When you label an artist’s music as reggaeton, a certain sound comes to mind: The drivingDrum machine beat forms the genre’s core while merengue, bachata, and hip hop are layered on top to create something unmistakably unique and identifiable. You know reggaeton when you hear it.
Rauw Alejandro might be changing all that. His 2020 album Afrodisíaco was a triumphant homage to his musical roots, and from the first bar on opener “Dile a El” listeners were greeted with the lush, recognizable sounds of Puerto Rican reggaeton. But barely a year later, Alejandro has widened his net of influences and plumbed the depths of other genres leftly mostly untouched by other reggaeton artists for his latest album VICE VERSA.
“VICE VERSA, is a little bit more alternative, more experimental, it has a lot of energy. It’s one of my favorite projects so far,” Alejandro told Billboard. The expansion of those influences and tastes are clear from the beginning of the album and the juxtaposition of glittery disco and stripped down electropop with more traditional reggaeton compositions are a sign that Alejandro is pushing the conversation about the music he loves forward into a new era.
“Desenfocao’” is a shimmering, stadium-ready track that shows off Alejandro’s sonic and aesthetic range, combining 80’s new wave with disco-flecked pop sounds. “Cúrame” is more sparse in comparison, drawing from classical guitar, lo-fi hip hop, and traditional reggaeton beats to create something almost tropically gothic. He performed both tracks in a special two-song set with Honda State and Billboard, donning a duo of costumes—a glossy all-white suit for “Desenfocao’,” a red-and-black one with a matching band of eye makeup for “Cúrame”—that reflect the contrasting moods of both tracks.
Alejandro’s is transforming reggaeton by pushing it forward and layering his own unique tastes, influences, and flourishes on top of a sound he has a deep and abiding love of. “When I was around twelve or thirteen, I fell in love with reggaeton,” he told Billboard, before adding that he feels a responsibility to take the mantle from his childhood idols and push the sound “higher.” It’s no small task, but Alejandro is already expanding the definition of reggaeton one track at a time.