CVMC, María Magdalena
by Pierre Lestruhaut
A lot of us around here hadn’t heard about María Magdalena, the Chilean singer-songwriter who between debut and sophomore releases made the transition from electric guitar to music sequencers as her composition tool, until her single “CVMC (Cada Vez Más Cerca)” dropped earlier this year. In retrospect, the song isn’t just a tour de force, it’s also a reinvention of the artist. Her self-titled debut album was mostly made of organic indie pop balladry and led by her own vocal melodies, so, in a way, this new CVMC EP feels like the work of an artist that's gone from indie pop songwriter to disco pop diva. The kind that can get away with having her songs featured both on Niñas Mal and a Club Fonograma compilation (for what it’s worth).
The eponymous leadoff track still hasn’t worn out even six months after being released, and its endless series of hooks is enough to place it high among the continuous stream of Chilean pop hits that’s invaded the blogosphere these last few years. But even then, she still hadn’t shown all her cards yet. “Niñas hardcore” slows down the tempo and, with it, exudes a Balearic pop exuberance that’s hard to find in any recent Chilean pop releases. It actually manages to one-up “CVMC” in that it’s warmer, sexier, weirder, and (what’s ultimately really important here) catchier.
The EP’s existence could be solely justified as a way to include both singles in an official release of sorts, being clearly the two standout tracks on the 5-song EP. Magdalena is a self-declared fan of Giorgio Moroder and, with “Relámpago,” she explores the juxtaposition between the coldness of arpeggiated Italo disco beats and her warm voice. It’s her less hook-oriented song but it could still fill any early '80s dance floor. “La Isla” and “Segunda Vez” bring down the EP’s gloss levels, going into synth-pop territory in what serves as an interesting backdrop for Magdalena’s vocal melodies. Yet the instrumentation's darkness makes these songs fall a bit flat in comparison to the luxurious singles.
CVMC is proof enough of María Magdalena’s huge potential for creating pop gems. What she lacks in Icona Pop-style sing-along escapist pop she makes up with her ability in song crafting, and what she may lack in Charli XCX-style glistening, off-kilter, post-internet pop she makes up with an aesthetic that sounds both timeless and placeless. Her decision to go digital has given her a more versatile backdrop to sing to. Although she still might not have the genre-bending experimentation that has allowed a musician like Grimes to thrive in the LP format, it seems, for now, María Magdalena can easily blossom as a singles artist. Going with the EP format seems like the wise decision from a musician who’s very aware of the missteps that can come from releasing too much too soon.