Song You Need to Know: Torreblanca, ‘Maricón’

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Now 50 years after the Stonewall Riots, the month of June has become synonymous with LGBTQ Pride. ‘Tis the season for campy pop classics to start creeping back into the airwaves — as well as seasonal releases that teeter between opportunistic cash grabs and gifts of sweaty, dancefloor catharsis. But don’t be deceived; timeless anthems Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Sylvester’s “Mighty Real” still speak to the LGBTQ community’s fears, heartbreaks and life-affirming quests for authenticity, metabolized into song. In the case of Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Manuel Torreblanca, the lifelong, deep-seated desire for liberation is the catalyst behind “Maricón” — a manifesto aimed at cutting down the power of homophobic language.

For well over a decade, Torreblanca has been a staple of the Mexican pop landscape. A contemporary of songwriting greats like Natalia Lafourcade and Ximena Sariñana, Torreblanca’s best known for his theatrical storytelling and extravagant orchestral compositions. “Maricón” is a perfect example of the vivid and swerving lyricism that has made Torreblanca a poignant narrator for legions; and while sticking to his trademarks, he also charts new artistic waters by embracing the danceable edge of disco.

Inspired by divas like Diana Ross, Javiera Mena and Spanish pop icon Alaska, Torreblanca seizes “Maricón” as an opportunity to become the voice of empowerment he desperately craved in his younger days. “I’m not a second-class citizen / I’m an aurora borealis / and I’m not going to repress it,” he proclaims, with all the glee of a man unburdened. Embodying his inner demons, guest vocalists Pambo and Dorian Wood pelt Torreblanca with woefully common slurs for gay men — ranging from ‘soplanuca’ to ‘mariquita’ — and are met with powerful retorts like “What a beautiful word!” and the mantra-like chorus, “Quiérete mucho” (“Love yourself lots”).

While Torreblanca’s queerness was hardly a secret prior to the song’s release, it’s the first time he’s addressed the subject head-on in song. “It was something [I had] never spoken about this openly,” he explained in a press release. “Of the boy terrified by the idea or the risk of being called a faggot at school or on the street. Of what internalized homophobia had done to [my] personality.”

“Maricón” was conceived alongside Venezuelan singer-songwriter Ulises Hadjis several years ago, after their label tapped the pair to write and pitch songs for the legendary pop diva, Daniela Romo. Ultimately, none of the songs made the cut, but the melody of what would eventually become “Maricón” remained on a constant loop in Torreblanca’s ears. Words drafted for Romo were eventually replaced by his own voice, setting his personal truths to music.

“Maricón” is the second single off Torreblanca’s forthcoming album and will be performed for the first time this weekend during Mexico City’s 41st annual Pride celebration, held in El Zócalo. Torreblanca is part of an all-star lineup that includes local and international talent such as Esteman, Javiera Mena and La Bruja de Texcoco.