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Malena Pérez

Stars

(Cubanita Groove; US: 11 Jul 2006; UK: 7 Aug 2006)

If 1960s hippie love and peacedom had worked out as it was intended to, then we might all be like this now: smooth-voiced and clear-eyed, positive and loving, and remarking to one another without scorn or irony, “Why do you cry? / You are a star”. It didn’t, so we get to hear it on uptempo jazz fusion albums like Stars instead.  Malena Pérez is the daughter of a musician mother and a Cuban father who ran a series of Latin music programs on a local radio station while she was growing up in Atlanta. This is her debut release. The album’s first single, “Chase the Butterflies”, a combination of a pliant, sampled guitar and Perez’s limpid voice, glides into your brain with the frictionless ease of cream. The rest of the album moves with the same easy glide, from the swarm of programmed beats and effects in “Oriente” to the relative simplicity of the title track. “Gracias a la Vida” surprises us by replacing the samples with an acoustic viola whose scrapes and grunts lend the song gravity, but Pérez’s voice is there to smooth its path with butter. Stars is a celebratory album, and also a happy one. Singing, “What if I told you that you’re beautiful? / Would you believe?”, she sounds sincerely interested in the answer. (Malena if you’re reading this, then the answer is no. I’d laugh like a harpy and tell you that you needed glasses. But thanks anyway.)

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