Diandra’s 2017 in New Music
Editor’s Note: Apologies for the delay. xD
A variety of songs caught my ear in the past year. And yes, nearly all the first page is given to Puerto Rico.
Though the years seem to take away more and more of my energy and ability to write, I still want to share the new music I encountered in 2017. Whether you want a new dance rhythm or something to sing along to, or just want to forget life and become sound, I hope you find something new to like!
Algiers once again has made the best album of the year. The Underside of Power brims with a brighter, meaner energy; the fire to the smoky gloom of the band’s self-titled debut. Though the title song, he Underside of Power [MV], makes their radical fury a little more radio-friendly, Algiers’ industrial gospel-punk sound is encapsulated in Cry of the Martyrs , while Cleveland  isn’t afraid to screech into a discordant break before rising again.
Without question, the song of summer was the original version of Despacito [MV] by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee. The best renditions to follow were the pop punk version from Out for Summer and this gamelan version.
Staying in Puerto Rico, ÌFÉ mixes Santeria/lukumi tradition with electronic r&b vibe.While signature track 3 Mujeres (Iború Iboya Ibosheshé) [MV] originally premiered several years ago, the album III+IIII has a consistent ambience exemplified in Prayer for Oduduwa (Para Merceditas).
As hurricanes and their aftermath exacerbated Borinquen’s troubles, musicians rushed to help. One project for FOCUSED aid is the ¡Viva Puerto Rico! compilation.The lineup includes Taina Asili, Lila Downs, Talib Kweli, Ana Tijoux, Chancha Via Circuito, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and more. Another aid event recruited the inescapable trap rapper Bad Bunny for some heartfelt verse:
With that Twitero shirt, I wonder if he’s changed -that- line in future performances of Tu No Metes Cabra [MV].
In this vein, we cannot forget Residente/René Pérez Joglar, the Calle 13 frontman who released a solo album this year. While his public persona can be up and down, no one can deny that his heart is with Borinquen. He helped many relief efforts, and later accused FEMA of taking his donations. Puerto Rican social media sobbed with bittersweet pride after his performance of Hijos del Cañaveral at the Latin Grammys . The album itself could have been even stronger, but is still fresh and true to self, with his constant exploration of sounds and styles. He also branched into directing with Somos Anormales [NSFW MV] as well as Desencuentro [MV], featuring SoKo (Stéphanie Sokolinski) and starring her with actor Edgar Ramírez in the video. But the standout for me (and Amy as well!) is Apocalíptico featuring Duan Ya Wen.
Residente did have a feud earlier this year with Tempo, a veteran reggaetonero who had just been released from prison. This resulted in La Cátedra , which is, for now, far the longest rap of all time, one second under twelve minutes. MTV actually covered these battles succinctly in this article. However, one of the most respected original reggaeton rappers, Vico C, shot back at not just both artists, but the whole feud/tiraera culture as well, with what one might call a “tiraera contra tiraeras,” Y Boquete Pa’ Tu Techo. 
Over in the Dominican Republic, rappers El Alfa and El Mayor Clasico are slowly breaking down a feud whose end was first stated late 2016, announcing this past November that they might work on a song together. An example of El Alfa’s prolific output is his collaboration with Tali, Que Fue [MV], though it isn’t as playful as some of his earlier popular tracks.
El Alfa also finally released an album, Disciplina, after year after year of only singles and collaborations. It opens with Un Consejo Para Mi Hijo [MV], which does continue Alfa’s boastful side but is much truer to himself than many of his club or gangster singles, since as far as I’ve heard he really did avoid drugs and guns and the “player” life to focus on constantly producing and promoting his music. It’s also the first (brief) mention I’ve heard of the Odebrecht corruption scandal, which is really embarrassing on my part since it continues to wreak massive havoc on Latin America..
Two reasons I got into dembow this year were: 1) I tend to pick sound over lyrics, and the faster and more danceable dembow beats don’t put me to sleep like most trap and nearly all the watered-down EDM/tropical/pop “folk/country” blends that dominate the airwaves do, and 2) I appreciate that these faster beats require flows with strict musical precision to pull off with clarity and personality, even on the lyrically basic “money” track Se Me Llenan Los Bolsillos, [MV] by El Mayor Clasico featuring Farruko
This energy can be found in Milka La Mas Dura’s Sonidita , Potenica Lirical and Pablo Piddy’s Aqui Se Menea , and Ceky Viciny’s personal barrio tour Klok Con Klok [MV]. Also fast-paced, though with bitter lyrics, is Peña Suazo with his latest merengue urbano (or “mambo,” as this genre has taken the term), Cero Coro .