Despite the guests, however, KG0516 is very much a Karol G collection, with enough solo tracks to firmly establish her as today’s leading lady of Latin urban music. The real power here is Karol G’s capacity to bring in the veterans (in “Leyendas”) and the newcomers (Juanka and Brray, Yandar and Joskin) and still emerge as the one leading the charge.
It's an album of strong, melody-first songs where Karol G has gone to lengths to highlight her versatility as an artist who doesn’t just chant, but also sings. Her versatile vocals, the basis of her music since her early days, are fully utilized for the first time here. “Gato Malo,” alongside Nathy Peluso, plays like a tango-tinged torch song with a generous dollop of attitude, while the more melancholy “El Barco” and “Copas” dwell on Karol G’s favored topic of love and loss.
“Each song represents a different emotion,” she tells Billboard. “’El Barco’ is based on a story that most women have experienced at some point, and that’s why they can identify with the lyrics [“You turned your back, but the boat left; and your photos I threw away; since I did, everything that was black and white now has color…”]
Newcomers Neo and Mora, who have titles on Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG, bring to life the focus track “El Makinon” in collaboration with Mariah Angeliq, adding a futuristic reggaetón sound to Karol’s repertoire. ("I want you to listen to that when you feel empowered!" comments Karol.)
The majority of the album is helmed by her longtime producer, Ovy on the Drums, and together the two experiment with different genres, such as country (“Location”), bachata (“El Barco”), and even corridos (“200 Copas”).
“We’ve been working together for eight years, so I’ve learned to make her thoughts into music,” he previously told Billboard. “She hums something, and I automatically understand what she wants -- that’s magic. To have that kind of chemistry with an artist isn’t easy to find, but I found that with Karol.”
The album’s name, meant to represent a flight number, is an ode to May 16, the date Karol’s parents signed her first-ever music contract because she was underage. After two albums (Unstoppable and Ocean), and a Latin Grammy win for Best New Artist, KG0516 is a versatile and assured collection demonstrating her growth as both an artist and a star. Below are our favorite tracks.
"El Makinon" (feat. Mariah Angeliq)
Karol is here to remind you who's "la verdadera bichota" with her focus track "El Makinon." Teaming up with former Billboard Latin Artist on the Rise Mariah Angeliq, Karol dropped an infectious head-bopping, hip-swaying reggaetón jam about breaking all the rules with the girls. "Makinon," slang for a big machine, tells the story of a girl who's been independent since she was 16 years old -- and now that she's older, she can still depend on herself. An official music video, filmed by Filmheads' Jose Emilio Sagaró in New York, shows the two artists enjoying the street life with their crew, driving around the city in a jeep. A risqué scene towards the end proves, once again, that the new Karol is unapologetic.
This song kicks off with Katol taking the mic in a bar-restaurant setting. There's background chit-chatting going on as Karol declares: "I decided to come to sing at this place where usually people come to eat and not listen to someone but there's a special friend who's listening to this song. Amiga, get over it!" And suddenly, Karol surprises with what has become her first-ever corrido.
As usual, Karol sounds great testing new waters. With "200 Copas," co-written by Ovy, Karol and corrido tumbado artist Danny Felix, Karol not only shares her best advice to a friend, but also accompanies her in her heartbreak. "Friend, leave that clown alone/ If they pay him to make you suffer, he would already be a millionaire/ From now on he becomes an adversary/ And today we go out to drink if necessary," she chants.
"Gato Malo" (feat. Nathy Peluso)
In a modern "Cosas del Amor," Karol and Nathy channel their inner Ana Gabriel and Vikki Carr to empower each other about a man who's not worth it. Peluso, who's a two-time Latin Grammy nominee and ultimately got on the map with "Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 36," drops a sick rap verse on this tango-tinged, hip-hop mini-masterpiece. "El tiempo pone en su lugar Al que no te supo querer," the Argentine powerhouse closes off the track.
"Bichota" was the third single Karol G presented from her new project, following "Tusa" and "Ay Dios Mio," and it really set the tone for this album. She came headstrong on the Billboard Hot 100-charting banger with a fierce attitude, fierce beats, and fierce lyrics. "Bichota," according to Karol, refers to "a moment of feeling sexy, flirtatious, daring, strong, empowered, and to a certain extent, [it] translates into personal motivation and self-confidence. We are all super 'Bichotas' inside. It’s about believing and working so that the rest of the world can see it too."
Released on October 23, “Bichota” debuted at No. 7 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, marking Karol’s 10th top 10. With this smash, she also became the first female artist to debut in the list’s top 10 without another act credited in eight years.
"Leyendas" (feat. Ivy Queen, Wisin & Yandel, Zion, Nicky Jam, and Alberto Stylee)
On "Leyendas," produced by DJ Nelson, Alejandro Armes, and Eliot El Mago de Oz, the Colombian artist reeled in some of the biggest pioneers in reggaetón's history, paying a nearly six-minute tribute to the genre's earlier years. Ivy Queen kicks off the medley with the timeless "Quiero Bailar," followed by classic urban hits "En Tension," "En La Disco Bailoteo," "Yo No Soy Tu Marido," and "Vengo Acabando." Karol joins forces with Queen, Nicky Jam, Wisin & Yandel, Zion, and Stylee on this party-starting jam. You'd think that the closing track would wrap up Karol's new album nicely -- but this only marks the beginning for the rising star.