Album Review: Becky G’s ‘Mala Santa’ Is A Winning Debut
At 22, Becky G has already reinvented herself several times over. After breaking onto the scene as a teen rapper (“Can’t Get Enough” is still a bop), the breakout star segued into pop. She promptly landed a hit with “Shower,” but experienced diminishing returns with certified bops “Can’t Stop Dancin'” and “Break A Sweat.” The stars finally aligned when the Inglewood native embraced her Latin roots and released music in Spanish. After finding her feet on songs like “Sola” and “Mangú,” she caught lightning in a bottle with “Mayores.”
Featuring a pre-crossover Bad Bunny, the sexy banger exploded on YouTube (1.6 billion+ views) and became an unlikely worldwide hit. It heralded Rebecca Gomez (her full name) as one of Latin music’s hottest new voices and crystallized her reggaeton-heavy sound. As such, it’s only fitting that the song features on the hitmaker’s impressive debut album. Mala Santa, released on October 11, serves as both a mini-greatest hits collection — all the big singles are included — and a taste of what’s to come.
Let’s start with the hits. “Mayores” still goes as hard as it did in 2017, while the Natti Natasha-assisted “Sin Pijama” reigns supreme as the raciest female duet in recent memory. No party (in Los Angeles, at least) is complete without it. Other previously released tracks include “DOLLAR,” a collaboration with Myke Towers that earned each and every one of its 100 million+ streams with a bone-rattling beat, and 2018 smash “Cuando Te Besé” featuring Paulo Londra. Oh, and let’s not forget the seductive title track.
As you may have already noticed, the album is collaboration-heavy and roughly split into two halves. As the cover art indicates, there are naughty bangers and nice bops. The difference isn’t always apparent to non-Spanish speakers and, to be honest, it really doesn’t matter. The songs have one thing in common, and that is danceable beats and an instantly catchy chorus. Of the collaborations, highlights include the slinky, mid-tempo “TE SUPERÉ” featuring Puerto Rican superstars Zion & Lennox and Farruko. It really should be a single.
“ME ACOSTUMBRÉ” is another standout. An emotional collaboration with Venezuelan brothers Mau Y Ricky, this allows Becky to show off her underrated vocals. It also has enough hooks to get under your skin from the very first listen. If you are just here for the party jams, “VÁMANOS” featuring Panama’s Sech is the collaboration for you. This goes as hard as any reggaeton tune on the radio, and gives a welcome female perspective. I’m also rather partial to the sexy “MEJOR ASÍ.” The superstar combines with Darrell to deliver a decidedly raunchy earworm.
As for the solo songs, I was immediately drawn to “EN MI CONTRA.” It’s a soft and pretty mid-tempo anthem, which offers a welcome change of pace on an album dominated by danceloor-ready beats. “NI DE TI NI DE NADIE” is similarly subdued (at least by Becky’s standards), but extraordinarily catchy. Given her hip-hop roots, it’s great to hear Ms. Gomez exercise her flow on “NO TE PERTENEZCO,” which boasts one of the most hypnotic beats on the album. It’s goes hard and fully deserves to be a single. As does “24/7,” for the wicked hook alone.
All in all, Mala Santa is a winning debut that promises big things for the future. There could, perhaps, be a little more variety moving forward (non-stop reggaeton beat can become a little repetitive) and Becky might want to consider mixing in a ballad or two. She certainly has the vocal chops. These are minor qualms, however, given the consistency and quality of these songs. Now that Becky has conquered Latin-pop, it’s time for her to get started on that long-promised English-language opus.