Energía Lado B

by: J Balvin

Released in June 2016, Energía is J Balvin's fourth official studio album and his first since 2013's La Familia. More importantly, it's an album that knew it was going to be an international blockbuster almost a year before its release, due to the phenomenal success of "Ginza." That pre-release single from July 2015 famously spent 22 consecutive weeks atop Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. Its corresponding video got over half-a-billion views, certifying Balvin's credentials as the hottest artist in Urban Latin music worldwide. The Colombian is indeed the most successful of a new generation of reggaeton artists who have injected new blood into the genre by pledging their allegiance to EDM and R&B rather than hip-hop. This has the advantage of appealing both to a Latin audience and to the international dance crowd, particularly in Europe. It is less aggressive and misogynistic than standard reggaeton fare, but it is also devoid of any social commentary whatsoever. Lyrically, just about every single track expands on the sexual attraction between detached players and alluring females, often with very similar words or phrases. Musically, the marriage works really well in single doses but becomes tiring over 15 selections, as most tracks hover around the same tempos and are uniformly drenched in Auto-Tune. Variety is timidly added with the inclusion of a couple of slower, quasi-ballad, tracks, and most of all through special appearances by international stars such as Yandel on "Acércate," Daddy Yankee on "Pierde Los Modales," Pharrell Williams, BIA & Sky on "Safari," and Juanes on "No Hay Título." The latter, an acoustic guitar ballad, is the only one that manages to truly sound different by virtue of doing away with a drum track. At its best, Energía is a collection of sexy, nighttime R&B-cum-rap-style singing grooves, but it's also one of those albums with a couple of great dance singles and several others cuts that -- while not necessarily inferior to the singles -- are content to repeat the formula. ~ Mariano Prunes

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