Written by Drew Little
On Ventura, the new EP by Sofía Valdés, the artist executes a refreshing shift in pop music, away from overproduced and under-composed “hits,” to a pop sensibility that still holds space open for quality songwriting. Valdés stands so far out from most contemporary pop artists, that it’s difficult to find comparisons without looking back.
Valdés is Panama-born and largely educated in the U.S. and U.K. It’s hard to tell whether her music is more informed by her formal education or the diverse influences she began collecting at an early age. Her skill as a songwriter shimmers like light across waves, but beneath the surface it is driven by the rhythms and vibes of traditional Latin music, Bossa Nova, and classic rock from Britain and the U.S. If you take away either the technical skill or the influences, the effect would be lost. Together, they flow so seamlessly as to be practically the same thing.
It would be a mistake to pigeonhole or even bypass Valdés as a Latin artist. She is Latin-American, but she is also a pop artist of the highest caliber. Valdés‘ songwriting on this first effort is striking. It is personal and somewhat melancholy and yet somehow infused through and through with the eternal hope of youth. It speaks both to Valdés‘ actual age, just 20, and to the fact that she is possessed of skills usually seen in older songwriter’s, giving a suggestion of both heightened empathy and a life being fully lived.
Ventura is a rich and well-developed collection of songs that brings variety and originality to every track, yet remains a unified work, woven together with Valdés‘ musical sensibilities, heartfelt lyrics, and voice. It may also help that Valdes co-produced the album and has executed a vision of her own style.
The EP starts off well with “Handful of Water.” The track begins with a contemporary Latin vibe that effortlessly slips into a chill, stripped down pop song, possessed of a memorable hook that will get you swaying in your seat.
“Gems” is another standout cut on a release full of them. It would be at home on any pop diva playlist, but also weaves in a Bossa Nova influence that feels completely natural while keeping the track fresh and unique.
Overall, Ventura is more than an outstanding pop debut. It is notice of greater things to come for Valdés and, perhaps, for a genre that has become too stuck in hit factories and not enough in the hands of the musicians. Pop may change to follow the trend that Valdés is setting or, more likely, she will grow beyond the genre to become something more than it can contain.
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