Arts & Entertainment

Mon Laferte’s melancholic-romantic, Mexi-Chilango melodies

Chilean-Mexican artist and activist Mon Laferte’s work beautifully uncovers the brutality behind love while proudly displaying her heritage. 

It’s been a while since I’ve shared another Latinx musician with my readers. So, I thought it was about time for me to do so. This time, I’d like to introduce an artist who has made Latin music history through her melancholic artistic persona and captivating performances: Mon Laferte.  

Norma Monserrat Bustamante Laferte is a Chilean-Mexican singer, songwriter, musician and painter from Viña del Mar, Chile. Laferte was raised by her mother and grandmother alongside her sister. At the age of 9, Laferte received a first-place award as part of a contest of the Orlando Peña Carvajal school. She was gifted a guitar for her merit, and soon after, began composing her first songs.  

At thirteen, Laferte won a scholarship to study music at a conservatory near her hometown. Later, she began honing her skills by playing in bars and teaching herself, rather than continuing to take formal classes. Laferte has stated how she has always preferred to teach herself and finds comfort in how far she’s gone through her own hard work.  

In 2003 Laferte began performing under the name Monserrat Bustamante, and began competing in the Chilean competition show, “Rojo.” During that same year Laferte released her first studio album, “La Chica de Rojo.” This work received much acclaim in Chile and gained her both gold and platinum certifications.  

In 2007, Laferte decided to move from Chile to Mexico City. This is where she began playing in night clubs and recording covers to upload online. Two years later, in 2009, Laferte released another single titled “Lo Mismo Que Yo.” This would be the single that promoted her planned album. 

Unfortunately, the entire album was scrapped and Laferte’s music production reached an abrupt halt after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. During this two-year hiatus and recovery period, Laferte decided to re-do her artistic persona, and arose from remission as Mon Laferte.  

With her second planned album scrapped, Mon surprised fans by coming out with an entirely new album, “Desechable.” This work was published independently and carried a new pop-rock sound for Laferte. It’s grunge-y, rebellious and openly vulnerable to the realities of mental illness. Further proof of this is how one of the songs is called “Depresion.” The title song “Desechable” touches on her struggles with antisocial tendencies and extremely low self-esteem.  

In 2013, Laferte released her third album “Tornasol.” True to Laferte’s constantly evolving and experimental palette, this album shared a more psychedelic rock sound. At this point, Laferte had further polished her vocals, and it is extremely noticeable. Songs like “Angel Negro” demonstrate a balance between her signature rasp and hard-hitting alto.  

Compared to her last album, there is a balance between angst and pleasant experiences in “Tornasol.” One of her most popular songs, “Orgasmo para Dos,” made its debut here. It’s a deeply sensual song that captures the experience of having an orgasm with a lover. The song was considered vulgar by older listeners but received much acclaim from the younger Latinx rock fanbase.  

These two albums proved to the world that Laferte had a potentially perfect metal vocalist voice. That is why sometime around the production of “Tornasol,” Laferte took part in a separate project where she joined a Mexican heavy metal band named Mystica Girls. They released a full-length album a year later, in 2014, titled “Gates of Hell.”  

Mon Laferte posing to promote her new worldwide tour for her newest album,  “Autopoiética.” Photo by @monlaferte via Instagram.

Laferte’s fourth album was released a year later, in August of 2015. “Mon Laferte Vol. 1” was my introduction to the artist. Specifically, Laferte’s most popular single, “Tu Falta de Querer,” and the accompanying music video truly drew me into her as an artist and performer. The song laments a lost relationship, and Laferte expresses her almost masochistic desire to forgive her neglectful ex-lover’s indiscretions if it means not losing them.  

The video shows a mourning Laferte parading around the streets of Mexico in a lacey white gown and veil, showing heavy symbolism as the Virgin Mary. By the end of the video, she is burnt at the stake with mascara tinted tears streaming down her face. She pleads with her lover to explain why he has stopped loving her, as she can still put up with his lack of affection.  

Not only did this song put Laferte on the map as a rising Latinx artist, but it also won Laferte two nominations on the Latin Grammy Awards in 2016: Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album. The video also won its own MTV Millennial Award for the “Latin Video of the Year.” 

Laferte’s fifth and most acclaimed album was released in 2017, titled “La Trenza.”  She collaborated with world-renowned Colombian rock musician Juanes to create “Amárrame.” This single won the Best Alternative Song award at the eighteenth Latin Grammys. She was also nominated for Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Alternative Music Album, and Record of the Year. This album would also win her the category “Best North Latin Artist” in the 2017 MTV Europe Music Awards.  

Not only is Laferte an incredibly talented musician and artist, but she is also an outspoken activist and feminist. Much of Laferte’s current international success has come forth because of her unapologetic nature and anarchistic stances: a true punk queen. Her most well-known protest happened on November 14, 2019, where Laferte exposed her breasts during the Latin Grammys’ red carpet to reveal bold red letters pained on her skin: “En Chile Torturan Violan y Matan” (In Chile they torture, rape and kill). 

Laferte has openly advocated against feminicide in Latin America and domestic violence against women, as well as for LGBTQ+ rights. Though she has not openly stated her sexuality, Laferte often demonstrates homoeroticism in her art and praises the female body, further pushing the message of regaining bodily and sexual autonomy, an especially impactful message for survivors of SA and domestic abuse.  

In an interview through Univision, after being asked how she felt regarding the lootings and arsons happening throughout Chile during protests, Laferte had this to say: “I do not approve of any kind of violence. Now, if you ask me personally, if I have to go burn down a supermarket that has robbed from me my entire life to demand the basic rights I feel I deserve, I will do it!” 

I had the pleasure of being able to grow up listening to Laferte’s music, from the ripe age of 13. She has always been an outstanding artist and an equally amazing person. Her style during her “Mon Laferte Vol. 1” era also inspired me to dig deeper into the goth subculture, as she used to be the face of gothabilly for a while.  

To close things off, here are a few songs that I recommend for any new listeners: “Tornasol”, “Angel Negro”, “Tormento”, “Chilango Blues”, “Amor Completo”, “Desechable”, “Cumbia Para Olvidar”, “Cancion de Mierda”, “Obra de Dios”, and of course, “Tu Falta De Querer”.  

Mon Laferte’s entire discography is currently out on all music streaming platforms.  

Mon Laferte performing for Women’s Month at Zócalo, Mexico City. Photo by Creative Commons via Wikimedia  
@ Secretaría de Cultura Ciudad de México.

Featured Image, Mon Laferte performing for Women’s Month at Zócalo, Mexico City. Photo by Creative Commons via Wikimedia  

 @ Secretaría de Cultura Ciudad de México