If you attended Coachella recently and were sober enough to look up at the stage and see a nervous looking young man with long hair and barely a mustache calmly serenading the crowd, you saw a brief glimpse of the man who is being considered the next big thing in dream pop: Cuco.
Cuco rose to fame with his impossibly catchy and heartfelt single “Lo Que Siento,” a track that revels in its simple execution and sleepy sounding music. Cuco gained the majority of his steam in the Southern California Latino music scene, but after a handful of features from the likes of the indie music blogosphere titans, Cuco has risen to new heights and his next project has been long anticipated.
His debut EP “Songs4u” was a slow-burning collection of songs you could slow dance with your new girlfriend to when she finally came up to your bedroom for the first time. Bedroom Pop is actually a very good way to describe what Cuco does. Lyrically, Cuco blends his Mexican upbringing and his California lifestyle by switching back and forth between Spanish and English. The album is equally entrancing in either language and the then-teen exuded a quirky, anxious confidence. He’s not a lady’s man but he is a romantic.
This brings us to “Chiquito”; his first EP since catching the attention of a much wider audience. As you’ll listen, you’ll start to catch on to what exactly Cuco’s style of dreamy bedroom pop is. It’s very laid back, very chill, very relaxing, and at no point is he ever taking himself too seriously. A lot of dream pop comes from more solemn, rainy cities like Seattle, Portland, or the various hubs along the east coast and have a tendency to combine the dark with the light. Cuco, however, would much rather croon a song about his CR-V. The entire effort is plain and simply fun. It oozes California beach vibes.
The downside to that is, in comparison to his other projects, this work has become much less focused on Spanish lyricism. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Spanish is still very much there. Only, in a different way then he’s done previously. The EP features six songs. Five are entirely in English and one is entirely in Spanish. This is not inherently a bad thing by any means and many artists are experimenting with the same thing (Cardi B and Kali Uchis to name a few). What makes it disappointing to longtime Cuco fan is that you’ll find yourself missing the seamless meld of the two languages he would have on “Lo Que Siento.”
Does it take anything away from the rest of the album? Well, yes and no. “Yes” in that it’s easy to wonder why there’s a sudden separation after building a hallmark of fusing the two and making your lyrics flow as musically as your actual music. “No” in that each song is still very strong in its own right and this isn’t anything you should drastically overthink in any way. In fact, if you weren’t looking for it, you’d never know it was gone.
Cuco’s strength is all in his voice. I’m not sure how to convey how somebody can sound so uncomfortable and yet so confident. There is an undeniable swagger in the way he sings about his crush or his homies. But when you hear his actual voice you’re going to be thinking about that quiet kid you went to school with. Not an awkward, anxious kid, just quiet. But it’s that wonderful combination of sheer confidence and nerdy swagger that makes Cuco so accessible. It’s the most prevalent on “Dontmakemefallinlove.”
“I let this so-called fame get deep inside my head/And I’d end up doin’ thoughtless things that I soon would regret,” is a terrific line that has impeccable self-awareness while also having that confident flowery apology vibe. You know the kind. When somebody messes up so bad but they’re so smooth in how they apologize that it’s hard to stay mad at them? That feeling is this whole song.
If you’re looking for a fun new low-fi pop sensation who’s on the brink of a major breakout, check out “Chiquito” so you can tell all your friends you were a fan of Cuco before he blew up. And then when all those friends leave you for being a pretentious hipster, you can go back and listen to Cuco and know he understands
Chiquito is available for purchase and streaming everywhere now.