Meet Melodie, the Puerto Rican Anti-Popstar Embracing Her Dark Side

Photo by Lorainne Medina.

In last year’s music video for her debut single, “Rojo,” we see Melodie — crimson red hair, scantily clad in a black bodysuit and leather skirt — pick up a woman at a cocktail bar and take her back to a waiting car. Just when it seems like things will get hot and heavy, she brandishes a knife and (offscreen) stabs her victim to death. Right after, she steps out of the vehicle covered in generous blood splatter and washes the evidence off her hands. It’s an atypical, gruesome display of what one sees in contemporary pop music. In the more recent video for “Mortal,” she appears as a sort of action protagonist, her impassive face scarred from some past scuffle, fighting a demon-faced opponent on a rooftop parking lot with stunt choreography straight out of a Hollywood flick. 

All these iterations of Melodie are a far cry from the one you meet in real life outside of the confines of her art. In reality, she’s friendly, conversational, and even perky with a cheery voice. “I’m very goofy. I’m not like the videos at all,” she laughs. “I’d say that Melodie reflects the inner me — my attitude — because I do have an attitude when you don’t know me well.” 

The visuals for her self-described “psychological drama” debut EP, *67, hinge on this alternate Melodie, which she concocted to make an impression and sell the album’s narrative. But for the most part, it’s an exercise in creativity. “It’s a character, but it also comes from me, so it’s not entirely inauthentic. I can transform into that super confident, sexy Melodie, but most of the time, I’m just really goofy,” she adds.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico to a Chilean father and boricua mother, Melodie Cristal Rodríguez says that because of her name, she arrived “with music integrated in me from birth.” Her father was a musician himself, a student of piano, violin, and composition at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, who also moonlighted as DJ. She recalls him owning hundreds of vinyl records, but despite that, she doesn’t consider herself to have had the kind of stereotypical raised-in-a-house-full-of-music upbringing many other artists share. He passed away when she was still young, and while her mother taught her about Björk, Maná, and Lindsey Stirling, Melodie’s attention was initially more focused on other art forms such as theater, painting, and poetry writing. It wasn’t until 2018 that she heard Rosalía’s seminal album El mal querer, specifically the song “Malamente,” and the music began to grow its footprint in her mind.

But before that, Melodie had already started to make her mark on social media. She’s the founder of the successful makeup brand By Melolops, which counts over 60,000 followers on Instagram alone. What’s most impressive is that she started her business at the meager age of 16. “I started posting about makeup online when I was 13. That picked up, and I was super young with a ton of people interested in what I was doing, so I was like, ‘I’m gonna make a brand out of this.’” Three years later, she made her first product drop and has been on a roll ever since. “I was in high school and spending nights planning what I was going to do next,” she explains. While she still intends to continue that venture, she’s also expanding herself as an entrepreneur. 

Along with some other colleagues she’s met over the last two years, she founded i2i, a collective of female creatives who banded together to help craft new visions for clients by pooling their talents together. “There’s not a lot of spaces for female collectives in Puerto Rico, or in urban music in general, so we decided to establish i2i and show what we do,” says Melodie, who recently turned 22. “We have a director, we have a photographer, we have graphic designers, a bit of everything.” Their first collab hit close to home: popular Chilean artist and influencer Katteyes.

With *67 now out, Melodie is excited for people to hear and see all the work she and i2i put into the project. She acknowledges that the aesthetic might throw people off initially, but she also feels the quality of the music will get them on board. Its range of offerings presents a little bit of everything for those who discover it: the irresistible afrobeats rhythm of “Besitos,” the aggressive bass-heavy sensuality of “Fuck U,” and the solemn melancholy of “Amenaza” (Melodie’s personal favorite, which also features audio of her father and her as a baby in its coda). All the while, the album’s music videos tell the story behind the music — that of a woman whose mind shatters after a breakup and goes through multiple stages of grief by way of stories of violence, kidnappings, and secret societies taking place in her head. The concept was partly inspired by the movie Sucker Punch but also by Melodie’s drive to establish herself as an artist who does things differently. 

It’s a character, but it also comes from me, so it’s not entirely inauthentic. I can transform into that super confident, sexy Melodie, but most of the time, I’m just really goofy.

“I feel like música urbana — and I’m not sure how ‘urbana’ I am — needed some sauce and somebody who does more crazy shit and is really inspired by movies and their visuals and [storytelling]. I’m super huge on that, so I definitely wanted to bring that,” Melodie adds.

She proudly touts herself as an “anti-popstar,” more so as her way of recognizing her genuine popstar ambitions while also being earnestly off-kilter and “darks” (a semi-humorous reference to an old Latine meme). She predicts her next project won’t revolve around a fictional narrative like *67 and instead show off more of Melodie’s real personality. “I’m excited to work on something outside of the concept of this EP because even though it’s really cool, it was tying me to one idea, one character, one aesthetic, and I couldn’t stray too much from it because then it goes away from [what was intended].”

Having accomplished so much at such a young age and laying the groundwork for years more of work, Melodie doesn’t flinch at the thought of the road ahead. It’s that same confidence that has been driving her since she was a teenager, even if she can’t pinpoint the root of it. “Maybe it’s a little bit delusion and a little bit [being] overly self-confident. I trust myself a lot, and I always feel like I can achieve [anything],” she says. “So maybe it’s just me putting that out into the universe.” 

There’s no rest for the wicked, and Melodie wouldn’t have it any other way.