Thursday, May 30, 2024

Singer on New Album, ‘Violetta’

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The trailer for Tini‘s new album, Un Mechón de Pelo, starts with the Argentine pop star looking at herself in the mirror with tears in her eyes. She’s holding metal scissors in one hand and a lock of her brown hair in another. A haunting, operatic voice sings in the background while the voice of a little girl screams faintly behind her. Then Tini snips away.

“Sometimes I think I’m crazy. Because I felt crazy,” she recites as tears fall from her eyes. “Crazy like the sea that doesn’t understand what it’s doing or where it’s going.”

The moving trailer — filmed in a single take and released two weeks ago — is a kind of origin story for Tini. It captures the sharp left turn the singer, whose real name is Martina Stoessel, took when she was making Un Mechón de Pelo, out this week. On the LP, she contrasts the picture-perfect image she cultivated as a child star on the Disney show Violetta with the realities she faced experiencing deep depression and panic attacks over the last several years. 

The reaction to the Mechón trailer was far from accepting in a lot of Argentina. How could the bright-eyed Disney star who so many people grew up with (think Miley or Selena in the States) be depressed? How could this rich girl who had everything handed to her feel “crazy?” “Stop romanticizing mental health. It’s too serious for you to use it as a marketing strategy,” one person commented on Instagram.

Tini would be lying if she said that criticism didn’t get to her. She has mixed feelings about releasing the record. But she also has some peace of mind knowing that everything is finally going to be out there.

“No one can take away my truth. Everything that I speak about in this album is my story. No one can make me feel as low as I did before,” Tini tells Rolling Stone over Zoom, her hoodie covering her now-short blonde hair and part of her makeup-less face. “No one can tell me how to heal.”

She spent years tight-lipped about the hardships of being a public figure — the rumors, the headlines, the gossip — and had opted instead to keep her battle with panic attacks and diagnosed depression private to uphold the image of Tini imposed on her as a kid. That’s over now.

Over 10 tracks, Un Mechón de Pelo presents a straightforward look at Tini grappling with the complexities of being in the limelight from an early age, dealing with crippling mental health issues, and, by the end, convincing herself that she’ll be alright. 

For Tini, Mechón is a catharsis, and a far cry from the profit-pulling project some critics made it out to be. Previous albums like Cupido and Tini Tini Tini saw her tapping into trending genres, welcoming A-listers like Alejandro Sanz and Becky G on tracks. On Mechón, she skipped guests, instead lacing the album with spoken word poetry and voice notes from her best friends.

On “Tinta 90,” a reference to her signature hair color, Tini sings about dealing with her depression in private and how those around her didn’t even realize she was suffering. “Only the two of us know what we went through,” she sings using female pronouns in Spanish. “That’s me speaking to myself and my brain,” she says. 

Perhaps most movingly, Tini raps about her struggles with balancing her artistic persona and her own identity on “Posta,” on which she repeats the assumptions people “have thrown at me for years.” Its video jumps between a glammed Tini with a long blonde wig and a fur coat with Tini bare-faced and in just a hoodie, juxtaposing the persona she used “as armor” with the real her. “Because I was born with money, in a cradle of gold, nothing hurts. Is that fact?” she raps on the track, referencing her upbringing as the daughter of a famed TV director.

“I internalized so many comments and lies, and seeing myself how they thought I was,” Tini says. “I can’t allow someone who doesn’t know to have that power over my life. I won’t ever allow someone who doesn’t know me to have the power to make me want to disappear.”

On “Ángel,” she returns to healing that inner child, and interrupts a piano ballad with a rap to share her family’s side of the headline-making rupture and legal battle between her father Alejandro Stoessel and famed TV host Marcelo Tinelli over the intellectual property of Disney show Patito Feo, the series Tini got her start in back in 2008. In the song, she claims Tinelli lied about her father and instead of his status helping her get her breakthrough role on Violetta, as many assumed, Disney “didn’t even want to hire” her because of it.

Violetta also comes up in the visual for “Pa,” though she promises she doesn’t hate the role that broke her, she simply has a complicated relationship with it. “Sometimes I don’t realize I went through that. That happens to me a lot. Going from Disney kid to finding myself took time because I had a bunch of unconscious chips in my brain and had to remove them little by little,” she says. “I can’t blame myself either. But no estoy peleada con el personaje.” I don’t have resentment for the character.

“I had to learn to speak freely, without feeling like I was Violetta,” she adds. “It was a long long process of finding myself and where I wanted to go. I’m still on that journey.” 

“Ni de Ti” is the album’s standout. It’s a scathing track aimed at her detractors. “To the people who believe or feed these lies, I desire from the bottom of my heart that you find something more productive with your empty lives,” she declares on it. She even clears the tabloid headline rumors that she was a homewrecker when she started dating Argentine soccer player Rodrigo De Paul in 2022. (“I didn’t steal anyone, I have proof.”)

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An upbeat track called “Bien” hears Tini exit a stormy mindset, and then “Me Voy” closes the album. On it, the singer leaves the old Tini behind. She’s finally ready to speak up and stand up for herself. She’s no longer letting anyone tell her who she is.

“It used to cause me so much panic to not say some things. Sometimes, to build the courage to speak, you need time. You need to process,” she says. “The album explains every point I’m trying to get at… And whoever wants to understand it, will. Whoever doesn’t, won’t.”

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