Ximena Sariñana - Ximena Sariñana

Ximena Sariñana, Ximena Sariñana

Warner Music, Mexico

Rating: 73

by Blanca Méndez

Those of us who have followed Ximena Sariñana since her Luz Clarita days are holding our collective breath at this momentous and precarious time in the young artist’s career. She is taking that huge step into the English-language market and basically starting from scratch. In Mexico and much of Latin America, she might be a star, but to this new market, Sariñana is a newcomer who will have to earn her keep. And judging by her non-stop touring and press schedule, she’s working hard to carve out a space in the English-language pop landscape. That space has, for the most part, already been carved by other singer-songwriters like Vanessa Carlton, Sara Bareilles (who she recently toured with), Natasha Bedingfield, etc. But Sariñana has the ability to widen that space if she pursues some of the more interesting sounds she’s made on this self-titled album.

She's played it safe with single releases so far; “Wrong Miracle,” “Shine Down,” and “Different” are all agreeable, but not quite inspired. To be fair, “Wrong Miracle,” co-written by Aqualung of all people, is definitely a grower. It can appear trite upon first listen, but after a few spins, you’ll find yourself singing along, though perhaps confused as to what exactly you’re singing. Is the wrong miracle immortality/long life per the line “I am a million years old”? Or is it transformative powers per “I am a ship in a bottle, a monkey’s tail, a blue lagoon”? Kind of weird things to turn into, no? Am I missing something? What is Aqualung even doing these days, anyway? I have so many questions about this song!

“Shine Down” is undeniably the best of the singles so far. The dreamy chimes, skittish guitar melody, and slightly frustrated-sounding, yet still steady percussion clash spectacularly, still allowing the vocals to float effortlessly above the commotion. But there are other songs on Ximena Sariñana that are darker and far more intriguing. “Tomorrow,” with its tinny echoes and start-and-stop beats, feels like driving through a tunnel or like the time lapse of a city at night, while “Lies We Live In,” a frank look at navigating relationships, is one of the tracks most reminiscent of her Spanish-language work in its brassy elements and sly lyricism (“we can stop pretending I know who you are”). Sariñana seems as comfortable with nonchalant directness as she seems uncomfortable with executing choreography (see: the video for “Different”), but it’s still quite far from what we heard on 2008’s Mediocre.

“Different” is actually a pretty good and succinct review of the album in itself. Lines like “failing to communicate” are apt when there are quite a few puzzling lyrics throughout that didn’t quite cross the language bridge. From speaking to Sariñana, you get the impression that she has a strong command of the English language. Considering that and the team that she worked with on the album, I’m not sure why there’s still so much lost in translation. She might still have a lot of work to do lyrically, but musically Sariñana is exploring some truly fascinating sounds and, though I, like many of you, sometimes wish she would return to her jazz roots, I’m still excited to see where she takes her “new” pop career. When she sings “can’t believe all the risks I’m taking” on “Different,” she has good reason to be surprised at/impressed with herself. A crossover is a big move that few have pulled off successfully. But with big risk comes big reward, right? Here’s hoping it all pays off.