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Miranda!: A Guided Tour

In anticipation of their November 9th show, we take a look at the band's career.

By | [email protected] | November 6, 2018 8:30am

miranda!Photo via Clarin.com
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Welcome, one and all, to another installment of The Bubble’s monthly artist retrospectives. Our goal here is to take a closer look at the trajectory of a band or solo artist, providing you with a more thorough understanding of their significance, legacy, and biggest hits. That way you can hold court on the subject without feeling like a dilettante. Because there’s nothing worse than feigning knowledge on a topic and being revealed as a fraud when pressed even gently for details. Trust us. We’ve been there.

Last time around, we examined the career, music and impact of psychedelic pop outfit Babasónicos; from their more musically aggressive beginnings through their constant shifting experimentation, their commercial breakthrough, and their current status as elder statesmen of Argentine rock. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check it out.

This time, we are turning our eye to a band that has been around for nearly two decades, has enjoyed massive success (both critically and commercially), and has had an enduring influence on the Argentine music scene…  and yet, somehow, they still have a hard time being taken seriously by wide swaths of the public. That’s right: we’re talking about the often melodramatic, wildly irreverent purveyors of kitschy pop ridiculousness: Miranda!.

Photo via http://www.cronica.com.py/

Miranda! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of their name, get used to it) have had a number of lineup changes through the years, starting as a trio, ballooning up to a five-piece, and eventually whittling down to the core duo of vocalists Ale Sergi and Juliana Gattas. Like artists before them such as Prince and Robert Smith, Miranda! subvert the expectations of what a band should be by embracing chintzy camp and theatricality, rejecting the traditional notion of gruff masculinity, and making music that is unabashedly, joyously ridiculous. They draw influence from 80s synthpop, krautrock, 90s one-hit-wonders and ear-worm radio jingles; but also from cultural touchstones such as telenovelas, trashy romance novels, and bawdy musical theater.

I can see the comments already: “Miranda? Are you serious, The Bubble?”, “Come on, feature some serious musicians!”, or, the wildly dismissive and homophobic three-word descriptor that has dogged them through their entire career, “musica de p#%o$”. That kind of reaction is more-or-less expected when you feature a band that’s so joyously flamboyant in their music and presentation. This is because of several factors, one of which is, of course, the restrictive gender norms our culture is obsessed with. But there’s also this deeply-ingrained belief that rock music – in the traditional sense – is the only music worth taking seriously; that a band that prides itself in being, above all, fun, is inherently inferior to a band that’s coming on the scene with a furrowed brow, purporting to make grand statements. That “pop” is the enemy of “profound,” and that only “real musicians” playing “real instruments” are worth listening to. This is called rockism, and it’s a real thing.  

If you’re That Guy, I’m not sure this article can change your mind. But hey, psst, here’s a life pro tip: don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy. If you’ve got an open mind, you enjoy a good pop hook, and you’re not afraid of getting silly, join us in our trip through the band’s career. Bring your dancing shoes.

Oh, and if you want to listen along as we work our way through the band’s history, check out the Spotify Playlist we put together, featuring highlights from their nearly 20 years of recorded output. Also, make sure to follow The Bubble on Spotify for more cool playlists.

EARLY YEARS

The early-aughts feel, simultaneously, like a long time ago and not actually that long ago, don’t they? Miranda! started around the year 2001, after the jazz-standard pop cover group Lirio disbanded. Two of the group’s members, vocalist Juliana Gattas and multi-instrumentalist Ale Sergi, collaborated on an original song called Iman, drawing the attention of lead guitarist Leandro “Lolo” Fuentes. After putting out a demo and gaining another band member (keyboardist Bruno de Vicenti), the band started grinding their way through the Buenos Aires independent circuit, playing gigs at electronic music parties and small clubs, slowly but surely building up a dedicated audience and a reputation for their wild, theatrical shows.

