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Album Review

Never one to surrender her career to commercial considerations or fan expectations, Mónica Naranjo took seven years to release Tarántula, the follow-up album to Chicas Malas (2001) and only the fifth album of original material in her 14-year career. As a testament to the devotion of her following, the seven-year wait cost Naranjo few fans in her homeland, as Tarántula was greeted with rabid anticipation in Spain, where it opened atop the albums chart and spawned a pair of chart-topping singles in "Europa" and "Amor y Lujo." Overseen by longtime producer Cristóbal Sansano and directed musically by Chris Gordon and Dave McClean of the relatively unknown Scottish band Union of Knives, Tarántula is a major artistic statement by Naranjo, one that reportedly took five years to complete and originally included dozens of songs. The resulting album is often breathtaking, particularly the album-opening lead single, "Europa," a tremendous song that encapsulates everything amazing about Tarántula within the span of seven minutes: tense orchestral stabs and swells, the soaring vocal range of Naranjo, lyrics full of drama and pretension — and then, about three minutes into the song, pulsing electronic dance beats and, a minute further into the song, storming electro-rock music. Even better, the fury continues with only momentary interruption for another four minutes with "Todo Mentira," the second song. Tarántula begins to take unexpected turns with the third song, "Usted," which opens in French (one of multiple instances where Naranjo slips into different idioms, including a child-like voice for "Para Siempre"). "Amor y Lujo" is a particularly dynamic song, bursting wide open at the one-minute mark with astounding intensity. There are few if any dull moments on Tarántula, an album that surely reestablished Naranjo as one of the most creative and exciting solo vocalists in Spain. A major artistic statement such as this, arriving as it did seven years after her last album of original material, is undoubtedly a response to those critical of her turn away from commercial pop music, in particular the mixed reception for her defiant cult favorite Minage (2000), the follow-up album to her mainstream breakthrough, Palabra de Mujer (1997). Unlike her last album of original material, the glossy commercial effort Chicas Malas, not to mention its ill-received English-language counterpart, Bad Girls (2002), Tarántula is an album on which Naranjo does as she pleases, singing music that is original in style and visionary in direction. It's a grand return for the Spanish vocalist, one that couldn't be more welcome.


Born: 23 May 1974 in Figueras, Spain

Genre: Pop in Spanish

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Known for her powerful voice and bold expressiveness, Mónica Naranjo is a Latin pop singer/songwriter from Spain whose popularity extends from Europe to the Americas. Her music is dynamic, often leaning toward cutting-edge dance music. Her popularity peaked in the late '90s with the release of Palabra de Mujer (1997), though she has retained a hardcore following over time, even after taking years off between albums, as was the case with Tarántula (2008), her first album of all-original material in...
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Tarántula, Mónica Naranjo
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