Sunday, January 7, 2007

Miguelito and the commercialization of reggaeton

Miguelito, the kiddie reggaetón star out of Puerto Rico who recently dropped the album Mas Grande Que Tu (uhmmm, is this title suposed to be tongue-and-cheek?), turned eight on Friday — yes, EIGHT. It's a little frightening to think that an 8-year-old kid is topping the Latin urban charts, especialy since his entire career reeks of gimmickry and, to a certain extent, exploitation on the part of his parents who, logic tells us, must be masterminding his career. This is even worse than the Reggaeton Ninos, who were interpreting hitls like "Gasolina" and "Mayor Que Yo" in their prepubsecent voices... I mean, do we really need to hear some 10-year-old talking about "dame mas gasolina"? But Miguelito is interpreting "original" material (in other words, material written for him! lol) and he's being billed as a child prodigy, his style copycated from Daddy Yankee and his flow an amalgalm of different reggaeton stars signature deliveries.

In a recent interview with Puerto Rico-based newspaper Primera Hora, Miguelito said he's been performing since the age of six (again, SCARY) and said he'd asked Santa Claus for a cell phone so he could communicate with his parents while on the road (if this kid still believes in Santa Claus, that should let us know just how young he is! Like, is he gonna be waiting for the Tooth Fairy while he's touring?).

The emergence of an artist like Miguelito points to how much reggaeton has expanded, both to its benefit and detriment. Yes, it is quite possible that Miguelito will sell a hefty amount of records but could his success interfere with that of legitimate artists who have been toiling away for years in hopes of finally getting their due? And will it lead to reggaeton becoming a bubble-gum, easily discarded musical form? Let's hope this is a one-shot deal and that alone.

In 2007, he will be touring throughout the US and Latin America and will be the opening act for DY in an upcoming tour.Let's pray that they don't share back-up dancers... I don't think I can handle some scantily-clad dancers writhing and grindin' behind a little kid!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

UBO's downfall and Tempo's album

It looked like a new day for Tempo — the Ponce, PR-born artist who is currently incarcerated for allegedly running a large-scale drug ring. Since the so-called reggaetón "boom," many of his peers took the stage to defend Tempo and lobby for a new appeal to his murky case. According to many close to the artist, the entire federal case brought against Tempo was built on hearsay and assumptions that were later repackaged in order to fit within the boundaries of the way-too-far-reaching conspiracy laws.

To that end, activists and artists alike had started momentum on a Free Tempo campaign and had already secured involvement from Russell Simmons, Sharpton, and other high-profile politicos. UBO (Urban Box Office), the label that released Boy Wonder's Chosen Few 1 and 2, was spearheading the movement, which they intended to launch in tandem with a new Tempo album featuring both old and new cuts.

I had the privilege of listening to the album and was absolutely floored. First, producer Ecko managed to reach out to other producers and arrangers and secure a collaborative track with the London Symphony Orchestra. The track is absolutely amazing — cinematic and theatrical with mournful violins, flutes, cellos, and drums providing the backdrop for Tempo's diary-like lyrics. The album is full of stars — Wisin Y Yandel, Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderon, Zion, Hector El Father, Yomo, and more. But Tempo's talent and his unabashedness, how he speaks of his incarceration, police corruption, and opportunities lost with such emotion (ranging from anger to nostalgia to optimism), is what truly stands out.

Sadly, now that UBO has closed its dorrs, Tempo's project is in a state of limbo, which is really disheartening the hard work everyone involved put in. New tracks for example, were largely constructed by taking recorded freestyles taped during occasional prison visits and alterring the BPMs in accordance to the accompanying beat. Many artists performed pro bono or charged significantly reduced rates — all in order to make their boy proud. The community put ego aside and came together on this one and now, it's fate is undecided...