Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Tí: Review

Though I wasn’t the craziest on El Último Tour Del Mundo, what he did with a futuristic concept lyrically, was awe-inspiring, especially as he continued to grow artistically. Similarly, the album prior, Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana, did as the title suggested. Bad Bunny came at it with something new and different, blending various notes from diverse genres and showing us a free-spirited approach to the music. That continues on Un Verano Sin Tí. It’s an album resonant on the vibes, particularly in its construction, which plays in a nearly perfect crescendo from start to finish. He brings fresh features and unique directions we’ve heard a sampling of before; however, here it’s refined, coming at you with various sounds fit its beach/summery aesthetic, despite some lesser tracks, comparatively. It all culminates in excelling the idea Bad Bunny had when creating Un Verano Sin Tí.

In an interview with The New York Times, Bad Bunny noted that the Un Verano Sin Tí is “a record to play in the summer, on the beach, as a playlist,” so it’s not something you can just play while sitting down and indulging. I’m not saying you can, but like many reggaeton albums, the impact’s embedded in the rhythm and how your hips vibe to the beat. He knows how to create these larger-than-life moods/vibes, and he has a constant synergy with his featured artists. We get to hear Bad Bunny with some great pop and reggaeton artists, like Chencho Corleone, Tony Dize, Bomba Estereo, and The Marías, and they don’t disappoint. It’s a monstrous smash that starts at the top of Track 1, “Moscow Mule.”

Opening with a decadent reggaeton number in “Moscow Mule,” it teases you with a perfect concoction containing great harmonies, melodies, and infectious lyrics without being overly ambitious. Like its namesake, the production hits on all fronts, adding a mellow dance vibe while still working as the starter pistol as you casually fix yourself a drink. But with the mentality of a playlist for Un Verano Sin Tí, you can start with any track, the enjoyment will still be there, but it won’t have the same impact as that smooth crescendo from start to finish. He uses the simple and core rule of making a linear playlist–clean patterns between the track’s tempo. After a modest ascension with “Moscow Mule,” it takes you through some incredible songs with vibrant sounds, like “Despues De La Playa.

“Despues De La Playa” has luscious synths riding an electronic vibe before flipping in style after a minute. Bad Bunny turns it on its head, blending various percussion elements of mambo and merengue. It sounds like something aligned with what prominent artists did to crow the groove, like Juan Luis Guerra and Miriam Cruz. When Bad Bunny does this, it returns with some of his most significant hits, like “Yonaguni” and its use of J-Pop-like synths and subtle percussion. He doesn’t want to feel confined to be all reggaeton, but he allows it to be a stepping stone for other directions he can take. It isn’t all reggaeton, and instead, it’s an eclectic mix that feels free as it diverts from the confines of standard album construction by filling the album with numerous “Track 3s,” or the powerhouse hook that reels you many guaranteed hits. 

These hits are continuous in heavy spurts with incredible momentum. The ever-shifting styles offer a lot, even when certain styles hit you better than others. So whether you love a riotous variety of electronic vibes–“Ojitos Lindos,” which incorporates touches of cumbia, or the more house-driven “El Apagón”–reggaeton bangers–“Tarot” and “Me Porto Bonito”–island vibes–“Me Fui De Vacaciones”–Un Verano Sin Tí has something for you. It’s ever-shifting without detracting you during its play. As I revert to that one anecdote from his New York Times interview: “a record to play in the summer, on the beach, as a playlist,” having that consistency to keep a loop where, if played as he described, or home alone dancing, it’ll be an excellent time for the 81 minutes. It has seamless transitions that keep it from being overly rough. In a continuous loop, you’ll feel varied emotions, translating from your pace of dancing, whether speedy or tempered.

