‘The Navigator’ chronicles path of cultural self-acceptance
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In its new album, “The Navigator,” Hurray for the Riff Raff tells an intimate story about growing up, overcoming marginalization and living with pride. The new album is a departure from the majority of the band’s recent work.
The New Orleans band’s frontwoman, Alynda Segarra, offers listeners a look into her life as a Puerto Rican woman. From start to finish, the album follows a young woman named Navita who lives in an ambiguous metropolitan area introduced in the album’s second track, “Living in the City.”
Navita feels the society she lives in crafts a very narrow mold into which she is thrown. Societal stereotypes and expectations automatically label her with badges of shame, and she wishes to be anywhere else. One morning, she wakes up in “The City” to find that she gets exactly that. Forty years have suddenly passed, and Navita finds that she does not recognize anyone or anything from her previous life.
Growing up in the Bronx — Segarra’s real-life version of “The City” — she grappled with her identity and the question of whether or not she could be proud of her heritage. As a young woman, Segarra felt imprisoned by society’s conceptions and shallow interpretations of herself and others like her. Now, years later in “The Navigator,” listeners can hear Segarra chronicle and reflect on her growth.
Just as Hurray for the Riff Raff has proudly composed its latest album as a call to take pride in one’s own culture, the album’s titular hero finds her own way to proclaim her heritage in the strange new city.
Musically, the album has much to offer. Early on, “Hungry Ghost” serves well to introduce the album’s concept. Segarra begins to touch on the idea of struggling with cultural identity, and this sentiment is juxtaposed over a familiar, upbeat pop sound.
In the next couple of tracks, the band comes together in a chorus with big harmonies that recall The Beatles’ happy-go-lucky vibe. It then follows up with folk-style storytelling that screams Bob Dylan.
What makes “The Navigator” a Hurray for the Riff Raff record in the midst of all these familiar sounds is the fusion with the band’s established New Orleans blues, as well as bolero and merengue rhythms.
The album centers on a struggle to break the mold and escape from the boxes that society forces upon marginalized cultures. It effortlessly dances between different genres and transcends simple categorization. The result is a comprehensive piece that tells a powerful story.