Ángela Aguilar Discusses Her Place in Mexican Music Royalty (and Her Dad's TikTok Account)

Ángela Aguilar
Ángela Aguilar Album cover art
Ángela Aguilar isn’t just a rising star, she’s a new luminous light in a music constellation that’s burned brightly for nearly a century. When we spoke with the acclaimed 19 year-old vocalist, whose “Piensa En Mi” tour stops at 713 Music Hall Saturday night, our conversation ended in a familiar place – onstage, a place she’s felt at home since she was a toddler. Almost as soon as she could speak, she began performing shows with her father, the iconic Mexican singer Pepe Aguilar. Her grandparents were the famed Mexican entertainers Flor Silvestre and Antonio Aguilar.

Ángela told us the untold story of the moment she knew she was destined to join the family business. We’ll get to that momentarily. We began in a place more familiar to most 19 year-olds. With a Grammy nod and four Latin Grammy nominations of her own, she is wasting no time carrying Mexican ranchera music into a new era. An era which includes TikTok. She’s got 11 million followers on the platform. We asked about the collision of worlds there, the juxtaposition of traditional Mexican music and one of the world’s most youth-oriented social apps.

Aguilar said she’s careful about how she presents the music on TikTok because “it’s such a big responsibility, because you have to honor what my grandparents have done, what my ancestors have done,” but she concluded “It’s very nice to have a platform where so many young people can learn more about their traditions and hopefully make some of their own.”

We asked Aguilar if her dad had a TikTok account. After all, he’s one of the genre’s most renowned artists. He too made his stage debut as a youth, alongside his own father. When he began his career in earnest in the 1980s, he became legendary, selling millions of albums worldwide, earning multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy wins, even having a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

“I think he has one, but he just doesn’t use it, you know?” she said with a laugh. “He got it I think because of the hype but I don’t think he has much time to be able to be on it. But it’s really crazy how TikTok can really make or break one of your songs. Those 15, 16 seconds that people listen to it, that’ll decide if they want to listen to your music or not. I think it’s a really cool platform also for beginning artists, not only established artists, but beginning artists who want their music to be listened to.”

In some ways, Aguilar is both an established artist and a beginning artist. She grew up in the industry and released music when she was as young as eight years-old. But her career has truly sparkled over recent years, boosted by a Best New Artist nomination at 2018’s Latin Grammys where she astounded the audience with her performance of “La Llorona.” Her voice moves confidently from delicately vulnerable to supernova powerful on songs like “Ahí Donde Me Ven,” “La Tequilera,”and songs she recorded for a 2020 Selena tribute album titled Baila Esta Cumbia. Her 10 million Spotify followers got a recent treat when she released the single “Piensa En Mi” at the beginning of the month to coincide with her tour kickoff in Chicago.

“I think I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into because of my parents and my grandparents, but you know, being a woman in the industry, specifically in a predominantly male genre, which is mariachi and Mexican music, has been very hard to be honest, to be able to get the same opportunities,” she said. “I don’t think I was ever prepared for that, something that my grandma had to deal with, 50, 60 years ago is something now that I am dealing with.”

Aguilar is forging her own career as an artist, but she wants to create more opportunities for women and young artists in her field. She said she’s “super honored” to be on her father’s label because it allows her the creative freedom to promote other artists like tourmates Irany & David.

“She’s an accordion player, she’s an amazing singer, and she travels with her brother. Irany is 19, her brother is 17 and they’ve been traveling with us,” Aguilar said. She said they’ve been immersed in “rehearsals, interviews, all these things they have to do being in the music industry. Being a singer, being a great musician is important but there’s so many other things nobody tells you about that you have to do. Definitely for me it would be an amazing, amazing thing if I could one day help artists like me.”

Aguilar has been vocal about artists like her who came before her. She’s an Alicia Keys fan, loves Whitney Houston, and she did a stunning cover of Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” for the Grammys ReImagined series. Those influences seem a bit obvious. We noted that her dad is a self-professed fan of The Who and Pink Floyd and asked which acts we’d be surprised to know she follows. She said her father gave her an iPod when she was six, filled with tracks by diverse artists like Tupac and Javier Solis.

“Something that I really enjoy, like my father, is rock, classic rock,” she said. “If I could do a song with someone, someone that I really admire, it would have to be Steve Perry. His voice, his songs, the way that he would perform when he was back in Journey – Steve Perry for me is an amazing, amazing artist and I admire him so much.”

Aguilar was traveling when we spoke with her, headed from Las Vegas to Texas for shows tonight in Irving and tomorrow in downtown Houston. She made time for a quick interview despite the hustle and bustle of tour because at 19 she’s already savvier than many artists. But, also because she loves and respects the music she performs. She may give it a modernized spin, one that’s even TikTok trendy. But, she honors the music and the stars in her family’s constellation that shone before her. She told us about the day she knew she was destined for her own spot in those heavens.

“I think one of the best moments that I can remember – and I don’t think I’ve talked about this before – I was I think about six or seven and my dad took me out on stage to sing a song. It was one of my first times ever being onstage in front of that many people, it was at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.

“For me, that place was so important to my career,” she said. “It was the first time somebody asked me to sing another song after singing the first one, you know? We have a tradition in Mexico where they go ‘Otra, otra!’ which is like ‘Another one, another one!’

“It was really, really cool. I was seven. I didn’t know any songs but I knew two, and that was it! And it was great because my dad walked behind me, you have this six-foot-six guy behind you and me being such a tiny little kid. He just seemed so proud and so excited, it made me so excited and so proud. You know, after that I haven’t stopped working since. I think one of the key moments in my career where I definitely decided that I wanted to be a singer was probably that moment.”

Ángela Aguilar brings the Piensa En Mi Tour to Houston Saturday, June 17 at 713 Music Hall, 401 Franklin. Doors at 7 p.m. and music at 8 p.m. for this all ages event. $50 and up.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.