Grammy-winning artist Ricardo Arjona, known to some as Latin America’s Bob Dylan, officially made his long-awaited comeback on Friday with a new album recorded in the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London, where The Beatles recorded most of their songs.
His new album “Blanco” is the first set of a two-part record titled “Blanco y Negro” (White and Black). The first one was released Friday and the second one, “Negro,” is expected to drop next year. “Blanco” marks Arjona’s resurgence since he released his last record three years ago.
“Blanco y Negro will be the two projects that will undoubtedly mark the place where all the rivers of my life met,” Arjona told NBC News in Spanish via email.
The Guatemalan singer-songwriter spent months recording his latest songs at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, which is considered to be the most famous recording studio in the world since it was built in the 1930’s. During the all-nighters the pulled off at the studio, Arjona said he felt like somehow “the walls spoke” to him and “whispered things” to him, as if all the songs that had already been recorded there were accompanying him.
In “Blanco,” he manages to blend the inspiration he got from both the musical memory impregnated across the Abbey Road Studios and his own musical memory, which he has accumulated for over three decades.
“Songs can’t be fooled. They arise whenever they want and wherever they want. Abbey Road just put clothes on them and the clothes fit them well,” said Arjona.
In his more than 30 years of career, Arjona has sold over 80 million records and has been hailed as one of the most successful Latin artists globally.
Fans love him for his ability to dress his fervent, socially conscious lyrics with his versatile musical style, combining traditional South American folk music and ballads with rock tunes and classical music. “Blanco”certainly lives up to that standard while taking people through a deeply introspective roller coaster of emotions.
The album’s first single “Hongos” (Mushrooms), a sincere anthem about authenticity, is reminiscent of the kinds of songs that first made him famous decades ago.
Arjona kicks off the new album with “Morir por vivir” (Dying to live), an infectious, energetic pop rock track. It then follows “El amor que me tenía” (The love I used to have), a sentimental ballad about faded self-love—and later picks up with “Blues de la notoriedad” (The notoriety blues), a song with country blues influences that sort of calls out celebrities that prioritize fame over artistry.
The album takes a dark, mysterious turn half way through with “Tarot,” the only song that was not recorded at the Abbey Road Studios.
“It was recorded in Prague under the direction of Julio Reyes. Without a doubt the dark part of the project, but with the forcefulness of the stories that one cannot stop telling,” said Arjona of the song, which uses piano and violins to create a dramatic effect as the lyrics speak about death and the fear of living a pointless life.
Arjona’s expressive baritone and totally committed performing style truly project a strong vulnerability in tracks such as “Tu retrato” (Your portrait) and “Sobrevivirás” (You’ll survive), which delve into the emotions around nostalgia and the love that remains after a failed relationship.
According to his label, Sony Music, Arjona was “consistent with his philosophy of ‘tell me what to do to not do it'” when he ignored the advice of experts saying “it is not a year to release an album” due to the coronavirus pandemic. “But, as usual, he broke the schemes,” Sony said in a press release last month.
“Albums are not made with hope. Albums are made with passion and they later go on to defend themselves whether times are difficult or not,” said Arjona.