Alison Christian at Opus Beauty using Kevyn Aucoin & Make Up Forever
Spellbound by her hypnotic aura, Alaina Castillo ushers a generation of hopeless romantics into her ethereal world of teenage dreams and glittery skies. Like a pop-music fairy sprinkling her listeners with finesse, trust, and pixie dust, we’re hooked on her lyrical phonics. She’s a rarity amidst the crowd that glows brighter than the neon signs shadowing her Instagram page with a purple haze. Dreaming in rainbows and led by an addictively authentic spirit, Castillo certifies she’s the goddess of pop — and we bow down!
Taking to pen and paper to explore her imaginative gaze, the 20-year-old has created a fantastical environment all her own as an independent force with a hunger to prove her worth. The Texas native often found herself prioritizing musical passions over academia and quickly established a lucrative home in linguistics. Initially gaining a cult following by reshaping popular English songs into Spanish tunes, the singer triggered a snowball effect that would ultimately manifest into her becoming a pop star of her own right. The newly liberated maven soon popped on a flight towards Los Angeles to work with the Grammy-nominated producer ROMANS and refine her craft; a decision that forever changed her life’s course.
Castillo has since fostered a whimsical space specific to her talents. She’s an old soul giving new life to every artistic endeavor she touches. Sonically speaking, her sound has been uniquely feminine and poised, but for the first time, listeners can experience a bit of sharpness from the starlet. Her latest single “stfu (i got you)” is an anthemic banger that warrants a jab on the repeat button. A tried-and-true Scorpio, Castillo continues to validate herself as the ultimate boss; she’s demonstrated that there’s strength in vulnerability and is taking on a new era of pop supremacy driven by a blunt sense of honesty.
Connected via video call, Castillo sits in a moody room lit by a string of (very on brand) bright pink LED strip lights. Despite the warm, vivid colors, it’s the unmistakable pastel curtain bangs that are her trademark in the making. Even so, her all-black outfit seemingly operates as a foreshadow to the newfound edge that’s embedded within her latest musical releases. Castillo shines behind the magenta glow — her personality like a light in the lowly lit space.
“When I was young, my mom would always come in and be like, ‘you need to like turn on some lights so that you can see!’ But I just really like the dark,” she says of her room. “I feel like it’s just comfier. For me, my creative space is a lot more diverse whenever I’m in the dark or chill areas like that. I just gravitate towards it. The darker colors, they make you feel something.”
And of course, there’s a genius behind her success that dates back to those restless rugrat classroom days. While the rest of us were staring at walls and doodling on the margins of our notebook paper, Castillo took direction, exercised her knowledge, and created art. “In elementary school, the English teachers were like, ‘what does the blue color mean in this scenario?’ I think I actually applied that to my life now because my songs are moodier. That’s what I want to put across in my art.”
Aside from her fairytale-like aesthetics, on Castillo’s pages, you’ll find over 120 million streams and a vast collection of songs spanning both the English and Spanish languages. “It’s something for me that I wanted to include in my music. Because it’s just, it’s fun for me. And it’s cool to go out and try something new because my dad’s from Mexico and speaks Spanish, but he never taught me Spanish. So, I feel proud whenever I sing in Spanish. I’m like, ‘I learned this. Here I am. I am singing it.’”
Having grown up alongside a family constantly cheering for her victory in academia, it’s no surprise Castillo took to learning a new language to elevate her skillset. Her bilingual artistry is like a gift from the universe rewarding the singer for her hard work. “I was learning Spanish in high school and everything, and I was very involved in music and practicing lyrics from different songs because that was, I think for me, the best way that I could learn. When I went into the studio for the first time, it was fun to kind of play around the Spanish because I couldn’t really write concise sentences, but I could at least get my point across.”
The 2010s saw a major boom in Spanish-driven music in the latter half of the decade — something Castillo can continue to play into as her career progresses. Widespread representation provides starlets like Castillo the opportunity to delve deeper into her roots and release projects with a flair all her own. The bubblegum pop formula is so 2009: the future is global diversity. “It means that there’s a lot more that I can do as an artist. [There are] duets that you wouldn’t even really think of, but then you hear it and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, like, this sounds so amazing!’ I think it’s just opening everybody’s eyes to realize how different music can be and how you can make it. You can still bring it together in that way. I’m just excited for what I’ll be able to do in the future.”
An earnest dive into Spanish music is hardly the only facet of her persona getting some tender love and care. On Feb. 11, Castillo released “stfu (i got you)” as the lead single for her new album due out later this year. It introduces the pop star as a bolder, blooming artist with more to offer than the airy vocals and subtle instrumentals we’ve become accustomed to. The track defines “change” in the best way possible: improved, matured, and well developed. “This era was under our noses the whole time. We made a song, and I was obsessed with it. I was like, ‘Yo, like, this is my vibe a hundred percent. Nothing can top this.’ And then we started thinking and we tried to create songs that went along with it. “stfu, (i got you)” came up and I was just like, ‘Oh shoot. Like I didn’t think we could do it again.’ But we did.”
