Calle 13 - Entren los Que Quieran


Entren Los Que Quieran, Calle 13
Sony Music, Puerto Rico
Rating: 81 ★★★★
by Andrew Casillas

Placing yourself into any sort of zeitgeist isn’t fundamentally difficult (see any number of reality television “stars”), but maintaining your place in the cultural cognizance without shredding either your dignity or your integrity is, for all but a select few, virtually impossible. Yet here’s the point that the boys of Calle 13 find themselves in at this exact moment. If their career trajectory dovetailed quite nicely with the stagflation of the reggaetón era, their present situation finds them as the acknowledged flag-wavers of Latin pop music’s infantry. No longer are they the sharp upstarts here to save the radio from watered-down yet insanely popular Luny Tunes productions and N.O.R.E.’s racial-identity conflict. No longer are they so chic and buzzworthy that they won’t even return M.I.A.’s phone calls. No longer are they the best band in the world that your grandfather has never heard of. Today, they are the sound of Latin hip-hop; they are the mainstream; they are your grandfather’s favorite “young” group; the once-underdog now the establishment.

So how does Calle 13 react to their place at the top of the mountain as the inevitable backlash sets in? The way any of us would: by throwing a party as grand and glitzy as Rick Ross’s watch. There’s a sense of pretension and bravado that embeds Entren los Que Quieran, with taunts daring you to ignore what’s to follow. So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Calle 13 tackles any potential backlash head-on by opening the album with its most polarizing track, the Mars Volta-assisted “Calma Pueblo.” Much of the disdain surrounding the song deals with its admittedly hard-to-defend lyrics, which are ignorantly polemic, at-worst, or misguided and vain at the least (see the Adidas shout-out). Yet, listening only to what’s going on behind those lyrics, it’s certainly one of the most interesting infusions of hard rock in modern hip-hop—though how much you actually like said music will depend on your tolerance for the Mars Volta. Possible wariness continues with the next two songs, which find Residente at his most hit-or-miss, straddling the line between pre and post-retirement Eminem, and swinging at far too much low hanging fruit—though Visitante doesn’t exactly help things with beats so nondescript you begin to recognize why this record premiered on NPR.

What follows is the very good-not-great Spaghetti Western-influenced “La Bala,” whose vehemently anti-violence lyrics provide the first instance on the record of the irreverent populism that Residente does better than any other rapper; this is followed by “Vamo’ a Portamos Mal,” which I would love to say sounds like the stepchild of Rita Indiana and Gogol Bordello, except it’s not as effortless as either of the above, but at the least there’s finally a song you can dance to. However, just when you’d be right to ponder jumping on the anti­-Entren los Que Quieran bandwagon, Calle 13 throws up a happy floater to close the first half in the form of “Latinoamérica.” A sparkling, almost gorgeous ode to Latin America and those who’ve sprouted from its lands, it’s here where Calle 13 stop forcing their statements, instead painting their passions with a easel full of blood while avoiding the self-serving neurosis that dragged down the earlier tracks.

After a brief interlude, the show continues—and this time, we finally see some fireworks. “Digo lo Que Pienso” provides us with our heartiest belly laughs yet, along with a beat that seemingly combines Bollywood strings with DJ Premier scratching (and it’s about damn time, too). “Muerte en Hawaii” stacks up subversion like building blocks, from its winking stereotypical ukulele and island sounds, to its seemingly random name-checking (GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ!), to its fanciful story (complete with talking animals), and its somehow fitting ending. Really, someone call Bigott and tell him that they’ve stolen his schtick and improved upon it. “Todo Se Mueve” is accompanied by a strut and guitar lick worthy of the Meters, while “El Hormiguero” provides enough rock for those rubbed raw by “Calma Pueblo” yet enough cumbia to keep things interesting.

Which brings us to “Prepárame la Cena,” the album closer, and perhaps it’s most impressive number. Tucked into the back despite, or perhaps because of, its pop sheen, the song works as an impressive showcase for the entire group individually and as an entity. Visitante’s production is perhaps his most impressive soundscape to date, with measured percussion and guitars, powerful vocal samples, and a grab-bag of tricks at the back-end. Lyrically, Residente keeps things simple and down-to-earth, while his cadence perfectly rides the beat without rocking it. And lest we continue to ignore her, PG-13 finally distinguishes herself as an actual singer, providing first-rate background vocals while delivering a warm, soothing chorus. Not the greatest Calle 13 song—but not far from the top either.

The album proper closes with a continuation of the Hollywood Revue theme of the Intro, except there isn’t a celebration. Instead, it’s calls of callate! and vehement booing, as if Calle 13 are fully aware of the expected backlash that’s about to head their way, which apparently anyone with an awareness of Twitter trends can already tell you is coming. The major criticism typically revolves around Calle 13 being a group of rebels without a cause, Kanye West-esque blowhards that are confused and naïve regarding the messages that they try to convey in their music. That they take the world too lightly for anyone to take their protestations as anything but mere barking, and those criticisms are more than fair. But show me a pop star who isn’t full of shit and I’ll show you a Taco Bell entrée that doesn’t suck. Really, we’re not here to talk about politics; we’re here for the music, and as pure musicians, this band has very little competition. With Entren los Que Quieran, Calle 13 doesn’t change the world, nor do they set it aflame. This may not be their best album either, but considering the spotlight facing them this time, this is can only be labeled as an unqualified success.

19 comments :

El Gus said...

"El Hormiguero" sounds very MIA. Ok, just needed to say that.

