Rauw Alejandro’s New “Playa Saturno” Proves Reggaetón’s Future Is in Good Hands
Rauw Alejandro‘s newly released “Playa Saturno,” is the kind of album that’s meant to be played on a hot summer day with the volume up, bass booming, and the sun shining. That’s the perfect listening environment to enjoy it in, evoking images of palm tree lined-boulevards and gated marquesinas that were so crucial to reggaetón’s evolution. Yet, these days, as the genre becomes more and more commercial, there is an ongoing polemic about where the line can be drawn between authentic reggaetón and pop music. But with “Playa Saturno,” Alejandro aims to seamlessly toe that line, combining heavy-hitting beats that mine the more than two-decades-worth of the genre’s history with his trademark crooner style and easy falsetto. And in the process, he proves that, despite his mainstream success, he is a reggaetonero through and through; one that truly understands the complexities of his genre and how to make people move.
Given the name of his current project, one could be forgiven for thinking that this album is simply an extension of Alejandro’s previous release, “Saturno.” However, while he continues to build on the electronic-laced sound he cultivated on that album, “Playa Saturno” is far less experimental when it comes to crossing genres. And the album benefits from that, delivering the kind of consistency that has you leaving the skip button untouched.
But just because Alejandro isn’t as experimental here, doesn’t mean that this follow-up is any less ambitious. Over 14 tracks, the Carolina-native crafts an almost perfect summer album, one that navigates the deceptively deep waters of reggaetón’s soundscape with a veteran’s ear.
The album starts off with a brief intro that sees Alejandro flexing his crooner vibes, singing sweetly over an acoustic guitar. But the intro quickly segues into the familiar, bass-heavy party vibes with “Cuando Baja El Sol” and “Al Callao.” The sample-heavy, high-bpm feel of these two tracks borrow elements from 90s house to create a kind of futuristic perreo that is reminiscent of the later Playero mixtapes (39 and 40 for the old heads). From here we get straight into the meat of the album with Alejandro calling in heavy hitters like Ivy Queen, Nejo y Dalmata, and Jowell y Randy. What’s more impressive is that the young spitter is seamlessly able to adjust his delivery on tracks and with artists that are very different from one another, honoring their essence without losing what makes him unique.
It’s an impressive feat. But what’s most impressive, is Alejandro’s understanding of not just his own sound, but of reggaetón as a whole. Since he stepped on the scene, his talent as an artist has allowed him to remain at the top of the game and in the same conversations as Bad Bunny, Anuel, J Balvin, Karol G, and of course, Rosalía. But with “Playa Saturno,” Alejandro is showing that he’s a student of the game, pulling double duty by helping produce most of the tracks on the album alongside a team of in-demand beatmakers that include Mr. Naisgai, Dimelo Ninow, Dulce Como Candy, and others. Together they craft an incredibly varied arsenal of baselines, dembows, and snares while utilizing old-school tricks like tempo switches to keep each track interesting and different from the preceding. And while the album does begin to taper off towards the end, that’s not before Alejandro gives us his best on the reggae en Español, Rvssian-produced banger, “No Me Sorprende.”
If you’re looking for an album with experimental sounds or more varied content, you won’t find it with this one. That’s one place the album could have gone further, as songs like Bad Bunny’s “Andrea” have proven that reggaeton can deepen its subject matter without losing its danceability. But that shouldn’t take away from what Alejandro has achieved here. His second album of this year IS a perfect summer album, one you can throw on at the beach or at a barbecue and not worry about the vibes dipping. The pounding bass and fun lyrics of “Playa Saturno” provide a great soundtrack for the hotter months or for those of us living en la isla.