Back in 2003, Don Omar, a rising reggaetón act from Puerto Rico, released his solo debut album. The Last Don — featuring the likes of Daddy Yankee and Hector “El Father,” came in the wake of hugely successful singles like “Dale Don, Dale.”
But in a world of dozens of up-and-coming reggaetón stars, Don Omar thought bigger. His debut solo set was brash and aggressive, but also surprisingly romantic at times, casting Don Omar (real name William Omar Landrón) as a kind of sensitive macho with his finger on the pulse of the street.
“The music from that album allowed me to be Don Omar worldwide,” Omar told Billboard last year. “I had the opportunity to change the rhythm of reggaeton. Since then, for example, I’ve been trying to do tracks like ‘Vuelve,’ which was a bolero. That album gave me the confidence to keep discovering new music.”
The Last Don became one of the seminal albums of the genre, selling nearly 500,000 copies in the U.S. alone, according to Nielsen (the follow-up, King of Kings, would top the 500k mark).
Now, slightly more than a decade after The Last Don, Don Omar seeks to memorialize his landmark set with The Last Don II, out Tuesday on Universal Music Latino.
With featured appearances by big name acts like Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderón, Wisin & Yandel, Plan B and protégé Natti Natasha The Last Don 2 is a return to Omar’s gritty reggaetón roots, but with tight production and enviable dance beats to back it up.
“Looking back 10 years, I fell in love with urban music all over again,” Don Omar told Billboard. “I found an article on Billboard that said I was one of the top 10 upcoming artists in reggaeton. And I thought, ‘Wow. We really changed the world.’”
Here’s a track-by-track look at Don Omar’s return to his roots:
1. “Soledad” (Solitude): For all his bravado, Don Omar always did have that sensitive side. In “Soledad,” the underlying, relentless reggaetón dance beat is secondary to the underlying sadness caused by treacherous love (“Tears of pain, no relief from solitude,” laments the Don as he tells the story of a woman wronged). Wrapped in accordion strains, the opening track establishes Don Omar as a genre “Fusionista.”
2. “Guaya Guaya”: The first single from The Last Don II, “Guaya Guaya” is unapologetically street, dance and gritty with a retro dembow beat. If you were one of the few who didn’t hear this track in 2014, rediscover it for your next party.
3. “Perdido En Tus Ojos” (Lost in Your Eyes), feat. Natti Natasha: Don Omar has demonstrated time and time again that he can sing pop songs. And while “Perdido” is set to a reggaetón beat, it’s a lovely pop love song, down to the soaring choruses and the back-and-forth between Don Omar and his protégé.
4. “Callejero” (From the Streets), feat. Tego Calderón: Set up by an evocative acoustic guitar intro, “Callejero” taps veteran rapper Tego Calderón to tell the story of life in the streets (“I’m from the streets, I never forget where I come from; and I give thanks to God because I survived and I’m still here,” says the chorus), and in the process, it denounces social inequality and foreign military intervention. “Callejero” succeeds by avoiding lofty preachiness and instead focuses on the tangible everyday with the meticulousness of a reporter. The rapping (obviously Calderón’s but also Don Omar’s, who boasts great delivery), coupled with the very lyrical arrangement — made more so by acoustic guitars and percussion — elevate the track from simply despondent to beautiful.
5. “En Lo Oscuro” (In the Darkness), feat. Wisin & Yandel: If you thought this album was getting all contemplative, brace yourselves. “En Lo Oscuro” doesn’t refer to darkness of the soul or anything remotely like that. Think instead the dark ally where someone’s going to make out. Don Omar got Wisin & Yandel, party track masters, to jointly collaborate on this ode to scantily clad women and the virtues of hard partying.
6. “Olvidar Que Somos Amigos” (Forget We’re Friends), feat. Plan B: While effective and catchy, this is a more run-of-the-mill reggaetón track, albeit featuring Plan B’s distinctive vocals.
7. “Te Recordaré Bailando” (I’ll Remember you Dancing): Like “Perdido en tus ojos,” “Te Recordaré” can easily veer into pop territory with chorus and verse (no rapping or “tiradera”) playing over a swaying reggaetón beat. While hardly groundbreaking, the opening line (“I know you’re looking at me like that, I think we’ve met. I don’t remember where, but the place doesn’t matter […] I’ll remember you dancing”) is an attention-grabber.
8. “Dobla Rodilla” (Bend Your Knee), feat. Wisin: Guest artist Wisin (featured here sans Yandel) has emerged as a party-track master in his own right in the past year. “Dobla Rodilla,” an unapologetic (in every sense of the word), aggressive reggaetón dance track that’s all about the hot chick doing her moves on the dance floor, is catchy, and blunt (“She told me something revealing: Listening to reggaetón gets her motor running,” says one line). This is about the party, not about the depth of message.
9. “Tírate Al Medio” (Throw Yourself in the Middle), feat Daddy Yankee: This track is so naughty but so good! Full of street lingo and irresistible hooks, it harks back to early, uncensored reggaeton days. As with “Doble Rodilla,” the female imagery is raunchy. If you can get past that, enjoy the beat.
10. “Yo Soy de Aquí” (I’m From Here), feat. Yandel, Daddy Yankee and Arcangel: An ode to Puerto Rico, its barrios, its music and its artists, featuring many voices of reggaetón, each one with a distinctive sound. A short instrumental coda with horns and electric guitars imparts a touch of nostalgia.
11. “Bailando Bajo El Sol” (Dancing Under the Sun): A slow and sultry reggaetón laced with touches of electronica. This entreating dance track, set on the beach, achieves old-school effect with a contemporary vibe.
12. “Sandunga,” feat. Tego Calderón: Another side of Calderón in this more laid-back, sultrier party track.