Camila Cabello – Familia: Review

Composed and structured, these are a few reasons why Familia by Camila Cabello resonates more musically compared to previous records. Unfortunately, that doesn’t say much as it still misses to hit the mark as a pop album. For the few times my ears perk up, they quickly flatten as Camila tries to blend flavorful Latin Pop within whatever bad ideas flow through her creative mind. It’s as if she tries to find a middle road between earwormy harmonies and melodies and consistently basic songwriting. She’s had some catchy and replayable hits, mostly coming from songs that have some roots in her native culture. Familia lets her vocals naturally materialize over its production and give us a pulse of vibrant Latin Pop textures, but some production and songwriting are still on the opposite end.

Unlike the glitz and glamour of pop that masked Romance, Familia has a more natural feel with its vision musically. It doesn’t get wrapped by overly produced pop textures; instead, it gets stripped, rearranged with the Latin music that influenced Camila Cabello in her youth and during her time with family during the pandemic. There are elements of Rumba, Salsa, Bachata, and Folk, but It’s not exclusive to those as they get blended into whimsical pop tracks with identity. It doesn’t matter the approach Cabello brings; there is synchronization between her vocal melodies, harmonies, and the production, which is the driving hook for more easy replayability. 

Unfortunately, going that route would be more for the synchronization that allows you to listen to 11 of 12 songs without taking a totally jarring detour. It gives the technical aspects of the music traction, even if songs teeter between more conventional or more vibrant, but it’s only as good as the writing. Camila Cabello isn’t known for having deeply enchanting choruses. Her writing can stand out, specifically in her verses, but for the most part, it stays mundane. It doesn’t match her melodies as they come across as radiantly captivating. It’s a happy medium that, despite the direction the production takes, it feels natural. It doesn’t make every song incredible, but it keeps steady for better or worse. It left me wishing she kept it tighter to being open face Latin Pop, but she takes a few directions, one works; the others don’t.

However, that isn’t to downplay some of the standouts on Familia. Opening with “Celia,” Camila Cabello hits the right chords as she evokes her inner Celia Cruz. It builds off the Salsa-like rhythm and creates this hypnotic pop song that mirrors what Celia kept going for us, the addiction to dance. Since Cabello’s solo debut, anytime the production utilized Latin music to guide the style, she’d shine. It was evident with the quality shift from “She Loves Control” and “Havana” to “Inside Out.” We don’t get an inconsistency in style on Havana since any shift in style still carries a consistent piece of Latin music built-in. The subtleties fuel any centric-glitzy pop and give them definition like the use of maracas, and other percussion notes, on the trip-hop-centric “psychofreak.”

Camila Cabello is mostly a hitmaker, and sometimes it shows when certain corners get cut to check off boxes like catchy choruses and earwormy melodies. None of those occasions come from songs about Shawn Mendes, as they tend to the more basic. That isn’t to say that Cabello isn’t capable of writing great verses, shining when she writes Spanish language songs and hybrids. It separates the greatness of “Celia” and “La Vida Buena” with “Quiet” and “Boys Don’t Cry.” The latter two aren’t as profound, embodying a little more conservative electro-pop notes and mundane lyrics, mirroring the simple but effective melodies. Some of the songs are personal, but the vocabulary isn’t always eye-popping like in “Quiet.” In the song’s verse, Cabello tries to deliver a sexy lead-in but falls flat with forgettable descriptions; on the pre-chorus, it’s the same with the lines, “It’s you, boy/I’m cool like an icicle ’til I see you, boy,” and her vocals mask it for the most part. It doesn’t make them good, despite having technical components down.

It’s similarly the case with the last two tracks on Familia. It left me with the same feeling as Camila Cabello’s previous albums, predominately underwhelmed. Through the hurdles of getting caught by catchy melodies, great songs do stand out amongst the others, which continue to show us Cabello’s strengths. It may be fun to get lost in, but it’s very memorable. Familia will deliver some tracks that can fit varying playlists, but those are minimal. Hopefully, Camila Cabello grows from this and makes more Spanish language hits.

Rating: 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.

Myke Towers – Lyke Mike: Review

The Reggaeton/Urban Latino genre has had the shift in delivery in line with hip-hop’s growing popularity of the melodic flow. Beneath this popular trend are rappers who break away from standard pop/reggaeton contrivances, like Myke Towers and Jon Z, opposed to artists like Rauw Alejandro and Ozuna. And as such, when they release a new project, it usually carries with it, an array of dope rhyme schemes and lyricism. This is the prominent direction of aforementioned artist, Myke Towers, who delivers with virtuoso on his newly gritty-street influenced album Lyke Myke. His uncanny use of reggaeton – sonic undertones, like the electronic infused percussion patterns, take a backseat, as Myke goes in tangent with production reminiscent to the hip-hop he grew up with, but also carrying with it some slight repetition and filler.