The group found themselves becoming part of a small movement of bands in the Buenos Aires underground scene, along with groups such as Adicta (“the emo, depressive version of Miranda!”, as described by my megafan friend Magu), Leo García, Los Látigos, Luchi Camorra and others.

In November 2002, the independent label Secsy Discos released Miranda!’s debut album Es Mentira, a collection of maddeningly catchy, energetic pop songs drawing heavy influence from the New Romantics, disco, and avant-garde music. Bailarina (above) sounds more or less like a late-eighties New Order single with vocals by Prince. This music video started playing on TV channel Locomotion, fitting perfectly into that channel’s lineup of bizarre, surreal animated shows. Through their exposure via Locomotion, the band gained more and more followers who would flock to specialty record stores to pick up the album.

This small-scale, strange little indie pop group became such a sensation that they started popping up on critics’ lists: they were nominated for the 2002 Premio Clarín, they came in third in Rolling Stone magazine’s readers’ poll, and, most significantly, Argentine rock superstar Gustavo Cerati picked “Iman” (the first original Miranda! song) as his favorite track of 2002.

And it’s easy to hear why. Even if you’re not attuned to the band’s chintzy-pop aesthetic, “Iman” is an undeniably great song; an R&B slow-jam carried by Sergi and Gattas’ harmonizing vocals, with lyrics about the inevitability of attraction. It effectively showcases the band’s gift for melody, as well as their sense of theatricality. Things were looking up for Miranda!, but I think it’s fair to say that no one was quite prepared for the level of success that would soon follow…  

COMMERCIAL BREAKTHROUGH & MIDDLE YEARS

By 2004, the band had become a five-piece after incorporating longtime touring bassist Nicolás Grimaldi into the fold. Their first album had done exceedingly well for an independent release, and they had an active and vibrant following (particularly online, where discussion forums popped up and provided a sense of a tight-knit fan community). The band knew that they had to work hard if they wanted to sustain this level of success, but nobody knew that they were about to do much more than that.

On September 2004, Miranda! released their second album Sin Restricciones, further solidifying the band’s pop sound. As a collection of songs, it really does feel like it not only delivers on the promise of Es Mentira, but actually ups the ante; the hooks are sharper, the melodies stronger, the harmonies even more elegant. It’s also, generally, a lot catchier than its predecessor; the band had evolved into a limber pop powerhouse.

Don was the single that launched the band into the stratosphere, receiving heavy airplay on MTV and making them stars in all of Latin America. A genuinely sweet song about struggling with feelings of inadequacy and letting one’s guard down to a friend or lover, it’s a great showcase for Miranda!’s songwriting, with moments that are straight-up transcendent; witness the part that starts at 1:28, those swelling background vocals and Gatta’s ascending harmony line. The song also spawned the catchphrase “es un solo… es la guitarra de Lolo!”, which became something of an unavoidable meme for a while.

Sin Restricciones also featured smash singles such as El Profe and Yo Te Diré, the latter of which is probably the best song in the album and one of the band’s altogether greatest accomplishments; an irresistible dark pop song punctuated by a staccato rhythm and a rapid-fire delivery in the choruses, which, again, are anchored by the dueling vocals of Sergi and Gattas.

The album was a smash success, selling hundreds of thousands of copies and winning several awards. Miranda! was no longer a tiny little indie band playing small clubs in the Buenos Aires underground, but a force to be reckoned with in both radio and television. And because of the band’s androgynous aesthetic, their embrace of the electropop genre, as well as their exploration of the theme of sexual ambiguity, they had a massive following in the LGBT+ community; many fans have talked about how having a band like Miranda! thriving in the mainstream reassured that it was okay to be true to themselves. This is a significant part of their legacy that should not be overlooked.

