Julieta Venegas is a gifted multi-instrumentalist--accordion, guitar, piano, drum programming--who writes hooky, instantly winning pop songs. Raised in Tijuana, she's won five Grammys, four of them Latin; her albums sell well in Mexico, Europe, and the U.S.; and her videos are stuffed with moments of visual wit. One inverts the classic werewolf story (a woman loves a dog-headed beast, then freaks out when the full moon transforms him into a man), while another features a phalanx of elegant women devouring floral centerpieces and, apparently, farting out butterflies.
Venegas sings all of her songs in Spanish, and this, presumably, is what keeps her from getting wider coverage in the American music press. I myself don't speak a word of Spanish, but this hasn't kept me from enjoying Venegas's music, which does all the same things that good Anglophonic pop is supposed to do. Take "Lento," from the 2003 album Sí. At once peppy and plaintive, the song finds Venegas imploring a new lover to take it slow. "Dame tiempo para darte todo lo que tengo," she sings: give me time to give you all that I have. There's hesitation here, but the sugar-sweet harmonies promise an abundance of feeling as well. Venegas may or may not be a talented lyricist--I'm not in a position to evaluate. But she knows as much as anyone in the English-speaking world about making pop music that lifts you off your feet.
On iTunes: Julieta Venegas / "Lento"