With some of the hip-hop/urban music we hear today, there are moments of redundancy in the percussion, which come off as tried – other times it flows with the overlays and the delivery of the rapper that it becomes second nature and you’re more focused on the lyricism and message, opposed to a vibrant instrumental. The production’s array of eclectic overtures has a great consistency in the way it sets up the tone for his more aggressive flows and rhythm. Some of these overtures include an array of defined – gritty notes from the instruments, which are used in different sequences like the high-key piano notes and electronic hi-hats.

However, some of the production has a repetitive nature that derives from wrought similarities within the snares and bass drum patterns. But it isn’t as much of a constant as the direct-filler tracks, like “BURBERRY” and “JUGADOR FRANQUICIA,” which distinguishes themselves from part of the whole. What differentiates these two is the contrast between what works and what doesn’t, instrumentally. The latter has solid flows and lyricism, while the instrumental stays dormant as a somber backdrop. The former has a monstrously eventful instrumental that gets lost in some poor metaphors and analogies from both artists, who frequently evoke the spirit of Nas and the lifestyle from the film Belly. The problematic and cheap film aside; it overstays its welcome as a deterrent from the rest of Lyke Myke. This comes from what they mention in their verses – specifically Ñengo Flow ­– about their life’s conjunction with the lives of the characters from the aforementioned film. If this were the case, then a concert of his would be more problematic than an YG concert at the heart of Long Beach. But beneath these problems, the song has solid replay value, even if it feels like it doesn’t belong.

Myke Towers’ punctilious approach to his style of trap and rap flows keeps his sound leveled for proper thought consumption, opposed to party-like from others. This is what constantly translates well on the surface, but beneath there are tracks that continue to express itself as lost filler, like “BAGUETTES” which oozes “club banger,” but it doesn’t feel like it should have been part of the album or even as a bonus track. It exceeds the initial eye test, which is judging the pacing from the elongated track list that caps at 23 tracks and one hour – five minutes in runtime. They fluctuate in length, which messes with the pacing. This is what makes most of the percussion come off as repetitive, but lyrically and conceptually, Myke Towers keeps Lyke Myke on a steady track of fluidity. He doesn’t let the production create a void that lacks substance, lyrically, and this strength of Myke, allows him to fully invest in furthering the identity of his artistry and his person, which is a deviation from his last album that had more commercial appeal. 

However, the minimal attempts at being different usually end up faltering into mundane club ready tracks (sonically), which loses focus on the strengths of the album – the emotional depth and grit of the tracks that dive deep into his personal roots. But because of his chameleon-like ability with his flow – evident from his appearances on more reggaeton and electronic like production – there continuous showmanship in his prominence as one of the better and more versatile rappers of the Spanish language. This continues within some of the unique deliveries and samples on Lyke Myke, like on the track “PIN PIN,” which samples “Periquito Pin Pin” by Tommy Olivencia and his orchestra, also alongside vocalist Héctor Tricoche. Beneath the lush instrumental, Myke comes with an onslaught of aggressive and smartly structured-multi syllabic rhythms, which can be hard based on the varying and accented pronunciations.

This goes to show how he lets the lyricism soar, even within the filler tracks. And though Lyke Myke has an array of unnecessary filler, the tracks are solid, in their own right, and definitely carry enough replay value. It had me going back to breakdown some of the beautiful overtures in the production and the complex verbiage from Myke Towers. It’s the biggest net-positive for the album and rightfully so. It is so rare to find solid Spanish rap that rely on “pop” trends for an outworld sense of connectivity. He has a niche and builds upon it like other rappers have done – i.e. spreading into pop – centric tracks to build a presence and deliver what he wants to, which is akin to a career path Kendrick Lamar and others had at the beginning of their career.

Lyke Myke is a collection of great rap tracks that build upon his mystique and his artistry that is on a path to being one of the more memorable albums in his repertoire. In a way, it is reminiscent of the stylistic direction behind The Documentary by The Game, even if it isn’t as profound as the classic album. The gritty street – style gives this more definition than his last album, Easy Money Baby, while staying on its own isolated path toward greatness.

Rating: 7.5 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.