By Lucas Villa
Blue Rojo is leaving a colorful mark on Latin pop music. As the Mexican-American singer continues to take the genre to new places by fusing seemingly disparate elements of electronic and punk with reggaeton, he also lyrically pushes boundaries as an openly gay musician. Seeking to find himself after a few years of fleeting fame, Blue's authenticity as an artist led him to sign with Universal Music Group last year. After releasing an album about being in love with a straight man, he continues to stay true to himself with his latest single “Soy Tu Payaso Papi 3000.”
"It's a dream to sing about gay love," Blue tells MTV over Zoom from his home in Mexico City. "It's so hot. It's super passionate. It makes me feel alive. It's what I am. I'm singing about what I am."
Before becoming one of Mexico's freshest new voices, Blue Rojo was born Santiago Ogarrio in San Diego, California. As a child, he grew up in the border town of Tijuana, where he was able to embrace the pop culture of both the United States. and Mexico. Blue cites MTV's TRL as the foundation of his musical influences. "I was super inspired by MTV, the whole top 10 countdown," he recalls with a smile. "I watched it all the time." Among his favorite artists were Britney Spears, Evanescence, Avril Lavigne, and Korn. On the Latin side, he was listening to the campy group Kabah, Spanish pop star Belinda, and electro-pop trio Belanova. "I love all the pop glam of what a pop artist is," he says. "It's beautiful and it's plastic-y, and I like it."
Blue moved to Mexico City with his family at age 11, and he later found his first opportunity to make his dreams of becoming a musician come true. After The Voice became a ratings juggernaut in 2011, international franchises sprang up around the world, including in Mexico. In 2013, he tried out for La Voz. For his first unaired audition, he says the producers forced him to sing Juanes's "Me Enamora," which resulted in zero celebrity coaches selecting him for their team. When Blue was invited back to audition again three days later, he told them, "Sure, but I'm going to pick my song." His acoustic version of Don Omar's reggaeton classic "Salio El Sol" won over Puerto Rican duo Wisin y Yandel.
Despite making it far in the competition and enjoying the experience, Blue says he couldn't really be who he was while appearing on television. "I was already out with my family but I was still kind of scared of saying it on the show," he adds. Blue also found that his initial fame, boosted by La Voz, had to do more with being a recognizable face on TV than with his actual talent. He left Mexico City for Guadalajara after a friend invited him out there. "I got kind of depressed," Blue admits. "It was like a shock for who I am. I started doing an introspection with myself to start to know who I actually am and what I want to say. That's where I started my artistic creation of Blue Rojo."
With a fresh perspective from spending a year in Guadalajara, he returned to Mexico City to make Blue Rojo a reality. "I'm this misunderstood, super mystical gay boy in my fantasy," he says about the concept behind his moniker. (The Spanglish name reflects his bicultural influences from Mexico and the U.S.) In 2019, Blue started independently releasing music that delved into queer identity through euphoric electro-pop tracks like "Niñaboy" and "Bebé." The reggaeton-infused "Soy Tu Payaso Papi" was his most emblematic video as he turned into a clown over his crush on a straight man. "I want to be free with this project," Blue says. "I love homosexuality. I think it's a beautiful thing. In every sense, I think everyone has to love who they are. I love that and I want to preserve that for myself because life is short."
"Soy Tu Payaso Papi" caught the attention of Mexico City-based A&R Diego Urdaneta, who assembled a team of musicians like Venezuela's Ulises Hadjis and the Dominican Republic's Diego Raposo to work with Blue on his debut album, Solitario. Across the 12 tracks, Blue further delves into the pain and rejection of his unrequited queer crush on this straight guy. Urdaneta shopped the album around with different labels before Universal signed Blue. "You have to trust your instinct as much as you can," Blue says about making the album. "You have to believe in yourself. You gotta risk it also. I felt really good that they liked the album. That was a dream."
In November 2021, Universal released Blue's Solitario just as the label execs heard it before they signed him. His operatic voice soars across every genre that he's blended into the LP. On "Después de la Pandemia Volví a Ser Católiko," Blue reconciles his religious upbringing with a magnetic crush. Through the surging electronica, he cries out to God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary for guidance. In the swaggering reggaeton standout "Eslabón de Bonbón," Blue is feeling himself as a "puto," his reclamation of the Spanish-language queer slur. "I like the word and I always want to use it," Blue says. "I felt like I was on fire when I was singing that song, like a volcano."
Earlier this year, Blue lived out one of his high school fantasies through his music video for "No Te Kiero Olvidar." On the soccer field, he sings the synthpop anthem with eyes for the team captain. After the two get cozy, they share a kiss on screen. "It was very cathartic," Blue says. "It was also a process of healing. In school, I was very shy and kept to myself. I was very depressed, so doing this makes me let it go. Now I know I put it out there. I expressed what I felt."
In addition to releasing a revamped "Soy Tu Payaso Papi 3000" this month, Blue previewed his next single “La Foto x Whatsapp,” due out in July. In the dembow-driven dance track, he sings about discovering through Whatsapp that the guy he's seeing has a girlfriend. "This song is more fun," Blue says. "I like the pop drama." Toward the end, a sample of Belanova's "Por Ti" emerges. "I was one of those kids listening to Belanova, and now having them on my song, it's super beautiful," he adds. In the forthcoming futuristic music video, Blue rides around the city holding onto a motorcyclist. A reference to Rosalía’s Motomami, perhaps? He says with a laugh, "Super Motopapi vibes."
Along with Rosalía, Blue would love to collaborate with artists like Frank Ocean, Charli XCX, Grimes, Bad Bunny, Karol G, Björk, and, of course, Britney. With plans for more singles to come this year, he's already hard at work on his second album. "I love being Blue Rojo from now at this point in my life," he says. "I want to make a bit of a controversial album with a pop concept. I want to be an artist that has a voice. I want to keep talking about concepts that are very personal but that also matter in society."