The impending #bachatapocalypse is here.
Last month, Romeo Santos announced some of the details of his upcoming studio album, Formula Vol. 2, due out Feb. 25. Need proof that this thing is going to totally crush the airwaves? Lead single “Odio,” or “Hate” in English, already stomped its way up to the number-one spot on Billboard’s Hot Latin chart.
There’s no way this thing is going to stay solely on Latin-chart turf though. Besides Romeos’ bilingual Bronx-boy charm, there’s this important factor: Drake. The smooth-singing star totally owns this thing in a when-in-Rome way. Not only does he sing in full-on bachata style instead of “guest-starring," but he does so … in Spanish!
So is it any wonder that “Odio” is cruising at that top slot? Let’s take a super-deep dive into this thing to see what makes it a hit – starting with the first 30 seconds. The official lyrics video, out on Youtube, certainly helps.
00:00-00:30. An introduction to the drama!
You’ve gotta love a song that starts off with a movie-style voice-over. Here’s where Romeo helpfully defines envy and hate – in English! – just to leave no question about the song’s themes, no matter of its two languages you prefer. Plus that opening line gets right to it melodically, sliding down a minor-key run of notes that beg to be resolved in the next line.
00:30-1:00. Regret and self-flagellation!
Romeo regularly traverses the kind of emotional peaks and valleys that would give lesser men altitude sickness. This is what sucks in so many listeners. As somebody who’s likely been unlucky in love once – mistreated, perhaps, ignored, or abandoned – you might want to hear your ex-lover raking themselves over the coals. Romeo’s happy to serve up that fantasy.
Not only is he so sorry he couldn’t give you anything he wanted, he’s living, in rough translation, “annihilated in spite, repressed and burning with jealousy.” Annihilated, people! REPRESSED AND BURNING!
1:00-1:30. Awwww snap, it’s Drake!
Probably the most deft thing about this song is how there’s no huge buildup to Drake’s appearance. Right after Romeo’s done lamenting what he’s lost, and coming to terms with it, Drake slides right up on in there at about the 1:15 mark, crooning en Espanol like it ain’t no thang. Basically crying, imagining his former girl’s new man kissing her all over her body. This is classic Drake material – as well as classic bachata stuff. It’s all just further proof that this pair-up was inevitable.
1:30-2:00. So how’s Drake’s Spanish?
It’s pretty decent. They let him sing the whole bridge here. I mean I’m sure it’s phonetic or whatever, but the gently elided lines here lend themselves to easy pronunciation.
2:00-2:30. Time for a dramatic, mostly instrumental interlude!
There are a few seconds here of just a mournfully trilling guitar over the beat, as if Romeo and Drake both need a minute to think over it all. That’s a nice touch. Wait, remember when we said Drake showed up without fanfare? This part kind of ruins it, but hey, he needs to remind you he’s on the beat, okay?
2:30-3:00. Oh, hey, it’s Rico Love.
Fusion sat down with the Grammy-nominated producer/songwriter/arranger Rico Love a few weeks back about the secret to his success. Apparently, it’s being unafraid to experiment with any genres – because in this track there’s a quick whisper of his signature phrase: “Turn the lights on.” Rico has produced for Romeo before, and his gilded touch means there’s even more room for further crossover here.
Also, this is where they let Drake finally rap in English. How do you know it’s real, Drake? Oh, when you grab on that ass? Cool.
3:00-3:30. Drake’s gonna keep Drake-ing.
All you need to know about the lovable ridiculousness of this part, you can read in the lyrics below. (Maybe Bernice and Yaris can probably now host some club nights, just like “Courtney from the Hooters on Peachtree,” of Drake’s “From Time” fame.) Here he drops the word “baby” something like a dozen times.
3:30-end. Romeo brings it home by really wailing.
If an essential characteristic of bachata is that the performer must sound as though tears could come at any time, Romeo really nails it at precisely 3:28. That’s when he lingers on an “ahhh” sound at such a nasal tenor that it sounds like he might break. And naturally, there are many, many listeners who wanna rub some salve on that wound, even if he’s screwed up with the lady to whom this song is addressed.
And that’s the key with both Romeo Santos’ and Drake’s appeal: They’re slightly bad boys who still seem salvageable. Put ‘em together, and it’s like kryptonite. Or, a number-one pop song.
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.