Photographer: Francis Betrand.
After the internet storm of jeers and boos that greeted Chiquis Rivera's raw debut single "Paloma Blanca" in 2014, she would have been forgiven for never releasing another record. But when your mother was the firebrand Jenni Rivera, surrender is not in your DNA. Her debut album, Ahora, is a diverse, bilingual set of banda tunes that range from the classic (opener "Amor Eterno" by Juan Gabriel) to the modern ("Completamenta") to retro-Spanish pop ("CPR"). Along the way, Rivera revisits Tomas Mendez's beloved "Paloma Negra." This version, a duet with Julio Reyes, is a thorough revisioning of the song, remade with a hip-hop beat atop the brass chart, filled in by funky synthesizer and her rapping at the end. There are three versions of "Esa No Soy Yo" (including pop and English takes), as well as the stomping dance anthem closer "Paper Bullets," in which Rivera takes on her detractors in the most direct and affirmative way. Throughout, her singing is more disciplined and focused. Despite the wide range, or perhaps because of it, Ahora gives the distinct impression that this is the record Rivera had to make to prove something -- to herself. While Sony will be able to market two or three more singles from the set, it's her bravery and growing sophistication that are most impressive. ~ Thom Jurek