In his latest single, “El Otro,” Solomon Ray is the other guy.
In the first Spanish-language track(andfirst original song in three years), the San Diego-based singerhas a storyline that’s similar to Sza in her track “The Weekend.”The lyrics for the song (and subsequent video, which just released this past Friday)have Raycoming to terms with loving a guy who loves someone else.
“The song originally started off mostly as ‘I just want a little bit of something,’” the musician tells INTO. “Like you’re going to leave me at the end of the day, you’re going to leave me in the morning when the sun comes up. We only share these intimate moments and you don’t know me past my skin. But I’m okay with that, because I’m in love with you and whatever you’re willing to give me, I’m willing to keep.”
And while the singer/songwriter says that the final version of the song stays true to that idea, it was a bit of a struggle to get to that point.
“I fought really hard to keep those lyrics because reggaeton is not an emotional genre,” Ray says of working with other songwriters on “El Otro.” “Mexican music like mariachi and norteñosthose songs are like beautiful ballads and always emotional. But reggaeton is strictly like passion, sex, and let’s get it on, and that’s not me, so I had to fight for those lyrics.”
“[The team] was always like ‘The genre is about passion; the genre is about sex,’ and I always have to be like ‘You guys have to understandI’m not that lady,'”Ray continues. “Every time we’re in the writer’s studio, I’m always trying to figure out how we can make it a little prettier. It’s not just about some fucking.”
The genre is an addition for Ray, who made his name first as a rapper back in 2008 and then transitioned to pop in an oeuvre that included two mixtapes and EPs The Love Rocker Project and Le Garcon. And while he included touches of French on Le Garcon, “El Otro” and the yet-to-be-named project it will be released on marks the first time the musician implores his Mexican heritage by singing in Spanish.
“Growing up I would listen to this music,” Solomon says of mariachi music. Hediscovered reggaeton in Mexico through Daddy Yankee as a teenager. “Music in Spanish is just so passionate and beautifully written and it’s true to who I am since I’m bilingual.”
That duality will see Ray recording up to three versions of each song on the upcoming project in English, Spanish, and “Spanglish.”
But pushing into these new genres required more than just changing the words of his songs. It took a year and a half search to find producers who were willing to work with him, but he collaborated with some of the best, songwriters and producers who have worked with the likes ofMaluma. Still, he found himself fighting to keep the spirit of his original lyrics while fitting in the parameters of reggaeton.
VISIBILITY We exist. We are here. We are not just people in the shadows. I’m beyond proud to read all the comments, messages and DMs of support from fellow LGBT POC. This genre is super machismo. Male dominated. Heteronormative. And yet, here I am being my authentic self… heartfelt lyrics, roses and all. And for you all to be so supportive means the world. Thank you. This is for us. #ForUsByUs #FUBUBITCH ✊🏽🏳️🌈🇺🇸🇲🇽
“I’m trying to balance how do I do this and still be me,” Solomon says. He name checked Selena, director Pedro Almodóvar, and singer Juan Gabriel as his visual references for the video.
“I’m really attuned and connected to how Selena did her stuff because she was female in a male-dominated industry,” he says. “She wasn’t allowed to wear bustiers and rhinestones and things like that, but it was always her perspective of tejano music as a female artist. So this is my perspective of reggaeton as a gay male who grew up with a black parent and black family and Mexican father. And I have to keep reminding myself to stay with that perspective.”