Inside Jenni Rivera’s First Posthumous Release of New Music

In June, 200 invite-only guests -- press, fans, relatives and executives -- were shuttled to regional Mexican star Jenni Rivera’s childhood home in Long Beach, Calif., to preview her first single to be released since her death seven years ago. The heartbreak ballad “Aparentemente Bien” (“Apparently Well”), written by “Despacito” songwriter Erika Ender and Alejandro Lerner, is one of 11 songs that Rivera’s brother Juan Rivera recently found on seven hard drives. “We weren’t sure if the world was ready,” says the singer’s sister, Rosie Rivera, adding that the family was still dealing with Jenni’s death in 2012. “We feel everyone is getting to a better place.”

The new material wasn’t even in the Riveras’ hands until recently. Juan was poring over archives for Jenni’s upcoming concert documentary and knew that Jenni Rivera Enterprises didn’t have all of the hard drives in one place. But the people who did have the four or five others (individuals whom Rosie prefers not to name) were holding them “hostage,” she claims. Neither Rosie nor Juan can remember exactly how they finally got them, but now that they are in the family’s possession, the release of “Aparentemente Bien” is just the beginning.

Sony Music U.S. Latin is licensing the tracks from Jenni Rivera Enterprises to release more singles through 2020, eventually culminating in Jenni’s first album of new material since her death. Previously, her music was released posthumously on her longtime label Fonovisa, but six months ago, the Rivera family changed course and signed a distribution deal with The Orchard.

“What we really want to do is translate my sister’s energy, positivity and the way she inspired and motivated people,” says Juan. “She’s not physically here, but her story, music and life continue to inspire people.” Adds Rosie, who manages Jenni’s estate: “In business, the value [of the new material] is in the millions, but it is truly priceless to watch [our family] listen to Jenni in new music.”

Once Juan had the hard drives, how did he find the music on them?

Rosie Rivera: Juan actually was looking for a recording between the siblings, but never found it. [The files on the hard drives were] labeled with different things like “trumpets” and “violins” -- it was a puzzle. We honestly didn’t know if “Aparentemente Bien” was a new song [when we found it], so we called Jonuel Cabrera, who is a Jenni music expert. When he heard it, he just broke down and cried.

How does it feel to hear Jenni in these unreleased songs?

To hear Jenni’s voice is a peculiar feeling. Some are new, some are covers. Our mom asked Jenni to record a song years ago and she did, but never told her. So there are many surprises that God gave us through Jenni.

What do you make of Jenni’s emotional “Aparentemente Bien” recording session?

You don’t [realize] she’s crying until the end of the song. I was surprised. I was like, “Wait a minute. My stubborn and unbreakable sister is crying?” To allow herself to be so vulnerable is so gorgeous. It’s not weakness. It’s showing people, “Yeah, I cry, but I get up.” It’s very empowering for women.

The video for “Aparentemente Bien” was filmed in Iturbide, Nuevo León, the location of the plane crash that killed Jenni. How was that decision made?

We just wanted to show where Iturbide was. The owner was very kind to offer the property to Jenni’s children [to purchase] and it seemed like a good idea, but we also thought about the family members of the other [six passengers] who also passed away. We don’t want to make it Jenni’s land. It’s important to remember everyone.

This article originally appeared in the July 20 issue of Billboard.

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