I’ve noticed a trend in reggaeton criticism lately that I totally disagree with. It seems like the only time a reggaeton artist is praised is if they do anything other than reggaeton, or attempt to stretch the genre as far from its origins as possible. If an artist incorporates other genres and rhythms and styles and flows, then they are deemed talented and worthy of interest. Anyone doing straight reggaeton is boring and repetitive and stultifying according to this line of thought. I call bullshit on that. Do critics say a heavy metal artist is good to the extent that they branch out and perform other styles of music? Is a punk rock band good to the extent that they play some slower numbers and don’t play everything fast and loud? Is a hip-hop artist good to the extent that they don’t rely on hip-hop rhythms and styles on their albums? I think it is a sign that these critics don’t like straight reggaeton.
That doesn’t mean I don’t draw any distinctions. Like any genre 99% is boring and uninteresting and unexceptional, but the stuff I like the most is most definitely reggaeton and not some fusion with salsa or bachata or hip-hop or whatever fusion some critic deems more interesting or progressive.
An artist can be amazing working strictly within one genre. What is wrong with being dedicated to making the best folk, rock, jazz or whatever album you want? Is a folk album only good to the extent that it is incorporating R&B? Is a jazz record only good to the extent that it is incorporating Norwegian Black Metal? These critics who only praise reggaeton artists who perform as many things as possible that aren’t straight reggaeton are simply people that don’t like reggaeton. That is like someone who hates metal reviewing Metallica and talking about how great their ballads or their southern boogies are and how they should stop doing boring repetitive metal.
The reggaeton that I am enjoying the most is striving for the most awesome platonic reggaeton form and not trying to disappear in fusion. I’m all for the blending of styles and mashups of influences but I don’t denigrate reggaeton by thinking it is only worthwhile when it is being something other than good ol’ reggaeton. Many critics complain about the digital, synthetic rhythms and applaud any sign of organic percussion or regional instrumentation. Reggaeton is an electronic genre!! Are there Drum’n’Bass critics who complain about the electronic nature of the music, insisting there should be more hand drums? It is racism that says that the Brown people of the world must stay true to their organic ethnic roots and not have their music be sullied by too much electronic influence. Bullshit essentialism. I love the synthetic sound of reggaeton and the heavy keyboard textures. Always have. Then there are the critics complaning about the repetitive nature of the reggaeton beat. Most genres use the same rhythm or rhythms over and over. People complain about reggaeton because the producers focused on one rhythm that hits much louder, more obviously, and more prominently than just about anything else. More power to ’em. Looking forward to hearing the new Wisin y Yandel.