Melaner hopes Latinx entertainment will mature: “People think all Latinas look like Shakira”

“People should support one another in whatever ways they can.”Melaner

Though often perceived as a reggaeton newcomer, the Dominican-American singer, Melaner, has been paying dues for years. She first emerged into the industry as a contestant on Univision’s “La Reina de la Canción.” The TV show earned her praise from millions of viewers, its executive producer Daddy Yankee and a top 9 talent placement. Ultimately, several lessons followed. 

“There is no set timeline for anyone’s success. As long as I keep going hard, working, and releasing songs … something is bound to pop,” she explained from her studio. The artist remains optimistic, as the television feat was something she credits to her alma mater Berklee College of Music, from which she graduated Summa Cume Laude. The voices of Juan Luis Guerra, Selena, and her love for Dominican dembow are also influential in her continued mainstream pursuit. Still, Melaner understands that her mission is bigger than her. 

From the moment the artist joined our conference call, she voiced concerns. “I know what I and others can do if someone just listened. I know the potential!” she asserted. The possibility she seeks is fundamentally just. Melaner wants Black and Indigenous Latinas to be given equal opportunity throughout the music industry. Everything the social entrepreneur and vocalist does supports this sentiment — down to her selected beauty brand partnerships

More than pen her first hit, she aims to be a testament to naturalistas throughout Latin America with curvy bodies, sunkissed skin, and curly hair. Plainly, Melaner wants what is real to prevail. The Knockturnal caught up with the multihyphenate to discuss the power of social media, why collaborative production ought to be embraced, and the obstacles indies navigate. Check out our conversation.

Your music video for “Comentario” was recently released. Please describe the inspiration behind the song for listeners who are becoming acquainted.

Melaner: I went into the studio with Latchi, and we were vibing. We asked, “What is something people do not really talk about? What is something unique that people would resonate with?” So, we began to sing melodies and came up with the idea. Latchi said, “What if we wrote [something] like, ‘Forget what anybody thinks about you. If you are feeling something for someone, and you want to follow a dream, just go for it.'”

The video has an around-the-way feel with the bodega scene. Is that indicative of how you and Latchi grew up? 

Melaner: I wanted to make the video very New York. (laughs) And I thought, “What is the best way to make it New York?” Bodegas are ingrained in Latino culture. I am from the Northeast. Latchi is from Miami, where he and I recorded the song. Bringing us together here, in the city, melds these cultures together. We filmed in a place that resonates with everybody. 

You are building a presence on TikTok. How impactful do you feel social media is to ascending artists? 

Melaner: TikTok is super important for artists. I like to say it is a necessary evil. (laughs)

In what way?

Melaner: Artists have to do so much. Social media is more work! It is apart from all the other tasks we are doing with our music and videos. We have to create and post constantly. Some people say, “You should upload 3 to 5 videos a day on TikTok.” 

It begins to [feel] like, “Oh, my God! How do I do everything?” I am one person. You know? When you have a bigger team, maybe it becomes easier. 

For independent artists, it is necessary. We have to do extra posts to be recognized. We can build new fans. People can discover us on social media. Honestly, it is a big job!

Is it nice to see people react in real-time? On a positive note, can you better gauge how listeners receive what you are releasing musically? 

Melaner: Yes, it is nice to connect with people you may not have reached in a show. If I had performed in New York, I probably would not connect with people in Europe or all these other places. They comment on your social media pages. 

The internet makes the world smaller. You can see how you connect with other sides of the globe. You feel like you begin to know people from interacting so much online. (laughs)

What is one thing the Berklee College of Music taught you that helped prepare you for what you are now experiencing in your career?

Melaner: Aside from the technical aspects, school taught me how to network with people. It helps you to be in a collaborative space. You cannot make music without other people. I was surrounded by amazing talent. You learn so much from one another. When I do songwriting and production on songs, collaboration is important. 

I love to work with others. I support others through my contributions. The best products come from collaboration. Everyone is different. Certain artists do not like to work with a lot of people. [My approach] is, “Let’s get together. I want to brainstorm.”

The Nova One Remix to your single, “Accidente,” was released earlier this year. Sonically, what do you feel were the key differences?

Melaner: Sonically, I think the remix was more chill. I think it is a great track for getting together with friends. I [envision the song] with people smoking or having a little wine. It is good for hanging out. I consider it a laid-back version, a nice genre fuse. The original one is more uptempo and has a party vibe. 

