Jon Pareles (The New York Times) writes “Karol G’s Songs Conquered the World. On a New LP, She Reveals Herself,” focusing on the Colombian singer’s trajectory and the recent release of her album Mañana será bonito.
Karol G, a global pop star from Colombia, said she wrote 60 songs, maybe more, for her new album, “Mañana Será Bonito” (“Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful”); eventually she winnowed them down to 17.
The first ones, she recalled in a video chat from Medellín, Colombia, were full of “anger, sadness, bad love, toxic relationships.” They reflected the fallout of her 2021 breakup with the Puerto Rican rapper and singer Anuel AA, after the end of a romance they had made public with a 2019 duet, “Secreto,” that has since been streamed more than a billion times.
Karol G, 32, wrote about feeling betrayed, about temptations and doubts, about partying away the pain, about no-strings sex with an ex. But eventually, she found herself writing wary love songs and counting her blessings. Just a few weeks before the album’s Feb. 24 release, she was wondering if she had been too candid. [. . .]
Karol G, born Carolina Giraldo Navarro, was wearing an oversized white hoodie, one of 100 that she has decorated by hand for a limited-edition merch sale. Her hair, which has changed color for each album and tour cycle — with her fans attending concerts in matching wigs — was the bold red she unveiled in recent videos.
“The album is more Carolina than Karol G,” she said. “Personal things that I had inside me, I was just letting them go in my lyrics. People are going to know about a lot of my personal life with my songs. But I don’t want to have the songs inside me anymore, because I know people can heal a lot of things with music. Writing songs for me is a really good way to heal things that I can’t explain.”
She admitted to prerelease jitters. “Right now, I notice that artists are trying very hard to find a concept, to be very experimental,” she said. “I love that. [. . .]”
“Mañana Será Bonito” is primed to be a blockbuster in the wake of Karol G’s 2021 album, “KG0516.” That LP included her billion-streaming 2019 collaboration with Nicki Minaj, “Tusa,” and her self-mythologizing 2020 “Bichota,” a word Karol G coined to turn “bichote” — Puerto Rican slang for a drug kingpin — into a feminine noun for, as she says, “a boss bitch,” a sexy and powerful woman.
Her new slang caught on. “‘Bichota’ became a movement,” she said. “Las bichotas don’t cry, las bichotas work for themselves, las bichotas are big, las bichotas are strong, las bichotas can do everything. Everybody can have good songs, everybody can have a moment. But to have a movement, it’s a different thing to find. And I think it’s something that you don’t find if you’re looking for it.”
Karol G played the main stage of Coachella in 2022, pointedly including a medley of worldwide hits in Spanish from acts who had never performed at the festival, including Selena, Ricky Martin, Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Shakira. “It was special for me to say with my show, I’m here now and I feel really proud,” she said. “But I have to say that I’m here because of this music that opened those doors for us to be here.”
The core of Karol G’s music is the loping beat of reggaeton. But her songs replace the genre’s usual rapping with inviting pop melodies, delivered in her clear, teasing voice. Instead of reggaeton’s machismo, she offers cheerful, forthrightly sex-positive femininity.
With each album, Karol G has also reached beyond reggaeton to collaborate with an international array of guests — a sign of Latin pop’s ever-expanding, border-crossing possibilities. “Right now is a really special moment with Latin music,” she said, “because everybody in the world is like, ‘I don’t care if I know the words or not,’ but they connect with our sounds.”
Karol G grew up surrounded by music. Her father — who was her protector and manager in her early career — sang with a band and brought home all sorts of music: “Rock ’n’ roll, salsa, ballads, reggaeton, vallenatos, everything,” she recalled. From an early age, she knew she wanted to sing. As a teenager, she auditioned unsuccessfully for the Colombian edition of the music reality competition “The X Factor,” but soon afterward signed to record with the Puerto Rican label Diamond Music — a contract her father bought her out of two years later. By 2012, she had grown so discouraged that she decided to give up on music and study marketing in New York City. [. . .]
She returned to Colombia, enrolled to study music at the University of Antioquia, released songs independently and performed at every opportunity, eventually singing duets with established reggaeton stars like Nicky Jam. Her 2017 debut album, “Unstoppable,” included duets with Bad Bunny and Quavo (from Migos), and it brought her a 2018 Latin Grammy Award as best new artist. Her popularity has only grown since then, stoked by lusty songs like “Mi Cama” (“My Bed”) and “Punto G” (“G-Spot”). In Latin America, she headlines stadiums.
Her constant collaborator has been Daniel Echavarría Oviedo, who records as Ovy on the Drums and has produced the vast majority of her songs. He tailors and refines reggaeton and other beats to suit her voice; he also strives to match her ambitions. “Karol’s mind is always going,” he said in a video chat from Los Angeles. “She always has an objective as to where the direction of the song should be, where the lyrics should go. She’s always thinking what’s the next move, the next step, the next accomplishment?”
On “Mañana Será Bonito,” Karol G worked with Finneas (Billie Eilish’s brother and collaborator), the Jamaican dancehall singer Sean Paul, the Bronx-born bachata singer Romeo Santos, the Dominican dembowsero Angel Dior, and her forerunner as a Colombian superstar, Shakira. She also embraces an elder generation of reggaeton with “Gatúbela” (“Catwoman”), a racy duet with Maldy, a Puerto Rican rapper from the duo Plan B, which released its first album in 2002. [. . .]
Another of the album’s good-riddance songs is “TGQ,” the duet with Shakira — a pairing Karol G had long hoped for. They had sent each other songs in recent years, but none had seemed exactly right. Now, with Shakira singing openly about her own breakup, Karol G thought they might share another song in which she was “letting a lot of anger go.” When Shakira heard it, Karol G said, “She was, like ‘Oh my God, thank you. Those lyrics are perfectly the way I feel right now.’” They completed the song together, and the finished track, a reggaeton-tinged minor-key ballad, seethes in sisterhood. [. . .]
For full article, see https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/14/arts/music/karol-g-manana-sera-bonito.html