“It was a learning process for me, to find that balance between my pop music and the influences and sounds that, while I’ve been working on this record, have really taken hold -- urban pop, urban music, all that fusion that makes up the urban sound,” she tells ET. “Libra is an album where I found that balance I’m always seeking, like the good Libra I am. I needed it.”
Mariana “Lali” Espósito first rose to fame as an actress in her native Argentina, perhaps most famously as part of the cast of Casi ángeles and its pop group, Teen Angels. But the multi-talented performer has spent the last decade shuttling between critically acclaimed films like 2018’s Acusada, opposite Gael García Bernal, and carving a space for herself as a successful solo artist with hits like “Sin querer queriendo,” “Como así” and most recently, “Ladrón.”
A four-time MTV Europe Music Award winner for Best Latin America South Act, Lali released Libra as a surprise drop in mid-November.
“No one really expected a year like this one,” she says. “But if I’ve taken anything from it, it's a stronger connection with the here and now -- with the present, which we sometimes forget. And that made me throw myself onto whatever this record required of me. Once it was ready, I realized I had to just release it and drop it as a kind of gift for those who have been following my work for a long time and who, amid this very difficult year, could find some joy.”
While she’s spent the better part of the last two years working on the record, Lali shares that cracking its opening track, “Eclipse,” was what made the album really come together.
“When I was working in the studio in Miami, I went to my hotel room with that demo after working on it for hours. And I realized that this would be our North Star: the sound that would guide the entire album," she recalls.
“It has a power that marks a kind of evolution or maturity in my sound,” Lali adds. “It has, for me, the perfect mix between the arrangement of super pop vocals, super sung and a very spoken part, with a mixture of hip hop and trap. It is an organic example of that fusion, of that balance I was aiming for.”
Even as Libra finds Lali flirting with different genres and welcoming a varied roster of featured guest artists -- including Fito Páez, Mau y Ricky and CNCO -- it is unequivocally a showcase for her talents, cementing her as an artist coming into her own. Moreover, this new era finds her more in control of her output and her image than ever before. Case in point: she directed the video for “Ladrón,” her new single with Cazzu.
“I had a dream of this video. It was very clear in my mind, as it tends to happen with all the visuals for my work. I started to tell my team, and Sony, and Cazzu's team, all about it and I kept talking about it so we could find a director for it. Then everyone was like, 'Why don't you direct it yourself?'"
If the prospect of directing a video shoot that took place in Argentina and Spain (where Lali is currently shooting Sky Rojo, an upcoming Netflix series) was daunting, that didn’t stop the tireless artist. The result? An elegant black-and-white concoction that finds the two Argentine singers set against backdrops that play off their respective sensibilities, hers more minimal 1950s diva, Cazzu’s more gothic trap queen, but blended together to create a rather balanced visual vocabulary fit for the album’s overall concept.
Similarly, Lali has recently found herself making her voice heard outside of the entertainment industry. During Hispanic Heritage Month, the performer penned an op-ed for ET all about how we need to fight back against political apathy in younger generations by empowering them with the idea that their voice and their vote matters.
She’s loved seeing the response the piece has gotten and the way it has pushed people to see her in a new light. As she outlined in the piece, sometimes we underestimate those who we feel need to be empowered the most.
“People don’t know this but I write a lot. I write about a lot of things that have nothing to do with music," Lali says. "I’ve got notebooks filled with philosophical ideas -- I read about a lot of that stuff, about free thought and philosophy. It’s things we usually keep to ourselves so every now and then people are surprised to hear about it."
She may not always get the chance to say her piece, but these big philosophical questions are always top of mind.
“I think it has to do with wanting to box people in. If you’re a young girl who sings pop songs, who dyes her hair blond, and wears shiny dresses, it seems as if you shouldn’t be able to talk about social or political issues, because culturally -- and here I don’t mean everyone, of course -- we tend to place one another inside a small box," Lali shares. "And that box may well be ‘that pop singer who sings and dances’ and that’s about it. I love all of that (the hair, the outfits) but before all of that I’m a citizen, I’m a person. I pay my taxes. I live. I care about my friends and my family.”