Girl Ultra really likes movies. She likes them so much, her entire persona serves as a sort of character driving her artistic narrative. “I see Girl Ultra as a character who isn’t necessarily me––who has phases and seasons, and this is certainly the new season.” says the Mexican R&B singer whose real name is Mariana De Miguel.
In the past, she’s cited golden-age Mexican cinema––and the incomparable divas who propelled the movement––as inspiration for her artistic persona. Silvia Pinal, one of her favorites, went from mainstream star to experimental film lead and Luis Bunuel muse when the societal norms in Mexico fatigued her. In what can perhaps be considered a shadowing of Pinal’s trajectory, Girl Utlra’s new video “Ella Tu y Yo,” from her forthcoming debut full-length album Nuevos Aires, finds the 23-year-old singer veering away from classic imagery and into a techno-surrealist David Cronenberg-influenced reality. “It’s very much inspired by ‘Videodrome.’” says De Miguel. “I got really hooked on science fiction movies recently, and I wanted to incorporate this reality of screens sort of taking control over our lives.”
The first half of the video finds De Miguel literally plugged in to a circle of screens, as she bemoans an unnamed woman’s intrusion into her relationship via social media. “What I wanted to portray was the thought of being connected to screens and sort of having another person involved in a traditional relationship…this idea that there’s this other person connected to me who knows me just through a screen, and the paranoia that develops as a result.” On the song, she laments, “No se donde empieza ella/Y donde termino yo” (I don’t know where she begins/And where I end), making the juxtaposition of Gen Z fears with Gen X sci-fi body horror nostalgia clear.
Sonically, “Ella Tu y Yo” draws from punchy, nostalgic R&B––owing as much to artists like Al B Sure and Sade as it does to contemporaries like Frank Ocean or Finesse label mate Jesse Baez. “This song is the sound of the upcoming album. It’s what defines the new sound moving forward.” says De Miguel. “The connecting thread on this album are the sounds of the early 90s and late 80s. It leans a bit towards that 80s nostalgia” she says, noting those are the sounds she remembers hearing as a child.
Those sounds of much of the popular R&B many millennials and Gen Zers grew up consuming is what partially informs this new wave of Mexican, and Latin American R&B. “I want to make Mexican R&B more global. I want it to escape the CDMX niche, and to actually grow more and encompass all the Latin American R&B we’re seeing now.” she says. And with the small, yet quickly growing Latin American R&B scene being partially spearheaded by Finesse Records, artists like Teen Flirt, Coral Casino and Santa Bandida are getting their music outside of their niche circles. “I think when there’s only one or two artists making certain styles of music, it’s too small. When it’s a lot of us and it sort of becomes a movement, it really helps create a scene that can be recognized and lauded.” she says.
Additionally, her broad range of forthcoming collaborations both inform her music and help her connect with different facets of her Latinx roots. “The [upcoming] song with Ximena [Sariñana] sounds more like the kind of pop she’s known for. The [upcoming] song with Cuco has that Cali sound. I also want to amplify the possibilities and take away and preconceived notions of how the genre ‘should’ sound, and who we’re ‘supposed’ to collaborate with.” she says.
De Miguel also wants to use her music to connect with the Latin diaspora across the world. “On the last tour, I didn’t expect anyone to know who I was, and I was shocked at the turnout in places like Raleigh, North Carolina. Like, I’d never been to North Carolina, and I’d show up and to see the Latin American community there–-with such a strong support system–– it was incredible.” she gushes.
With this new release and upcoming tour, she hopes to continue to connect with Latin American fans, and non Latin American fans alike. “I get so excited to travel the world and even if it’s just someone saying hi in Spanish, its like your roots are giving you a big hug. The acceptance transcends borders and barriers, it’s the warmth that Latinos have. It’s a warmth our culture has and it never ceases to amaze me. And the amazing thing about R&B, it’s it’s so passionate, it breaks language barriers because the sounds, the progressions, they come from the gut.” she says, at this moment very obviously speaking as Mariana De Miguel.
But suddenly, Girl Ultra takes over and she adds one last observation–-complete with its Cronenberg-esque sci-fi connotations. “It’s almost like we all have a little chip implanted in us that makes us inherently understand and appreciate these wonderful R&B melodies.”