Of all the male heartthrobs currently navigating the Latino pop charts, Prince Royce is the one with the dreamiest, most seductive voice. I know, Romeo Santos has more emotional range, but indulge me here—Royce’s tone is surer and more buttery, which suits the poppier bachata tones he gravitates towards.
But he’s going for the gold—that hot English speaking audience—with his forthcoming album, which will be his fourth, and his first English album. I cannot wait to watch the English music press “discover” this dude—your “new” boyfriend is my old boyfriend, ayooo—but that will come in time. Before that, we must discuss his latest number featuring Pitbull—my dude, the patron saint of globalization, and the major-label charts equivalent of a money shot.
It will probably work: “Back It Up” is as decentralized a pop song from Royce’s career as any of them, synthesized so as to be unplaceable. When the ladies in the chorus sing “Damelo papi chulo,” it’s in a jingle hollow enough to be devoid of meaning, but that’s not nearly as strange as Pitbull’s intro: “Yo, it’s got that dancehall feel to it!” Uhh, I guess? Maybe the tone of the synths, but I can’t think of an actual dancehall riddim this cheesy and grooveless, even in the softer pop realms of Popcaan or Gyptian. As if to underscore his point, on his verse he paraphrases El General’s “Tu Pum Pum,” translating the “pum pum” part to “boom boom” because, presumably, the charts aren’t ready to defend “pum pum” as not-vulgar.
But this is what Pitbull does best: he makes his music about everything and nothing, takes very specifically diasporic reference points and translates them to the world. It’s what I often find interesting about his music, but for some reason “Back It Up” bums me out. It’s beneath Royce, who’s given us tracks like “Soy el Mismo” or “Incondicional” or one of my favorite swoony bachata jams ever, “Corazon sin cara.” Even this husky dance ballad from the Fast & the Furious 7 soundtrack is better.
Bachata is not for everyone, I guess, so this is what he had to do to get in the game of bigger tracks, more fame, bigger paychecks. So let’s get to the real point: what the hell does the lyric “Girl, your body is timeless” mean? What does it mean to have a timeless body? The instinct in the rap context would be to define “timeless” as “classic” which is not really applicable here, since many body types throughout history have been considered “classic,” based on a varying interplay of sociological, economic, and political factors.
So in that sense, I am inclined to believe that through the line “Girl, your body is timeless,” Prince Royce is in fact in love with an android, a girl who is unaffected by the passage of space and time, like Haley Joel Osment the Cybertronics boy. She can therefore live forever and love him for eternity, and by “back it up up back it up up,” he of course means her hard drive. In that sense, this song is deeply progressive, and a brilliant entry into the canon of pop science fiction! Love it!