This synchronization boosts the overall quality as Bad Bunny takes us in different directions without getting hindered by the switches in tempo. One moment you’re on a melancholic-acoustic vibe on “Yo No Soy Celoso,” and the next, he is throwing curveballs with a smooth reggaeton banger featuring Tony Dize on “La Corriente.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t always translate as you get lost in the winds of the vibe. Despite lauding a smooth crescendo from start to finish, the only drawback is that some tracks are mild compared to others with a similar tone. The weak chorus and verse deliveries in the first half of “Tití Me Preguntó” take away from the whimsical shift in the second half, where it isn’t an issue. It’s like “Al Apagón,” however, that shift adds to and elevates the song exponentially. Similarly, “Efecto,” compared to the other reggaeton tracks, isn’t as strong but still effective. Since Bad Bunny included the 2019 track “Callaíta,” switching “Yonaguni” with “Efecto” would have offered some extra sauce on the palette he is serving. 

Un Verano Sin Tí succeeds as intended with visceral production and monstrous melodies. It’s an album with awe-inducing consistency that elevates not only the tracks but how they mesh within the confines of a tangential mix orchestrated to play like a playlist. It honestly left me happy by how much of an improvement this was to El Último Tour Del Mundo, though keeping in line with expanding his range and delivering hybrids as impactful, if not more, than some of his past singles. However, it is a vibes album, and it’s hard to quantify how it will translate come to Winter, but it’s hitting hard now and will for the rest of the summer.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Daddy Yankee – LEGENDADDY: Review

2022 has been one helluva of a year–from the postponement of the annual Grammy Awards to April 3rd to Maury Povich retiring and Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon performing this summer at Lollapalooza–nothing has churned more emotions than the announcement of Daddy Yankee’s retirement: the architect of who defined reggaeton as a genre. It’s bittersweet for fans, but he leaves with a monstrous send-off on his 8th and final studio album, LEGENDADDY. Being his first album in a decade, we’ve seen reggaeton’s growth from nuanced ballads to pop-bangers which bridge samples of sonic influence. It’s all relative to your cultural roots and the music that inspired you from youth. Daddy Yankee made reggaeton what it is today, allowing for a free flow of ingenuity to become universally accepted as new artists create their foundation. LEGENDADDY takes various eras of reggaeton and weaves them into a musically transcendent timeline of music history, with Daddy Yankee surprising us at almost every turn.

Let’s not mince words: we’ve heard singles throughout the last few years, each showing different directions with auspicious production and captivating flows and melodies as Daddy Yankee ignites a flame into these new, younger artists who he’s influenced. LEGENDADDY features some of these artists as they match wits with the DY, expressing themselves within the sounds they’ve refined themselves. Myke Towers joins Daddy Yankee for “PASATIEMPO,” a stellar dancefloor electro-pop/reggaeton anthem that incorporates more melodies than the reggaeton-trap hybrid “ZONA DEL PERREO” and “HOT.” Whenever Daddy Yankee is trying to command the dancefloor, he juxtaposes these sounds to give us an essence of his range in style. Following “PASATIEMPO,” Daddy Yankee sings and raps over tropical-laced percussion on “RUMBATÓN,” taking away the house-pop sample for authentic representation. 

We hear elements of salsa, bolero, or bachata in its rhythm phase of the 2000s, to its hip-hop side and trap/perreo side of today. It’s organized chaos, allowing us to marvel at the work he delivered throughout the years. The production is as vibrant as ever, and each track has its value on the dance floor. Unfortunately, not every track lands on all notes. “ZONA DEL PERREO” suffers from redundant lyricism; it’s a simple track about dancing, particularly perreando or dancing Doggystyle. The production is lush and feels like a waste, as Natti Natasha and Becky G become forgettable with poor mixing and autotune. It isn’t like “AGUA” with Rauw Alejandro and Nile Rodgers, which precedes it. “AGUA” mixes the complexions of reggaeton with disco, bringing a slightly funky bass to round it out while Daddy Yankee and Rauw Alejandro rap and sing in a beautiful tangent.

Daddy Yankee is more than the surface layer reggaeton tracks we hear. Beneath the production, Daddy Yankee rarely takes a step-back with his lyricism, as he flexes and expresses these emotions in coded melodies that have us gyrating whenever we stop doing the 1-2-3 step of Bachata. Within these songs, we hear Daddy Yankee flexing his status as a legend, his humble beginnings, and aspects of relationships–like “IMPARES,” which sees Daddy Yankee lamenting the emotional distance between him and his wife due to his mistakes. Following the previous song, Daddy Yankee raps about his imperfections while finding acceptance in his faults as he justifies opposites attract–this gets juxtaposed by how it expresses hiccups within the relationship. The multiple layers on these tracks come from commanding confidence behind the board and microphones, as Daddy Yankee and his producers create these productions that feel fresh and different than last.

