Some 10 songs into the first of back-to-back shows at San Juan’s Choliseo de Puerto Rico, rising star Ozuna took a deep breath and addressed the crowd.
“Being here, my heart is full,” said the 25-year-old, stylishly dressed for his first set in green embroidered cargo pants and a shiny hoodie. “If at any moment I’ve disrespected Puerto Rico, I ask you to forgive me. But today I can proudly say I’ve overcome my odyssey.”
By “odyssey” Ozuna could have meant many things. His own life story, which he recounts in his debut album Odisea, which kicks off with his father getting shot when he was just a little boy.
Or he could have been referring to a recent incident where he was called as a witness in a shooting in Puerto Rico.
Regardless, the artist who took the stage Friday and Saturday (Sept. 15 and 16) to a sold out Choliseo de Puerto Rico (capacity 14,000 plus) is a survivor with the makings of a star.
Ozuna has been touring the U.S. this summer, selling out medium-sized venues. But his Choliseo shows consolidate him as a star in his home turf and beyond. And he owned the moment.
It wasn’t just the elaborate set: a three-story scaffold where compartments for Ozuna’s band alternated with screens that often displayed his trademark teddy bear logo.
It was also the elaborate light display, the 10-strong troupe of dancers who came out only in select moments, the guests (including Bad Bunny, Wisin, Yandel, De La Ghetto and Daddy Yankee) and the fire power onstage.
Most impressive was Ozuna himself. A natural showman who owns the stage despite his slight built, he has impressive vocal chops (unlike many urban acts) and the ability to improvise on cue, with both set list and arrangements changing night to night. Ozuna has 11 tracks on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart at the moment (a record) and went through all of them, from the sublime (“Y te vas”) to the raunchy (“El pecado”), for two solid hours of music, most of it solo, despite the plethora of guests, including Yandel, with whom he sang “No quiero amores.”
The show kicked off with “Odisea,” also the intro to his album, presented as a visual narration between two Ozunas that culminates with the real one taking the stage for “Tu foto,” his current highest-charting solo hit. The song is emblematic of Ozuna’s artistic persona: he can pen catchy, danceable hits that have underlying depth and meaning, transcending the mere “Let’s party and have sex” undertone of so much in reggaeton.
In fact, merely labeling Ozuna as “reggaeton” would be incorrect. He shifts from reggaeton, to trap, to reggae to even ballads with ease. The broad appeal was also obvious in the makeup of the crowd, which included many teens and young adults but also plenty of people in their 40s.
On both nights, Ozuna saved his big guns for last, with Daddy Yankee coming in to close the show. It was a full-circle moment for a genre that’s often been accused of being repetitive. In Ozuna, it’s managed to draw inspiration from a master while developing its own, unique style and sound.