Album of the Day: Taina Asili’s Resiliencia

Posted by Greg on Apr 25, 2019 in Music |

If there’s one advantage to the #MeToo movement it is the rise of female empowerment and overall accountability for every citizen. One such figure emerging is New York singer-songwriter and activist Taina Asili, a second generation Puerto Rican with a lifetime full of chutzpah.

Her latest album Resiliencia is a cornucopia of Caribbean rhythms, first-rate horns and some seriously passionate vocals. Though the album is a bit of a mess, there are some great contributions. First of those is the earworm “Even If” an empowerment rebuke against over-aggressive men and misogyny. If ever the #MeToo movement needs an anthem, they have certainly found it in this one. Fiery, determined and richly constructed, it’s the perfect song for this perfect moment.

The brawny “Plant the Seed” begins acapella but quickly moves away from that. Unfortunately as it shifts away from the minimalism, the song loses its impact. That unfortunately is a trend that blankets much of the album, but more on that later. The title track “Resiliencia” is one of the album’s apex moments. Featuring a steady mix of funk and Caribbean inspired hip-hop it is a clarion call to arms and ostensibly Asili’s rallying cry and mission statement. Probably the best part about “Resiliencia” is that the song opens with just a voice and some minimal percussion and gradually rises into something angry, dissident and passionate. What results is a sultry, island groove song with ample horns, sturdy percussion and hyper confident vocals.

Asili sings in both Spanish and English and to be frank her Spanish songs are the ones most worth playing back. “Gave You All My Love” is sultry and seductive but the song doesn’t carry it’s weight at all and falls apart halfway through. Ditto for the ska-inspired “Who I Am.” The best English-sung song is “Beyond the Stars” a roots-driven effort that just might be the strongest song on the album. Aided by some sensational sitar playing by Veena Chandra, the song is an absolute slam-dunk from start to finish. The problem with Resiliencia is there are not more songs as expertly constructed as “Beyond the Stars.” To put it simply, more songs like this one and the album would have been a home-run. Instead it falls apart way too often.

The album is not all a wash. “Cancion de Luz” and “Cucubano” have winning moments and both of them have one yearning for a mojito and mofongo. But in an album meant to inspire, motivate and educate, Resiliencia falls short. Though the horns are luscious and absolutely worth the investment, everything else sounds like a muddled, hurried, chaotic mess. For now blast “Even If” and “Beyond the Stars” on repeat, and hope for a better effort next time out.

To date, Asili has been featured at the Women’s March on Washington, Rolling Stone and Billboard, mostly on the heels of the anti-Trump anthem “No Es Mi Presidente.” Clearly, she’s gaining traction, but whether Resiliencia sees her rise beyond that flashpoint single remains to be seen. While we do need more Latin women speaking their truth in the American musical landscape, Asili’s Resiliencia is not the best showcase of her talent. Having shared stages with the likes of Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Talib Kweli and Tom Morello throughout her 20-year career, she certainly knows her way around a big stage. Maybe we’re just too square for an album like this, but we here at SITH are having a hard time digesting much of Resiliencia. Maybe that’s because we don’t listen to much cumbia, reggaeton, salsa and Afrobeat and maybe that’s because feminism is a tough subject.

Then again, maybe that’s the point. The truth is often a bitter pill to swallow.


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