“Adelita: Changing the Key” Podcast is a New Example of an Old Genre

Adelita: Changing the Key is the new, podcast coproduction between Sonoro and My Cultura Podcast Network. It tells the fictional story of Adelita Paz, a Tejano music superstar determined to make her way into pop music.

The story starts with Adelita at the apex of her Tejano career when she receives the Entertainer of the Decade award and announces she has decided to take a musical hiatus. This shocks her fans, her manager (also her mother), and the record label owner, with whom Adelita still has an ongoing contract for the next two years. However, Adelita has made up her mind and is backed up by her husband and music producer, Rodrigo. 

With the help of Rodrigo, Adelita develops a plan for a disruptive performance at the Grammy Awards, singing with Wizdom, a rap superstar. Things go on smoothly until sexual attraction sparks between Adelita and Wizdom, and the very few things Adelita thought were clear in her life turn into doubts.

Starring the Colombian-American actress Diane Guerrero, Adelita is an excellent contemporary example of an old genre: radionovelas or soap operas. It is the audio version of a convoluted story where passion is at the heart of the plot, and every episode ends with a new crisis (big or small) to force us into listening to the next one.

Soap operas in English had their brightest moment between the early 1930s and early 1950s as a dramatic radial serial program sponsored by soap companies (hence the name). And in Spanish, radionovelas were at their apogee in the middle of the 20th Century, when they were the heart of the radio in Latin America. Adelita clearly drinks from that tradition: it includes our heroine’s struggle to be the owner of her life, a quest for true love, and a woman as the villain, all of which are also elements of Latin American telenovelas or culebrones.

In addition to compelling cliffhangers, Adelita: Changing the Key has a good script, flawless production, and outstanding set pieces – the Grammy performance is a highlight – which all combine to help you feel like you’re right there. The voice casting is so good that you never get confused about which character is talking. Yes, it’s a bit predictable, but the plot points are just what you expect and demand from the genre. Plus it helps that the central conflict is so relatable: who hasn’t doubted whether to go on with a relationship or not?

This is not a story meant to change your life. It won’t. It is intended to entertain you while you walk the dog or wash the dishes, which is perfect. My only criticism of the series is that it has too many episodes and they are too short. Its 36 episodes, each of 13 minutes –3 of which are credits–could have been turned into 18 episodes of 26 minutes or so. The extra time would have made the story more comfortable to binge, as you would feel the story develop a bit more between the credits. It would have contributed to its fluidity. However, it is compelling finding new Latinx projects, and at such high technical quality, exploring how to reinterpret our traditions. From the radionovela to the podcast, Adelita is part of a throughline in how we tell stories old and new.

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