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“El Rey del Timbal” by Sheila E

There’s nothing quite like the sexy instrumental accent of a melody over sterling Latin rhythm to get a smooth mambo piece off on the right note, and that’s what Sheila E. is employing in the opening bars of “El Rey del Timbal,” her new release beside singer Gilberto Santa Rosa this spring. Although stylistically holding a lot of similarities with some of the iconic tracks to have come before it historically, there’s a lot of modernity to the way Sheila is presenting the narrative in this song, if not a touch of futurism in terms of how she teases us with the possibilities of even more ambitious melodies down the line. This is very much a sneak preview and one I don’t see myself forgetting anytime soon.

Lyrically speaking, this is definitely on the romantic side of the spectrum but not so self-indulgent in themes of love and lust as to lose touch with the sonic attributes that would otherwise have us completely spellbound in musicality alone here. There’s nothing about “El Rey del Timbal” that translates as being one-note or even slightly removed from the kind of multidimensionality that one might expect out of a premier talent in or outside of the Latin pop mainstream at the moment; on the contrary, Sheila is going out of her way to establishing something wholly full-bodied in this single.

She might have some rivals that prefer the barebones look, but she’s bound to blow them out of the water with ongoing output like this. In “El Rey del Timbal,” it’s significant that the pace is being set by the delivery of the lyrics as opposed to the cadence of a drumbeat, and I love how smoothly the rest of the instrumentation follows behind the vocal. When you’ve got a singer as intense as anyone in this recording in the booth with you, there’s no need to add in a lot of the filler that other acts rely on when making new music – everything we want and need from this young woman is being served up to us on a silver platter. Her harmonies start and end with her pipes and not some synthetically created hook, which by itself is enough to put her on my radar for the duration of her time in the spotlight.

If this is just a taste of what Sheila E. is planning on putting down in her career from this moment forward, you can count on my following her content creation in the future. Just in the short time since last having the opportunity to cover some of her incredibly well-crafted music, she’s come quite far with her stylistic depth; her last single showcased her immediate growth while this most recent offering directly prophesizes what new output can and should sound like coming from her camp. This is the kind of singer who has such a classic demeanor that to spoil it with external faceting just isn’t on the table – to me, Sheila is a brilliant force to be reckoned with where she stands now.

Mindy McCall



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