KiCk i

KiCk i

Released in 2017 and partly informed by walks in East London’s Abney Park Cemetery, Arca’s self-titled third album was laced with sorrow. “And shame,” she tells Apple Music. “The album opens with a lyric that I only now understand about wanting to shed a skin, and it’s not been lost on me that The Skin I Live In is one of my favorite Almodóvar movies. It was almost like my music was guiding me with direction before I knew I was ready, basically. That's the miracle of art, right? You don't even know why you find certain directors or movies compelling, even if they’re problematic or full of static. That’s the mirror that can get you closer, deeper to your own self over time.” In the years since releasing that album, Alejandra Ghersi has moved to Barcelona, where she began transitioning, and fallen in love. “I‘ve had a lot of time to have lived experiences that I never had,” she says. Accordingly, KiCk i, the first in a planned series of albums, is full of life, crackling with mischief, defiance, joy, and vulnerability. Reflections on self, language, and love are rendered in daring syntheses of electronic, reggaetón, pop, and balladry. Calm rises from friction, swagger dovetails with tenderness, and the songs strike a captivating balance between invention and accessibility. “I try to find a place of tension that generates heat, rather than confuses,” Ghersi says. “I really do want to entertain people. There’s a showgirl in me that wants to compel and render a service, but at the same time, a part of me wants to defy and transgress and question.” Here, she talks us through the record track by track. Nonbinary “I wanted to introduce the concept of self-states. When I talk about a self-state as a system of personalities that each of us can have, that’s a very loaded term. It's an idea of integration and inclusion; it’s not supposed to be scary. You could just say ‘mood’—it’s a spectrum of moods we have. The mood I was in when I made this song is baffling to me, that part of me that has that much confidence. It’s a certainty I have access to in certain self-states. But in other self-states it’s like, ‘Well, sheesh, I can't believe I'm going there.’ It’s just a personal journey, years of analysis: I worked with someone to try and make sense of everything. It really is a developing field, identity philosophy. The word ‘nonbinary’ is a very recent word. Whenever I typed it into autocorrect, it would get hyphenated. And so the part of me that enjoys linguistics and playfully questions, says, ‘Oh, so this word means something different to you and I; perhaps we’re not arguing about who’s right, we just see the word differently.’ [It’s the] idea of taking the pressure off having to agree and opening up the idea of agreeing to disagree. All I’m suggesting, in a weird way, is not that everyone has to think like I do, but the opposite.” Time “[A song about] seizing the day and a love story as well. I wanted to make a song that felt like you had a breeze under your face. I wanted to soar. After ‘Nonbinary’ being so confrontational and tense, I was like, ‘OK, you made it past the gate, now you get to have some sugar as a dessert.’ I also think it's about self-care, running that bubble bath as long as you want to. You've got to put productivity to one side and really stretch and indulge, because that’s weirdly part of the homeostasis of being able to be productive and fertile. [Musically,] I literally was channeling the gayest part of me, which I know sounds like something confusing to hear a trans woman say, but it shouldn't be. I was thinking Kylie, I was thinking Madonna—that synth just sounds gay to me in a beautiful way. It's bubbly.” Mequetrefe “I wanted to find an uncanny valley between a joyous celebration and a defiant transgression. It’s the song that I put on when I have to rile myself up to face the world, to just present as I am. There’s a tenderness and a very sweet chord progression in the song that’s a reminder that it’s born from love, that labor of expressing oneself. But at the same time, it’s not lost on me that it's going to cause some static around me. I moved to Barcelona deliberately. It was a part of me that was reluctant to begin my transition in New York or London—I didn't want to be in a safe space, because I had a lot of doubt. I felt like I needed to go into a place that was more traditional in order to let that bloom within me. I didn't want to feel like I was being encouraged into it. I really needed to know on a spiritual level that it was something I wanted to do for myself. So the song is very much directly a response that I didn't want to have to be impenetrable and immune and to rise above people disagreeing with me visibly or vocally on the street in a city like Barcelona, which is very traditional. But somehow it felt like a return—it’s the first time I’ve lived in a Spanish-speaking country since I left Venezuela at 17. So there’s a poetic symbolism there.” Riquiquí “I love this song to bits. Some of the lyrics, it's like I'm not even trying to make it universal. Like 'mango bajito': my dad would say that when we found a parking spot, 'Oooooh, mango bajito!' That's an expression in Venezuela, like, ‘There’s mango everywhere’—low-hanging fruit. It’s these very, very autochthonous expressions throughout the song. Just the track title: invoking your mouth, making that shape phonetically. It has a mischief, and a heat and a spark to it. I was like, ‘OK, let me do my lowest baritone, let me do my most hysterical,’ like you can see this character almost shape-shift and have very different expressions. But there was something of an essence that unified all of them, and it was just electric.” Calor “A consummate love song. Probably the happiest, most lyrical love song I've written under the name Arca. That’s really to my boyfriend Carlos. A lot of my life I was like, ‘When am I going to find someone who I could love and be myself with?’ I really didn't think I would fall in love when I did with Carlos. I wasn't looking for it, I was actually avoiding it. Anytime there was chemistry with anyone, I'd just disappear because I didn't know how to handle it. I was scared of love because of past experiences. The lyrics that came out of me were improvised; I just had one of those sessions where it was one take from start to finish. ‘Calor’ is very much a sigh of relief, saying, ‘OK, I’m doing this, it’s happening, I’m going to let it wash over me.’ When I listen to it, I’m like, ‘Wow, I can't believe I wrote that, it’s so vulnerable.’” Afterwards (feat. Björk) “I cried when I heard the recording for the first time. When [Björk’s 1997 album] Homogenic came out, it changed the way I saw music and the way I saw music videos. That time was so important. When I hear ‘Afterwards,’ it reminds me of that era. The style of Björk singing that was just like ocean-wide. She’s so generous with air in her vocal tone. The fact that she wanted to sing in Spanish [Björk sings Antonio Machado’s poem ‘Anoche cuando dormía’]—I was gagging. And, full disclosure, I was trying to get ROSALÍA and Björk on the same track. It was just that scheduling was crazy, but we were on the email thread, and ROSALÍA [was] helping a little bit with pronunciations. A very sweet email thread, very beautiful, and everyone was encouraging each other. The poem itself, it’s very tender. I also sense there's a humility, there’s a sense of wonder, of interconnectedness, of longing. It’s a song that reminds me of twilight or dusk, it has this kind of glow, and the lyrics really added a sense of dreaminess.” Watch (feat. Shygirl) “Oh gosh, let's talk about Shygirl. She is the bomb. I think she’s so, so amazing. Her energy is so refreshing and she’s just cool. I love her delivery, her style; she’s fierce. We bond a lot about performativity, about fearlessness, about feminine destruction, about power, about dominance and submission, and not putting oneself into a box. This idea of playing with a sensuality and a sexuality in a way that's not ashamed—I find that very, very refreshing about her.” KLK (feat. ROSALÍA) “I love ROSALÍA. We met at a house party here in Barcelona, and we never really stopped being in touch. We talk about the courage that it takes to be a showgirl, and how it’s hard work. We encourage each other, like mutual cheerleading, mutual nurturing. When I open a thread with a collaborator, it’s someone who I want to be talking to and working with for years. For me and ROSALÍA, there’s so much in common. This not wanting to be put into a box. Not wanting to be seen as just tradition and not wanting to be seen as just a disavowal of tradition, but actually that we each love traditional music and folklore so much that we want to keep it alive and breathe new life into it, keep it a part of the conversation. It's much easier to stay within the bounds of what someone might expect from you based on who they think you are, how you look. It takes bravery to say, ‘I love music. I'm going to do this thing that I know musicians can do, which is synthesize influences before it happens in film, before it happens in fashion.’ Part of what makes music so magical for me is it allows for the blending and synthesizing of seemingly disparate or incompatible forms in a very magical way.” Rip the Slit “‘Rip the Slit’ is a curveball. It's probably the one that leads the most organically to what I envision KiCk ii being, which is more mischievous. It's a kinky song. It's also the most repetitive, I think. It reminds me of trance-like states. When you say something so many times, it starts meaning different things—just playing with that. Like a gleeful perversion of some sort. It reminds me of the self-state that I was in when I made some earlier works, Stretch 1 and 2. So it’s heavier on the backbeat. I'm sparing with my snares, and this song’s snare-heavy. It's like a love of snare fills and stuff like that. Nimbleness, that kind of thing, production-wise.” La Chíqui (feat. SOPHIE) “This track to me is bananas. I love SOPHIE and I was like, ‘If we do a track together, it has to be crazy.’ And I think it beyond lives up to what I imagined or hoped it would feel like: a sense of chaos and very rhythmic. So much of SOPHIE is in that track—not just her vocals but also the sonics. It was very collaborative. And it was very beautiful to be working with another trans woman and just having us being each of us, so self-contained and bridging and finding mutual points of collaborating. And so when I think of this track, it gives me a lot of enthusiasm and energy.” Machote “‘Quiero una Chica’— which means ‘I Want a Girl’—by Latin Dreams was a song that just hit so hard in Caracas. It was released in 2003. I was born in ’89, you can do the math. That was my prepubescent-slash-pubescent upbringing in Venezuela. I could call ‘Machote’ a cover, I'm not shy about it. But I swapped all the pronouns and abridged certain things. You know when you love a song but it's singing to the gender that you might not be? It's like a simple inversion of it, a simple gender inversion. It meant reaching out to that teenage part of me and being like, ‘What you're feeling is not only valid, but you're going to be able to share that.’ Also, have you seen the album cover of the original? I was like, ‘Oh, so boys can look like that. You can be that androgynous, that feminine.’ I sample myself as well in it with a song called ‘Wound’ from [2014 album] Xen. There's this recurring string section that I invoke many times throughout my career. One of the most vanilla, pop, Hollywood chord progressions, but it just touches my heart. When I bring up that chord progression, it's because I'm tuning into something very candid.” No Queda Nada “This just makes me think of [the late Tejano star] Selena Quintanilla. You know the movie [Selena]? J. Lo plays Selena and there's the stadium scene? That really impacted me. What did it look like for an artist that was a crossover artist, who couldn't be put into a box? Because I moved back and forth between the States, watching her story and knowing that she wasn't particularly fluent in English, she wasn't particularly fluent in Spanish, she had her own language, a Spanglish, that just called out to me. I grew up listening to Aaliyah, but I didn't share Aaliyah's background. I grew up listening to Madonna, but I didn't share Madonna's background. But Selena was someone who was that much closer. ‘No Queda Nada’ is, in my mind's eye, like a stadium ballad. It has this slow-motion regalness. And there's more fullness and a soulfulness. And then it really soars at this end. It's the second song that I say [Carlos’] name on. [It’s] a love song to all the love that was being born from me and continues to spring forth from me. And to just not be afraid to go the full way, and have the full ballad, not edit it down into a radio-friendly version—have it be this very touching thing that had scale to it, that could be that personal and that tender and have my voice crack.”

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