>From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Is reggaeton's fire going out?
Dearth of new artists and material stirs concern, but in Puerto Rico,
all is well.
By Agustin Gurza
Los Angeles Times
April 16 2006
Reggaeton may be running out of gasolina.
Radio stations that flocked to the thumping Latino hip-hop style have
seen their ratings slip in recent weeks. In at least three markets --
Las Vegas, Dallas and Miami -- stations that gambled on the music's
growing popularity have since switched back to more traditional musical
One year after the genre exploded onto the scene with Daddy Yankee's
revved-up hit Gasolina, reggaeton is suffering from a lack of new
artists and fresh material. The same handful of performers -- Yankee,
Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Luny Tunes, Ivy Queen -- have dominated radio
play lists, sales charts and concert lineups for more than a year, an
eon in pop music terms.
"There's only the same five songs on the radio and the same five
artists on all the compilations," says Boy Wonder, the producer of the
2004 reggaeton documentary Chosen Few. "People need to hear more new
Although most of the world didn't discover reggaeton until last year,
the brash and sexy genre dates back almost two decades. Rooted in
Panama and cultivated in Puerto Rico, the music is a fusion of Latin
hip-hop and salsa styles over an insistent, programmed rhythm based on
the dembow beat of Jamaican dancehall.
During the last decade, the music survived as a mostly underground
phenomenon with raw lyrics reflecting the rough-and-tumble reality of
Puerto Rican barrios. The music broke big in 2005, with polished
productions and a spruced-up image, to become the biggest Latin music
sensation since Ricky Martin led the Latin crossover wave of 1999.
But reggaeton's sudden international success is also the source of its
The rap on reggaeton has always been that it's too repetitive. Without
a deep catalog of hits to fall back on, new reggaeton radio stations
found themselves stuck with a relatively small set of records to
program. To critics and skeptical newcomers, it all started sounding
like one long song being played 24/7.
"Radio launched these stations from nothing: Today you're playing
cumbias, tomorrow it's reggaeton," said Gus Lopez, who heads the
genre's leading label, Machete Music. "In order for them to go from 0
to 60 overnight, they ended up playing Gasolina 80 or 90 times a week."
In addition to becoming monotonous through over-exposure, it also
started losing the street credibility that had been nurtured for years
by its leading exponents.
In the feeding frenzy following Yankee's breakthrough, Latin labels
rushed to release reggaeton records by whatever artists they could
find, often second- and third-string players. Pop artists, such as
Colombian superstar Shakira and Los Angeles-based banda singer Yolanda
Perez included reggaeton tracks on their records, akin to Madonna doing
gangsta rap. Even J-Lo got into the act with plans to produce a
reggaeton movie through her film company, Nuyorican Productions.
"Every record company jumped on the bandwagon when it was already
flying down the street, but they missed it when the slow wheels were
turning," said Machete's Lopez, who worked for years in Puerto Rico as
reggaeton was developing. "When something is hot, everybody is going to
try to throw money at it, and maybe in that rush to market we [the
industry] didn't get the best records to radio."
The cooling trend
Only one of two Miami stations that took up reggaeton last year is
playing the genre today. Clear Channel-owned Mega 94.9 (WMGE-FM), which
used to be rock station 94.9 Zeta, is 14 months into its life as an
outlet for reggaeton and Latin hip-hop. But Univision-owned La Kalle
98.3 (WRTO-FM) has reverted to salsa music after less than a year of
Ratings for Mega remain well above those posted by the station in its
final months as Zeta. But after a recent shakeup at Clear Channel in
South Florida, with new executives replacing the team that brought
reggaeton to Miami, it's not clear what the future holds for Mega or
for any of Clear Channel's local stations.
It was headline news when Los Angeles's KXOL-FM (96.3) switched to
reggaeton last May, dumping its easy listening format. In the summer of
2005, the station shot from 18th to second place overall, and first
among listeners 12 to 24 years old, according to Arbitron, the ratings
At that point, it seemed like there was no stopping reggaeton. A string
of other stations followed suit, including eight in the Univision radio
network. Clear Channel converted four of its stations to the so-called
Hurban format, for Hispanic urban.
