Rauw Alejandro Assists Diversify Latin Pop’s Mainstream on ‘Vice Versa’

In March, the Puerto Rican singer Rauw Alejandro performed “Todo De Ti” for his label for the first time. Even though reggaeton loops served as the jet fuel that aided launch Spanish-language pop into worldwide prominence in the course of the 2010s, the drums in Alejandro’s new one are flat and sq., landing on the second and fourth defeat and ignoring the lurching syncopation that tends to make reggaeton lethal on dancefloors. “Todo De Ti” also opens up with a sprightly synthesizer that wouldn’t be out of location at a local bar’s Eighties night time.

As opposed to “Fantasias” and “Reloj,” melodic reggaeton lay-ups that became charting hits for Alejandro, this was nu-new-wave it’s no surprise that members of the singer’s team have been taken aback when they heard “Todo De Ti.” “Rauw was like, ‘I have this report, I really feel it can be distinctive, but I want to be completely ready with an additional 1 in case it doesn’t get the job done out,’” remembers John Eddie Perez, senior supervisor of A&R and advertising at Alejandro’s label, Sony Latin. “With ‘Todo De Ti’ there was a opportunity it would not even make the album. We explained, ‘we’ll guidance you.’ But we have one thing different on our arms — I do not like to use this phrase, but we were being a small skeptical of how it would function out.” 

But any skepticism ultimately proved unwarranted: “Todo De Ti” has been a resounding commercial success, one of the Top 5 most well-liked music on Spotify’s Global chart for all of June, and a increasing strike in the U.S. as well. “It surpassed all expectations and went worldwide instantly,” Perez claims happily. 

Some artists and executives in the Latin songs marketplace see Alejandro’s ability-pop curveball, component of his new Vice Versa album, as far more than just a hit. “Every as soon as in a while an artist arrives and sets a development,” Perez notes. “Now Rauw is accomplishing that.”  

“When Rauw made a decision to drop ‘Todo De Ti,’ for English speakers it is just a pop history, but for Spanish speakers, no one in his genre is undertaking that and getting the achievement he’s acquiring,” adds Alvaro Diaz, who has acknowledged Alejandro for yrs and co-wrote four songs on Vice Versa. For other artists, “it’s like, shit, now we can do whichever we want to do.” 

“Todo De Ti” will come at a time when the seem of mainstream Latin hits appears to be loosening, slipping out from below reggaeton’s prolonged shadow. Kali Uchis’ “Telepatía” made it all the way to Number Just one on the Latin airplay chart this week despite staying nearer to breathy Eighties funk than reggaeton. “Everybody’s cheering for Rauw and for Kali,” claims Nir Seroussi, executive vice president of Interscope Information. “We went from, if we place out a history and it is not reggaeton, absolutely nothing is going to materialize, to, you know what — there is a possibility.” 

The reggaeton takeover in the first 50 percent of the 2010s was to begin with welcomed. “It was a blessing,” Seroussi says, “because it united the youth across all the Latin nations around the world,” top to hits of unparalleled dimensions. “Artists who have been dormant experienced huge comebacks,” the government continues. “Carlos Vives, Ricky [Martin] and Shakira with Maluma, can we say Luis Fonsi? Reggaeton revived his occupation.” 

At the identical time, a market that experienced as soon as been break up into a lot of areas, just about every with their very own styles and good results stories, was suddenly united into a solitary kingdom with reggaeton at the helm. “You opened each individual country’s chart, and the Top rated 10 ended up reggaeton data, and it was the same artists all throughout the board,” Seroussi notes.  

At any offered second, of study course, just about every type of common music is guaranteed to have a selected volume of homogeneity, whether it is the prevalence of guitar loops in recent hip-hop, R&B singers’ very long-standing obsession with imitating Drake, or a wave of younger, agitated rock functions embracing Travis Barker as a producer. And whenever 1 style is on top of pop music’s pyramid, artists in other genres wring their arms, worried about declining opportunities in a fiercely aggressive marketplace. 

But “Latin music” is not a genre it is a ridiculously broad capture-all phrase applied by the U.S. music business that elides the large distinctions between styles as varied as banda and entice. That makes homogeneity look more poisonous — when all of Latin music begins to look synonymous with reggaeton, there is a menace that other critical views, rhythms, and melodies may possibly be starved of oxygen to the level where they die absent. “When almost everything turns into a monoculture,” the manager Juan Paz explained to Rolling Stone in 2018, “it’s hazardous for the sake of artistry.” 

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There have been acts amassing millions of streams who had been keen to ignore reggaeton’s hegemony for the area of a tune or two. Ozuna sent a convincing cumbia fusion on his very best album J. Balvin sampled Cuban audio and threw himself at afrobeats R&B flared in the “Toda” remix and Paloma Mami’s breakout single. And on his first two albums, Lousy Bunny foregrounded aggressive genre pivots — from lure to thrashing rock, for case in point. When some of these transitions were much more helpful as shock tactics than as tracks, they nonetheless signaled a willingness to interact with a globe outside of reggaeton. 

