Albums have become the exception rather than the rule in the new pop zeitgeist; afterthoughts after pushing singles in hopes for viral domination. Amor Hardcore, the debut album from the Honduran-born, Montreal-based singer Isabella Lovestory, feels like the antithesis of a promotional push, a journey into a world full of dembow, love, lust, fashion, and art. Amor Hardcore is an unfiltered look at the psyche of a unique artist with a soundtrack you can perrear to.
While her first passion was visual art, she found inspiration to launch her music career in classic reggaeton like Jowell y Randy and Arcangel, as well as pop megastars of the era like Gwen Stefani and Britney Spears. As a way to make an impact in the art world, she fashioned herself a new kind of pop diva, releasing a series of singles like “Humo,” “Golosa,” and “Kitten Heel,” as well as the EP Mariposa, introducing her to a bigger audience. Now, she’s ready to go worldwide with Amor Hardcore. In the process, the album stumbles into something both familiar and new, pulling from different influences to make something contemporary.
Amor Hardcore’s process was convoluted, yet Lovestory welcomed its positive side. “I was banned from the States,” she says about the obstacles she faced. She had played a show with a non-working visa, resulting in the ban, which has since been lifted. “Me and my producer were doing everything remote for the past two years. I was in Montreal, and we were all just doing it through the internet and stuff. So it was kind of a slow process,” she says. “But it was also really cool how we were just concentrating [on it]. We were reviving old tracks and also making new stuff in a very sporadic way.”
Lovestory wanted every song to sound like a different world within. “There isn’t a storyline behind the album or anything. It’s just the vibe of it. It’s all existing in this universe. I see it like a bunch of little gems,” she explains, adding that every song is different but makes sense in the end. “I wanted it to sound cinematic, like a story from beginning to end. I wanted it to be an introduction to my world.”
“There isn’t a storyline behind the album or anything. It’s just the vibe of it. It’s all existing in this universe… I wanted it to be an introduction to my world.”
The album is full of Autotuned hooks, noisy synths, and dembow rhythms. It expands on the Isabella Lovestory sound, adding more nods to mid-’00s reggaeton while giving it a digital sheen to her frank, lustful delivery. “Cherry Bomb” is an instant classic, an opening salvo for this new era. “Fashion Freak” finds a bridge between Luny Tunes production values and experimental sounds. Likewise, “Sexo Amor Dinero” turns the sonics to the extreme, evoking industrial and neo-perreo at the same time. “Gateo” with Ms. Nina adapts Lovestory’s approach to early ‘10s avant-reggaeton, while the Chucky73 collab hits on the harder side of the album thanks to the mechanical beat. It’s a twisted, enjoyable, and unpredictable ride, a sound only Isabella Lovestory could achieve.
Amor Hardcore also boasts an eclectic list of collaborators, including MethMath, Six Sex, and OH!DULCEARi, in addition to the already mentioned Chucky73 and Ms. Nina. Of these artists featured on her opus, Loverstory says there was no plan about who to invite in what song. “They all kind of just happened organically. It was just kind of like vibing with different people. With someone like Chucky, I wanted to show a different side of me, but I also wanted to have different types of people [who make] different types of music. I just put people that I love in [the album],” she says. As for future collaborations, Lovestory confesses that she has already written songs for a K-pop group, a dream come true that she wants to continue to pursue. On Oct. 3, it was revealed she’s a co-writer on girl group LE SSERAFIM‘s upcoming single, “ANTIFRAGILE.”
“My music taste is so eclectic,” she notes. “I listen to shoegaze and K-pop, so I kind of just wanted to combine the sounds that I love, even though they don’t really make sense. Like ‘Sexo Amor Dinero,’ I don’t even know how to explain it! It’s like reggaeton metal. It’s very weird, but I think it came together great. I’m always unconsciously trying to make things that sound original and fresh. I just make something that to me sounds fun and good.”
Considering her background in visual arts, the graphic identity of Amor Hardcore is something very important to her. “I wanted to show more colorful neon lights and then the darkness of night, like [when] the stars [come out]. I guess I can compare it to when Alice falls into the hole because it’s kind of dark, but then there’s so many psychedelic colors and it’s really chaotic. It just makes sense to have the contrast and juxtaposition. It’s like a very intense feeling, like passion and raw emotion.”
Although her larger-than-life popstar image might entail world domination-size ambitions, Lovestory has aims closer to the heart for her new album. “I want people to love [Amor Hardcore] and to feel sexy and amazing listening to it,” she says. “When I make music, the most important thing for me is to be genuine to myself and feel free and like I’m doing something because I love it.”
Check out Amor Hardcore below.