“Music is the thing that saved me,” says Mexican superstar Paulina Rubio. Music is what she has known her whole life, or at least, ever since she made her early Eighties debut in the popular teen group, Timbiriche. But in 1992, Rubio broke away from the pack to launch her solo career — and like America’s Madonna, she has reinvented herself with every new release. For her latest act, La Chica Dorada, or the Golden Girl, will take a lifetime’s worth of transformations on the road in support of her 2018 album, Deseo. Rubio kicks off the U.S. leg of her world tour Thursday night in San Jose, California.
As trends have shifted over the decades, Rubio has proven herself to be a versatile artist. When she’s not the breathy Balladeer Paulina she was on “Tal Vez, Quizá,” or the roaring Rockera Paulina on anthems like “Ni Una Sola Palabra,” she is Disco Diva Paulina, dominating dance floors with bangers like “Y Yo Sigo Aquí.” Rubio even had a taste of that early-aughts Latin crossover success with her English-language album, 2002’s Border Girl, in which she starred as Femme Fatale Paulina on the synth-pop delight, “Don’t Say Goodbye.”
“Few artists can say, ‘I have hits in the Eighties, Nineties, 2000s, and now,’” she tells Rolling Stone.
Released via Universal Music Spain, Rubio’s latest album, Deseo, came seven years after her 2011 LP, Brava!. It’s notably the longest gap she’s ever taken between albums. “When you start singing [at] six-years-old, believe me, you [need to] take time between one album and the other at a certain point,” she says. It wasn’t much of a break though; in the time between albums, Rubio has shared her wisdom with aspiring pop stars on reality TV competitions, like The X Factor in the U.S., as well as La Voz in Mexico and Spain.
Yet Deseo sees the vocal coach get back in the game, and with winning results. Rubio flirts with música urbana on songs like “Me Quemas” and “Desire,” featuring Venezuelan reggaetonero Nacho. But she effortlessly returns to her pop-rock lane on the stormy “Suave y Sutil,” as well as the soaring “Mi Nuevo Vicio” with Colombian band Morat. In her brand new single, “Si Supieran” — or “If They Knew,” co-written with producer Jesus “DalePlay” Herrera — Rubio plays the Liberated Paulina, celebrating her newfound life as a bachelorette. Coyly alluding to her high-profile breakups, and the subsequent tabloid coverage, her gritty verses are the yang to the yin of a carefree reggaeton beat. The breezy kiss-off track gets even more provocative in the music video, which follows Rubio and a crew of masked hotties as they bounce from bed to bed.
Rubio’s fall Deseo tour will include stops at theaters across the country, for what the singer describes as a “more intimate” experience. “I wanted to do an interactive concert where everyone is a part of it,” she says. In between preparations, Rubio spoke to Rolling Stone by phone about her latest album, her upcoming tour, and reflections on her storied music career.
With every album you undergo a new evolution. How did you evolve in Deseo?
I believe I am my own boss now. My freedom and that fact that I’m so comfortable composing with different teams. I’m a chameleon basically. I need to always reinvent myself or die. Deseo is everything that you wish for. Whatever it is that you desire. The desire that we have inside. That’s why I named the album Deseo.
Can you tell me about what fans can expect on the Deseo Tour?
I would need to kill you first. [laughs] I believe Deseo unleashed a lot of feelings and as soon as you enter the concert, I want you to unleash all those deseos. Take off the mask, or take off whatever is not you when you dance, and have fun. Whatever doesn’t work, leave it out. Inside it’s going to be fire. Also, we can say you will burn a lot of calories, so it’s healthy.
With so many hits, how are you going to pick what songs to perform?
That is a very hard part. That is a good problem to have. I’m going to do a new spin with this tour. The selection is going to be tough, but I can assure you that I will also count on my fans to choose those. There’s going to be around 30 songs.
Are any of your English songs going to make the setlist?
Definitely. I’m going to go through all the songs that everybody wants to hear, a couple of new ones, and some medleys that I’m working on as well. It’s full of surprises.
You were recently spotted in the recording studio with producers DalePlay and Maffio. What can you tell me about those collaborations?
Everything is a work in progress. I have a lot of surprises for September and October.
With nearly 40 years in the music industry, what have you learned about yourself in that time?
I learned to be loyal to myself. I learned that no matter how many times they tell you no, there’s a hundred yeses. I’m surrounded with good people, with family, and with friends and I’m very loyal to them. I believe my fans are also my family. They saw me grow up onstage. Paulina is not her ego. Paulina is her spirit. My spirit is powerful and it’s very positive. I try to empower all my fans with my lyrics.
With what you know about the industry now, what advice would you give to young Paulina in Timbiriche?
I would tell her to believe in herself, because when you’re young you doubt if you’re good or not. Also, the hardest part is not to make it, but to maintain yourself. I believe that as the superhero that I believe I am. Few artists can say, “You know I have hits in the Eighties, Nineties, 2000s, and now.” And to have a sense of humor and to not take myself so seriously on the stage. It’s where I belong.
What do you like about being a coach on those singing competitions?
The reality is I am at this point in my career where sharing is important. When I did La Voz Kids here in the U.S., it was me getting reflected into those kids and empowering them, sharing your knowledge and how you become who you are right now when they want the same career as you.
You’re getting to teach them what you learned.
Absolutely. And you end up learning more from them, which is lovely.
A lot of your fans are in the gay community. Do you have a message for your gay fans?
I believe love is love. They are una potencia [a force]. My gay fans are an example of how we and love are so powerful that we can change everything. All the obstacles that we jump over are a little of the light that we reveal. They’re fearless and that reminds me of who I am.
Deseo Tour Dates
September 12th – San Jose, CA @ San Jose Civic Auditorium
September 13th – Alpine, CA @ Viejas Casino
September 14th – Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren
September 16th – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
September 19th – Houston, TX @ Revention Music Center
September 21st – McAllen, TX @ McAllen Performing Arts Center
September 22nd – San Antonio, TX @ Aztec Theatre
September 25th –Chicago, IL @ Chicago Theatre
September 27th – Brooklyn, NY @ Kings Theatre
September 29th – Washington, DC @ Warner Theatre