Even the most cynical observers of reggaeton must admit that it has a fascinating history. The highly contested origins of the genre are most often attributed to either Panamanian Spanish reggae artists (themselves influenced by the Jamaican workers who came over to work on the Panama Canal) or to the early underground scene in Puerto Rico, the country which has produced the vast majority of Reggaeton artists. All of this comes before factoring in the influential sounds of hiphop, electronic dance, and Latin Tropical music.
While Reggaeton might not enjoy the popularity of what I consider to be its peak years of 2004-2006, it is still alive and well if you know where to look. There has recently been a movement in Colombia to revitalize the movement, which has produced such Colombian-born artists as J Balvin. His production nestles the dembow rhythm securely into place without overwhelming the listener and the synthesizers always seem to sparkle at just the right moment. It is not the quality of his voice that makes him stand out, but rather it is the emotion he puts into the words and his down-to-earth image.
“Como Un Animal” (“Like An Animal”) is J Balvin’s latest video off the 2012 J Balvin Mixtape and has him doing everything from leaping across rooftops to playing chicken with a car driven by the mysterious woman he is pursuing. I scoffed at this song when I first heard it on the mixtape, but the visual element of the video really clarifies the theme and highlights the emotion that I think J Balvin is trying to convey.