Isabela Merced's music career may be young, but it's already mighty.
After making waves a year ago with the release of her first single "Papi"—which would go on to earn over 5 million streams on Spotify with a music video viewed over 12 million times on YouTube—the Peruvian-American actress has taken her time and made sure her subsequent releases lived up to the hype. First came excellent EP the better half of me in May. (Lead-off track "apocalipsis" is a bona fide bop.) And now, she's upped the ante with her new single "Don't Go," a joint effort with Danna Paola, the Mexican singer and star of Netflix's Elite.
Co-written with frequent collaborators Andrés Torres and Mauricio Rengifo, the sizzling pop track pulls from the worlds of salsa and chanteo, making its release during Hispanic Heritage Month all the more special.
"Being a young Latinx, I always want to find a way to merge the old with the new," Isabela said of the song in a press release. "Lyrically, it's about a bit of a chase in a relationship. I don't know where this guy's feelings are, but in the video, you get clarity for what's really going on…and it all make sense. There is pride in the lyrics about being a Latina, Danna, Mejicana, and, me, Peruana! We wanted to find the right feature for it and finally did. It had to be a Latin artist who could SING—a female powerhouse. So, Danna joined us, and I couldn't be happier."
In celebration of the new single, E! News asked Isabela to pull back the curtain on the artists and albums that have influenced her throughout her life and career. From the album she wishes she'd written to the song she hopes she'll never hear again, this is the soundtrack to her life.
The song/album that reminds me of childhood: A really prominent album or song for me would be the soundtrack to High School Musical. I grew up and pretty much learned harmonies from that soundtrack and it pretty much raised me.
The first album I remember buying: Honestly I didn't really buy an album until I got my own iPod. On my mp3 player, I remember I had "Hips Don't Lie." I had "Oops!...I Did It Again," Britney Spears. I had some Celine Dion on there. Obviously High School Musical songs. The first album I bought funnily enough was Green Day. I think it was American Idiot because I had watched School of Rock and, all of a sudden, I wanted to get into rock music for some reason. The movie really inspired me, I guess.
The song/album people might not expect me to love: Probably American Idiot—it's rock. I loved it. It just brings a lot of nostalgia for me now. I also love Broadway tunes and musicals, and I know a lot about them because I started in Broadway.
The song/album that makes me think of falling in love: Ugh, Those Feels Again by Snoh Aalegra. Anything Alicia Keys, honestly, but specifically, I think song-wise I'd say "Piel Canela" by Eydie Gormé. Also anything by Frank Ocean, to be honest. I really adore him. I think Blonde is a little bit of heartbreak but, to me, that's the same because when you sign up for love, you sign up to get your heart broken. And it reminds me of falling in love. One of my favorite [songs] that I also think defined me was "Bad Religion."
The song/album I turn to when I'm at my lowest: Probably a lot of Beyoncé. Specifically, early Beyoncé—like, B'Day Beyoncé—because it's just uplifting. All of her songs. "Me Myself and I," "Kitty Kat," "Broken-Hearted Girl," "Irreplaceable." Any of those songs. Even Destiny's Child songs are really empowering.
The song/album I hope I never hear again: Probably songs that reminds me of my exes. Weirdly enough, one of my exes was obsessed with this pretty iconic rapper, and I never want to hear his music again because it will just remind me of him. It sucks because it's actually really good music.
If I could only hear one song for the rest of my life, it would be: Lauryn Hill's "I Gotta Find Peace of Mind"—MTV Unplugged performance. It's a long song, but it really is amazing. She sounds amazing and it's chill, not too in your face.
The song/album that's guaranteed to get me turned all the way up: "The Motto" by Drake and Lil Wayne. And probably any Kanye [West] song from his album Graduation. Or Chance the Rapper, "Acid Rap." That's also really fun. Or any reggaeton throwbacks. I like old school reggaeton, that will get me turned up.
The song/album I wish I wrote/recorded: Anything by Frank Ocean. I think he's amazing and his lyrics are just beautiful. There's an album out right now called Canciones Crudas by La Muchacha. All of those songs are actually so good, and she's such a good singer-songwriter. Right now, I wish I wrote and recorded that album. I think it's a beautiful masterpiece.
My own song that I'll be happy to retire: Probably all of my songs. Honestly, once I release my songs, I don't want to hear them ever again. I'm the first person to be my worst critic!
"Don't Go" is available now.