Norma, the fifth album from Chilean pop artist Mon Laferte, opens with a chance encounter in a dancehall between two soon-to-be-sweethearts, and concludes with their eventual separation. While 2018 has brought a wealth of pop records for lovers on-the-outs (see: Ariana Grande’s Sweetener and Robyn’s Honey), what Laferte’s has over the others is a pronounced progression through each stage of emotional fallout. Recorded in one continuous, hour-long session at Capital Records, Norma contains the bustling energy of a live concert, while still possessing enough variety to make the end results feel like an affectionate tribute to the history of Latin music (the Selena-esque cover already pays respect to past idols) with some new spins on classical melodies.
The initial flirtation takes place on “Ronroneo,” expressed with a sultry, slow-paced mambo, as Laferte rolls each “r” with such intensity it sounds like an engine revving; “Por Qué Me Fui a Enamorar de Ti,” then, is a call for companionship, a traditional salsa outing that ends on the bold, passionately performed proclamation that “In the end, our love is real.” The mood worsens on the album’s second half, with the lovers’ first fight, on the slick “El Mambo,” performed with a swaggering, Latin trap-inspired gusto, and a reclamation of agency (“I am not your pretty little girl/I do not want your holy water”) that bleeds over into “El Beso,” a beg for forgiveness in the form of “a slow kiss, a tender kiss/A violent kiss on the pavement” across sped-up, Caribbean-inspired percussion. The demise of this volatile romance finally comes with the heartbreaking (and appropriately named), guitar-led bolero, “Funeral,” as Laferte hangs on each high note like past memories she refuses to forget. The album’s closer (“Si Alguna Vez”) serves as epilogue: Laferte and Mexican folk-singer David Aguilar reflect on past actions and learn to accept mistakes because, as Laferte sings, “even in the pain that I saw, I can understand.” Norma celebrates the wisdom that heartbreak can produce during the healing process.
Published as part of Foreign Correspondent | Issue 2.