Weekly Column: Cuco and the rise of bedroom pop

Cuco, born Omar Banos, is a 19-year-old first generation Mexican-American from Hawthorne, California. (Abraham Recio/Courtesy of the artist)

Bedroom pop is as straightforward as it sounds: Music created entirely by an artist in the comfort of his/her own bedroom. The sounds produced are lo-fi and dreamy-sounding, with heavy placement on synths, twangy melodies and usually sweet lyrics. While this DIY approach to making music is nothing new, bedroom pop has been gaining popularity and a cult fanbase in the past year, more so than other lo-fi movements of the past.

What is it about these fresh new artists that entice people? Their authenticity is, of course, one factor. Often these teenaged artists are creating everything, from the lyrics to the beats, on their own without the pressure of a record label breathing down their necks. This new wave of DIY artists apart from others by the community they’ve created. There’s camaraderie between these burgeoning new artists; relationships over social media bloom and a fair number of collaborations in the bedroom pop community have already been released with more to come.

While there are multiple bedroom pop artists who are talented and have been gaining notice in the public eye (consider Clairo, Steve Lacy and Rex Orange County as just a few popular examples), Cuco is an extraordinary example of one such bedroom pop artist that has been rapidly breaking into the mainstream, and for good reason.

Cuco, born Omar Banos, is a 19-year-old first generation Mexican-American from Hawthorne, California. His laidback musical style matches his real-life persona: he could pass as a 19-year-old kid walking around campus without anyone skipping a beat. As he sings in his single “Lucy:” “I am not a superstar/I got some junk food in my tummy.” Banos’ genuine authenticity, along with his incredibly sweet lyrics and catchy bass lines, is what catapulted him into the underground spotlight in the past year and pushed him into the mainstream.

Banos first began releasing music projects via Soundcloud in 2015 after teaching himself a few instruments on Ableton, a music production software. Banos gained his original fanbase from Twitter where he would post clips of himself performing his songs, albeit always faceless, with just his guitar and hands in the frame. By his first live show in 2016 at a Santa Fe Springs house party, people were already hooked on Banos’ dreamy sound and romantic lyrics.

It was at this show that Banos met his current manager, Doris Muñoz, a fellow first generation Mexican-American.

“I had literally never seen anything like this before... I was in the middle of hundreds of teenagers surrounding this garage singing every lyric. I remember thinking, ‘How has no one tapped into this?’” Muñoz described the first live show to the LA Times.

You could say that the last two years have been astronomical for Banos: Since that fateful first show, he has played at many of the biggest festivals in the country from Lollapalooza to Outside Lands. He’s toured internationally and is set to open for Kali Uchis’ current tour  as well as play Austin City Limits Festival this October. His newest EP “Chiquito” came out to the delight of new and old fans across the world. He’s been getting multiple offers from big record companies, yet hasn’t yet made any major decisions.

When it comes down to it, fans love Cuco because Cuco is just like all of us: a mistake-making teenager who is a romantic at heart, although he makes the heartbreak and confusion of the teenage (and let’s face it, early adulthood) years sound beautiful. His music gives off a sense of nostalgia for a time that you may have never experienced or a feeling you may have never had. But that’s what Cuco does: He turns his experiences and feelings into catchy music and shares it with all of us, and for that we should be grateful.

Songs to listen to: “Lo Que Siento,” “Lover is a Day” and “Summer Time High Time” (and if you like these, listen to them all- you won’t be disappointed).  


Lucie Turkel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lucie.turkel@uconn.edu.