I think it's their weakest album yet but still one of the year's best, do I make sense?

I'm just a little bumped they're like trying to sound like Los Fabulosos Cadillacs now, that shit is over.

I love reviews that mention Taco Bell, lots of 'em actually.

el amarillo said...

No me gustó la portada... cualquiera de las imágenes promocionales me gustó mas. Ahora a oír el disco...

Pilar said...

The review is way better than the actual album, which is very disappointing (but still, "Calma Pueblo" is misleading, it's not THAT BAD!)

karenT said...

This is why you need to write more reviews Andrew, I think you're very very talented. That intro paragraph and the final one are fantastic, unlike those on the actual album hahaha.

No, actually this is good, but they're like SKA now? WTF. Nasty. But yeah, in terms of music, they are one of the world's best bands.

Anonymous said...

Solo 81!??? Después que pusieron a Javiera Mena 100, esto merece por lo menos 120....

Santiago Ulloa said...

this album sucks big time (4/10), and believe me, I'm a hardcore Calle 13 fan, ever since all the dummy rocker kids got into it...

Santiago Ulloa said...

this album sucks big time (4/10), and believe me, I'm a hardcore Calle 13 fan, ever since all the dummy rocker kids got into it...

Daniel said...

As someone who loves Calle 13 I have to say this album is just dull. I think the beats are good... I think the issue is that residente sounds bored. He is just not hitting it with the same urgency and energy he has in previous albums.

I don't know... I may change my mind on this album in 6 months and may claim it as the greatest album of the year... I remember I didn't like Residente O Visitante when that first came out and now i love it.

Jury is still out.

TickyLaCubanita said...

Residente said it was their best album yet, LIER.

It's not that bad, like, the first half of it is really really annoying. But it gets better.

Hate me people, hate me, but "Latinoamerica" is everything I don't like in a song, cheese for my meat, no no no no.

Does not deserve 4 stars CF, come on, but it's not a bad idea to post it on the day Pitchfork gives new Kanye a 10 hahaha.

My rating: 69/100

Andrew Casillas said...

I guess now you all know which music review site is less full of shit...

Cesar said...

This Album was wicked, the songs where good if you understand the context. I dont see why you guys hate it so much

Anonymous said...

Probably yours. After reading this:

"Much of the disdain surrounding the song deals with its admittedly hard-to-defend lyrics, which are ignorantly polemic, at-worst, or misguided and vain at the least. "

I can only conclude that in the U.S. they castrate you at an early age. What is so hard to 'defend'? And why would it need defense? The White House comment? What?

Pop stars might be full of shit but some reviewers are too.

Pepito

Yaya said...

Everyone screaming how amazing "Latinoamerica" is, it is not, the the kind of sentimentalism song a la "Pal Norte", hate it (and yet love every artist on it, including Calle 13).

waltermontiel said...

I actually think it's their more mature and sophisticated album yet. Sure, it's probably not something you'd play at a party (save for maybe 'Baile De Los Pobres' and 'Todo Se Mueve') but it's something you can listen to with heart and soul. It's hard to understand the record if you come from a place where the belief is that they're here as Entertainers more than Artists. I think the problem with Calle 13 is that while their albums have been increasing steadily in maturity and delicacy in terms of production, people still want to think of them as the Reggaeton guys who made those nice tracks back in '05. They just want them to sing, make them dance and leave the politics and thinking aside. Sure, you can argue that they are rebels without a cause but they are artists first and revolutionaries second. No one is expecting them to overthrow governments. You speak what you feel, and you speak the truths of others that feel the way you do. That is what Residente's philosophy is. I think a lot of the backlash comes from the underlying political differences that make people quick to dismiss Calle 13 as just being rebels without a cause.

allisonn said...

"Calma Pueblo" and "Latinoamerica" are pure oversentimental garbage. Besides that, the album is quite enjoyable. Even that Hawaiian track, see, you can be cheesy and get away with it, or Calle 13 can, but you can't expect to fill your ego through traditional 'theme' music, it's just like Mel Gibson doing his 'important' movies.

JOSE LUIS MERCADO said...

Creo que leyendo la reseña y los comentarios, queda claro que el problema con el nuevo disco para CF (y varios fans de la página) es que es "muy maduro", y perdió ese lado juguetón. Aunque concuerdo en que "Calma pueblo" no es un buen tema, ver comentarios como Basuras Sobresentimental o Ignorantemente Polémica responde a esa visión apolítica que tratan de buscar en algo que evidentemente no lo es. Aqui hay ideología e identidad que no se puede desvincular al propio concepto de la banda.

Carlos Reyes said...

Super atinadisimo Jose Luis & Walter Montiel, es dificil digerir el cargamento politico de este album.

En lo personal, "Calma Pueblo" me molesta porque en realidad, no es nada mas que un desayuno de ego de parte de Residente, esa "voz del pueblo" y "mi disquera no es Sony, mi disquera es la gente" espantan a cualquiera.

The rest of the album is actually quite good :) I don't love "Latinoamerica" (just not my cup of tea at all), but I don't understand the hate towards it.

bam said...

Me parecen excesivos los comentarios, a mi si me gustó el álbum y creo que la gente no lo entiende, es cierto que Residente abusa un poco de su pose de "defensor del pueblo", pero vamos!!! tan mal no lo hace. Me parece mejor que sus tres discos anteriores en cuanto a musicalización y nadie me quitará esa idea.

cañon said...

this is the best review of this album ive read, much respect to Andrew Casillas ...

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