Beyond proclaiming his status on “CAMPEÓN,” Daddy Yankee takes the time to reaffirm it. After a few danceable and emotional bangers, Daddy Yankee comes with “UNO QUITAO Y OTRO PUESTO,” which encapsulates his youth with potent energy in an attempt to lay down his legacy in music form. It’s a true reggaeton-hip hop hybrid that he is known for–it has been one of the reasons I’ve personally been in awe of his talent, from the “Rompe Remix” to “Gangsta Zone” and “TATA Remix,” there isn’t a moment that he fails to show how extensive that utility belt is. This energy is rampant throughout LEGENDADDY, showing in different ways, but nothing as mesmerizing as tracks where he drapes it with powerful verses, like on “ENCHULETIAO,” where he raps about being hooked to the hustle.

LEGENDADDY is a triumph. It shows why Daddy Yankee has been the driving force behind the escalation of the genre today with his influence for the next generation, bridging many genres and languages together. We forget Daddy Yankee was making songs with Fergie and Snoop Dogg before we saw Bad Bunny make a song with Will Smith or DeLaGhetto making a song with Fetty Wap. It’s a fantastic album that plateaus him higher than most pop artists, and his name will remain in the ears of many for years to come.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Arca – KiCk ii: Review

Arca can evolve as an artist and can grow as a person. But no matter what she delivers, Arca still retains a few quirks that make her, her – now, it’s this unique pitch, aligning with her flows, that builds an expressive hype, and the way she has implemented it in her music has been a strong component of her artistry. It became more noticeable when a few songs on her new LP mirrored the intensity of songs like “Rip the Slit” on KiCk i. It has become more apparent the more Arca grew and created albums of varying degrees, sonically. With 2020’s KiCk i, Arca lets her inner Latina breath; she meshes gritty-dynamic electronic textures with predominately Spanish lyrics. She continues to do so on KiCk ii, exploring different sounds and immersing in her Latin roots more by tweaking with genres that she grew up around.

Listening to KiCk ii for the first time threw me for a spin. After some time, you start to gain sensibilities for what an artist may deliver, but Arca disproves that notion – she gives us a project where the nuances shift in the direction of reggaeton, aligning more with her cultural roots. It’s different, and it doesn’t get held back as electronic sound glimmers on the surface. After a modestly typical opening track by Arca, a gut-punch hits you and spins you around till you land flat on your face. “Prada” and “Rakata” come in as these larger-than-life productions that beautifully complement Arca’s melodies with vocal modifiers. Arca weaves a percussion style more prominent in reggaeton and shifts the outer grooves to align with them – “Rakata,” for example, has these electronic overtones that reflect the shifting style of reggaeton. The electronic complexion begins to seep out a little as the album progresses; Arca steps up to the plate to remind us she isn’t changing, just evolving.

You start to get a sense of Arca’s development through the varying directions she takes a song’s core, like on “Luna Llena,” which includes production from hip-hop producers, WondaGurl, Jenius, and CuBeatz bringing a smooth hip-hop beat underneath toned down synths. “Luna Llena” sees Arca creating parallels between her transition as an artist and as a person – mentally and physically. She uses the full moon as a tongue-in-cheek-satirical analogy, considering the duality in opinion from the outside world. 

Arca writes into existence moods and feelings that bloom into these realized stories and indications about her conflictions that disavow her from feeling free. The previously mentioned “Rakata” – synonymously known as a term in reggaeton, meaning atacar or attack – speaks true to its meaning as she attacks the theme of sexual freedom with ferocity. The production is crisp and stays true to its concept with no bump on the road. But for what Arca delivers, she stays on point and head-on.

