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F.A.M.E.
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  • With 2015's Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy, Colombian reggatoero Maluma began to shift his golden boy image to wade into the stream of the genre's embrace of slick urban grooves, securing a Latin Grammy nomination for the track "El Tiki" under the Best Urban Performance banner. With F.A.M.E., Maluma blurs the reggaeton line with a calculated collection of electronic, contemporary R&B, hip-hop, and Latin and Anglo pop. It's an outing that underlines his considerable vocal skills more than his public image; it's a welcome development, though based on several tunes here -- notably back-to-back radio-ready jams like the skittering "Corazn" (with Nego do Borel) and the midtempo dance ballad "El Prestamo" -- it's obvious he's been deeply influenced by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's monster hit "Despacito." (On the other hand, Maluma has always had a soft spot for acoustic steel-string instruments so the balanced reliance on them, as well as the inclusion of electronics, isn't new, it's just focused in a different direction.) Uncharacteristically, Maluma employs the Anglo tongue on three fine reggaeton jams -- "Hangover" (feat. Prince Royce), "I Like It," and "Unfollow" -- but given their musical makeup and production, that move is not so much a concession to Anglo culture as an erasure of already artificial linguistic pop borderlines. Check the way Maluma's musica urbano grooves meet vintage reggaeton in the killer "Condena," with his smooth, sweet, loverman delivery riding just above the beat. On the jagged dembow "La Ex," a bilingual duet with Jason Derulo, reggaeton and dembow meet soul, while "Mi Declaracion," with Timbaland and Sid, is a Latin soul journey through bolero and layered, bumping reggaeton. "Marineo" is a gorgeous ballada romntica complete with sappy lyrics, but Maluma's steamy delivery gets them across. There are two versions of "Felices Los 4" to close the set. Up first is the blurry, blissed-out weave of contemporary R&B and sultry reggaeton kissed by guitars and basses; the latter is a grooving salsa version with Marc Anthony assisting. Ultimately, F.A.M.E. is the sound of Maluma branching out. While there are enough of his earlier sounds to keep the faithful listening, his songwriting restlessly explores new musical terrain. This set is an infectious, lavishly produced, richly textured outing from one of modern reggaeton's most provocative and compelling talents. ~ Thom Jurek
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