Colombian-American pop diva Soraya is gaining momentum. El Otro Lado de Mi (The Other Side of Me), her second album since overcoming breast cancer, is more upbeat than her previous, self-titled album, a philosophically breathless effort that won a Latin Grammy last year for Best Singer-Songwriter Album.
"It's more aggressive," she told the crowd during a brief performance at Macarena last week. Then she projected her sweet voice on the rock songs "Ser" ("To Be") and "Llevame" ("Lead Me"), expressing her vulnerability over the hard-driving percussion and guitar of her band. "Sometimes I can't fake it, fake being happy ... being what I dream of being ... sometimes I'm fragile," she sang on "Ser."
Her new sound on El Otro Lado de Mi crosses unpretentiously into fusion through sprinklings of Celtic and Andean wind instruments, experimental electronics, and sound bites. But she is still decidedly Soraya, a sugarcoated version of Sara McLachlan. "Como Sería" ("How Would It Be") and "Un Segundo" ("One Second") are definite candidates for heavy rotation on easy-listening radio stations, while "La Promesa" ("The Promise") and "Sin Tu Amor" ("Without Your Love") have a versatile, Shakira-meets-Gin-Blossoms-and-Hootie-and-the-Blowfish effect.
On the title track, pop and organic pan flutes mix, remedying her impatience with the modern world. "I wish I could be like the sun that forgets about the night, the rivers that flow without reproach," she sings. In contrast, "Alma de la Calle" ("Street Soul") is a tribute to the courage of Maria Amparo Amaya, a poor Colombian shoe shiner, who, despite stained hands and tired bones, musters up the strength to write poetry after work. Thanks to characters like Amaya, Soraya has found the momentum she needs to move beyond mere survival.