“stfu (i got you)” undoubtedly lives in the same universe as Castillo’s previous projects but feels like an entirely new, daring experience upon first listen. Perhaps Castillo has Madonna-level changes up her sleeve — every era different than the last while somehow still remaining impeccably consistent and surprising. “I was trying to think about my music, and I think it’s so different. And you know, it’s things that you haven’t really heard put together in a song before. This has a different vibe and a different feel.” Change is inevitable. Change is necessary. Change is Alaina.
Castillo’s growth rate reaches heights far beyond the constraints of the musical space; we’re watching her mature into a self-assured 20-something experiencing the highest of highs and lowest of lows before our eyes. Lucky for us, she’s created a catalog of music that shares with us her most raw, authentic experiences we can belly laugh and cry cathartically to. “This new song and then all the songs to follow, they really fit in that world of just being confident. I’m a shy person at first, but you know, after everything, after music, after just learning who I am and growing, I guess you get “stfu (i got you)” because we’re not afraid! We’re not afraid to say our feelings. I’m excited for it.” As are we, Alaina! Embracing life in its purest form has been quite a flourishing approach for the artist. After all, the present got its namesake for being a gift — and gifts did Castillo duly receive.
Since her rise to success with 2019’s “i don’t think i love you anymore,” we’ve watched her streams pour in like a tidal wave, followers increase by the thousands, and countless awards roll in. Castillo has recently acquired the honors of being Spotify’s first-ever US RADAR artist, Billboard’s Latin Artist to Watch, and one of NME’s Essential Emerging Artists. If 2021 was a high school class, she’d be the valedictorian. It’s a fast soar to notoriety (and a massive set of accomplishments) few could merely wish to mimic; even so, life in the fast lane still has its moments of reprieve and reflection. “For a while, I didn’t realize all this amazing stuff is happening, you know? It takes a minute to soak in. It still hasn’t soaked in, but I feel like I’ve become a lot more confident with what I want to say. Now it’s just like, I’m going to do what I want to do. Because at the end of the day for me, this music is something that helps me, but it’s also going to help other people.”
Castillo’s humility radiates like a warm hug. She’s incredibly passionate and understands it’s the smallest pats on the back that can make a world of difference. She’s the hand you reach for when you fall, the friend you call after a breakup, and the sister always there to drive you home. Of her new music, she’s quick to emphasize how “it’s going to help people who feel like me, who feel like they don’t have like a voice. They don’t have a confident demeanor all the time. And this music is to help them grow and realize who they are as a person, just as it helped me realize who I am as a person.” We can present a million “thank yous” to Castillo for maintaining authenticity at the core of her identity. Still, it’s to the fans she offers gratitude. “It’s nice to know that no matter what, you have people that are there for you. You don’t have to fake anything; you don’t have to do anything extra. I love my relationship with [my fans].”
Much of Castillo’s success stems from her unadulterated, diary-like exposés on love and lust. With her musical collection detailing the ups and downs of having heart eyes, it’s clear her teenage affections are our heartbreak antidotes. To that, we ask, what do you love about love?
“I like the fun aspect of it. I think there’s a lot of ways to describe love. And for me, I’m a hopeless romantic. I grew up critiquing everything and saying, ‘I want this in my love life. I want that in my love life.’ And then when you finally meet that person that you do feel a connection with, it’s totally different than what you thought it was going to be like. You’re just like, ‘Oh, I thought it was one thing my whole life. And now you’re here telling me that it’s even better.’ Like stuff I couldn’t have even imagined. So, I think that part about it just inspires me to want to write, like, little petty things. “stfu (i got you)” is very sassy and stupid. It’s like, ‘Bitch I got you! Don’t even worry about it. I love you!’”
Teasing her upcoming album as a final, perfected entity, we’re confident like Castillo that it’ll be packed with the same fiery and fierce punch “stfu (i got you)” provides. She paints the musical collective as an all-encompassing body of work suitable for any situation, with any person, at every hour. “I think the main thing that I want there, whenever they turn it on, with however many songs we’re going to have on this full project, I want it to be their full little playlist.” Getting ready playlist? Check. Boss playlist? Double check. Manifesting our goals? Triple check. Considering experimentation has yielded absolute triumphs for the singer with her recent releases continuing to reach the sky, Castillo is likely fashioning one of the most diverse projects the year will see.
Castillo’s music is like a kaleidoscope lens reflecting and refracting her illuminating persona over the neon-clad world she’s sonically designed. It’s sparkling and vivid, much like her poetry turned lyrical brilliance. Castillo’s immense versatility and genre-bending make her one of music’s most coveted heroines. She’s an independent, powerful force that can ignite her own fire with gusto — it’s only a matter of time until her flames pave a clear path towards ultimate pop domination.