Girl Ultra Is Blazing a Trail for Latinas in R&B
"I just try to give the most honest part of myself all the time," Girl Ultra tells People CHICA. "My art is very selfish. I make it for me, actually. I just want people to relate to normal girls' problems, you know?"
People CHICA was lucky enough to catch Girl Ultra on tour at NYC's Knitting Factory earlier this month, and if you don't already know her name, now's the time to memorize it. Prepping for the release of her first full-length album (set to come out later this fall), the Mexican singer had the crowd hypnotized with songs like “Ella Tú y Yo” and “DameLove.”
“I feel like a woman when I'm composing and when I'm making music now,” she told People CHICA at the show, noting that her new songs will explore the R&B spectrum in a more mature way. “I feel like this album is going to represent all of that for me, and I hope it represents that for other women and other people.”
Born Mariana de Miguel, Girl Ultra first started getting into music as a child, when her father would encourage her to listen to a variety of artists and genres. “He really got into the task of making me listen to the music he wanted me to listen to,” she explains. “Like he brought me Ennio Morricone soundtracks, Aretha Franklin and Pink Floyd,” she says. “He introduced me into it, and I just became a musical digger. I fell in love with it.”
Though R&B isn't as popular in Mexico as it is in places like the United States, Ultra was exposed to it via television. “I grew up watching Nickelodeon and most of the theme songs were R&B,” she says. “So I was listening to R&B without knowing it was R&B. So I've always felt attracted to that — that music is, like, very gut feeling.” When she started composing her own music, she drew on the R&B rhythms and melodies she'd absorbed. “There was not that much [R&B] music in my language,” she says. “I was like, ‘Damn, I want to explore this path in my own language.' So that's been the goal, to open up the spectrum of this genre.”
The stage name Girl Ultra comes from de Miguel's desire to feel strong and independent as a solo artist. “I was in a band and I was the only girl, and I always wanted to have my own project,” she explains. “And when we split up … I wanted to have this empowerment to be by myself.” She draws her fashion inspiration from the '80s, as well as the women in her family. “I'm a big fan of color-blocking and big belts, chunky shoes and big hairdos,” she says. “I really relate to this particular nostalgia and drama.”
R&B still isn't as popular in Mexico as de Miguel hopes it will eventually be, but that's definitely changing for the better. “The R&B scene in Mexico is taking baby steps right now, but I'm thrilled about what's about to happen, because there are a lot of movements from different cities,” she says, adding that there are tons of teenagers and young adults making waves in R&B as well as other genres.
On Tuesday, Girl Ultra released her new song “Ruleta,” available now on all platforms. You can also catch her on tour in the U.S. for a few more days. “I just try to give the most honest part of myself all the time,” she says. “My art is very selfish. I make it for me, actually. I really try to make it … so people can relate to it — I just want people to relate to normal girls' problems, you know?”