By Lucas Villa
In her three years of navigating the music industry as a solo artist, Lauren Jauregui has explored new sounds and discovered the power of her struggle. On “Colors,” a gauzy and personal new track that ends with the 25-year-old reciting a spoken word reflection, she reveals, “Creator’s watching, I know that much / Sat me down and told me to stop watching, start doing.” These lessons, coupled with a newfound determination, include her intimately fragile debut EP, prelude, released on Nov. 5.
“I would say they were very healing and introspective,” Jauregui says via Zoom of her solo years after her group, Fifth Harmony, went on indefinite hiatus in March 2018. “I’m very much in my own little cave of thoughts and experiences, and just figuring out what makes me happy, what gives me joy, and boldly move into that truth.”
While embarking on her own journey, Jauregui signed a recording contract with Columbia Records while collaborating with Steve Aoki and Halsey on EDM and dance-pop. These different songs and styles allowed her to meditate on her own identity, especially on the bisexual anthem “Strangers” featuring Halsey. A few months after 5H’s departure, Jauregui appeared as a boxer in the song’s music video. When two deranged lovers meet in the ring, the pop stars battle it out in an emotional brawl. It remains a fond memory and an important career moment for her. “That’s what we do! I represent my bisexual babies and the entire alphabet crew here,” she says. “We love you all!”
Jauregui’s smoky debut single ‘Expectations’ arrived shortly after, in 2018. She released a few more singles in 2020, including the tantalizing trap beats ‘More Than That’ and the tropical bop ’50 Ft’. At the same time, Jauregui began experimenting with Latin music with Puerto Rican producer Tainy and his Neon16 label. She was able to reflect on her Cuban roots in songs like the sensual “Lento” and “Nada” with the Spanish rapper C. Tangana. The latter was on Tainy .’s mixtape The kids who grew up with reggaeton.
“I love them so much!” Jauregui says about its employees. “Neon16, as a company, have so much talent. They are such scammers and they are so committed to getting the Latino voice out, especially the American Latino voice – that fusion of cultures. They’re just like my brothers, especially Tainy Tainy is a very good person and a really talented person, and when those two things come together, they are my people.”
After experiencing “creative differences about what my trajectory as an artist has been,” Jauregui parted ways with Columbia in 2020. prelude, a dreamy yet moody collection where Jauregui wears her heart on her sleeve, her proper introduction as an indie artist; she released it under her own label Attunement Records, which she founded in October. Through the various writing and recording sessions she participated in, Jauregui made sure she stayed in touch with the artists and industry people she met on her solo journey. Rappers Vic Mensa and 6lack are on the EP. “I really needed the freedom to explore and do what I thought was my creative vision,” she says. “I had to do that without hindrance and without doubt, and fear and lack of faith around me.”
Jauregui kicked off prelude era last month with ‘Colors’. The heartfelt ballad is like Jauregui’s pep talk to herself as she prepares to embark on this new journey in her career. She calls it the “thesis” of the seven track EP. “I have that conversation with myself very intimate and very vulnerable about needing to stand up for myself to do what I had to do,” says Jauregui. “Like, ‘Hey, you can do this, and I have to understand that even if everyone else is gone, you can’t fall apart. You and I are here to the end.'”
In the past, Jauregui has spoken openly about her own mental health issues. She touches on the subject in her new single “Scattered” featuring Mensa. In the jazz-infused R&B ballad, both performers sing about the stigma of recognizing and seeking help for the emotional demons they battle. “Gloves on, match with / God makes her bet,” she sings as she braces herself.
“Art is my catharsis,” says Jauregui. “Art is the way I understand life, what I feel and what I experience. One of those things that I went through a lot in the group and outside of the group was anxiety and depression, which I found came largely from this inner conflict that I had with merit. Like deserving to feel safe, deserving to be taken care of, deserving of a trustworthy team that won’t do anything behind my back. I had to relearn how to live in joy and how to that can constantly make in my life I am grateful that I have made things that people can listen to and feel less alone I want them to be able to sit with the songs and feel comfortable [they’re] a sonic hug from me.”
To turn on the songs prelude real country, Jauregui also worked with heavy-hitter producers. Malay, who previously worked with Frank Ocean, produced the EP’s luscious closing track “Sorry”. Timbaland produced the tender track “Falling” with his Beatclub students Angel López and Federico Vindver. Aiming for a positive frame of mind in the last song, Jauregui sings, “Focus on blessings and lessons.”
“Malay and I had a great vibe and click, firstly as people – he’s a really nice person – and secondly as creatives,” says Jauregui. “Timbo was amazing! He was a different person who respected what I had and what I gave sonically and lyrically. I was like, ‘Damn, bro, you’re an OG!’ So it was really cool to work with him.”
As the title of the EP suggests, prelude is an introduction to Jauregui’s debut album due out next year. She will perform songs from the EP and possibly some other new ones during her intimate concerts from late November to December in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Miami.
“The music that’s coming up, there’s a little bit more rhythm to it. There’s a little bit more movement, a chance to shake your ass a little bit. It still has a uniqueness in the way I put it together. It has more flow. It’s still emotional,” emphasizes Jauregui. “You still get crazy emo texts from me.”