Is Speedy the greatest talent in reggaetón? No; that would probably be Daddy Yankee or Tego Calderón. But neither of those two have released better records than Nueva Generación this year, or perhaps ever. That’s because of producer DJ Blass, who sees reggaetón’s hot beats and verbal dexterity, and raises it with electronic fun sparkly music.
Speedy is no one’s idea of a lyrical genius, as far as my poor Spanish can tell. He’s not loud and out-of-control like Mr. Yankee, nor is he a master of old-time slanguage like Sr. Calderón. His voice is thin, and it is just about always off-key when he sings the chorus hooks. But neither Speedy nor Blass care about these minor details; they actually have fun with auto-pitch on “Vamos Alla”, squirreling Speedy’s singing into a robotic croon.
But Speedy is charismatic and spunky, and his slightly generic flow actually works extremely well with the perfect robo-funk beats put down by DJ Blass and a couple of friends. These songs sound fresh and new, equally indebted to UK hardcore and drum’n'bass, hip-hop, and the salsa/merengue/cumbia/són roots of reggaetón. “Rosa” has a thrilling double-time gallop bubbling under—and breaking out of—its standard beat. “Quieres Bailar Reggaetón” uses more synth textures than prime Thomas Dolby, and has big fat Goa trance buildups. “Girla” sounds like Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians”. And close listening to “Yo Quiero Darte” reveals familiarity with Devo, Afrika Bambaata, and Nu Shooz.
Everything works here, even the duet with Lumidee—remember her?—called “Sientelo”. This single, presented here in a remix by Motivo Productions, holds as much heat as the venti coffee I have in front of me writing this review, rocking my iPod loud to drown out the Sheryl Crow being jammed into my ears by the Starbucks Coffee Company. This is actually an excellent argument for the rise of reggaetón.
And this album is an excellent example of what intelligent and sophisticated but unpretentious pop music can do when it wants to.