Manuel Medrano has that voice — the kind that within seconds of listening makes you ask, “Who is that?”
It’s a deep baritone with just a touch of metal burnish. It’s sultry and nonchalant and profoundly distinctive. Armed with the voice and an arsenal of romantic songs, the Colombian singer-songwriter has garnered millions of YouTube views (the video for his single “Bajo el agua” has more than 75 million) and a Latin Grammy nomination for best new artist.
Friday night (Oct. 28), Medrano performed his first bona fide Miami show at Flamingo nightclub in Miami to an audience of roughly 600 who’ve discovered his music in a myriad of ways.
Accompanied by a backup band hired for the occasion (drums, bass guitar, keyboards) and his own guitar, Medrano traversed a repertoire of mid and uptempo pop with rock undertones. Some songs were liberally sprinkled with touches of reggae and funk that displayed a range that goes much further than the brooding romance of his singles.
Standouts included “Yo solo nado contigo” (“I only swim with you”), set to the tune of twangy, cowboy guitars, and “Como hacer para olvidarte” (“How to forget you”), a brisk, charming little ditty (“How to forget your kisses, if every time I remember them I want to kiss you all over again”) set over acoustic guitar.
While Medrano is not one for onstage antics or drama — nor was there physically space for any of it — he allows his musicians to shine with sizzling guitar and drum solos, and he displays authoritative command of his domain. It helps that he’s over six feet tall and has an arresting presence with just the right amount of edge tattooed up and down both arms.
I was eager to experience a full Medrano show after seeing him perform at a showcase during the Billboard Latin Music conference last April. But, I wondered, how the heck did all these people end up buying tickets to come here? U.S. radio barely plays Latin pop unless it’s way uptempo, and Medrano is not that; he’s a soulful singer-songwriter.
Turns out music discovery is alive and well.
The 20-something guy sitting next to me heard the single “Bajo el agua” streamed from a station in Colombia. He got so hooked on the voice, he started following Medrano on Instagram and found out about the show there. Another man got a YouTube link on Instagram and was also instantly hooked. “He sounds effortless,” he told me.
Medrano celebrated his 29th birthday Friday night, not young for a debut act with just one album to his name. It doesn’t matter. He should be around for a long time.