MEDIOCRE by Ximena Sariñana

Ximena Sariñana, 2008

by: Carlos Reyes

Fortunately, mediocre is not the appropriate adjective for the actress’s much anticipated first album. Sariñana debuts with a clear vision that should emerge her career to international stardom. Comparisons have already arrived, influences by fellow Mexican singers Natalia Lafourcade and Julieta Venegas pop up here and there, but Ximena belongs to that new branch of Latin pop that is being produced in South America, especially in Argentina and Uruguay.

Half of the album was produced by Bajafondo Tango Club’s Juan Campodonico, who is the main producer of Uruguayan bohemia sensation Jorge Drexler and the much underrated El Cuarteto de Nos. The other half was mastered by Argentinean Tweety Gonzalez, who has touched most successful Latin American acts, from Soda Stereo, Libido, Fito Paez to Shakira. Both manage to blend a melancholic tone with Sariñana’s gifted voice, even if her jazz influences are dissolved, gone almost completely. Something quite disappointing considering how good she sounds in that genre as we could hear in the almost extinct EP she recorded a year ago with her band, Feliz No Cumpleaños.

The album opens with the album’s very best track Mediocre; the rock song also gives the album its title. “Me encanta escucharte hablar, que elegancia hacerte sentir mal”. A truly poetic song that stands out for its subtle and ironic approach on how life itself is a mediocre rollercoaster. Follows with the first single Vidas Paralelas, one of the few weak tracks if you asked me, it feels quite forced in its lousy intention of maintaining a high profile sound, while still possessing those elements of a hit pop commercial song. Perhaps I’m just pissed off they didn’t take the risk with the much superior Normal, which they are exposing to the virtual market as a non-official single for MySpace & YouTube. Un Error and No Vuelvo Mas follow generic Brazilian contemporary notes that would make Marisa Monte really happy.

The album also features a couple of covers, but don’t worry, they are not opportunistic remixes as we are used to hear lately. Gris is totally reminiscent of the early work by Andres Calamaro. From those covers, the most familiar song is Volovan’s Latin Grammy nominated song Monitor, the track that closes this remarkable debut. A classy and well condensed mixture of the current pop/alternative tendencies of the latin music industry. And it is indeed a hit locally; we shouldn’t have to wait too much for the international sales.

Numeric Rating: 92/100

Key tracks: Normal, Mediocre, Un Error