In 2005, the band released a live DVD shot at the Gran Rex theater, En Vivo Sin Restricciones, showcasing their theatrical live concerts. The following year, they released a five-track EP titled Quereme!, a collection of covers of theme songs to telenovelas. Once again, this speaks to the kitschy, joyously absurd aesthetic of the band, telenovelas being the most campy and outwardly melodramatic form of television. Several of Miranda!’s songs would end up becoming telenovela theme songs themselves.

After more extensive touring and a key lineup change (the departure of keyboardist Bruno de Vicenti), the band went back to the studio to work on another full-length album. By this point, they had been signed with Sony and had more significant resources as their disposal.

2007 saw the release of El Disco de Tu Corazón, the third Miranda! LP. With a more polished sound that veered close to chamber pop at times, and featuring guest appearances by artists such as Spanish band Fangoria and Mexican singer Julieta Venegas, the album continued Miranda!’s string of hits. It was anchored by the lead single Prisionero, with its larger-than-life and brilliantly melodramatic chorus. It was a further refinement of the Miranda! sound, and kept the band in the limelight.

After a couple more years of touring and recording, the band released 2009’s Miranda Es Imposible!, their fourth studio album and a bit of a departure for the band. To be clear: the pop hooks were still very much there, and the band remained as self-consciously silly as ever, but as a whole, this album feels much more grounded than the previous ones; it has a much more conservative sound, with a more traditional “rock” base. That is to say: most of these songs are build on a bed of actual physical instruments – guitar, bass, live drums, even a tambourine! – without the over-the-top electronic adornment of the band’s usual synth-y (and synthetic) sound. It feels generally more earthy, and… dare we say it?… grown up.

Mentía was the album’s lead single, which is carried by a chiming guitar hook and a singalong chorus. Aside from a few vocal effects and the persistent thud of a drum machine that kicks in halfway through, it features a pretty standard instrumental base. However, the band’s gift for melody remained unchanged, as the chorus soars with exuberant energy. In 2010, the band earned the prestigious Gardel Award for Best Pop Album.

LATER YEARS & RECENT WORK

By the time the band celebrated 10 full years of a wildly successful musical career, they had released four albums and were about to release another. They weren’t just successful, but prolific. They had effectively broken into the mainstream and themselves become an influence to countless up-and-comers. Magistral featured a band that was aware of its strengths, was comfortable with their sound, and wanted to keep the party going.

It was followed by another live album, this time at the legendary Luna Park, titled Luna Magistral. Ale Sergi and Juliana Gattas became TV personalities, acting as judges on the Argentine version of singing-competition reality show The Voice. In 2014, the band parted ways with guitarist “Lolo” after a number of interpersonal and professional disputes. That same year, they released Safari, an album of tight, smart electropop songs, along with acoustic versions of each tune. It was an interesting experiment in songwriting; a song had to hold up in both formats to be worthy of inclusion.

In 2017, longtime bassist Nicolás Grimaldi left the band, and Miranda! effectively became the duo of vocalists Sergi and Gattas, who were already the “public faces” of the band. Fuerte was released in the same year, and featured singles such as 743, Quiero Vivir a Tu Lado and En Esta Noche. Though not as massively successful as earlier albums, Fuerte was still a characteristically strong outing by Miranda!, and solidified the fact that, by this point, the band’s influence and enduring legacy was impossible to dispute.

Miranda! are set to play their first two albums in their entirety at Luna Park this coming November 9th. Tickets are available online. In addition to this, they’ve been releasing new music over the last few months in anticipation of a new album. The singles released so far have been Lejos de Vos, a tender acoustic ballad, and La Colisión, a more elaborate, funk-and-EDM-influenced club banger.

They have their share of vocal detractors, but it’s impossible to deny that Miranda! holds an important place in the Argentinian music landscape, and has done so for 17 years now. They’ve broken down barriers, they’ve conquered markets, and they’ve made thousands of people dance their cares away. In an era where we’re getting constantly bombarded by relentlessly grim news, it’s good to get a little silly. It’s good to embrace the ridiculous.