Arca’s derelict attention to detail gives us fluid soundscapes and songwriting. It’s no surprise since previous works benefited from Arca’s intuitiveness to create while never waning thin on a concept. And through the sheer force and gravitas within her eerie vocals and intensifying production may sometimes make the words inaudible, but repeating them adds to themes like sexuality and expressionism. But songs like “Muñecas” and “Lethargy” embolden the surface layer of the song titles by constructing the layers of bass and high-tempo grinding-synths, all without adding anything interesting. These songs, along with “Araña,” bridge past the reggaeton landscape, maintaining few nuances but engulfing themselves into the electrosphere. Though, the former tend to have more of a dynamic punch than the latter. However, when Arca finds herself becoming more in tune with the electronic genre, it becomes a bit of an overabundance of cathartic sounds. “Femme” and “Muñecas” lose themselves in a graff of slight redundancy. 

It picks back up with “Confianza,” a happy medium between the two genres/sounds as Arca gets back on two feet. It’s quick-winded by a slight snooze on “Born Yesterday,” which includes guest vocals by Sia. The two have created quality music in the past, but after some time, one can sense what sounds like a typical electro-pop Sia song, and it’s difficult to escape the thought when it hits you. But it ends on an eloquent note with “Andro,” a beautifully soft instrumental (comparatively), which is all you can ask for in an album.

KiCk ii isn’t as much of a roller coaster ride and instead runs through with steady consistency. Fortunately, there is a lot to take from KiCk ii, like her vibrant and confident self. If “Non-Binary” on KiCk i didn’t start to stir the pot for you, then KiCk ii brings it to a boil. There is a ferocity to Arca’s artistry, and she delivers with transparency. The excitement lingers as two more volumes get their release and the musical evolution of Arca grows and grows.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Karol G Brings Enough To Keep Intrigue On KG0516: Review

Karol G has never been an artist devoid of talent and potential; however she hasn’t seemed to take hold of that talent and work harder to define herself. It could be her forceful nature to be musically trendy, and though her last album had the right up-tick for her, it still felt hollow from a songwriting standpoint. KG0516 is no different. It is an eclectic mess that rarely makes the climb to the peak, but when it does there are a lot of great highlights.

KG0516 is ambitious with some choice in the production and Karol G weaves in some solid and catchy melodies and harmonies. It’s primarily the percussion that is a consistent aspect of the production on the album that usually doesn’t feel fresh and at times repetitive. These basic percussion undertones are there to keep that reggaeton flowing through some of the more “unconventional” orchestrations. But there are unique switches in some of the sonic overtures that deliver some unique constructs. For example “Location;” it incorporates percussion reminiscent of a hip-hop/reggaeton hybrid slowly blending in the stew while the guitar steals the show. It is used through varying layers to create a jaunty-country vibe that just oozes enough energy for a modern hoedown. Outside of this a lot of tracks, contextually, is only as good as what you expect on a surface level.

But for the most part, KG0516 is like the new Zack Snyder cut of Justice League where it has a lot of great ideas, but it never progresses past the idea portion. On the surface, the album has a lot of good production where it has a sense like it is accomplishing its goals, which at times seems like it is . Some of these ideas, however, deliver enough like the fun “200 Copas,” which is a nice drunken bar ditty. But Karol G is a pretty bad actress on the microphone, so that outro is least to be desired. But like those moments, there are other key ones that leave a solid impact.

It’s when Karol G begins to steer from the rudimentary drag of the “trendy” percussion styles like the trap heavy “Arranca Pal Carajo.” However, KG0516 isn’t devoid of bangers, there are a decent amount of tracks that have the right momentum and production to keep you returning back, like “Bichota.” It has a steady pace with solid sonic construction and sultry execution by Karol G. It smoothly transitions onto the subsequent track, like how most tracks do on the album. A lot of what makes her a great talent is the range she can take her voice.

She delivers some amazing vocal performances like on “El Barco;” it is an elegant ballad that weave these lush guitar strings and using moments in her life to take a new direction in songwriting. Though the content is tried and most times boring, like on “Location,” the emotion she evokes from the vocal performance brings it all together tightly. Her solo work here shines brighter than tracks where she has an artist featured, except for the solid duet with reggaeton artist Camilo on “Contigo Voy A Muerte.” “Bichota,” “DVD,” and “El Barco” are real highlights on the album, but unfortunately the album has a lot of features.

