mujer Divina, Natalia Lafourcade
Sony Music, México
by Carlos Reyes
Too often in music, attaining maturity equals compromising the musical search. This might never be the case for our generation's darling Natalia Lafourcade. In an interview earlier this year Lafourcade confessed feeling incredibly moved by Mexico’s bicentenario, where she played chanteuse as part of Alondra de la Parra’s Travieso Carmesí. The event led her to a renaissance of national composers from the past, falling in love particularly with Agustín Lara (“El Flaco de Oro”). The follow up to the majestic Hu Hu Hu is a duets tribute album to Lara, to his ever-peeling melodies and the poetry of his profound words.
For the first time in a long time (perhaps since Café Tacvba’s pre-drums era), Mexican indie is witnessing an appreciation for Mexico's music. And it’s happening at different levels: from the indie-gone-mainstream success of Carla Morrison to the cult-gone-classic feat of Juan Cirerol. These artists are reinstating the fact that it’s okay and beautiful to sound Mexican. This observation is of particular significance when considering Hu Hu Hu was the result of Lafourcade’s creative expatriation to Canada. Mujer Divina finds a Natalia Lafourcade that’s less transitional and more acquainted to a classicist artistic scope. She’s quieter than we usually like her to be, but refinement has its perks. Featuring a stellar lineup of accompanying men, this is a record that skips the innate charm of duets and carves for deep emotional exchange.
Mujer Divina starts at a high point, with the always-comforting voice of Adrián Dárgelos (Babasonicos) describing the haunting gaze of a divine woman. When Lafourcade’s voice enters the spectrum, she quickly resolves the biggest anxiety felt by the album’s gendered premise: Will Lafourcade play a passive/recipient role or will she be an active participant in the storytelling? From track one, she refuses to be the muse of Lara’s love songs, and not once does she bow submissive in front of these worldly celebrated men. Lara would be proud of her stance. Lafourcade and her respective companion approach every song with due respect, negotiating rhythmic pace and idiosyncrasies without hurting the album’s overall refined coherence.
Leading single “La Fugitiva” (featuring Kevin Johansen) is a slow-burning cut where tangents from Lara’s original composition are subtly revealed. While the departure might seem impersonal, there are historical margins to be followed. Lafourcade’s approach is considerate and, with the exception of “Aventurera” (featuring Dominican singer Alex Ferreira), she opts to step away from the mounting orchestrations that defined a lineage between Las 4 Estaciones del Amor and Hu Hu Hu. Other standout numbers include the flourishing “Limosna” (featuring Café Tacvba’s Meme), the whimsical “Farolito” (featuring Gilberto Gil), and the ethereal “Amor de mis amores” (featuring Devendra Banhart). To be totally honest, the idea of a tribute collaborative album never really excited our staff, but we should know better than to underestimate the pulling of our heartstrings at the touch of the eternally consoling Natalia Lafourcade.