Despierta: Javiera Mena, Disco Royalty

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In this new Remezcla Musica feature, we’ll introduce you to something to wake up for: some locally-known, but internationally-ignored noise makers. We’ll analyze their awesomeness (according to nosotros) and wonder WHY they’re relegated to collective zzz’s across the board. In today’s installment of Despierta, we spotlight Javiera Mena, the Chilean disco pop diva, a worthy if not slept-on giant.

She may be a big name in Chile and other parts of Latin America (the ultra-hipster parts), but to the rest of the world, Chilean pop innovator Javiera Mena is just a blip on the radar. This is baffling considering that the woman crafts perfect pop gems designed for getting lost on the dance floor and sultry, slow-burning electro ballads that can melt even the coldest of hearts. Just listen to Esquemas Juveniles (and watch the video for the title track below), Mena’s 2006 debut and one of the biggest slept-on albums of the past decade, or even her latest masterpiece, Mena, and you’ll wonder why she isn’t Latin American pop royalty yet.

The as-yet-uncrowned queen of new disco studied musical composition at Projazz in Santiago and began hitting the city’s indie circuit in 2001, playing everywhere from bars to parties to colleges. In 2006, she released two albums, one as part of the duo Prissa, and the other her brilliant solo debut. But, for all its brilliance, Esquemas Juveniles was not widely recognized as the groundbreaking work that it was. Just “Al Siguiente Nivel” on its own is one of the best pop songs in recent memory, in or outside of the Latin market.

That’s why, for me at least (and for certain circles), Mena was one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Beyond the promise of more works of pop art, there were also appearances by Lido Pimienta, Jens Lekman, and Daniel Hunt (of Ladytron) to look forward to. And upon its release last month it was clear that Mena is by far the year’s best album. It explodes with all the energy and luminescence of a supernova, and you can’t help but be in awe of the album’s splendor. The music is flashy without being garish and intentional beyond the tongue-in-cheek kitsch of so much of the electronic music out there right now. It is elegant and grandiose in a way that I never imagined disco music could be. I know I sound a little (okay, maybe more than a little) enamored right now and am making a lot of bold statements about Mena’s music, but (one more for good measure) Javiera Mena is a genius and the sooner everyone else realizes, the sooner the disco queen can take her legitimate throne.

Go back to high school with the video for “Esquemas Juveniles.”