But when it arrived to business hit singles, selection was a great deal more challenging to uncover. (One exception was Balvin and Nicky Jam’s sublime hit “X,” a slippery fusion, co-created by Suriname-born, Netherlands-centered output duo Afro Bros, that borrowed from afrobeats and home new music.) And even some singers in the Latin songs market who developed their very own abnormal hybrids — feel of Rosalía, who soldered common flamenco to a body of digital songs and R&B — have experienced to make straightforward reggaeton like “Con Altura” to reach major commercial results. 

“Latin tunes correct now, all the seem is the similar,” Eduardo “Visitante” Cabra, one of the most celebrated artists in the heritage of the Spanish-language pop, explained to Rolling Stone in 2018. “It’s all the very same harmony, the same arrangement, the similar critical.” 

Producers who have been recognized for their reggaeton function also seen that hits occasionally arrive at the price of individuality. “For a moment you noticed [people deciding], ‘let’s go with what we now know is gonna do the job, let’s not go too left-subject, men and women will not realize it,’” claims Marco “Tainy” Masís, a veteran reggaeton producer and 1 of the much better conquer-makers performing in any style these days. “You noticed that panic in artists and labels. As a producer, you know what they are gonna request from you.”

But reggaeton’s reign has lasted extended more than enough that younger acts have now started off to believe of it as the songs of their dad and mom, generating it only natural that their artistic interests lie in other places. “The young children that occur via our studio at present and are playing us their new music, when you say reggaeton, they say, ‘yeah, my dad listened to Wisin & Yandel,’” Seroussi points out. “They respect it. But they say, ‘I grew up with it, that’s not what I want to do.’ Rauw wished to be Chris Brown and Bruno Mars given that I satisfied him.”

Alejandro was preparing to make a little something like Vice Versa for yrs, according to Caleb Calloway, a different longtime friend and producer on the new album. 2020’s Afrodisíaco “was his initial large challenge, so we required to make absolutely sure we experienced a additional business method,” Calloway clarifies. (There were being hints of what was to come on the Afrodisíaco keep track of “Química,” which zipped from reggaeton to dwelling audio.) “The upcoming album, we wanted it to be additional experimental,” the producer proceeds. In addition to reggaeton and entice, Vice Versa touches credibly on electricity-pop, new wave, drum and bass, household new music, and Brazilian baile funk. 

Marching orders frequently came from Alejandro himself. Tainy was in Tulum, Mexico producing with Manuel Lara, a producer who also has an option band called the Lara Venture, when he bought a message from Alejandro: “He informed me he wanted to locate much more choice vibes for his instrumentals,” Tainy remembers. The producers rustled up a few demos, a single of which turned “Desenfocao,’” a brooding rock observe that Alejandro makes use of as the backdrop for a tortured tale the singer flails by way of a under no circumstances-ending river of nightlife, striving to escape the recollections of an old love. “The bed is complete,” he sings at one particular issue in Spanish. “And I am empty.”

Alejandro shot off equivalent flares when it arrived to “¿Cuando Fue?” and “Brazilera.” Tainy experienced begun the “¿Cuándo Fue?” beat a long time in the past, Alejandro made a decision he wanted to press the track into the territory of drum-and-bass, a speedy-and-furious sub-style of dance songs. The ensuing observe skitters and thunders before a string section provides it to a syrupy shut. 

Even though Calloway hopes some of the head-turners on Vice Versa will show to other artists that “you can do distinct factors in the Latin field,” it’s not likely there will be a sea modify in the audio of the mainstream overnight. “We all get anxious, like I desire change ended up right here tomorrow simply because it would open a great deal of chances for a ton of amazing artists,” Seroussi suggests. Having said that, “change is gradual.” 


Section of that is mainly because singers usually have to enjoy a specified amount of money of commercial success prior to they are provided enough leeway to experiment, and for now, that commonly signifies building reggaeton first. “It was tricky to get to this level,” Calloway  claims. “It took years.” And even when an artist is granted relative freedom, “there’s a ton of time you consider items and it does not work,” Calloway continues. “Or perhaps it operates but it is bizarre, and the label’s like, let’s not just take that risk.” 

On top of that, just a little group of producers and writers seem to be to be eager — or permitted — to buck tendencies at the second. Alejandro utilised Tainy, Calloway, Diaz, and Mr. Nais Gai (who co-wrote and co-developed “Todo De Ti”) on Afrodisíaco. Tainy and Lara also labored on Kali Uchis’ “Telepatía.”

But inspite of these hurdles, Seroussi is noticing a transition. “We went from having this situation wherever the Top Ten was the similar everywhere you go back to community movements,” he states. “Right now the Best Ten in Argentina is pretty special. It’s beginning to come about that a lot more different points are sprinkled in Spain and in Mexico.” 

And the good results of music like “Todo De Ti,” “Telepatía,” and Camilo’s searingly bright cumbia “Vida de Rico” — a Variety Just one Latin radio strike in January — usually means it’s unavoidable that far more acts will try out to branch out. 

“If Rauw can do it,” suggests Diaz, who is getting ready his individual solo material, “we can do it far too.”