Un Pokito de Rocanrol, Bebe
EMI Music, Spain
by Carlos Reyes
Oh, how I distrust people that exchange the “c” (or the "qu" in Spanish) for the “k." I guess it’s not such a bad thing if you signed your name that way in rebellion on your junior high midterms, but, later than that, the grammatical rock and roll exertion turns into comatose accessory. Which is why, despite Bebe’s extensive legitimation as an out-of-the-margins artist, I still distrust the outline of her third album, Un Pokito de Rocanrol. To be fair, there’s probably a great regard of intended irony behind the album’s witty title, its heavy rock album cover, and its unearned Parental Advisory sticker, but still, that only takes the album into cheap gimmick territory.
Un Pokito de Rocanrol is aesthetically and thematically shaped as an attention-getter. Which is why attempting to jump straight into the songs would be not only negligent to the artist’s profile, but also culturally irresponsible. How much of a rock star does Bebe really have in her? Well, let’s see. Back in 2005 she showed plenty of it at the Latin Grammys. It was the first year L.A.R.A.S. broadcasted the ceremony fully in Spanish and through Univision, which meant that, despite the conservatism of the network, most artists sat somewhat comfortably. But not Bebe, who outsmarted the show’s ultra-suppressive producers on more than one occasion smuggling “PUTA!” into her performance of “Malo,” and shouting “a follar que se chocan los planetas” during the acceptance speech of her Best New Artist award. Yes, all that happened under the network presidency of Ray Rodriguez and in the presence of renowned singer/pastor Marcos Witt.
Following her creativly-flopping sophomore album, Y, María Nieves Rebolledo has swapped her head producer Carlos Jean for the also experienced Renaud Letang, whose all-encompassing credits include the likes of Manu Chao, Seu Jorge, and Feist. This change in the infrastructure has allowed Bebe to work on her most expansive canvas yet. And by expansive, I mean the most extroverted and unmeasured of canvases. The album starts with the politically-driven “ABC” in a wraithlike metal passage that later turns urban - an abrupt change in attitude that shows more insecurity than an intended versatility. The rickety start is redeemed right afterward with the pleasant “Adios,” which melts doo-wop with ranchero and hip hop quite effortlessly. These two initial tracks are a reflection of the fragmentation in quality that’s found all throughout the hit-or-miss record, and for most cases, also serves as a forecasting device to spot the good songs from the rest.
Shockingly, the unfortunate packaging of these songs isn’t the weakest thing about Un Pokito de Rocanrol. The album’s single “K.I.E.R.E.M.E.” is in its own frenetic league - it’s that bad. Bebe’s efforts to do M.I.A. and flamenco (on parallel) end up as a superfluous track that simply drowns in mantra mysticism. There’s more shock value in this album than Bebe would probably admit to, and that’s perhaps the most discomforting thing here. Un Pokito de Rocanrol is still one of the better albums to appear on the next L.A.R.A.S. entry list, and in that regard, I can still applaud the artist’s middle-of-the-road bravery. Bebe has not ran out of the ideas, but this time around she has certainly misplaced them. Because when you’re about to miss the train it’s not enough to run and click on the door button, you put your hand in between the sliding doors to make that train stop.
Un Pokito de Rocanrol, Bebe