Jorge Drexler’s new album Tinta y Tiempo opens with “El Plan Maestro” (“The Master Plan”). The song’s lyrics, which Drexler talk-sings with the delighted wonder of a child’s bedtime story, are about “the visionary cell” who “decided to mix with another cell” — but “without knowing it invented love and sex!”
An orchestral confection with a chorus of female voices and an acoustic interlude from Rubén Blades, it kicks off a mood-enhancing album that Drexler describes as “colorful” and “contra-phobic,” an anecdote to dark times.
“Love is the master plan,” he sings.
If what the world needs now is love, Drexler delightedly delivers it. Tinta y Tiempo is his first album since 2017’s Salvavidas de Hielo, which won three Latin Grammys, and it is also his first set with Sony Music.
It’s an exuberant yet intimate album underpinned with acoustic percussion, Latin American musical references, a landscape dotted with electronic beats, and some funky guitars, featuring symphony musicians from the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid.
“Love is the master plan.”
“It’s an abundance,” says Drexler, talking to Billboard during a break in rehearsals for his upcoming tour, which starts on April 22, the album’s global release day, in Girona, Spain, continuing in South America and Europe, with U.S. dates slated for the fall. “It’s full of orchestration, choruses, basses, drums, guitars, keyboards,” he explains. “There are like 70 instruments on this album. My last one [2017’s Salvavidas de Hielo] just had a guitar.”
Drexler, a singer/songwriter known for exquisitely crafted music, has never taken a traditionally commercial route, but has nevertheless earned widespread acclaim. His song “Al Otro Lado Del Río,” from the film Motorcycle Diaries, won best original song at the Academy Awards in 2005.
Most recently, he appeared on C. Tangana’s smash 2021 album El Madrileño. This time, Tangana, with whom Drexler says he shares an “obsessive search for beauty and excellence and an open sense of the meaning of musical genre,” returns the favor on “Tocarte.”
There are other new additions. Drexler’s two younger children sing on the album’s final, spare track, a modern lullaby called “Duermevela,” dedicated to Drexler’s late mother. His 24-year-old eldest son, who goes by the name artistic Pablo Pablo, was a producer on that song, and also on “Tocarte.” And for the first time, Drexler’s band is comprised of an equal number of women and men — artists who, Drexler notes, all have their own solo careers.
The Afro-Portuguese artist Alana Sinkëy and Spanish jazz singer Miryam Latrece respectively perform percussion and vocals, and Catalan pianist and singer Meritxell Nedderman contributes synths and vocals. Argentine alternative rocker Javier Calequi is on guitar; Spanish drummer Borja Barrueta and Drexler’s longtime album producer Carlos Campón- bass and programming-complete the line-up. Israeli singer and producer Noga Erez and Uruguayan musician Martín Buscaglia are also featured.
Drexler began writing the album alone, during the bleak days of pandemic confinement. “I started writing songs about fear, about isolation, masks, screens, distance…” he explains. Then he started over.
“I thought that I didn’t want to go on tour a year and a half later when things were more open and be talking about those things,” Drexler says. “So I started writing about not what I was living — but as a kind of counterpoint, about what I missed. Affection, contact, embraces, those things that are imprecise and untidy the way that human relationships are.”
Tinta y Tiempo is an album brimming with love songs, which shouldn’t imply that it’s simple. Typical of the 57-year-old Drexler, whose songwriting has been driven by the artist’s metaphysical meditations and humanistic observations, each song tells a story set somewhere in the balance between serendipity and intention.
“Love is present in every song, in different facets,” Drexler notes. “The album talks about the variables of love — love like a biological entity, as an evolutionary idea. Then love for your children, maternal love. Long-term love, that imperfect love that I talk about in ‘El Cinturón Blanco.’ And also desire, in ‘Tocarte.'”
I started writing about not what I was living, but what I missed. Affection, contact, embraces.
The title track, which longtime fans could identify as the most characteristically “Jorge Drexler-sounding” song on the album, talks about a writer’s inspiration, or lack of it. “What I came to understand during the pandemic was that composition needs human contact,” he says. “I had a very hard time finishing the songs. I had the songs 80 percent finished, but I need that other 20 percent, that moment when you say, ‘OK, this is the song and I’m going to sing it to you.’ A song that isn’t finished is the same as not having a song.”
It was during a small tour of 10 concerts in Spain in 2021 — as far as regulations would permit at the time — that he started to finish the songs that would become the album. “Simply with the contact with the musicians and the audience, the songs I had struggled with for two years I finished in about two weeks,” he recalls.
He calls the finished album “expansive,” quickly adding that “intimacy and expansiveness are not opposing ideas. You can create a lot of intimacy in a space for 5000 people, and not much intimacy at all playing the guitar at a dinner for six people.”
Tinta y Tiempo, he says, can serve listeners — as making it did him — as relief for “this kind of depressing feeling we’ve all been experiencing, this languishing,” by “bringing love to that fear we all had during the pandemic.
“Love is the best invention,” he adds.