The scientists from the Instituto Nacional Para la Música deserve many felicitations and kudos for succeeding! They have created the perfect Mexican teenage pop star! Natalia Lafourcade is quirky and cute, but not intimidating about it (which is to say she’s neither slutty nor horrifyingly thin; she actually looks like some girl you might know across the street who babysits and laughs a lot and has a band). And she’s got a fun elastic singing voice, too. My eight-year-old daughter—an Avril Lavigne/Michelle Branch fan who doesn’t speak Spanish—took all of 30 seconds to decide the record was “cool.” Sombreros off to you, noble hombres de la ciencia!
Except that someone seems to have spilled some Chemical X into the solution, because Natalia writes her own songs: lyrics and (mostly) music. Ordinarily, this would be bad and boring, leading to “oh she’s so real” rockist crapismo and ho-hum songs cluttering up the radio and Alanis Morissette standing there starkers. But Natalia gets a free pass on that score because her songs are really totally good—dancey-techno-pop good (“Busca un Problema”), bossa-nova smoothness good (“El Destino”), rocked-up Matrixy crunch-pod Latina electro-folk good (“Te Quiero Dar”). Her producers are Mexican teenpop veterans, and they keep everything clean and trendy, but Natalia Lafourcade is no Svengali job: This is clearly her vision. OK, so sometimes she worships a little too much at the Björk altar . . . but she’s only 19, dammit, so she’s allowed.
And I know lyrics don’t matter, but Natalia doesn’t, so she writes funny weird things like “Mango,” which is kinda like “Milkshake” except with ambiguity about what exactly Natalia is addicted to eating. (She claims it’s really about a mango! Adorable or what?) “En el 2000” is brilliant, and a huge hit everywhere they understood it; it’s all about trying to become a grown-up, moving from being in love with Ricky Martin to being in love with Gael García Bernal. As for the song where she sees three elephants in the sky . . . well, what the hell, I believe her.