Maria Isabel Has First Los Angeles Performance At Moroccan Lounge
LOS ANGELES, CA- Can you remember the first song you heard of an artist that you like? It’s gotta be a song that makes you do a double-take, right? I remember the first time I heard “Stuck In The Sky”.
As soon as those introductory keyboard notes played and the singer sang that melody for the opening lyrics “Falling so easy when you’re in my reach”, I got shivers. I was immediately getting some serious Minnie Riperton, “Loving You”, vibes. Then the singer sang the bridge “Am I holdin’ you down? Or am I holdin’ you back?” and then subtly harmonized “It’s like we’re floatin’ on-air, But we’re not goin’ nowhere”, I got Sade chills. I stopped what I was doing, and checked Spotify to see who was causing me to break out in cold sweat at my desk. Maria Isabel. The singer’s name was Maria Isabel. I then spent the better part of an hour going down a Maria Isabel rabbit hole. Who was this artist and why hadn’t I heard of her before that “Stuck In The Sky” moment?
This rabbit hole led me down a few misguided paths (apparently there is another singer named Maria Isabel who won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2004), but once I found my bearings I learned that THIS Maria Isabel is a Dominican-American artist, who hails from New York, and graduated from New York University’s music program. “Stuck In The Sky” is the title track of her self-released debut album which was released in late 2020. She quickly followed that up with an 8 song EP in 2021, distributed by Warner Records, titled i hope you’re very unhappy without me.
Maria Isabel’s music put me in a mood. When the younguns say that an artist is “a vibe”, I think I get it. Maria’s music is dreamlike. Her pristine soprano voice floats over evanescent instrumentation. So hypnotic is her sound, I found myself simply staring at the ever elongating timing bar on the Spotify player until it reached the end of the current song, and restarted with the start of the next.
The emotional tone of her voice adds to the impact of her music. There’s a real vulnerability in the way she delivers melodies that makes you feel whatever sentiment she’s trying to espouse. In the opening track for i hope you’re very unhappy, “Left Alone”, she breathes a yearning into the lyrics “I wanna be loved and left alone, I know we only want the stars to cause we can’t get close” and it makes you feel for her. It’s a vibe.
Warming up the sold-out room was Amrit Sidhu p/k/a “DJ Amrit”. I knew nothing of Amrit prior to seeing her spin records for Maria, but her profile on Forbes.com reveals that she is a multi-faceted entrepreneur. Her bio reads: DJ / dating expert/partner of non-profits. Impressive. She can add “hype-woman” to her credentials, as she did well in ramping up the anticipation of Maria’s performance.
Now, I’m not particularly fond of “DJ performances”- unless you scratch like DJ QBert or mash-up like Girl Talk- but Amrit was spinning some serious deep cuts that I wasn’t expecting. I had written down a couple of them in my “Notes” application that day of the show, but I seemed to have accidentally deleted it. All I know was that I was standing next to another gentleman who was my age (who was there with his kids) and we both concurrently bounced to more than a few cuts that Amrit spun.
Gauging the age of the audience, and probably considering the then-current news of Brittany Spears’ father filing to end his conservatorship, she closed her set with “Baby Baby”.
I can’t tell you how honored I was to be able to cover this performance for Blurred Culture. It’s not often that you get to catch “a first”, and apparently it was Maria’s first public performance in Los Angeles. Based on the audience’s reaction, however, you would have never been able to tell.
Right from the jump, the whole room was singing along to every word… EVERY word … of almost every song that Maria performed. This crowd’s singing caught Maria off-guard, so much so that in the middle of her song “The Distance”, she laughed and proclaimed, “I can’t focus!” The support from the audience had Maria smiling all throughout the show. Fans would shout out words of praise or adorations, and sneak in a quick giggle or smile between lyrics.
Her set was consisted of 16 songs, spanning both her debut album and new EP. She even threw in a cover of Paramore’s “The Only Exception”. That cover and her Spanish language song “De Na” probably had the loudest sing-a-longs.
Maria closed her set with “Where Does the Love Go?” and had the featuring artist, Yeek, surprise the audience by jump on stage when his verse came up.
Again, I want to reiterate how privileged I felt to be covering this performance. It was a sold-out show, and the label didn’t have to give me permission to attend. What I got to experience was an artist meeting her west coast fans for the first time, being utterly surprised with how receptive they were to her and her music, and shocked that everyone in the room had taken the time to memorize her poetry and sing in solidarity with her.
When she proclaimed mid-set, “I’m floating right now. I’m in a dream,” we could relate. She was already causing use to float in a dream with her music. We were just reciprocating that feeling back to her, imbuing her with that aura she had given us. It was truly a magical evening. One that everybody in that room cast together.
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