À la Chart

Hate it or love it, reggaeton was everywhere in 2005. It became the format for dozens of Latin radio stations across the nation. Two of its biggest stars — Tego Calderon and Daddy Yankee — were the first in the genre to sign with major labels. This year reggaeton faced a lot of party crashers who would like nothing more than to cash in on the formula. Luckily a good number of producers and performers ensured that this was a banner year for the genre not only commercially but also artistically. Here are the albums that moved the needle.

Luny Tunes featuring various artists, Mas Flow 2: Often described as the Neptunes of reggaeton, Luny Tunes lived up to the "Gasolina" hype. The Mas Flow team of Luny, Naldo, Nelly, Bones, and Tunes infused Middle Eastern strings and dancehall riffs with hip-hop and reggae beats and came up with an exotic mix of high-energy dembow stumpers. With no two songs sounding alike, Mas Flow 2 provided a vision of the genre that was more diverse and engaged than both its detractors and practitioners imagined.

Vico C, Desahogo: Legendary Latino rapper Vico C teamed with production wizard Ecko to make the best blend of hip-hop, salsa, and reggaeton of the year. By veering away from formulaic genre clichés, Vico C developed a sound that seemed oblivious to the genre's increasingly commercial aesthetic. Songs such as "Desahogo" and the salsa/hip-hop blend of "Lo Grande Que Es Perdonar" might take awhile to get used to, but repeated listening reveals an album of great sonic beauty and thoughtful lyrical skill. Desahogo was the conscience of reggaeton/Latin hip-hop in 2005.

Wisin y Yandel, Pa'l Mundo: After the duo scored a mammoth hit with "Rakata," critics speculated they had little more to offer. Gladly they saved the best for their album, which was released late in the year and smashed the record for first-week reggaeton sales. Songs such as "Llame Pa' Verter" and "La Barria" proved to be among the most infectious dance tracks of the year.

Calle 13, Calle 13: Aware that reggaeton's dembow riddim needed some updates to keep it fresh, the two brothers in Calle 13 concentrated on deeper grooves that emphasized a more soulful approach than the party-heavy dim-dim beats that were the norm in 2005. The duo earned points not only for aesthetic experimentation but also for being one of the few acts in reggaeton that dared to question the newfound interest in the genre by trend-hopping American celebrities. Songs such as the P Diddy dis track "Pi-di-di-di" and the proto-dembow riddim of "Se Vale To" might not have an impact on the charts nor earn Calle 13 friends in high places, but they will ensure that the genre remains fiercely independent.

Felito El Caballote, Felito El Caballote Presenta Tha Crew 4: Along with Ivy Queen, Felito began in the era of DJ Negro in Santurce, Puerto Rico. But after three successful Tha Crew compilations, Felito opted to try his luck in Orlando, where he has become the cabecilla (ringleader) of that city's emerging scene. Tha Crew 4 shines because of its crafty collaborations with Ivy Queen, Plan B, and Bimbo. The two-CD compilation is divided into dance-friendly reggaeton and more hard-core reggaeton-tinged hip-hop. Clearly aimed to please genre purists, Felito's reggaeton is pure calle.

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José Dávila