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Cristián Heyne, Chilean Electropop Master: A Primer

In our new show, “Dancefloor Dynamite: Future Grooves Today,” we devote a section to the spectacular Chilean electropop scene. Even though Cristián Heyne only produced one of the three tracks featured, the genre cannot be discussed without mentioning his name. Heyne’s legacy has been, to say the least, massive in Chile, where he has worked on dozens of projects in music, film and television. Luckily, his website features a painstaking discography of every one of those projects, along with a photo of his first four-track. While Cristián has been behind the boards of a lot of very shiny popular music in Chile, his production style carries an edge from his origins in the underground scene of Santiago. Just to scratch the surface of his brilliant career, here is a list of a few of Heyne’s highlights:

Cristián’s career began back in the early ‘90s as a bass player in an indie rock band called Christianes. On their 1993 debut single “Sol,” the band rides a gorgeous MBV-meets-Cocteau Twins dream pop soundscape.

Cristián sank his teeth into darker, more experimental work with a group called Shogún a year later. Their 1997 single “Disco Baby” is nearly industrial-sounding, but demonstrates Heyne’s early mastery of creating a catchy pop hook.

Among the strangest of Heyne’s many productions is Dolor de Fin de Siglo, an album by the ‘90s badass feminist metal band called Venus. On this track “Tu Dolor,” the band sings, “Yo soy tu orgasmo, consuelo y perfección. Soy tu animal, tu madre y tu control.” (I am your orgasm, comfort and perfection. I am your animal, your mother and your control).

Supernova was Heyne’s first foray into pure, unabashed electropop. The band was put together with Koko Stambuk, a fellow producer and frequent collaborator of Heyne’s (more of those to come). The two decided to create their own version of the boy band/teen pop phenomenon that was currently all the rage in the United States. Supernova’s debut self-titled album was a mega-success, going double platinum in Chile. They topped the charts with this song, “Maldito Amor.” In the video, the three bandmates ride a bus, wearing school outfits a la Britney, but this song is way more soulful than most American pop hits of this period.

Stereo 3 arrived two years later as the male equivalent of Supernova, again the creation of Heyne and Stambuk. Rather less charming than Supernova and more derivative of American groups like *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, Stereo 3 nevertheless hit the top of Chile’s charts with the song “Atrevete a Aceptarlo.”

By this point, the Heyne-Stambuk combo was a veritable powerhouse in the Chilean music business. Their next creation was the pop-punk band Gufi, who had some success with their 2002 debut Historias de la Calle.

For the next few years, Heyne took a break from his domination of the music charts to concentrate on TV and film work. And then came one of the defining moments of Chilean electropop: the 2006 debut album by Javiera Mena, Esquemas Juvenilas. The album’s title, meaning “Youth Schemes,” is a perfect giveaway for the music that awaits: fun, playful, mischievous, amazing electropop.

2010 was a huge year for Heyne, as he produced three stellar albums by Mena, the folk singer Gepe, and electropop duo Dënver. Gepe, a veteran of Chile’s indie scene, has also become a frequent collaborator with Heyne. The duo have now worked on four projects together, with all of their work brilliantly balancing traditional Chilean elements with Heyne’s pop sensibility.

Dënver’s album, Música, Gramática, Gimnasia has joined the ranks with Mena’s best work as a Chilean electropop classic. This track “Los Adolescentes” is a fantastic teen pop anthem, with a stunning video to match it.

Nicole began her career as a child TV star in the mid-’80s. In the ‘90s, she had an extremely successful run on the Chilean pop charts, hitting triple platinum with the album Esperando Nada. Recently, she hooked up with Heyne for the 2012 album, Panal. The result, simply put: pop perfection.

The first release on Heyne and Mena’s label Unión del Sur was, appropriately enough, a pop gem called “Espero” by a young band called Marineros. The new generation of Chilean electropop is doing just fine, and Heyne continues to tower over the genre.

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