Paloma Mami Refuses to Shrink Her Expansive World in Debut Album: Sueños De Dali
By River Stone
“Me caí, ‘toy aquí, nunca me rendí”
(I fell, now I’m here, I never gave up)
One must look no further than the cover art for Paloma Mami’s debut studio album Sueños de Dalí to understand how effortlessly this young artist weaves together various worlds, both within and without. Peppered with elements of R&B, urbano, pop, trap, and reggaeton, the 21-year-old graces us with an album that is surprising, novel, yet equally comforting and familiar. This seamlessness is not exclusive to the styles present throughout Sueños de Dalí, but is also encompassed in the Chilean-American singer’s ability to jump from tales of folklore to seduction without missing a beat.
Raised by Chilean parents in New York City, Paloma Mami has been living in Santiago for the past four years, where she became the first Chilean to sign with Sony Music’s Latin label, a stepping stone to the success and recognition she is now experiencing. And it is wholly unsurprising, given the range and depth of this devilishly angelic singer’s voice, presence, attitude, personhood. She “wraps her vocals like a snake, with unexpected twists and dips of diction”, giving one the impression of someone of many more years; confident and capable not only in her art, but her pursuit of such. This is illustrated in her somewhat surprising but effective decision to not feature any other artists on the album. As she states in an interview with Billboard, “My plan was recording only solo, since my first single. I have to prove myself to myself only”. She explains how she didn’t want her success to be attributed to a collaboration with a male artist, as has so often been the case, she notes. Yet Paloma Mami is not entirely adverse to collaboration, as is evident in the number of co-writers and producers present on the album credits, including Tayla Parx, DJ Genius, Rosalía, Nova Wav, El Guincho, Hit-Boy, Tainy and Edgar Barrera.
Paloma Mami’s collaborative spark and “laid-back coolness” is alluringly accentuated in the track I Love Her, which was produced by the female duo Nova Wav and is one of Paloma Mami’s favourites on the album. It tells a story from a man’s perspective, a man who has fallen in love with Paloma Mami. The song then goes on to a refrain of self-love, a recurring theme throughout Sueños de Dalí. “I’m my No. 1 fan,” she tells Billboard. “And that’s the most important thing. You’re the only person who can get you to where you want to be”.
Such unapologetic confidence is radical in an age that is profoundly oppressive, with women of colour often being the subjects of chronic dismissal, and worse. Yet Paloma Mami seems to truly laugh in the face of anyone or anything aiming to make her small. She is described by Billboard as “decisive and focused [...] petite, forceful and sure of herself, but also sweet”. This self-possession shines throughout the album, such as with the tantalizing track Goteo, made in collaboration with producer El Guincho. Paloma Mami’s voice is assured and free in this ode to “how fly [she] is”, supported by a driving beat and dreamy electronic ornaments that are somehow reminiscent of both space travel as well as birds bathing, once again illustrating the complex and vast world that Paloma Mami shares with her audience.
What is wonderful about this young artist is that she offers such intentional depth throughout the journey of this album, yet such profundity is also just intrinsically who she is. Alex Gallardo, president of Sony Music U.S. Latin, believes that Paloma Mami is “primed for success both because of her disparate influences, and because she synthesizes them into something totally new and singular”. He is speaking, of course, of the union between her New York upbringing and her Chilean roots. This has led her to have a diverse array of musical influences, including Bad Bunny, Drake, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse, Aaliyah and Ella Fitzgerald; influences which certainly impact the vibrant, colourful landscape of her compositions.
Such variety is also manifest throughout the arc of the album, beginning with a Chilean folk tale and national song about Mi Palomita, or “my dove”, and ending with Que Wea, which is Chilean slang and Paloma Mami’s way of “[showing her] side of literally not caring about anything, laughing at all the people that hated on [her] and just showing them how little [she cares]”. These bookends allow us insight into the story of Paloma Mami, from her roots to what she perceives as her “whole entire career”. We are also blessed with a stunning interlude midway through the album, Dreams, which serves as a bridge between acts, versions of self, ideas and, well, dreams. This track has a decidedly different energy than the rest of the album; it is a dreamscape of wholesome beauty, stripped down to spacious electric guitar and the night time lullaby of crickets and frogs. As Remezcla so precisely describes, it is these potent storytelling techniques, along with “a multi-faceted delivery” that “[evoke] a curiosity of analyzation and a need to explore the work from start to finish, again and again, and with all its appended elements at the ready”.
In this way, Paloma Mami is a true artist. She also paints, including on her clothes, and released her own clothing line Mami, in collaboration with the youth group Bershka, further illustrating Paloma Mami’s no-nonsense approach to her career. What a blessing she has bestowed upon us, both via her music but also her self. She is a leader, a storyteller, creating a vast universe of personal folklore all her own, not unlike the surrealist painter for whom this album is named. Sueños de Dalí is a work of art to be enjoyed in its fullness; a reflection of the young singer who refuses to be anything less than all that she is. In this way, she gives permission to all her listeners to be all that they are, too. And what a gift that is.
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