Paloma Mami Is Not Going To Apologise

The Chilean-American R&B star talks life in the public eye...

Paloma Mami’s favorite Chilean slang word is conchatumadre, “I say it every day,” she tells Clash, laughing. It loosely translates to a bastard or c*nt; and it’s not surprising that it’s Paloma’s slang of choice. 

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The 21-year-old Chilean-American R&B star has been on the defensive ever since she started making music in 2018. Based in Santiago, Chile, she’s endured criticism for not being Chilean enough because she grew up in New York. The Chilean press – almost as toxic as its UK counterpart – have relentlessly scrutinized her for her appearance, shamelessly debating her body and its “realness”. Each one of her interviews has been dissected by online trolls scavenging to find any dirt to trash her with.  

But Paloma’s music expresses a sense of power, exerting strength and self-assuredness. She’s got no patience for anyone who patronizes her or holds her back. She’s beyond it all — and proves so on her debut album Sueños de Dali, named after the legendary Spanish surrealist to whom she feels strongly connected.  

“Dalí was so unapologetically himself,” she explains. “He didn’t care about what other people thought about his art.”  

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Schooled in ’90s-’00s R&B, drawing inspiration from the likes Aaliyah and TLC, Paloma fuses throwback sounds with fresh trap styles while cross-stitching Spanish and English lyrics into seamless verses. The result is a polished, confident sound whose smoothness contrasts with her dynamic maneuvering between languages. The wordplay makes it hard for monolingual speakers to follow, and even bilinguals are caught off — Paloma makes English sound like Spanish and Spanish sound like English.

But it’s all part of her vision. Like Dalí, she is not interested in being understood at first glance.

“Dali is looked at as so strange. I feel like that happens with my lyrics, too. Lots of people don’t understand them and it forces them to look twice. I love playing like that.”  

Paloma’s unrepentant bravado shines through on tracks like 'Goteo', "Pull up to the scene / Me ves al entrar / soy mucho pa ti (mucho pa ti) / Gota a gota-ta-ta, no estoy fácil (fácil, fácil)” – I’m not easy, she sings in breathy verses. It oozes magnetism, made for the dancefloor, when one day, eventually, we’ll be able to move to it while making eyes at one another. The message is clear: Approach, but with caution. 

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At moments on the album, her swagger drops, like on 'For You', a stripped-back love song where her melodic vocals size up to a single throbbing beat: “All these red lights imma run for ya / Body and mind it’s all numb for ya,” which is then concluded by the oscillating Spanish-English line “Lo doy todo por ti, I would give you anything.”

Paloma also confronts queries over her identity, lacing her lyrics with Chilean slang, harnessing colloquial expressions, and tying them into her take-no-shit aura, such as in track 'Que Wea?' (what the fuck?”).  

“I’m so happy to put Chilean slang in my music. because people need to hear it. It’s too funny for other countries not to hear this type of Spanish before,” she laughs. She hopes more people will want to find out more about Chile through her songs.

Paloma’s homeland may host her harshest critics, but it’s where she’s also received the most love. She was the most listened to Chilean artist on Spotify in 2019, despite only having four songs at the time.  

“Chile is where I started everything, it’s my home. My passion for music came to life here. Here, I got the balls to make the jump and make music without being scared.“

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She loves her country, despite navigating a minefield of naysayers and abuse to launch her career here.  

The tirade against women in the public eye is currently evaluated as if it peaked in the Britney-era, ending in the late 2000s before we suddenly all got ‘woke’. But young female artists today are still launching careers in harsh and unforgivable landscapes.  

Thankfully, Paloma knows who she’s making music for — and doesn’t give a fuck about all the other conchetumares. 

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Paloma Mami’s debut album 'Sueños de Dali' is out now.

Words: Charis McGowan

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