On ‘Que Quiénes Somos,’ CNCO brings fiery beats, vulnerable ballads to reggaeton

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Latin music has seen a huge spark in media popularity — and the boy band CNCO knows it. 

With Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” featuring Justin Bieber swinging to the top charts in 2017 and Cardi B mixing salsa essentials with her fluid raps in her 2018 debut album, it has been impossible to ignore the increasing consumer demand for Spanish-language music. 

And in 2019, a different kind of Latin music has been on the upswing: reggaeton. Artists such as J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Ozuna have been making waves with the subtle medley of urban and bachata beats, the silky smooth Spanish verses and the Carribean-tinted rhythms of the traditional Latin music genre. On its latest EP, Que Quiénes Somos, CNCO takes those popular sonic components to a new level, while exploring the softer side of the genre. 

The first single off the album is “De Cero,” which proved that CNCO knows how to get its listeners moving. With a jubilant pop beat backing it, each verse features buoyant lyrics about second chances in love. Erick Brian Colon’s wispy and quick-fire Cuban vocals riff into Christopher Vélez’s sensual Ecuadorian runs, tied together by an English breakdown from Mexican American Joel Pimentel De León. “De Cero” is a song that made sure to not only highlight the band’s skill at producing powerful pop and hip-hop ballads, but also shows that the band is a multilingual and multicultural group — and proud of it. 

This pride in the band’s Latinx roots grounded “Ya Tú Sabes” as well. Sampling Cuban salsa queen Celia Cruz, “Ya Tú Sabes” is the most classically reggaeton song on the album. What can be equated to a Spanish version of modern-day trap music, the track sees each band member try their hand at a new style. Colon applies his talent for fast-paced verses to the introductory rap, while Zabdiel de Jesús and Richard Camacho sing with flirtation throughout the chorus. In the folds of this synth-reggaeton tune, the members of CNCO show that they aren’t here to be your average heartthrob boy band: They can bring the heat just as easily. 

What’s truly exceptional about Que Quiénes Somos is the chameleonic nature of the EP. None of the songs commit to one genre, and yet the EP doesn’t feel cataclysmic or uncertain. Instead, this album listens like a sampling menu of the talent listeners can expect to hear in the future. It’s a marrowy compilation of the best rhythmic timing, bass drops and vocal riffs that the members of CNCO have to offer — all set to the backdrop of the reggaeton genre. 

Que Quiénes Somos is a short EP, with only seven songs to display the band’s musical magnetism. And yet, CNCO uses this short tracklist to its advantage, crafting each song with its own special something. There are the heavy hitters, such as “Ya Tú Sabes” and the genre-mixing “Qué Va a Ser de Mí.” But then there are the vulnerable, creep-up-when-you-aren’t-looking tracks like “La Ley” and “De Mí.” It’s in these tracks that CNCO pushes the bounds of both what it can do as a group and what this genre can do as a whole. 

The album ends on the delicate note of “Tóxica.” An a capella ballad that exchanges the rhythms of reggaeton for whispered harmonies and aerial vocal climaxes, making the emotion CNCO imbues in its music palpable. While the lyrics are of anguish and painful love, each of their voices shifting back and forth tells a story of togetherness and belonging. In the face of border anxieties and nationalism, in a time and space that has othered the Latin American world, the members of CNCO have defied that antagonistic sentiment and melted their cultures, their voices, their hearts into one. 

Whether singing of love lost or lust gained, whether in the style of American pop or Latin reggaeton, one thing is incredibly evident: CNCO is a group of brothers that has a lot to show. 

Contact Maisy Menzies at [email protected].