No Te Veo, Pero Te Oigo

I’m rly enjoying (and learning from) all the reggaeton conversation happening here these days (e.g.). Thanks to all for contributing! And keeping it going

Toward further linkthink, here’s a quick analysis I put together in response to a question from Raquel (who’s got a great post up re: Mala Rodriguez and Calle 13), who thinks — along with many others, it seems — that this new jawn, “No Te Veo,” by Casa de Leones (which = Jowell & Randy & some compatriots) is, well, “hot” and yet, interestingly seems to skirt reggaeton norms —

Raquel asked me to lend her my musicological ear, and here’s what I came up with:

Although “No Te Veo” will no doubt be heard as reggaeton by most listeners (and promoted as such by Los Leones), the underlying track differs from most reggaeton productions in some significant ways. For one, it’s much faster: whereas typical reggaeton tracks tend to hover around 90-100 beats per minute, “No Te Veo” clocks in at around 120 bpm, which makes it sound and feel closer to house, techno, soca, and other club/dance music (especially with the thumping kick drum on every beat). The other significant departure is the role of the snare drum. Rather than tracing out the standard “dembow” pattern (boom-ch-boom-chick), the snare drum here plays something closer to a 3:2 clave, emphasizing the upbeats in the second half of the measure rather than repeating that classic Caribbean polyrhythm that reggaeton shares with dancehall and many other regional dance styles.

But again, I suspect that many people will hear this — at this point — more as a variation on reggaeton’s dembow than as some reconnection to clave rhythms. Moroever, the style of rapping/singing on “No Te Veo” definitely sounds closer to reggaeton than anything else (with the vocoder/autotune effect offering a parellel to the “robot”/”computer” vocals so ubiquitous in contemporary r&b, hip-hop, dancehall, and just about all pop music these days, including a hefty share of Arab pop). The layered harmonic elements — guitar arpeggios and a bassline tracing out a simple chord progression — are fairly standard reggaeton fare, similar to lots of Luny Tunes productions in that regard. So, overall, an interesting variation on the norm. I’ll be curious to see whether other groups follow suit, which could make for a spate of uptempo reggaeton releases — ironically, that would push the genre’s contemporary sound back toward previous stylistic moments (a la DJ Blass or even some earlier “underground” tracks), when tempos in the 110s and 120s were not uncommon.

Curious as always to hear what others hear…