1st April, 2006

Wiki | Video

One of the reasons for doing this project is to tease out unexpected resonances. So rather than comparing "Llamé Pa' Verte" to "Rompe," its immediate predecessor in reggaetón chart-crashing, I'm reminded instead of the last male duo to appear at #1, all the way back in 2004: Andy & Lucas, two Spanish pretty boys peddling Idol-approved sentimental nostrums. It's not just "real," "raw" music as opposed to "manufactured," "telegenic" pop: Juan Luis "Wisin" Morera Luna and Llandell "Yandel" Veguilla Malavé, rough-voiced rapper and smooth-voiced singer respectively, are if anything better-looking than the rather callow teen pin-ups Andy and Lucas; Yandel in particular serves such excellent smolder that he very nearly outclasses the hip-thrusting bikini-clad models in the video.

It's not even a forthright representation of adult sexuality as opposed to fanciful youthful ideas about romance: dance music is certainly a stylized representation of sexual activity, but the stylization is just as important as the sex. Yes, Wisin and Yandel play booty-calling ("Llamé pa' verte" means "I called t' see you") horndogs, Yandel's chorus extremely unambiguous about the sexual metaphor of the dembow rhythm ("a ella le encanta como lo hago y le doy" -- "she loves how I do it and give it") while Wisin's verses are only slightly more clever in their entendres ("yo tengo la crema pa' tu piquiña" -- "I have the cream for your itch"). In its way, it's just as hyperbolic and idealistic as Andy & Lucas, only making grandiose, exaggerated claims about sexual competence rather than the similarly grandiose claims about emotional competence and eternal devotion that romantic balladry promises.

Perhaps it's simply more realistic: love cannot be guaranteed, but sex can, so reggaetón (especially early, up-from-the-streets reggaetón) concentrates on the latter: not just because of its inherent attractions, but primarily because of its fungibility. Every reggaetonero, like every rapper and dancehall toaster before them, is, before anything else, a capitalist. Which is what makes this, even more than "Rompe," the first street-level reggaetón #1, with no concessions given to the pop market. With nearly a third of the track left to go, Wisin begins to shout out the track's producers and brag about how many records they've sold, the kind of coda designed for a DJ to fade into the next song.

If your primary conception of music consumption revolves (like mine) around songs as discrete units, every mp3 or stream functioning like an imaginary 45-r.p.m. record, this kind of extra-musical information, an essential element of brand maintenance in a musical world ruled by mixes and soundsystems, takes some getting used to; but pop music doesn't belongs to the bedroom listener carefully placing the stylus on "Surfer Girl" any more (and probably much less) than it belongs to the basement raver screaming to be heard over the bass of a song they'd never know the name of if its performers didn't shout it at them repeatedly. Buckle up; the new world is only starting.

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