Nathy Peluso Followed Her Instincts — And Advice From Fito Páez — to Make Her Most Revealing Album

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Credit: Kito Muñoz*
Credit: Kito Muñoz*

Grasa, the second album by 29-year-old Argentine singer and rapper Nathy Peluso, kicks off with “Corleone,” a sumptuous, old-fashioned bolero. A snippet of John Barry’s dreamy 007 theme “From Russia With Love” morphs into the kind of feverish groove that would have made La Lupe proud. “This ambition is killing me,” sings Peluso, her booming voice in full bloom.

“Corleone” is a somewhat disorienting opening track. Like most of Peluso’s music, it’s both edgy and comfortingly familiar; honest to the core, but with a thin layer of irony underneath.

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“I wanted to reacquaint myself with my roots,” Peluso says during a Zoom meeting from Barcelona. “This album was about finding my foundational pillars – and the worlds of bolero, balada, and Latin folk sum up the essence of who I am. ‘Corleone’ was the first song that we recorded for this album, and I tend to treat those magical moments with respect. It’s like a caress that pulls you in; a shot of whisky inviting you to sit down, enjoy, listen to some music.”

There’s a cinematic flow to Grasa, and its radical changes in style are deliberate. A brash, magnetic performer, Peluso switches effortlessly from the frantic rap of lead single “Aprender a Amar” to a reverential foray into traditional salsa, “Presa,” sung without the faintest trace of post-modern irony. She boasts elaborate vocal gymnastics on the art-pop moment “Escaleras de Metal,” and experiments with Brazilian rhythms on “Menina.”

“Nathy is great about bringing all these disparate sounds together, and her lyrics are amazing,” says singer Lua de Santana, who collaborated with Peluso on “Menina.” “I think on this album she is revealing a lot about herself that she hadn’t shown us before.”

But the road to Grasa was far from smooth. Following the release of Calambre, her critically acclaimed full-length debut in 2020, Peluso recorded a collection of songs that she abandoned when she felt dissatisfied.

“I killed an entire album in order to make this one,” she admits, declining to name the title of the unreleased project. “At the beginning I experienced it as a loss, a failure, but it was actually the best thing that could have happened — the biggest possible learning experience,” she says.

She continues, “Not everything we do needs to see the light of day. It was an album that taught me how to produce, coming to terms with the songs that I was looking for, but from a different perspective. I just didn’t feel it, and dropping it was the best option. The whole process took about four years.”

Peluso had recorded 20 songs, and only four made it into Grasa. It was veteran rock star Fito Páez — the creator of El Amor Después del Amor, an inevitable reference point for young Argentine artists — who inspired Peluso to start anew.

“He didn’t tell me to kill the record, or anything explicit like that,” she explains. “Fito is my idol, but also a best friend, one of the most special relationships in my life. He told me that I needed a new framework for my music, and I really listened to him. I emerged from this crisis through the process of making new music.”

Stubbornly following her own muse has been a Nathy Peluso trademark since the beginning of her career, when she was a teenager posting covers online. (Her homemade renditions of “Cry Me A River,” “Crazy” and “Summertime,” recorded seven years ago, can still be found on her YouTube account.)

The fall of 2020 marked a point of inflection in her career. In October, she released Calambre, its menacing trap workouts spat out in a mysterious, made-up pan-Latino accent that got some criticism online. But Peluso could also sound tender and vulnerable, showcasing a mainstream rock sensibility in “Buenos Aires,” a more harmonically conventional tribute to the melancholy poetry to be found in the hometown she left behind when she left Argentina and moved to Spain with her family.

A few weeks after dropping Calambre, she went viral as the guest star in one of the sessions produced by Argentine wunderkind Bizarrap. A combination of slick, trippy auto-tuned choruses and a maddeningly intense barrage of rhymes (“qué buena vista tenés cuando me ponés en cuatro patas” is the track’s now iconic opening salvo), “BZRP Music Sessions #36” is Bizarrap’s third most popular song on YouTube, trailing after Shakira and Quevedo.

It also introduced much of the world to Peluso’s theatrical alter-ego, the incensed woman ready to vent her anger and frustration in no uncertain terms (the same archetype reappears triumphantly in the operatic video for “Aprender a Amar.”)

“Sometimes I contemplate that character from the outside, and I’m surprised that she lives inside me,” she laughs. “Whenever I delve into my artistic process, this histrionic character appears with her pent-up fury ready to explode. It’s not rehearsed or anything like that. I mean, we recorded ‘Aprender a Amar’ in a single take. It’s a button that some unknown force pushes inside my brain whenever I’m performing.”

Now that she’s ready to tour behind Grasa, Peluso feels vindicated about trusting her intuition, the natural ebb and flow of her creative process.

“I am a loyal person — I believe in loyalty — and I know what my function in this world is,” she says. “I could have sped up my success and achieved greater material things if I had made concessions, but then I would have learned less in the process. In the end I chose to follow my own path, and I’m so happy that I did.”

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