At first listen, Girl Ultra’s latest EP Adios is a suave, grown-and-sexy break-up album. She quietly wishes for an old lover to come back on the hypnotic “Llama,” and she contrasts heartache with an upbeat melody on “Duele.” But once the breezy chords of “Abril” kick in, Adiós morphs into a different kind of goodbye. “Decidí no ser tu amiga/No quiero que tu fantasma me persiga,” she sings, lamenting the crushing loss of a friendship instead of a romantic split.
Speaking to Remezcla from Mexico City, Girl Ultra — whose real name is Mariana de Miguel — explained that her latest project is about letting go of many kinds of relationships, functioning as a metaphorical shedding of old skin. The sophomore EP arrives almost a year after Boys, a debut that quietly boasted what Girl Ultra’s silky voice could do when it meets minimal R&B and hip-hop. But Adiós is a more careful release; a new sense of attentiveness, patience, and maturity imbues the tracks, which, as Girl Ultra sings on the outro, show that “decir adiós es crecer.”
“I learned a lot from friends who are composers and musicians, and I had a lot of personal experiences that made me grow. [On Boys], I always wanted to talk about feelings and my perspective, but I was a girl at the time. Adiós was the first step of me becoming a grown-up and a woman, and saying goodbye to many ideas of relationships and who I needed to be or who I wanted to be,” she said.
Since finding a home on Mexico City’s Finesse Records, Girl Ultra has anchored herself in the R&B scene and surrounded herself with a cadre of up-and-coming artists. For Adiós, she connected early on with Yoshi Beats and Phynx, who she calls “two young-ass producers that are geniuses” and who understood her penchant for deeply soulful sounds and crisp, J Dilla-inspired refinement. That precise, textured classicism makes it onto Adiós, and Girl Ultra fills spaces with moody interludes and quiet samples that continue the narrative of moving on.
“Adiós was the first step of me becoming a grown-up and a woman.”
The album also measures what happens when the pace of music-making is stretched out just a little bit longer. “With this hip-hop-R&B thing, it needs to be kind of fast. It’s like, ‘There is someone coming to Mexico City and we need to collaborate while they’re here and we have to record today and tomorrow,’ ” Girl Ultra explained. But on Adiós, she had a chance to work in an intimate, unhurried way. She teamed up with artists who shared her vision — one of the luxuries, she says, of belonging to a family of like-minded creatives at Finesse — and she’d let the music sit and stew for more time. Many of the tracks had about 10 different versions, illustrating what felt to her like unbounded room for experimentation.
The best example of this unbridled, organic approach might be “Lejos,” a hazy piece of dream pop that features Clubz co-conspirator Coco Santos. The song unravels slowly before reaching effervescent peaks that mirror the bubbly energy of Clubz releases, something new for Girl Ultra. The whole track exemplifies trying to write in a natural, back-to-basics way: “We got into the studio, and the first thing he took out wasn’t his computer, it was his guitar,” she explained.
The tendency toward organic instrumentals also reflects the trajectory Girl Ultra feels R&B is heading toward, and it’s a space she wants to keep exploring as she matures as a musician. “This whole full-band thing is what’s popping right now, and I feel like people want this realness. We had a lot of years when every project was in a little club with a DJ and the girl was singing, and now, I see a lot of contemporary artists carrying a live band…It gives the audience this whole new experience,” she said. “As an audience member and as an artist, that’s what I want to give and what I want to receive.”
“I got to know myself better through other people, and that really helped to get this honest part of me through.”
Some of that interest in full band instrumentation is a product of Girl Ultra’s time being on the road and finding herself as a performer in the last year. When she was touring after Boys, she says every moment onstage made her keenly aware of how crowds responded to her music, and she funneled those reactions and perceptions into Adiós. “Every time I stepped on a stage, it didn’t matter if it was a little stage or a big one. I got to know myself better through other people, and that really helped to get this honest part of me through,” she said.
Just days before Girl Ultra talked to Remezcla, she’d been working with the musicians she’s enlisted for her upcoming live shows, and they had started tinkering with Adiós for the first time. She described the rehearsals as “eternal, progressive, psychedelic jams” that were revealing the untapped potential of every track, offering sudden limits and boundaries she could push, and she seemed incredibly excited. That space, after all, is another chance for her to continue her evolution.
Girl Ultra’s Adiós EP is out now via Finesse Records.