ometimes the safest world to reside inâ€“hide inâ€“is the one you create yourself. For his second full-length studio album, Fantasy Gateway, Cuco did just that.
The time between Para MÃ and now, which fell during the isolating lockdown of the pandemic, found Cuco facing himselfâ€”the good, the bad, and the ugly. Determined to become a healthier version of himself, he had to build a safe havenâ€”starting from within. For the recording of Fantasy Gateway, Cuco planted himself in his parentsâ€™ native land of Mexico, specifically Mexico City, to explore all his selvesâ€”song by song.
Inspired by his â€œpsychedelic experiences,â€ his second album places one in the middle of a collision between â€œheaven and purgatoryâ€ and provokes one to question lucid dreaming. â€œI want to give a good feeling to people,â€ Cuco says. â€œA feeling that theyâ€™ve felt before, but they donâ€™t know what it is.â€
â€œIâ€™ve always been an imaginative person, and found nostalgia alluring,â€ he continues, â€I remember memories that never existed, things that I never lived, things I have lived, and I think of the future as a past memory. Thatâ€™s the fantasy gateway for me: being in a perfect place, but feeling discomfort.â€
Sonically, Cuco brought on a trusted group of producers, who as a collective while in Mexico City, explored the concept behind Fantasy Gateway. Manuel Lara, Venezuelan producer, songwriter, and engineer (Bad Bunny, Kali Uchis), was one of the producers enlisted to bless Fantasy Gateway, alongside Andres RebellÃ³n, Julian Bernal, and Ian Fitchuk (Kacey Musgraves).
Together, they crafted a euphoric journey, from beginning to end. Soundscapes packaged as an experience of eras, from â€˜80s synth-pop, trippy pop (â€œCautionâ€) to dreamy â€˜60s bossa nova and samba (â€œAuraâ€)â€”an offering both familiar and experimental for Cuco, now â€œreaching a point where I feel comfortable experimenting without worrying.â€ Stand-out track â€œSitting In The Corner,â€ featuring Kacey Musgraves and Adriel Favela, exemplifies Cucoâ€™s rangeâ€”mixing psych-pop and NorteÃ±o.
Cucoâ€™s superpower is creating a conduit between cultures and generations through the exploration of musical eras and candidly crooning of universal topics that bind. He centers his Mexican culture by interweaving his language (that pulls at heartstrings) and infusing Latin American genres introduced to many of us within our casitas growing up; the intimacy of such expression offers a mainstream audience an invitation to get to know themselves. On Fantasy Gateway, â€œDecir Adiosâ€ is a heartbreaking ballad romantica that Cuco felt was a form of â€œclosing a chapter of my life.â€ The 60â€™s influenced â€œFin del Mundoâ€ offers hope, leaving us questioning, â€œwhat if we lived forever?â€
With each song, lyrically exploring topics of longing, acceptance, and bad habits, Cuco confronted versions of himself he wanted to part with, kicking addiction and patterns of behavior that placed him second in his own life. While being â€œhyper-focusedâ€ and having â€œa lot of room to write. I feel like I was hearing myself for the first time. This made me want to do the changes I needed to doâ€”be a healthy individual because I deserve that.â€
With simply crafting Fantasy Gateway, Cuco has already won; heâ€™s fully, â€œexpressing what Iâ€™ve been through with music; itâ€™s how I succeed in presenting issues in a beautiful way, rather than destructive. Iâ€™m putting it all out there for people to listen to and relate to.â€