Pop stars work hard. Even when social media makes it look like it’s all jet set living, red carpets, and glitzy fashion collabs, bringing everything together requires top-tier hustle and often entire teams. But not all pop stars have massive industry machinery behind them. In the case of rising Dominican pop phenom Letón Pé, grinding in entertainment years before even dropping her first song amounted to a boot camp that prepared her for stardom. Boasting a banner performance at this year’s Isle of Light Festival, a recent tour through Spain, and a brand new EP titled La Caleta, the spotlight is finally – and rightfully – pointed towards Letón Pé.
“This is a profession that has chosen me over and over again,” says the exuberant artist born Leticia Pelliccione. As a teen, the Santo Domingo native got into musical theater, training as an actor, singer, and dancer, scoring one of her earliest roles in a local production of High School Musical. Naturally charismatic, she worked in radio for nearly two years before heading to New York City to study at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA). She began running to auditions and quickly learned of the hurdles faced by women of color within the entertainment industry.
“There was this page called Backstage.com, and they posted all the available roles back then, which almost exclusively called for caucasian actors,” she remembers bitterly. “I could only audition for things like In The Heights or if they randomly decided to start making a Pocahontas film. So I wasn’t auditioning as much as I wanted, which is when this casino gig came my way and I started singing and performing every Saturday. My biggest education as an artist happened on the stage, working with musicians who taught me the process of structuring arrangements, interacting with the audience, and honing my craft as a vocalist.”
Pelliccione returned to Santo Domingo in 2016, where she began singing covers at cabaret shows and weddings until a friend connected her with Basque producer Piek and British songwriter Tony Philips. They were seeking a captivating vocalist for a major label pitch. Though the project fizzled, they were left with a gem in their hands; Letón Pé’s 2019 debut single “The One.” The slinky reggaeton-fueled delight cemented her collaborative relationship with Piek and stoked local buzz, attracting perreo whiz Diego Raposo who became the sonic architect of later singles “No” and “Me Provoca.” While 2020’s Deseo EP is technically Letón Pé’s debut, its eight-minute run time feels more like the first course of a larger meal. Now, with her new EP La Caleta out everywhere, the singer flexes her many lessons on lofty collaborations, adventurously dipping into synthwave, lo-fi, rock, and house.
La Caleta has been in the works for nearly two years, and its empowering lead single “Dale” re-affirmed Pelliccione’s mighty pop bond with Piek, producing what sounds like a The Marias deep-cut pumped full of synths and tropical adrenaline. Similarly, her collaboration with Venezuelan rapper Irepelusa on the slow-grinding “Al Azar” thrives on serendipitous connections, particularly on the screen, where they riff on fated romances while dancing around in red carpet-ready resort wear. In fact, creative director Elisa Bergel Melo infused the clips for both of these songs with sexy-kitschy resort aesthetics that became popular throughout the 1990s and 2000s in magazines like Vanidades and campy beach house variety show Caliente.
Aiming to expand her horizons, Pelliccione’s manager orchestrated a trip to Miami where she got her first real look at the pop music factory. On the lurching “El Chuleo,” producer Xuxi Lazzaro (Rita Indiana, Vicente García) brings in twangy slide guitars over a driving lo-fi beat, which draws out Letón Pé’s smokiest lounge singer performance as she literally sings the blues for an unrequited love. Atmospheric ballad “Mi Barrera” enlists production from Diem, Jason Silber, Brian White, and Piek, who together create a hypnotic vaporwave-perreo hybrid where the singer ruminates an entice at a leisurely pace. The EP closes on the thumping title track, a classic house liberation anthem helmed by production team Los Hermanos Julca, who transform Letón Pé into a magnetic nightclub diva of epic proportions.
“My biggest education as an artist happened on the stage, working with musicians who taught me the process of structuring arrangements, interacting with the audience, and honing my craft as a vocalist.”
“When your music connects with people you realize that every obstacle and every experiment happened for a reason,” reflects Pelliccione, looking back on recent opportunities to perform the new songs in Santo Domingo, Miami, and multiple cities in Spain. “Performing is my favorite way of recharging because if you’re not going to tap into that energy, you can just stay home and sing in the shower. One of my goals for the rest of the year is to spend more time with the audience and for La Caleta to become a visceral and sensory experience.”
“Even though there’s a song called ‘Al Azar,’ nothing on this record is random. Everything is intentional, and it’s the first project where everything landed where it needed to. This is for us to experience together.”
Liste to Letón Pé’s La Caleta EP below.