Many of the features on KG0516 usually outshine her with intrigue, like Nathy Pelusa’s verse on “Gato Malo.” It has an aggressively fun-girl-power-like tone and uncanny flow that fits well with the instrumental. Karol G also brings a solid vocal performance, but it lacks that extra oomph she has stored within. Fortunately it is a step up from the strange features of “Beautiful Boy,” for the kind of song it is. It has a sample of “Beautiful Girl” by Sean Kingston from feature artist Emilee, using atmospheric acoustics, as the chorus and a lazy verse by Ludacris mixed into a slow tempo hip-hop song. And don’t fret if you’re one to listen from start to finish, as the last track is a solid mix of Karol G dueting with many reggaeton legends and some of their most famous tracks. It definitely hits the nostalgia goggles right, despite nostalgia recently being a bit of a cop-out for many things.

KG0516 is not as tight and tuned like her 2019 album Oceans, but it has a fun duality in the style and execution. Unfortunately it doesn’t take a step up to where her potential could be, but there are enough glimpses of something special within that she hopefully brings out in the future.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Selena Gomez’s Delivery Isn’t Much Of A “Revelation” on Revelación: Review

In pop music, there are some artists who show fright when it comes to leaving a comfort zone. If they make it unique and akin to their style, like Dua Lipa’s foray into disco from electropop, it is to be admired; the others push out products of lesser quality in order to have mainstay in relevancy, based on trends. This isn’t necessarily the case on Selena Gomez’s new EP Revelación. She delivers an array of music in Spanish, which is, at times, as hollow as Kevin Bacon in The Hollow Man. Like the film the output is fine, but you just never care for much of it. There are a lot of colorful instrumentals from the production team and some fine features from two of reggaeton young stars, but they aren’t enough for some of the bland vocals from Selena.

Selena Gomez is no stranger to singing in her “ native tongue,” with previous excursions involving stagnant lines here and there, as well as her cover/duet producers mixed together on a rerecording of “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” by Selena. She has shown the ability to flow with rhythm without butchering pronunciations, but her range when singing in English has a more flourished and vibrant sound. Like Rare last year, Selena shows strength as a co-writer on Revelación. This EP isn’t devoid of bland sequences, chorus melodies and source material, but the co-writers on some of the songs help deliver on the overall sonic textures as they mix it all together (save for a mediocre chorus).

On the track “Baila Conmigo,” Selena Gomez  turns on the snooze button consistently with her dull delivery. It makes the track have slight equilibrium since it loses you with Selena, but brings you back with Rauw Alejandro. The other feature/co-lead artist brings unique grandstand moments like Myke Towers smooth and decadent flow on “Dámelo To,” and DJ Snake’s glitzy production on “Selfish Love.” The latter of which, is a phenomenal standout with the tropical percussion and the elegant transitions between Spanish and English. The writing is especially strong on these two, with the additions by co-writers Julia Michaels and Kat Dhalia respectively.

A lot of the co-production is handled by Tainy, whose success and consistent turn out of quality in the reggaeton genre has contributed to the affluent grandeur of the current pop/Billboard chart zeitgeist. Fortunately Selena Gomez only delivers two mediocre vocal deliveries, as it lacks that next level Selena can achieve. “Selfish Love” succeeds by working around her strengths with the melancholic BPM. “Adios,” also stands out as one of the few spanish tracks that has Selena working with her vocal strengths, with the glamourous pop production.

“De Una Vez,” shines as a melancholic latin-pop ballad that continues with beautiful bliss on “Buscando Amor.” The contrasting charm of the production elevates the dance floor with a level percussion pattern. It adds cadence to the range she evokes, which on most of the album doesn’t land as strong on some of the later tracks. 

Selena Gomez opens and ends the Revelación on high notes, with the middle of the pack having too many instances of mediocrity. It’s a solid mark on her career that shows she can take a leap and create different and unique songs in Spanish and grow her artistry more.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.