Karol G and the reggaeton that has (finally) become the stuff of women

The Colombian singer’s record is the first all-Spanish-language album to reach number one in the United States. Changing times, changing texts and a changing gender have to do with it. From Bad Bunny on down

Karol G’s new album debuted at number one on the US chart. It wouldn’t be news except that it’s the first all-Spanish-language, sung by a woman, debuting at the top of the Billboard 200. A similar thing happened in 1995 to Selena’s posthumous album, Dreaming of You. But that was a Spanish record with some English bits, it’s not worth it.

Karol G, on the other hand, has succeeded in the enterprise with a completely Spanish album but above all reggaeton and, if you think about it, reggaeton is a bit like Silvio Berlusconi: nobody seems to ever like it but you can find it everywhere (Silvio was the prime minister who held the position the longest: 3339 days).

Just like some of Silvio Nazionale’s releases, the genre has always been considered a bit trashy, especially outside the Spanish-speaking countries and, I would add, especially in Italy. Like it or not anyway, and thanks to the various gasoline And despatchin recent years the genre has had an incredible growth, I guess even those who are not exactly awake will have noticed it. Despacito it was the first video to exceed four and a half billion views on YouTube, now it has double that, remaining the most viewed video on the platform for a long time. Today the primacy belongs to Baby Shark Dance (are you sure reggaeton still makes you so disgusted?).

Looking at the present, however, the most interesting thing about reggaeton today, and by today we mean since it has been a real money machine and no longer, as originally, the music of those who narrate life in the neighborhoods, is that things have changed/are changing . On the one hand, the criticisms of the lyrics remain firm, considered misogynistic and discriminatory (one of the last cases caused him to unleash the song Perra, by J Balvin feat Dominican rapper Tokischa. Do you think that the piece was subject to examination in the Senate of Colombia, where the vice president and chancellor of the Republic Marta Lucía Ramirez denounced the video of the song to be racist and misogynistic. The digital representation of black men and women transformed into dogs is involved, but above all a small parenthesis of the video in which J Balvin leads two black girls on a leash: the singer apologized and removed the video from YouTube).

On the other hand, however, alongside cases like these, there is a wave made up of artists like Bad Bunny who, in addition to launching telephones, was among the forerunners of a new Latin world, made up of men who are not more machi, who are capable of apologizing, who are sensitive (the neoperreo deserves a separate discussion, a sub-genre we talked about here). In short, reggaeton is increasingly pervaded by feelings. And above all, it seems that reggaeton is becoming a woman.

What happened with Karol G’s record is historic news for the charts. But in addition to her there are also Anitta, Natti Natasha, Becky G. All names you know if you hang around the American charts (but also zumba lessons). What time? How women managed to carve out their space in a gender that couldn’t be more masculine (could it?): «It was a bit difficult to accept that women too had a point of view when it came to sex, power, society, to express themselves in a very raw way,” said Natti Natasha about the delay in female representation in reggaeton. “Women are now able to come to the table and be the directors of their own image,” said Michelle Habell-Pallán, professor of gender, women’s and sexuality studies at the University of Washington in an article that appeared on USA Today: «Women have always wanted to represent themselves on their own terms, but there was always a producer, a label, a manager, a father who limited them».

Now that things have changed a bit, the women of reggaeton are getting their piece. Karol G’s debut at number one in the US was anticipated by the success of Provence, single from 2022 with such a mesmerizing melody that it ended up in all the charts of last year’s best songs, even in those of the sites that you would never have guessed would include a Latin song in the year-end recap. In the video, shot in Lanzarote, a group of women enjoy themselves by the ocean, their worries swept away by a summer storm.

But what is most striking about Karol’s record is that sense of melancholy you feel hovering over all the tracks. «Bad Bunny did for the Latin genre what Drake did in rap: he was the first man to put feelings into it, to show the human side», a colleague told me the other day, quoting a sentence I can’t remember who. Karol G, with this record, continued the work. We also hear it in TQGwhich stands for Te Quedo Grande. An ode to letting go of anger, in which Karol G and Shakira support each other after their respective love affairs have ended badly. We would also have to explore the phenomenon of her Shakira, who more than 45 years and twenty years after her first worldwide hits has returned to being the most listened to Latin artist on streaming platforms. The song by Casio and Twingo clearly has something to do with it, but it is a territory on which a lot has already been written.

Mañana Sera Bonito, says Karol G in the title of his new album: tomorrow will be beautiful. Surely the bank account will be, but let’s also hope for the new day, why not. In the track that opens the disc, Mientras Me Curo del Corathere is a sample of Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin. Which is kind of the mood of the whole album. Break down prejudice and give it a listen.

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