For her last two albums, Natalia Lafourcade went home to Veracruz to organize a fundraiser to repair a cultural center crumbled by an earthquake. Then she saw that she needed to return to her inner landscape to tend to the aftermath of a wrecked relationship. That rebuilding process is at the heart of her latest album, De Todas las Flores.
“I realized how much I needed to go back to my universe, and that’s why I decided to call this album De Todas Las Flores,” Lafourcade said recently. “Because the song says that from all the flowers that I see, there are only very few ones still alive. That’s how I felt at a certain point. I felt like I needed to go back more to my universe, to myself, to my creativity, to my art, to my music, to my space.”
“I like to call it a musical diary,” she continued. “Because it was through all those different moments in the process of recovering myself; that was the music that I was writing. It’s not only the heartbreak thing, but it’s more the part of how you go back to your inner space and your inner garden and your inner universe.”
De Todas Las Flores’ first several songs cast a bittersweet eye toward the past—looking back wistfully but not with anger. In “Llévame, Viento (Carry Me, Wind)”, she looks to the natural world for solace. “Wind, carry me to where the noise cannot reach me / Where the birds are singing, and the water can save me / Raise my legs, shake my body and sing, sing.” In “Pajarito Colibri (Little Hummingbird)”, Lafourcade pivots, urging the titular bird to carry on, and she moves the album toward a brighter second half. “Everything will be alright, little hummingbird / Don’t be afraid of living / Everything will be alright, little hummingbird / You came into the world to be happy.”
In the wry and writhing “Muerte (Death)”, Lafourcade scrapes the melody from the lyrics and talks in an insistent whisper in front of an instrumental accompaniment that builds to a honking, chaotic cacophony: “I give thanks to Death / For teaching me to live / Death, by having faced death / Today I walk forward with faith and my soul alight / Death, by greeting Death / Today I am holding the love that is reborn in me forever.”
“When I was in the studio, that was the only song that was hard to get done,” she recalled. “It felt like the song itself didn’t want me to sing. Really. It was like: ‘No, no, no, no. I want you just to say it. This one is not for singing.’ I was: ‘how am I going to do this now because I am a singer’. I felt that the song and the music were asking me just to pray and say it as if it were a poem. It brought me something new and so different than I was expecting. I loved it…I was like, ‘wow, this is so strong, so powerful’.”
After “Muerte” and the samba-rhythmed “Canta La Arena (The Sand Is Singing)”, De Todas Las Flores’ two liveliest songs, Lafourcade ends with the elegy “Que Te Vaya Bonito, Nicolas (I wish you the best, Nicolas)”, a tribute to her nephew who died after falling accidentally off a cliff during a hike by himself in the woods of Chile. In the track, which she initially wrote during the five days that rescue workers searched for him, she sings: “Today all birds big and small are singing / They make circles of dancing in the air / They are taking your soul with them to a celebration / Where the rivers sing and Mother Earth dances.”
“I thought this one had to be part of the whole album,” Lafourcade said, “because it has Nicolas’ spirit and soul. He loved nature and the earth, and he felt so much part of it. It felt like he was already everywhere, in the tide, in the rain, in the clouds, in everything.” De Todas Las Flores is Lafourcade’s first album of original songs since 2015’s Hasta La Raiz, which won four Latin Grammys.
For those expecting a return to her electro-acoustic pop of Hasta La Raiz will be surprised, although her fans could be excused for expecting to be surprised by the iconoclastic Lafourcade. The singer-songwriter first rose to fame when she was 20 years old, fronting a pop band, but bolted from the industry in 2007, moving to Canada to go back to school due to the pressures.
Lafourcade returned as a solo act and quickly climbed the charts again with Hu Hu Hu. Then the singer-songwriter switched gears with Mujer Divina, a collection of songs by late, popular Mexican songwriter Augustín Lara, performed with an array of guest male singers. After Hasta La Raiz, she released two acoustic albums covering classic Latin songs with the septuagenarian guitar duo Los Macorinos. Then she released two richly orchestrated records exploring Mexican folkloric music, complete with mariachi bands and a host of guest singers. An outgrowth of a benefit concert, the albums raised funds for an education center that was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 2017.
“She’s one of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever met,” said singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, who has collaborated with her several times. “As a musician, she has something in her instrument, in her voice, that, you know, singing live with her, it’s a spiritual experience, a very deep one. She really connects with you when you sing with her. It’s being really inside the emotions of another human being in a way that it’s very difficult to achieve with other artists.”
De Todas las Flores finds Lafourcade in a different mood than much of her former repertoire. Lafourcade, who started professionally as a teenager and often employs a fragile, child-like voice, has a bluer, lived-in maturity in her music. “There was a point I was wondering if I was able to go back to the studio to record my music again,” Lafourcade said, adding she then began to realize that she had been accumulating parts of songs along the way. “Eventually, I was able to bring it all together.”
“The thing with this album,” she continued, “is that the influences and the references were totally in another place. It was a lot of jazz, a lot of meditation music. It was classical music. It was Brazilian music. It was so hard for me to come back to my inner garden, my own sound or to try to find my way. So I was just trying to do it in a different way than before. That was really hard and very playful. I enjoyed it. It felt really good. To dig in to go very, very, very deep to try to find that sound.”
In the Buddhist practice called Tonglen, or “sending and taking”, a practitioner imagines that they are breathing in the pain and suffering that they and others are feeling, then breathing out compassion and relief. Similarly, in De Todas Las Flores, Fourcade pulls sadness close as she parses it but ultimately adds the comforting beauty of nature and cherished memories as she releases it to the world.
“It’s been my personal healing process, and to share that, I think, could be very intimidating,” she said in the days before the De Todas Las Flores‘ release. “Now I feel happy, grateful really to share it. It has been a very intimate process, but now it feels different. It feels like something that I am going to share, and it will not be only my music. So I feel good about that.”