Natalia Jimenez Talks Jenni Rivera Tribute Album 'Homenaje a la Gran Senora': 'It's a Strong Album for Strong Women'

Omar Cruz
Natalia Jimenez

Natalia Jiménez and Jenni Rivera had big plans for the future: To record songs, empower women and go on tour together. But those plans faded away when tragedy struck the music industry in 2012 and Rivera died on an airplane crash. 

Now, four years after Rivera's death, the Spanish singer/songwriter is paying homage to the "Diva de la Banda" with a tribute album titled Homenaje a la Gran Señora, set to debut Friday.

While the album is pop, maintaining Rivera's essence was a priority -- which is why on some tracks, like "Chuper amigos," featuring Lupillo Rivera, and "Inolvidable," banda and mariachi music are part of the new arrangement. "I've been listening to Jenni's music for a very long time, and having the blend of banda music with my pop music, I think it's perfect," Jiménez tells Billboard

Ahead of the release of the LP, Billboard caught up with Jiménez to talk about the project, her favorite memory of the singer and why it was so important to have the Rivera family blessing for this tribute. 

How was the idea of recording a Jenni Rivera tribute album born?

It's been quite some time now that I've been wanting to record a Mexican album -- like a ranchero, mariachi type of album -- and thought this was the perfect opportunity because I really love Jenni's songs. I've been listening to her music for a very long time and I think that having the blend of banda with my pop music, it's perfect. My fans are going to enjoy her music in a different way because most of my fans don't listen to banda, so it's cool that I get to take her music closer to my fans and they get to enjoy those powerful ballads that she sang in my style. We've been working on this project for eight months and I'm just delighted with it. 

The album includes collaborations with Rivera family members like Jenni's brother Lupillo and her daughter Chiquis. How important was it for the family to be involved in some way?

For me, it was very important. Actually, I told the record company that if I couldn't have the family involved in the project, I didn't want to do it. I just didn't want to cause any drama. To see them working together in something like this for Jenni's legacy, it was really nice. I got really lucky. Chiquis wanted to record "Ovarios" with me and told me that she was very honored that I was doing this tribute for her Jenni and that her mom told her once that she really liked my voice. When we reached out to Lupillo, he was super happy too, and with him we recorded "Chuper amigos." They both wrote their parts for the new version. 

The track list includes her classics like "Ya lo sé" and "Mírame." How did you narrow it down to those 12 songs on the album?

I wanted to include some of her most popular songs but also kept in mind which songs were the ones I could defend while singing them live. Ones that I could sing with all my heart and passion. I didn't want to sing songs that were popular but didn't mean anything to me. All the tracks included mean something to me. For example, "Ya lo sé" reminds me of when my heart was broken when I was younger. Also, some of the songs will send out a powerful message to women because it's a very strong album for strong women -- women who are not afraid to stand up to men. I love that message. That's what my music is about too. For me, it's important that women get together and show that we can keep going and not be afraid of anyone or anything.

What song on the album did you enjoy recording the most?

"Ya lo sé" is one of my favorite songs and I'm dying to sing it live. It's one of the those songs that I can sing from the bottom of my heart.

Do you have an anecdote about Jenni you could share?

I met her briefly when I presented her with an award at Premio Lo Nuestro in 2010. Then, we had a chance to talk on the phone because a mutual friend told us both that we needed to get together and talk because she loved my voice and I loved hers. So we did talk on the phone and had a long conversation. Jenni told me something that I will never forget. She said: "There are very few women in this business with balls like us. So we need to get together and sing and go on tour and do many things." That was the plan, but it never happened. I would've loved for that to happen and do all the things that we were planning to do.

What do you take away from this experience and album?

Jenni Rivera's music is universal. Even if she was singing banda or mariachi, you can take those songs to pop and they'll still be super attractive to people who don't listen to that type of music. It's awesome that you can sing her songs in many styles and they can still be appreciated by people who don't listen to banda. Another thing that I take away from this project is that I'm extremely humbled by how her family has supported me. It's been a pleasure to work with them and I really want to meet the whole family. I've only met Chiquis, actually. 

Will you be touring with this album? 

Yes, definitely in 2017. And, I'll be working on my new album as well with my own songs. 


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