Bad Bunny, “X 100PRE” (Rimas)
So when the 24-year-old Latin trap phenom Bad Bunny from Puerto Rico finally dropped his interminably awaited debut album on Christmas Eve, the gesture itself felt like a mischievous flex. Here was an artist who made his name by taking unpredictable left turns with supreme confidence. Now he was trying to upstage the birth of Christ.
Out on the sales floor, this appears to have been a misstep. But maybe Bad Bunny is playing the long game. If you squint hard enough at “X 100PRE,” you’ll hear an album that’s going to change things. After issuing a few summers’ worth of motley hits — including “I Like It,” his massive neo-boogaloo brainchild with Cardi B — Bad Bunny is giving important new lessons in genre erosion.
He still sounds most comfortable coasting over trap beats, those languorous, flickering rhythms that most Atlanta rappers tend to chew like Juicy Fruit. But “X 100PRE” also features smoggy puffs of reggaeton (“Cuando Perriabas”), delectable pinpricks of bachata (“La Romana”), bully punches of dembow (“La Romana” again), even a surprise power-pop jag that could probably be traced back to Ric Ocasek’s 23andMe kit (“Tenemos Que Hablar”). And through it all, Bad Bunny never sounds like some pseudo-syncretist showing off how many styles he can juggle. Everything here simply sounds like a Bad Bunny song.
At the bottom of it all is his voice, a blunted baritone that originates in the abyss of his diaphragm and rises up through his airways, smooth like an escalator ride, finally rolling out of his mouth like a yawned shout or a shouted yawn. It’s a monolithic, strangely adaptable tone — one that allows him to deaden his punchlines, gird his brags and cast his most vulnerable pleas in bronze.
His risky wild styles set Bad Bunny apart from his closest cousin in pop, Drake. The two work in the same melodic neighborhood, but to hear how different they are, cue up “MIA,” the album-closing duet where Drake lilts along in Spanish while Bad Bunny enters his default state of effortless locomotion. The song doesn’t come off like an airplay bid, or a synergy exercise, or any kind of torch-passing. Instead, it feels like another mischief-flex — a contrast between one rapper who aspires to sound like everyone else and another who can only sound like himself.
Because unlike Drake, Bad Bunny isn’t one of those careerist chameleons. He’s got a much cooler thing going. The world changes color around him.
Chris Richards, Washington Post
Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Sniterzer Orchestra, “The Capitol Studio Sessions” (Decca)
Goldblum is a jazz man? Well, kinda sorta. The scene-stealing “Jurassic Park” and “Independence Day” actor has been a pianist since childhood, and he holds down a weekly gig in Los Angeles with the band named after a friend of his mother’s. Now at 66, the 6-foot-4 hepcat has released his debut album.
It was recorded in front of an audience in the Hollywood studio where Frank Sinatra cut his classic sides in the 1950s. It’s probably a real kick to see Goldblum do his lounge lizard shtick in person, but on the record, the between-song stage patter adds little, and the jokey duet with Sarah Silverman on “Me and My Shadow” is a low point. But guest vocalists Haley Reinhart and particularly Imelda May distinguish themselves, and Goldblum is an able, engaging, never showy player smart enough to get out of the way and let the professionals do their thing.
Dan Deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer