Every once in a generation an artist arrives with the power to not only unify styles, but also unify listeners from around the world.
Meet Isabela Merced.
Merging bold attitude, uncompromising spirit, unassuming pop appeal, and Latin melodies, the 18-year-old singer and songwriter turns up with an undeniable, unmatched, and universal sound of her own. It’s a sound completely and utterly defined by her touch and hers alone. Not only does she write all the music, but she also directs the visuals and oversees the presentation and aesthetic. As a result, it reflects her through and through as she bashes the boundaries between Latin and pop, modern and traditional, and vulnerable and fierce.
By taking the reins, she boldly and bravely breaks the mold on her 2019 debut for Republic Records.
“It’s a blend of everything that inspires me,” she explains. “I’m very influenced by Latin music, from salsa, cumbia, reggaeton to more Peruvian authentic melodies. I’m experimenting with instruments and sounds from Peru, because they’re beautiful yet untouched by the mainstream. There’s also an energy and edge that comes from the rhythmic side. It’s a new take on Latin pop with my own Peruvian spice and attitude. I’m welcoming everyone into my story.”
Born in Ohio to a Peruvian mother and American father, she learned to speak Spanish before English and gravitated to Latin music. Mom introduced her to Selena at a young age in addition to concertos by Beethoven and Mozart as well as “all of the pop stars, queens, and princesses” such as Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez. Whitney Houston proved especially influential, as she recalls, “I said, ‘If I’m going to be singing in the future, that’s the way I want to sing.’” Her first album purchase would be Adele’s 19 as she quietly honed her voice. Around the same time, she fell in love with The Wizard of Oz, watching it on repeat and developing an ambition to act.
She fulfilled this ambition at 10-years-old with her Broadway debut in Evita under her birth name Isabela Moner. Critically acclaimed roles followed in everything from blockbusters such as Sicario: Day of the Soldado and Instant Family to a starring turn as the title character of Dora and the Lost City of Gold and in NETFLIX’s much-anticipated Let it Snow. Simultaneously, she honed her chops as a vocalist and picked up piano and ukulele. Making waves throughout 2018, Isabela contributed “I’ll Stay” to the Instant Family soundtrack and joined Sebastian Yatra for “My Only One (No Hay Nadie Más),” which amassed over 27 million Spotify streams.
Kicking off her career as a solo artist under the name Isabela Merced—a tribute to her grandmother Yolanda Merced who passed at just 37.
“She died when my mom was 15, but she was the one who got my mother to the States from Peru,” Isabela says. “She was the reason my mom had all of these opportunities. She was the reason my mom was okay. She sacrificed a lot. She was iconic for her time and where she lived. Without her, I wouldn’t be here. I wanted to pay respect to her, because she is my guardian angel. I knew I wanted to change my name to something connected to her, and my family in Peru says I’m the spitting image of her. This is a new chapter for me. I couldn’t think of a better way to start.”
Isabela kicks off this chapter with her first solo single “Papi” co-written with powerhouse Justin Tranter [Justin Bieber, Julia Michaels]. She fluidly writes lyrics similar to how she speaks—in bilingual fashion—making the music reflective of her voice and fitting what feels right in the moment. As such, handclaps and South American percussion propel the track forward as she slips from an English refrain into a Spanish bridge before dropping the empowering and emphatic hook, “I’m never gonna call you papi, even if it makes you happy.”
“Different elements of my Peruvian culture, from the coast to the Amazons, are incorporated into every aspect of my music, wardrobe, dancing, and storytelling of my videos.” Isabela describes, “The “Papi” music video included choreography and wardrobe elements of a Peruvian dance called Marinera, such as the faldas and the pañuelos. The props in the video were inspired from a tradition started by the Spaniards, the Diablada. I want to introduce everyone to the rich culture of my Peruvian heritage.
Continuing to evolve, she continues her work with Tranter as well as the producers behind “Despacito” Mauricio Rengifo and Andres Torrés.
By writing and singing straight from the heart, Isabela Merced has the power to make a connection everywhere.
“I hope my fans are empowered to be their authentic selves after hearing my music,” she leaves off. “I want them to feel as if I’m talking to them directly. It’s me through and through. I’m monitoring every single instrument. I’m in charge of every melody. This is all who I am. I’m working on every single piece. I hope you know you’re getting 100% of me and feel as connected to it as I do.”