SCOTT SIMON, host:
Some singers would be intimidated being compared to the likes of Norah Jones and Fiona Apple. But at the age of 22, Ximena Sarinana is an old hand at entertainment. She began acting 18 years ago when she was just four. She has now released her second album, "Mediocre," or in English "Mediocre," and it's anything but. It's playful, sexy, and Latin Grammy nominated, and all in Spanish.
(Soundbite of song "Mediocre")
Ms. XIMENA SARINANA: (Singing) Son las hojas que escribi ayer. El lenguaje que quedo en tu piel. Fue la tinta a toda intencion, De dejarte lo que soy.
SIMON: Ximena Sarinana joins us now from Warner offices in Mexico City. Thanks so much for being with us.
Ms. XIMENA SARINANA (Singer; Actress): Hi, thank you very much for the invitation.
SIMON: How did you find music?
Ms. SARINANA: My dad has always loved music. When I was little, he used to sing me songs with his guitar. And music would always be playing in our apartment, Paul Simon and Tracy Chapman and, you know, a little bit of classical music, a little bit of Latin American songs, a little bit of jazz. And I kind of just fell in love with it. Jazz standards are amazing songs. And it gives you the ability, since there are so many versions, it gives you the ability to - kind of like the challenge to try and sing your own performance of the song.
SIMON: Let's hear a cut, if we could, from this album. "Un Error."
(Soundbite of song "Un Error")
Ms. SARINANA: (Singing) Perdoname, Nadie sabe porque, Paso los que paso, Entre tu y yo. Todo fue un error, No fue mala intencion, Me odiaras, Hasta el final.
SIMON: Who did you learn from as a jazz singer?
Ms. SARINANA: Definitely Ella Fitzgerald was like my first and most important influence, but then I fell in love with Billie Holiday. And I just - she's kind of like my favorite. She was the Bjork of her time, I guess. I mean, the way she performs and everything, she's really amazing.
SIMON: Do you ever sing in English?
Ms. SARINANA: Yeah, actually, I just started writing in English. I did a song that actually just came out in the re-edition here in Mexico of the album. And it's a reality that all singers have to face that - I mean, if you want to cross the border, the international border, you - I mean, it's way more common to be singing in English. But I just really felt the need to master Spanish before trying to write in English, because for me lyrics are just really very important, and I see them as important as the music itself.
SIMON: Well, what's the song that you mentioned to us that you've been working on?
Ms. SARINANA: It's called "Pajaritos."
SIMON: Can we hear a couple of lines from you?
Ms. SARINANA: Sure, I'll sing a little bit.
Ms. SARINANA: (Singing) Look away, I know you're smart. Never was a man for broken hearts. You'll see it from afar. Keep your dreams over the floor, if it quakes a place under the door. I've been through this before.
Ms. SARINANA: That's one of the verses.
SIMON: That's beautiful. Thank you.
Ms. SARINANA: You're welcome.
SIMON: Let's give your voice a rest. Let us do another cut, if we could, from this CD, "Reforma."
(Soundbite of song "Reforma")
Ms. SARINANA: (Singing) Y es que es tan dificil aceptar lo que soy, No se ni por donde de lo mal que estoy, Pero espero hacerte sonreír. Porque nunca he cambiado para mí, Quiero aareglarme junto a ti.
SIMON: Now, I believe you said on stage that "Reforma," the lyrics in this song kind of reflect your life right now.
Ms. SARINANA: "Reforma" is a song that talks about all my defects as I see them. It's a love song. And it's just kind of, like, warning the other person that I talk too much, that I'm a little bit of a klutz, that I love to suffer. Kind of, you know, things like that. Just so that they know and that they're warned that if they decide to start a relationship with me, they should know these things before.
SIMON: Now, may I ask, is this just a song or is this a real creed?
Ms. SARINANA: No, I mean, it's real. All the songs in my album are pretty much autobiographical.
SIMON: I don't like to suffer. Why do you like it?
Ms. SARINANA: I don't know. I think it's part of my - I don't know if it's my zodiac sign. I don't know if it's just part of my personality. Or maybe it's because I'm Latino or something, that we watch too much soap operas here.
(Soundbite of laughter)
(Soundbite of song "Normal")
Ms. SARINANA: (Singing) Oh y que felicidad hacerte la cena, Y que seguridad saber que me esperas. Y el tiempo pasara, El sol se apagara, Y todo lo que sentiste fue, Normal.
SIMON: This is the song nominated for a Latin Grammy, "Normal."
Ms. SARINANA: Yeah, I'm very excited.
SIMON: So what's this song about?
Ms. SARINANA: Well, this song was at a point in my life in which I was pretty much very out of the whole love and corny stuff. So it talks about how love is just a normal feeling that everybody goes through and how if everybody goes through it then why is it so special, you know. That was kind of like the reflection at the time.
SIMON: Is there a song you'd want to recommend?
Ms. SARINANA: Well, "Rara," a cover song that I did from a Uruguayan composer. And I really like the vibe of that song.
(Soundbite of song "Rara")
Ms. SARINANA: (Singing) No toleras las medias. Te estas sintiendo rara, Te estas sintiendo rara, Te estas sintiendo.
Ms. SARINANA: It's pretty kind of like, I think, I guess, one of the more upbeat songs of the record.
SIMON: And can you tell us a little bit about the story of the song?
Ms. SARINANA: Actually, this is really cool. My Uruguayan producer, he sent me a link to listen to this Uruguayan composer. His name is Erik Couts. And since he doesn't have an album out yet, the first thing I would do as soon as I woke up, I would just go to his MySpace page and play his songs over and over again. And my producer wanted me to try and sing a song that wasn't written by myself, because he had seen me doing all these jazz standards on YouTube, and he thought that that was also a very important part of who I was, that I was a really good interpreter. And I really liked the result.
SIMON: Well, Ms. Sarinana, very nice talking to you.
Ms. SARINANA: Thank you, you too. It was really - I enjoyed this interview very much.
SIMON: Well, thanks so much. Speaking from Mexico City, Ximena Sarinana. Her new album is "Mediocre," but you can ask for "Mediocre," and they'll probably bring it over.
(Soundbite of song "Mediocre")
Ms. SARINANA: (Singing) Me encanta escucharte hablar
SIMON: And for more of her musical style, you can go to our special music site on our Web site npr.org. This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Ms. SARINANA: (Singing) Solo quiero que quisieras hoy...
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