Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Javiera Mena – La Joya

We don’t like her as much when her single isn’t 2 years old…


Juana Giaimo: Is this a sellout? This seems to be the great doubt no one wants to admit. We all loved Javiera Mena’s confessional and sensitive synthpop on Mena, but “Espada” and “La Joya” have a different aim: the dance floor. Once we accept this — either happily or not — the question is: is she ready for the dance floor? “Espada”‘s bizarrely sexual lyrics and newly confident attitude were first steps, but “La Joya” is the single that should define our answer. The beginning shows that she has been listening to Haim and used their influence to create a summer style with silly and pointless repetitions. The chorus is quite weak — there is no explosion as in “Luz de Piedra de Luna” — and you may even not recognize it on first listens. It’s all a little bit “meh” until this point, but you should never ignore Javiera Mena’s ability to craft perfect bridges as key transitions towards the final punch that will leave you mesmerized. This time the bridge comes quite early, which shows how much “La Joya” relies on it. “Can’t you see it? The jewel is there,” a female voice tells her, and she goes straight towards it: what seemed a directionless song suddenly turns into synths that get out of their limits, a beat that we don’t hear but we can feel and spontaneous vocal melodies that hypnotize us. Everything is telling us to turn crazy and move and dance and that we are the jewel! Javiera, you aren’t deep and juvenile anymore, but how could we deny that you’re made for the dance floor?

Alfred Soto: With a half dozen synthesizers exploding like fireworks over the Magic Kingdom, this song is committed to can’t-lose from its opening notes. Note the skill with which each bar ends in a monosyllable. The success of Haim may help Mena too. Expert noise for a gay disco scene in a French film.

Edward Okulicz: A catchy pop song of two halves. One, a lovely and slightly calm bit of ’80s dance pop, suitable for inserting on mixes between “Let The Music Play” by Shannon and whatever Madonna or Lisa Lisa songs you have at hand. Poolside. Cocktails. The second half gets more frenzied with stuttered hooks, squiggly synths and repetition. That’s like getting out of the pool and onto the floor. It reminds me of “Hasta la Verdad” in that respect, how the elements introduced in the first half coalesce as if by accident and take the song skywards, and the trick’s still surprising on the second go around, but this feels late-evening in comparison to the dawn of “Verdad.” Previous single “Espada” got halfway to good just on memory of how cool her sound is; “La Joya” is much more of a reminder of her craft’s hidden depths.

Will Adams: Mena’s past soundscapes have been rich, but this time richness has been confused with density. Wading through “La Joya” to find a hook or some structure to latch on to isn’t the ordeal it could be — the candy necklace synths are nice to gnaw on along the way — but after a few listens and coming up short, I feel exhausted.

Iain Mew: The first half keeps slipping in and out of me, its gentle pleasures only sometimes effective. Even losing track of it kind of works out, though, because when the track takes off it does so like a disco-powered rocket, leaving a trail of adorably wobbly cartoon stars behind it in the dark sky.

Katherine St Asaph: An ’80s section and a hyper-’80s section. Latter trounces former.

Brad Shoup: If this were pure homage, she’d be calmer on the mic. But Mena’s an atomsmasher on this kind of light dancepop, always peering at something even more elemental. Sometimes it can be wearying, all this realtime examination, and sometimes she settles into a languid stretch like the first half of the refrain. Her track makes its own argument, though. “Ahí,” she yelps over and over at the sight of some funky synth swipes. She’s right.

Thomas Inskeep: This post-new-wave nugget totally would’ve been played by a risk-taking RockAmerica video jock back in ’85, rubbing up against more straightforward records like “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and “Do You Wanna Get Away.” It makes squeaky noises and has a farty bassline and goes “pew! pew!” and what more do you want, really?

Patrick St. Michel: I held off on listening to this for as long as possible, because 1.) I definitely overrated the last Javiera Mena song around these parts by two points and 2.) I’ve been wrestling with the fact that I’ve gotten cynical about a lot of my favorite musical acts over the last six months, and I don’t know whether I’m just salty or getting old. So maybe I’ll be rolling my eyes come September, but I love this. The first half glides, sunny-day string plucks and little synth stabs that predict the buildup to a night out, all just-starting-to-boil-over excitement. Then the lid shoots off in the second half, Mena just absolutely loses herself in it all, and it turns delirious — nothing like “Luz de Piedra de Luna,” but still something that gives me a jolt little else has made me feel recently.  

Reader average: [8.71] (7 votes)

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One Response to “Javiera Mena – La Joya”

  1. Patrick: what soured you on “Espada”? I still love it, but that’s partly because I saw the official video so long after first hearing the song.