By the end of the year, however, KXOL had slipped to eighth place in
the Los Angeles market, trailing three Spanish-language competitors
with more conservative formats.
True believers insist the genre is simply undergoing a natural
correction, like an inflated stock market.
Pio Ferro, vice president of programming for the Spanish Broadcasting
System, which owns KXOL, described reggaeton as last year's "new toy."
The novelty has simply worn off, he said.
"You constantly hear that in this business, `Oh yeah, reggaeton, it's
over with,'" says Ferro. "We have every indication to believe that the
radio station and the music are as healthy as ever."
Still hot at home
Reggaeton radio pioneer DJ Kazzanova, program director for Univision's
La Kalle station in New York City, WCAA-FM (105.9), says the genre
needs recharging. And for that, he's counting on upcoming new releases
from heavyweights such as Calderon and Omar.
"Some of the biggest players in the game haven't dropped new albums,"
says Kazzanova, host of the syndicated Súbelo Reggaeton Radio show.
"When they do, it's going to be another peak. Also, this music is very
summerish -- it's the vibe of people who want to be outside blasting
Others still see hope in emerging or maturing artists. Radio is
starting to feature new tunes with fresh names, including the
irreverent Calle 13 and three other Puerto Rican duos: Wisin & Yandel,
Yaga & Mackie Ranks and Rakim & Ken-Y. Several new artists are featured
on El Draft 2005, the latest compilation from producer Boy Wonder, who
looks to New York as the source of new talent and trends in reggaeton.
Meanwhile, back in Puerto Rico, where it all started, reggaeton remains
as hot as ever.
The island is still producing a steady stream of new artists -- the
rest of the world just hasn't heard of them yet, says Ricardo
Villanueva, editor of In the House, touted as the first international
magazine devoted to reggaeton.
"Whether reggaeton stays here or gets exported to the outside," he
says, "the music will live on for years."
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Co. newspaper.
THE STATE OF THE ART
The state of reggaeton will be discussed at the Billboard Latin Music
Conference April 24-27 at the Ritz-Carlton in South Beach. Reggaeton
star Daddy Yankee (Gasolina) will sit down for a keynote Q&A session as
part of the four-day gathering of music-industry professionals.
Reggaeton duo Angel and Khrys, record producer Boy Wonder and
record-company executive Elias de León will represent the genre in
panel discussions. The conference, put on by the music-trade magazine
Billboard, also features a "We Hear the Future/Escuchamos el Futuro"
showcase and contest open to unsigned and independent artists. Call
646-654-4660 or visit billboardevents.com.
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
<rdr...@gmail.com> wrote in message
In fact I can't recall many genres that were born more limited by the beat
than reggaeton. Some of it is fun. But the beat is always the same, and the
vast majority of people get tired after 2 songs of the pum-pu-pu-pu-poom
beat that just repeats itself with exactly the same cadence ad infinitum.
Reggeaton is way saturated. And terminally boring these days. I am not sure
who on the planet would keep buying lbums with music that sounds identical.
Hip hop has far more varitey in beats and styles. Merengue rap has mroe
variations. reggaeton is trying to mutate into salsaton - that has more
potential. We shall see.
I am encouraged by the recent reggaeton/salsa hybrids. Its about time
salsa got some cojones. Salsa romantica need not be salsa monga and IMO
monga != romantic. When I hear Tito Nieves and Gilberto Santarosa I
just want to slap them and say "Man up!". Stop singing that shit, who
are they trying to seduce? my granny? Tito used to be good, so its even
sadder to see how far he has fallen. Yet the Nicky Jam track gives me
I am hoping for a resurgence of hard merengue. The last Grupo Mania was
a solid effort, quite danceable but lacking their usual energy. I like
the latest by Los Nuevos Sabrosos as well, I listen to that more than
the Grupo Mania.
As far as the merengue hiphop, I am eagerly awaiting QuisCalle and The
Sure Bet by Magic Juan. IMO he does the merengue hiphop best. He's just
ghetto, but in a good way. He manages to flow from spanish to english
and back midsentence and you dont even notice. The last good one I
have by him is Puno.
He has some stuff on MySpace www.myspace.com/flia. Sounds ok.
For a more tipico sound, Krisspy is pretty good and Amarfis has been
putting out reasonably danceable stuff.