For her debut solo album, Ilevitable, Ileana Cabra Joglar has chosen a new name and a new sound. The 27-year-old Puerto Rican has been known for over a decade as PG-13, the female lead of the alternative hip hop group Calle 13, touring and recording with her brothers René “Residente” and Eduardo “Visitante” Joglar. Their award-winning and enormously successful songs include the pride anthem “Latinoamérica” and the party smash hit “Fiesta de Locos.” Last year Ileana announced that she is to be known as ILE, and that her first album will move away from Calle 13’s dance beats and political themes.
Ilevitable is a collection of mellow jazz and bolero tunes and romantic lyrics. The album cover, however, suggests that both the music and the singer have a dark, even sinister, side. It shows two hands sprawled on a grey surface, one out of focus, the other with a red gash under the wrist, oozing a honey-colored liquid.
So, while “Quién Eres Tú?” is a fairly conventional love song, a song like “Triángulo” is mysterious and unsettling. “There’s a triangle in the open space of my concavities,” confesses ILE, sometimes seeming close to tears, “There’s a hole that unmakes me until I am no one.” Throughout the song she asks forgiveness, “perdón,” for her constant bewailing, though it’s never clear if from her lover or her audience. The inclusion of the weepy ballad “Dolor” adds some additional emotional weight, as it features the legendary José Cheo Feliciano, who tragically died in a car crash at age 78.
Elsewhere the lyrics are surprising and often funny. In “Te Quiero con Bugalú,” which borrows its rhythm form a style popular in the 1960s, she makes her intentions clear – “I want to sleep with you, but I can’t live with you” – while showering her beloved with unusual metaphors: “You are my sea-urchin and I am your clam. Eat me slowly. I want you to dissolve me.” Reminiscing with an old lover in “Extraña de Querer” she describes when “My arms became longer/ and hand after hand came out of my skin/ until I had eight/ and they were all around you.”
Much as she tries to hide it with severe outfits and melancholy lyrics, ILE has a young sound, a young face, a young voice. All the more reason to admire her decision to become, in her words, “the spokeswoman for the old music of the Caribbean.”