Thursday, February 21, 2008

KARYME LOZANO, Prohibido (Machete Music, ’08)

Dear money-hungry record label executives, pay attention: a great way to make sure the critic will listen to the CD you just sent him right away is by including a picture of the female singer showing her boobs in the first page of the booklet.
When you are not familiar with the artist’s name (Karyme? What kind of chuntie drag-queen name is that?) and it comes from a label like Machete, formerly known for releasing mainly decent rap and reggaetón, recently known for releasing instantly forgettable garbage (read reviews below), you probably have a natural tendency to leave this CD unopened for a while on the pile of the unlisteneable crap you get on the mail weekly.
However, if you open it, just out of mere curiosity, and the first thing you see is a nice rack, then you can’t wait to play it, now you HAVE to find out what type of shit she delivers, you are willing to forgive her horrible name and the fact that she tries in vain to look like Frida in the pictures (Julieta Venegas can pretend to be Frida anytime because both Frida and Julieta are ugly looking, but this broad is way too hot –within Mexican standards- to resemble the most famous female painter in history), you’re even willing to ignore the fact that she’s a soap opera actress (nobody watches soap operas anyway).
So, yeah, I couldn’t help it and played it right away, thinking “oh well, once again I’m doomed to listen to some cheesy crap, why are boobs so powerful?!” and to my surprise, the album starts with a very interesting drum loop so I didn’t skip the first song after the first 30 seconds as I’d usually do. I let it play for the first four tracks... and it was actually pretty good! It even has a kick ass cumbiatón (cumbow?) beat that guarantees the insertion of this artists in my party playlist. The rest is typical romantic corny mainstream-radio pop with a Christian twist, but hey, the production on those first few tracks was pretty tight and those skin pics... I’m keeping this one! You see in the end, not watching Spanish-speaking TV pays off, had I known from the beginning who this person was, I'd never even consider listening to it once.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

LATIN REGGAE - (Putumayo, '08)

Putumayo compilations usually deliver a nice balance of quality tunes from a wide variety of sources. They are ideal to discover new artists from other countries that otherwise would have a really hard time reaching the American audience (many years ago I discovered Mastretta thanks to another Putumayo Comp!). And they come in really cute packaging with lots of info which makes them more of a collectible item, not just eleven (just eleven?!) songs put together.
In this release they focus on, obviously, reggae music made by Spanish and Latin American musicians, some pretty well known like the Chileans Gondwana, the Argentineans Los Cafres and the Spaniards Macaco and my personal favorite, Amparanoia.
The only problem is that the compilation focuses too much on classic roots reggae and it's missing out big time in the most interesting varieties of reggae sub-genres like dub and dancehall, and what about the rich Brazilian reggae, and... where the fuck is Fidel Nadal?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

EL ROOKIE – Semblante Urbano (Machete Music, ’08)

If you hate reggaetón, you probably hate it even more when instead of rapping they sing like Nelly. When they rap, at least, they sometimes have some witty rhymes (sometimes meaning: every time the one on the mic goes by the name of Residente). So you probably don’t give a shit about this Panamanian dude who, to makes things even worst is Christian, so his lyrics lack of any type of edge.
However, I found more than a couple of catchy tracks here, with production provided by the ubiquitous Luny Tunes (among others), especially when the mix goes beyond the classic reggaetonto and gets closer to soca and Jamaican dancehall (thank god, without that annoying vocoder imitation popularized by Akon). There are definitely some good dance floor fillers here, no unforgettable anthems though.

Monday, February 4, 2008

MDO –Sabe A Ti (Machete Music, 08)

I don’t listen to romantic-Spanish-pop radio (obviously) and I know little to nothing about this kind of music, so when I received this CD on the mail I didn’t really know what to expect from it. It came from Machete, a label mostly known for putting out reggaetón artists. The name of the group reminded me of the good old times when all hard-core punk bands used to have three-initial names with witty-funny-revoluctionary meanings but it was very suspicious the fact that the explanation for the acronym was nowhere to be found in the booklet. I looked at the pictures and the credits and I still couldn’t figure out what type of music would they play. I mean, I knew it was going to be super cheesy and bad, you can tell that right away when you notice that every song has a different writer/composer, an instant red flag that separates tv-talent-show-producer-made-ready-for-radio-stars from the rest.
Still, I somehow gathered the guts to play this at work, before everybody else arrived, just in case. It starts with a pop rock song in a Miguel Mateos style (you know, with a lot of oh-uh-oh filling the missing words in the chorus) that’s definitely 25 years too late. From there it's all downhill, one after an other, all Ricky-Martin-style-pop ballads with lyrics that rarely get too far from the I-love-you-I-love-you-I’m-in-love-with-you-I-miss-you-I-wanna-do-you-I-love-you formula (in it's most inspired moment, the lyrics of one song say something like "I'm here alone in my loneliness").
Who listens to this type of music besides teenage catholic school girls who haven’t yet brought home their first punk-rock or black boyfriend to piss off their parents? Oh yeah, under educated guys who use these songs to try to lure underage girls into their sack.
So finally, before I started writing the review, I went on-line and searched for some background info and discovered that actually MDO was Menudo and I’m like fuck! Had I known that from the get go, I would’ve skip this whole listening session and spare me the pain! People from the record labels please take note: you must put a warning on the cover of misleading CD’s like this one, you know, like you put those annoying stickers saying “includes this hit or that crap”, well in this case I suggest one that says "MDO does not mean, Minorías Desafiando Organización or Mundo Deforme Ortodoxo or Muerte De Onganía... it just means Menudo but we don't hold the rights to use the full name".