Nathy Peluso’s 'Calambre', released earlier this month, has to have been one of the most anticipated debut albums in Latin music this year.
The Barcelona-based, Argentine singer and rapper is the latest from Spain’s Onda Europa scene, which brought us the likes of Rosalia, C Tangana, and Rels B. Like those artists, Nathy emerged through social media, growing a mammoth following as a hybrid of both musician and influencer. The difference, though, is in how entertaining she is off the mic – sharing areas of her personal life that would make a Kardashian blush.
If you follow Nathy on Instagram, it always feels like she’s having fun. And for casual listeners (or the devoted Nathkillas fanbase) it’s her character that elevates the eclectic, head-bumping, hilarious, and touching singles, starting with the aggressively hype ‘Corashe’ in 2017, and really gaining momentum after ‘La Sandunguera’ in 2018, where she bridged Argentine guitar rhythms with hip-hop.
You come for Nathy Peluso – all the bizarro-sexy dancing on Instagram, the memes, comedy, and ironic Hollyweird fashion – but you stay for the music; because you want to hear her devour a G-Funk beat before successfully moving onto salsa, tango, reggaeton, and Latin folk. That the album has no ‘one’ sound is its strength. Calambre does something many debut albums wouldn’t dare: to skip a cohesive theme or a plan, and allow the artist to be ruthlessly playful with genres – sometimes to the point of provocation.
Nathy admits in this interview that it was a risk; one that could’ve hurt the album’s commercial success, and that it would’ve been much easier to produce a series of generic, crowd-pleasing pop songs. But if the millions of YouTube views, streaming downloads, and award nominations are anything to go by, doing things her way has paid off.
Nathy is about to hit the mainstream. This week, her album was nominated for two Latin Grammys, including Best New Artist with the single ‘Buenos Aires’ getting the nod for Best Alternative Song. She’s making the rounds on TV (although, it will be interesting to see how the radio censors her naughtier lyrics) and had slowly-building crumbs of coverage from international media.
But before her crowning as a Latin pop queen, Nathy Peluso speaks honestly about her year so far, and her debut album, with Clash.
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Hi Nathy! After releasing your debut album, what has surprised you the most this year?
This year was so powerful for me. I was scheduled to perform at Coachella and Lollapalooza, but now they’re rescheduled for next year, I get to perform the songs on my album. I prefer to see things in a positive way. I got to learn a lot about myself this year, about what I like, I got to reconnect with friends and family. It was very, very powerful. It’s the best moment because people really need music.
The thing that I have to be most patient about is playing live—I’m crazy about getting up on a stage! But at least I can share new music, and so I think I am blessed. Especially with such unique energy this year and the music gives listeners the chance to feel and discover, as all the songs have ‘feeling’ at the center.
You’ve said you wanted to create a new ‘musical avant-garde’. Considering how eclectic your influences are on this album, what does that look like?
I’m happy. My album reminds me of all the music I’ve loved since I was a child. I get to have hip-hop in my album! R&B, but also salsa… Then, there are fusions of genres. The album is a fusion because I am a fusion – I need to experiment with everything. Otherwise, I’ll get bored. Just rapping? It’s like, am I going to eat only hamburgers all my life?
People are the same; one day we feel one way, and the next it’s completely different. So in this album, they discover all the genres they love, with my voice, style, and writing as the glue that binds them, like a conductor. I got music for everyone, bitch!
Many fans follow you for your entertaining online antics and sense of humour. How does that go against being a typical ‘popstar’?
I don’t understand why so many singers try to be serious online. It’s like, “look at me, I’m cool, incredible, perfect” – that’s so stressful! I’m a public personality, but I’m also a real human. I love to laugh and to make my people laugh because I’m happy and confident in who I am. I live my music like I live my life, and I live my life with humour.
But on the other side, I can be really angry and sad. ‘La pasión Argentina’ is a nostalgic instinct that lives within me. I can’t control it, and I’m intense in everything I do… Like my song Buenos Aires, it fills me with so many sensations, and it touches on many emotions.
