Alvaro Soler: Magia Review

Alvaro Soler photo
Photo: Christoph Köstlin

Alvaro Soler’s third album radiates summer warmth, hope and infectious optimism.

 (Triebel & Zuckowski GbR, under exclusive license to Universal Music GmbH, 2021)

The past few years have seen the Spanish-German singer cement his reputation as a European superstar. His music is a guaranteed good time and his chart-topping summer hits have featured international collaborations, from the famous French rapper and singer Gîms to global icon Jennifer Lopez. Outside of music, he has also become a household name thanks to judge appearances on X Factor Italy and The Voice Kids in Germany. Magia (Magic) rehashes the classic Soler summer anthem formula but subtle tweaks in production indicate a renewed push towards a more Latin American sound.

We are in familiar territory for the opening title track and first single. The verses of Magia have an almost identical upbeat rhythm as his 2016 smash hit Sofia. The chorus is a feel-good crowd-pleaser; “Que la vida es una canción!” (trans. “Life is a song!”). If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?

Sound familiar? Soler works his magic yet again releasing another summer hit.

That being said, the album does feature some tentative steps in new directions.

Tipo Normal is a tongue-in-cheek electronic number revealing the Normal Guy behind the global superstar. He raps for the first time and sings about listening to Phil Collins on cassette and preferring poetry over reggaeton. The instrumental backing provides us with an intriguing crossover here between the urban pop riffs blended with rolling salsa piano.

There is strong Latin flair to the album with the inclusion of Colombian gaita (a type of flute) and the Venezuelan cuarto guitar. The gaita makes an appearance in Hawaii and the energetic hook is great. The song starts off promisingly, however, the bridge loses its way a bit with the slightly jarring “We gotta go, momma / You already know, momma”, which he doesn’t quite pull off. Meanwhile, En Tu Piel (In Your Skin) has a Flamenco-inspired tonality and is about a shared night of passion

Soler is a co-writer on all of the songs and a co-producer on several. The album also boasts a range of stellar producers such as Rock Mafia, the American duo who have worked with Justin Bieber, Eminem and Ellie Goulding.

Rock Mafia worked on the second single, Si Te Vas (If You Go), a bittersweet moment in the album’s summer party atmosphere about relationship insecurity and breakups. It’s still in keeping with Soler’s style of Latin beats and folk-pop guitar but has a slightly more mellow tone. The plucked acoustic guitar embellishments are a nice touch.

There’s also a nod to Soler’s polyglot status with some French thrown in on Te Busqué (I Searched For You). Although aside that, the production and melody writing here are mediocre at best with little development.

Soler could be singing a shopping list and I’d still be obsessed with this song.

The third single Mañana, featuring Colombian Urban and Latin Pop duo Cali y El Dandee, is really the standout dance floor banger of the album. We are treated to Soler’s trademark bouncy guitar rhythms in the opening. Then, the rising melodies in the bridge effectively build up the tension and it flourishes into an infectiously catchy chorus. In this summer romance number, they sing “¿Qué no daría por ser tu bronceador?” (trans. “What I wouldn’t give to be your suntan lotion?”). Anyway, lyrics aside, Mañana is one to dance to, not analyse. Soler could be reading a shopping list and I’d still add it to my party playlist.

Born in Barcelona, partially raised in Tokyo and now with a music career based in Berlin, Soler’s closing track Alma De Luz (Soul of Light) is a beautifully written folk song about people’s fear of the foreigners, and the loneliness that comes from an international upbringing. The gentle sway of the guitar tempo and rhythm give this song a timeless appeal.

Total Score
    3/5 Decent
    Lyrics like 'la magia de tus labios' (the magic of your lips) in Magia are perhaps a bit cheesy, but songs like Alma de Luz and En tu Piel have a more subtle appeal.
    4/5 Pretty great
    The new Latin American instruments are a welcome addition as Soler continues to refine his unique style.
    4/5 Pretty great
    Look, lockdown has been depressing, ok? And while Magia isn't exactly reinventing the wheel, sometimes we all need some familiar-sounding catchy summer tunes to cheer us up. Well, it certainly cheered me up.
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