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King of Kings

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Album Review

King of Kings sure doesn't seem like only Don Omar's second album proper. In the three years since The Last Don, his impressive debut album from 2003, he remained omnipresent. A live album (The Last Don: Live), a couple one-off hits ("Pobre Diabla," "Reggaeton Latino"), and an odds-and-ends compilation (Reggaeton Latino) kept him continually at the forefront of reggaeton, as did persistent media attention. Yet indeed King of Kings is only Omar's second album, which only adds to the sense of why it feels like such a remarkable achievement. It's a major statement, for sure, not only because of its bold, contentious title, but also because it's so stylistically ambitious. In theory, sophomore albums are supposed to be commercially safe. They're supposed to reprise what had worked well the first go-round. They usually don't aim to redefine. After all, up to this point in time reggaeton had been a fairly narrow style, generally defined by a trademark rhythm and a couple staple anthems, most of them performed by Daddy Yankee and produced by Luny Tunes. And they're generally suggestive party songs, meant for dancing, or at least the impression of dancing. Well, on King of Kings that general definition of reggaeton is broadened for the better. For one, Omar is not Daddy Yankee, though his popularity is a close second. Unlike Daddy, who tends at best to be party-oriented, Omar is at best a socially conscious lyricist. His songs aren't party fodder; they're deep and worthy of reflection, especially for sociopolitical-minded Latinos. But he can fire up the party, too, most evidently on the explosive Beenie Man collaboration "Belly Danza." No one in reggaeton is as versatile as Omar, not even Tego Calderón. Secondly, and most importantly in terms of internationality, Omar isn't reliant on the hitmaking assembly line of Luny Tunes, whose production imprint is so integral to reggaeton. Consequently, he is free to experiment with different production styles — something reggaeton could really benefit from at this point in time, as this is the one major criticism levied at it time and time again: "It all sounds the same!" Spearheaded by Eliel Lind, the sprawling 18 tracks of King of Kings exhibit a surprising variety; songs like the hit lead single, "Angelito," are moody and different-sounding, though still unquestionably reggaeton in style. Clearly, there's a lot to note here on King of Kings, especially from a comparative viewpoint. Taken on its own terms, however, it's one of the rare full-CD-length albums that doesn't drag at points or beg for editing. It's solid, diverse, laden with highlights, and overall, a remarkable achievement for Omar, who lives up to the promise of the hype surrounding him. He may not be King of Kings, literally at least, but he's certainly a strong leader amid the reggaeton movement, and this sophomore album bodes well for the future of that movement.


Born: 10 February 1978 in Villa Palmeras, Puerto Rico

Genre: Latin Urban

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Don Omar became one of reggaeton's first international superstars, thanks to his early-2000s work with Luny Tunes, but even more so to "Reggaeton Latino," his 2005 anthem that became one of the style's first genuine crossover hits. Born William Omar Landrón on February 10, 1978, in Villa Palmeras, Puerto Rico, Omar involved himself in the church at a young age. He became a preacher; in fact, and it was in this role that he began honing his performance ability as well as his deep insight into the...
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King of Kings, Don Omar
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