I decided to be honest with myself. If I feel a certain way, I share it openly, be it sad or full of humour – and you know what? People connect with that.
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Your latest single 'Sana Sana' is political. Is that something you’re going to be doing more of in the future?
The song is inspired by a traditional nursery rhyme for kids. When you hurt yourself, your mother recites these words to remind you that tomorrow will be better. The world is in a bad place, now. The economy, our attitudes, our history, everything feels broken. But I wanted the song to be optimistic; I want to say, “don’t lose hope,” because this shit is going to pass!
On a deeper level, the song is about Argentina. Our country has a long and painful history, with a lot of debt, but also perseverance. I’m not interested in singing about politics, to be honest. Who am I to tell you about that? But if I’m being honest to myself, I felt the pain of my people, my friends, and family in Argentina. So, I needed to speak about this in ‘Sana Sana’.
I live in Spain, but I appreciate my culture, and I’ve always loved Argentine music… It brings me back to being a child, especially the folk songs of Mercedes Sosa, an absolute legend who sadly passed a few years ago! In ‘Sana Sana’, I wanted to pay her a tribute: “Argentine like Mercedes Sosa… You know I’m a dangerous woman”.
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How do you expect your lyrics – often allegorical – to translate with Western audiences?
Sometimes, the music speaks for itself. The language doesn’t need to be a barrier, and I’m happy the singles have found a following in America and Europe. Maybe there are some difficulties because people lose the meaning in the lyrics. But sometimes, you can’t explain good music.
I grew up singing songs I didn’t understand, like Beyonce or Michael Jackson and when I sang them back, it was all sounds (laughs) – I didn’t care what they were truly saying, I just knew it resonated with me. I’ve been able to do this with people around the world, so it’s only a matter of time.
You’re an artist who has successfully used and emerged from social media. How has it helped you reach out to newer audiences?
Instagram and YouTube are so important for my career. A huge part of why people found me is because I like expressing my personality beyond the music. They see me dance, talk, laugh… I share everything. So, people actually know me, which makes the music hit different, you know? And then my art can be shared with more and more people.
One of the most important ways is through fashion, which a lot of my followers like to see. Like my music, what I like to wear changes every day, and I don’t take it too seriously. Clothes should be fun! Today I’m this person, tomorrow I’m another.
And it’s not always Nathy. I play with characters, enjoy the theatre, like in my video for 'Business Woman': if I want to play the devil, I’m going to get creative and become the devil.
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How does that crossover to the music?
If you look at the album cover, I’m leaping in bandages but I’m naked. To me, that’s a fashion statement. I want people to react, as it’s my first album and it's an important photo for me.
'Calambre' is like a shock. It’s a risk. It’s that feeling you get when you put something electric in water. And I’m 'Calambre', baby! It’s all a reaction, to the music, to my image… The lyrics are very provocative. Not radio-friendly at all – but that’s why they get millions of views on YouTube, because the swearing, the themes of sex, fighting, and power are unexpected. And that gets a reaction. That’s where the success lies beyond the mainstream, and why people keep listening.
You know, I could easily make pop songs and get air time, but it wouldn’t be true to myself! Take 'Amor Salvaje' (the name references Argentine folklore legend Oscar Palavecino). That’s a love song, and I’m not used to writing about love. Everyone feels love… I fall in love once a week! But it’s also honest, which means I’m going to provoke in the lyrics. And then I get angry, and I want to say shit about someone.
But as intense as it all is, the album is meant to be lighthearted.
Everything seems to be happening very fast for you. What’s next for Nathy Peluso?
I put a lot of work into this album, and I’m grateful to share it. But I do music for live performances… For the show. I am a showgirl! And I need to be on stage, to dance and scream. I need to share this moment physically once everything gets normal.
One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be crazy. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I perform next… I’ll have to wait and see. Maybe I’ll be naked.
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'Calambre' is out now.
Words: Chris Cotonou
Photography: Leo Adef
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