I love the difference in its feel. We all listen to music to make us feel something. When we go to a club, we feel hype because of the loud music. If we are at a spa, the music will be more relaxed. So, the difference in the feel is the most important thing about the remix. I love that I can listen to that song chillin’ at home. 

Image-wise what are you bringing that is lacking in the industry?

Melaner: To be honest, I am a representation of what Latinas actually look like. (laughs) That is one way of saying it. The music industry has kind of white-washed us. Even when you have conversations with non-Latino people — you have darker skin or curly hair — and you say, “Oh, I’m Latina.” You will hear things likes, “Really?” It is almost like they do not believe you.

I think that is because you do not look Italian. 

Melaner: Yes! The media has trained people to think that all Latinas look like Shakira. No! A majority of us are not light-skinned. We can look brown or what is [perceived as] African American. We all have African roots. 

I embrace that. I’m Dominican. I love my roots. I love where I come from. I want to show more women who do not feel represented when watching TV. 

Even in music, Latinas experience this. When you look at the top women in Spanish-language genres, you do not see a lot of women of color. In the Latino market, almost everyone looks alike.

Your EPK says, “I’m going to keep trying until the Latino industry accepts me.” Please elaborate.

Melaner: Even in the Latino entertainment realms, I do not feel they know how to market [Black Latinas], like me. The second someone takes a risk on a woman who looks different from what is being bolstered – it will open many doors. That is why I said, “I will keep trying.” I have faith in myself and my talent.

It is not cockiness. I know what I and others can do if someone just listened. I know the potential! It is not even about me. 

Culturally, we can make an impact if we open the doors. It is a movement. A lot of people are trying to create space for Black and Indigenous Latinas. I think of “Reggaeton Con La Gata” often.

I love Katelina Eccleston

Yes, she is amazing. All these new women are having conversations. Little by little, we are making a difference. Baby steps!

You were recently featured on Frank Vanegas’ song “What I Need.” Describe your time recording in the studio and on set together.

Melaner: It was awesome. He is a dope, on-the-rise rapper. He is pretty talented. We wrote that song in 3 hours. I have never written a song so fast. 

I got to the studio, and he had his verse written. Frank told me, “I left this part of the song open for you.” I laid some melodies. He liked them, and we went running with the collab. This goes back to my thoughts on collaboration. 

We filmed the video during a recent snowstorm with the dancers. The visual was filmed in Brooklyn. We were all about to cancel because of the weather. We assumed no one would be able to make it to set. Then Frank said, “Forget that! Even if it is only you and I, we will shoot the video as long as the camera talent shows up.” 

But the dancers pulled up. It goes to show that your commitment to your art makes a difference. It does not matter what is happening. There could be a tornado. (laughs) When you love something, you have to go for it. Regardless!

Beyond the music, what do you want your growing fan base to know about you?

Melaner: I really care about people. Aside from my music, I think it is important for people to love each other. So, I embody that. People should support one another in whatever ways they can. How can I simplify this? Be nice to each other! (laughs) 

Camaraderie matters. I love discovering other people’s stories through music and everyday conversations. It is intriguing to me because everyone’s path is their own. I learn so much from others by listening. Their conversation impacts how I think and write. I want to connect with as many people as possible. 

Vanessa Noguera, your manager, is a co-founder of “The Industry in Spanglish.” What have your learned from her about the business?

Melaner: I have learned that I have to be patient. (laughs) We have been hand-in-hand for a while. We teach each other a lot. The industry is a never-ending hustle. Once people make it, fans say, “Oh! They came out of nowhere.” Meanwhile, it has been a labor of love for 10 years. 

I have to remind myself alongside her that there is no set timeline for anyone’s success. As long as I keep going hard, working, and releasing songs … something is bound to pop. No one will have faith in you as much as your manager. We are great at keeping one another afloat. We push and motivate each other. Vanessa always brings me back to life. 

Please let us know what projects you have en route?

Melaner: Okay, as an independent artist, you fund everything yourself. Ideally, in the next month, my next single will have released. (laughs) I have two festival performances coming up this summer. One set will be next month, and the other is in September. 

I am looking forward to creating more connections with listeners and performing for them. They will get to see more of my personality beyond social media. Announcements are on the way. Stay tuned. 

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