Rauw Alejandro has been recognized to spin off in sudden instructions. The Puerto Rican star, acknowledged for his quick-footed, anti-gravity choreography, has danced his approach by way of a dizzying mixture of genres: Risque, racy raps on his two-part EP Trap Cake, thudding old-school reggaeton on Afrodisiaco. Final 12 months’s Vice Versa was his greatest triumph but, a pointy sophomore effort that somersaulted between pop, drum ‘n’ bass, and Brazilian funke whereas delivering the mammoth hit “Todo De Ti,” which is nominated for Document of the Yr and Tune of the Yr at this 12 months’s Latin Grammy Awards. Such success left his rabid base of screaming followers questioning one factor: The place would Rauw go subsequent?
The reply, it seems, is one other planet. His third album Saturno is a transmission from some courageous new world in outer house, constructed on silvery synths, slick dancefloors, and Eighties and Nineties techno glitter. It’s not completely unexplored territory: The album suits into pop’s post-pandemic fascination with euphoric membership sounds, roving in the identical universe as The Weeknd’s Dawn FM and Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. However Rauw has discovered a spot within the cosmos that’s distinctly his, shaping Saturno into an electro-lit, nocturnal haven that additionally runs on reggaeton. Rauw picks up influences from throughout Puerto Rico, and provides leftover pop stardust from “Todo De Ti,” rocketing listeners into the expanses of his creativeness.
The principle power of Saturno is that it reveals simply how adept Rauw is at world-building. Little skits and interludes, corresponding to “Rauleeto,” made up of voicemails from Rauw’s associates questioning the place he’s gone, form a neat plotline concerning the artist getting misplaced in some unknown galaxy. The album’s aesthetic identification is stuffed with edgy blue aliens, cyberpunk fits, and pearly spacecrafts. He’s good at piecing sonic moods and colours into cohesive ideas, maximizing modern visuals, intricate choreography, and deep-rooted references to convey tales alive. Among the finest examples may be “Punto 40,” a revival of a Nineties hit by Puerto Rican duo Child Rasta Y Gringo. Rauw truly brings Child Rasta onboard for a verse, and in addition pulls within the observe’s unique producer, the legendary DJ Playero, who makes cameos elsewhere on Saturno. It’s reggaeton futurism that acknowledges the music’s historical past; it’s additionally a nod to how reggaeton and digital genres have been in dialog with each other for many years. On the slippery standout “Cazadores,” Rauw suggestions his hat to the rapper Arcangel and his model of perreo galactico, a nickname for spacey, 2000s-era reggaeton.
The attract of digital sounds has solely gotten stronger over the previous couple of years, with artists from Bad Bunny to Farruko stretching the chances of EDM inspiration. Rauw himself has carved out totally different avenues into such types prior to now, first powering the 2020 observe “Química” with voltaic home manufacturing from DJs the Martinez Brothers and experimenting with drum ‘n’ bass fireworks on final 12 months’s standout “¿Cuándo Fue?” Saturno is a bit smoother, feeling like a extra refined model of one thing he’s been after for some time. Songs corresponding to “Dime Quien???” and “No Me Sueltes” are kinetic, purposeful, and assured of their pop course; if anybody is fearful that it’s all too shiny for the scene he inhabits, Rauw doesn’t appear to care. Simply in case, although, he will get Playero again for “Dejau,” a fast reminder that these sorts of experiments usually develop fairly than dilute what we hear within the style.
Rauw, who co-produced the album with frequent collaborators like Mr. NaisGai and Tainy, continuously finds new avenues into his music: He’s joined by a harem of feminine voices — and a Susana Estrada pattern — on “Mas De Una Vez,” and incorporates explosive techno breaks on “Verde Menta.” His tendency to be self-referential feels playful, fairly than repetitive, as he riffs on previous releases and sounds which have surrounded him (the catchy “Corazon Despeinado” begins with the road “Chica, que dices?,” borrowed from his girlfriend Rosalia’s “Saoko”). But when there’s one a part of the album that feels airless, it’s the lyrical composition. Rauw has been taking part in the come-hither lothario for therefore lengthy that it will probably border on cringe, like on “Que Rico Ch**ngamos.” The music works when its understood as an extension of its his overtly sexual “2/Catorce;” by itself, it feels flat. For somebody bursting with ideas and audiovisual concepts, there’s a lot extra thematically for him to strive.
“De Carolina,” one other Playero particular, is way extra dynamic, with the lyrics stretching past his commonplace fare and paying homage to his residence. It will function a worthy introduction to any aliens able to celebration on Saturn; again residence, the thrilling, bass-heavy mash-up of influences makes it thrilling to guess the place Rauw’s sonic wayfaring would possibly take him sooner or later.
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