Chilean superstar Mon Laferte is no stranger to genre changes. After beginning her career as a reality show pop singer, she transitioned to alt-rock with her early indie releases. Then, embracing her tattooed pinup aesthetic, she shifted to her current signature blend of Latin alt-rock and mid-century American big-band lounge music.
These days Laferte lives in Tepoztlán, just south of Mexico City. During the COVID-19 lockdown, she watched a documentary on the life of revolutionary Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, who also lived in Tepoztlán in her later years. Vargas’ story inspired her to explore the music of her new home, which, in turn, led her to write a collection of songs that cross a variety of Mexican styles.
The result is the appropriately titled Seis—her sixth studio album as Mon Laferte. Across its 14 tracks, Laferte skillfully delves into a range of styles. From the ranchera music Vargas is known for to bolero and mariachi, she adds her own flair to each genre without straying from their essence.
Seis begins with the passionate “Se Me Va A Quemar El Corazón,” and a second version of the song, featuring La Arrolladora, closes the album. Banda as a genre is heavily male-dominated in Mexico. While artists like Jenni Rivera paved the way, Laferte’s entry and collaboration with an established group is notable.
Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta is featured in the song’s video, joining a trio of Mexican artists who appear on the album, reinforcing its regional theme.
The first of those guest performers, featured on “La Mujer,” is Gloria Trevi—who was dubbed the “Madonna of Mexico” in the mid-to-late ’80s—back when that was still a compliment. The two singers elevate each other on the track, pushing each other to reach increasingly powerful heights with their vocals.
“Aunque Te Mueras Por Volver” is the closest Laferte comes on the album to her old style, featuring a musical and vocal style reminiscent of an early ’60s “James Bond” movie. It brilliantly evokes that mood and era, and has a sweeping, cinematic feel that almost begs to be on a soundtrack.
Not content to feature one Mexican superstar on a track, “Que Se Sepa Nuestro Amor” features Alejandro Fernandez, one of the top-selling mariachi artists of all time. It was chosen as the album’s lead single, and it’s not hard to understand why. The song and its accompanying video succinctly encapsulate what the album is all about, with a distinctly Mexican sound wrapped around Laferte’s unmistakable flair.
Overall, international fans who discovered Laferte after her 2016 major label debut may miss the sound they’ve grown to love. Any area’s regional music can take time for outsiders to appreciate, after all. Though boleros and the other featured styles have spread throughout Latin America, much like jazz or heavy metal in the United States, these genres still lack the universal appeal of more generalized pop music.
That said, regardless of the musical style, the substance absolutely shines through. One of the major factors that made Mon Laferte a star is that she’s still Mon Laferte—whether she’s singing pop, heavy metal, or mariachi. That character exists on Seis as strongly as ever.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.