Icon Ana Mena is InStyle Spain's January-February double edition covergirl. In the in-depth interview, she reflects on her career, her influences from Mariah Carey to Marifé to La oreja de Van Gogh, and her beginnings. She reveals that, along with some surprises, the album's sound will be in the vein of her 2021 hit "Música ligera."
Ana Mena: "We write better when we're hurt"
She just released her new single and is now preparing a new tour. Keep her on your radar because she's an unstoppable phenomenon.
"I bite my tongue," sings Marifé of Triana in the last verse of "La encrucijada." Ana Mena, disciple and fan, doesn't keep anything quiet. What's more, tonight, she's made news: she's debuting her new single January 20, and it's called, "Un clásico."
Stuffed in a sweatshirt from Balenciaga's Destroyed line, she was euphoric the day we shot the cover: it's all good news for her. She's published a duet with Pablo Alborán, and Spotify -- where she has more than 6 million monthly listeners -- has flooded social media with her statistics. It's the unofficial list of the most important artists of the planet. And the three most listened to in Spain in 2022? Rosalía, Aitana... and Ana Mena.
Third place tastes better if we keep in mind that she didn't release an disc in 2022, something that she will fix this spring with the release of her second album. The little girl that imitaged Marifé de Triana, that gave life to Marisol (in an Antena 3 biopic), and that has seduced Italy has racked up 42 platinum, one diamond, and three gold records across Europe. And don't lose sight of her, because she's ready to eat up 2023.
[IS]: We have heard very little about the new album, and on social media you've said that it's going to be "very pop"...
[AM]: There will be surprises! On Spotify Spain's Top 50 there is a lot of urban and a lot of pop, but the majority is raggaeton, which is something taht I also consider to be pop. I think I've found my sound, and it's closer to songs like (Ana's late 2021 release) "Música ligera". After turning it over a lot in my mind and in the studio, this year it's safe to say I've found my sound and my image. I've also told personal experiences; it's a very good pop album, truly. I am extremely excited about it. I don't think I've ever been this excited about anything.
[IS]: Let's talk about that image. The first Ana Mena, the one from 2016, the "No soy como tú crees" one, was very Meghan Trainor; The 2022 one, the "Musica ligera" one, is very Ariana grande. How will the 2023 one be?
[AM]: I have grown, and found myself, and I identify more with a pop, elegant image, but that notwithstanding is still modern. I consider myself to be very feminine and romantic. If I had to choose an artist that inspires me, it would be Mariah Carey, a super recognizable person in the way she dresses, does her makeup, and even her hair. But there are a billion artists I admire. That I did my hair like as a child. There are a billion artists I admire. As a girl, I was a huge fan of Marifé de Triana…
[IS]: You sang her “María de la O” on Menuda noche (South of Spain regional TV program)!
[AM]: She was a woman that performed with such drama that it makes me crazy! I cried so much the day I met her. I remember a copla (light Spanish popular genre) contest in the Huelin neighborhood (of Málaga); she was there in the front row, and I sang “La encrucijada”…
[IS]: There is something amazing in your, your ability to adapt to different genres. The “canción melódica” (Spanish genre of light balladry), Latin rhythms in “Las 12”, even urban in “La pared.” ¿How do you do it?
[AM]: I started to sing copla and flamenco when I was seven years old. It was what I heard in my grandparents’ house. My mother was a flamenco singer, and in my house we really breathed flamenco. What I do now is different, but flamenco gives you a training that makes it more natural to adapt to different styles.
[IS]: Those changes also suppose changes in style and sets. How do you do your live shows?
[AM]: I always work with Bojra Rueda and Lena Zafra. All three of us are from Málaga, so we have a joke that we are a team from Málaga worldwide. They have very cool ideas Elena is the daughter of the directer of the School of Theater Arts of Málaga, and since she was a child she has been raised on by a ton of important figures, from the world of theater but also sculpture. Borja is Antonio Banderas’s right-hand man for his musicals. The best part is, when we put ideas on the table, they never see problems, no matter how extravagant it might seem. I feel proud to be able tosay I have found my team. I think they are marvelous and on a personal level they give me life every day. I am very comfortable and I think people on the outside can tell.
[IS]: Back to the album. The only sure thing is that you will include the song “Me he pillao x ti.” Why is it so special to you?
[AM]: Its a personal story, that’s why it’s a song I care so much about. It’s been written since October 2021. I wanted to be inspired by La oreja de Van Gogh, Mecano, and an Italian artist I love who’s called Madame.
[IS]: Would you s ay La oreja de Van Gogh is the main influence of the new album?
[AM]: I have been a huge fan. Their album “El viaje de Copperpot” is a treasure of Spain!
[IS]: “Me he pillao x ti” talks about a boy that ignores you…
[AM]: It’s a story that happened to me with a boy who had a girlfriend. I wrote this song in case he hears it some day. It’s a very melancholy song. It’s just that I’m known to be very romantic!
[IS]: Do things really go so badly for you in love?
[AM]: I am very tempermental and sensitive. In the end, I think that what most inspires us as artists are bad experiences. The other day, I heard Joaquin Sabina say the same thing: “There are love songs, but the really pretty songs are the songs about when there’s no love. We write better when we’re hurt. At least, that’s how it is for me.
[IS]: For someone with your footprint, you don’t often appear in celebrity magazines. How do you manage that?
[AM]: I am fairly discreet. What I want to show, I show very organically. It’s not like they’ve caught me, either. In part because I am not a person who goes out much or goes clubbing, but also statistically because they can’t catch me — I don’t have many stories. I like to go slow and get to know people well. Sometimes people are in more of a rush than I am… that’s how things are — what are we to do about it? I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
[IS]: Then, where do you find the inspiration for your songs?
[AM]: I write six songs about the same relationship!
[IS]: They have made up romances for you with footballer Brahim Díaz or your collaborator [rapper] Omar Montes, but my favorite will always be the one that said you had had a fling with one of the Jonas Brothers…
[AM]: A friend message me to say she had seen it on Wikipedia… Obviously it’s a place where anyone can go in and edit things. I don’t know how they could have come up with that!
[IS]: Pablo Alboran, Omar Montes, [Mexican pop singer] Belinda… You have a Ph.D. in duets. Is there any you haven’t been able to get?
[AM]: Now everybody collaborates with everybody. It’s true that there are people you pursue and in the end the circumstances aren’t right. Sometimes we box ourselves in with our own perjudices and we don’t dare to call another artist. I see duets as a way of breaking down prejudices.
[IS]: One thing that also flies over your entire career is acting. In 2022 we saw you in the series “Bienvenidos a Edén.” Is it a goal of yours to develop your acting side more?
[AM]: Whenever it can coexist with my music, of course. I think it’s a very fun an interesting game. In the case of “Bienvenidos a Edén,” I loved that it was such a natural and spontaneous character. I really liked her! It’s a shame that due to my musical commitments it had to be such a brief character.
[IS]: On Youtube, you can see your first role, playing Marisol in her biopic and reciting a nonsensical tongue twister. Do you still remember it?
[AM]: Do you want me to repeat it? We filmed in August. I was eleven years old and I was preparing for the role in Seville, with the summer heat. You have no idea how many times I could repeat that tongue twister. It’s embedded in my memory: I don’t think I’ll forget it until I die.
[IS]: It’s curious, because I’ve noticed that you talk a lot about your father in interviews…
[AM]: My mother was the one who helped me and pushed me to sing. She was my first inspiration in life. But I’m a lot like my father. We have a ton of interests in common. I really like animals. I remember my whole childhood with my father in the countryside, up on a 4x4, getting covered in mud head to toe… And shooting those BB guns into the aire! I don’t know, that’s how it is.
[IS]: You’ve always said the loneliness is the worst part of your job…
[AM]: I’m very much a homebody. I like to be with my people, and not just with my family, but also with the people I trust, that I love and that I know love me. I have a bad time being alone, but this job is l like that.
[IS]: Do you make time to spend with your people?
[AM]: I go as often as I can to Estepona, to the countryside.
[IS]: To your eco garden?
[AM]: I mean, yes. But my father takes care of it. If it was up to me, the garden would be dead,poor thing, because I don’t have time. I like to spend time there and ride my bike. It’s how I get in shape. I dance and do a lot of cycling, but I don’t go to the gym every day. I also go up to the mountain, I do trekking…
[IS]: This hear your brother has debuted with the artistic name Mena. Do you give him bits of advice?
[AM]: He’s studying in Seville. Little by little he wants to start stepping into the world of music. I think he has very good songs, that he writes very well. He knows how to say things better than I did when I was his age.
[IS]: 2022 was a huge year for you. Would you say your participation in the Sanremo Festival, where you placed near the bottom, was the only black mark?
For me, it was a very enriching experience. A dream of mine I had since I was a teenager and watched the festival with my father came true. It helped me grow a lot as a person to have to face those interviews and defend myself in a language that’s not mine. That they accept you is already a huge success, because obviously I am a foreign artist and I’ve passed a screen of thousands and thousands of Italian artists. In the end, the public was very kind to us, beyond the public vote,the judges, and the press. I’ve been able to feel that even months later. It was hard, but I was so grateful they gave me the opportunity to participate.
[IS]: You’re only 25 years old… and it seems like you haven’t stopped having hits. How do you rate your career?
[AM]: I started very young, and I have advanced very continuously, I never went from zero to 100. I haven’t seen a boom, I haven’t had a platform, and I haven’t made myself ultra well known overnight.It’s been a different and very beautiful process.