On a chilly late September evening, the nimble melodies of Ozuna’s ballad “Una Flor” soared across a crowd of shrieking fans at New York’s fabled Madison Square Garden. Seconds earlier, before diving into the Odisea track, the Puerto Rican-Dominican pop star had asked the crowd to reflect on the abuse and violence that women and children face in today’s society, a choice that would have felt bold at a major reggaeton concert 15 years ago. But, now, as the genre has dominated mainstream Spanish-language music across the diaspora, anything goes.

It’s this sense of tenderness that has made Ozuna a global superstar – and one of the most streamed artists in the world. With his ability to easily glide between syrupy melodies and sinister trap beats, as well as his embrace of reggaeton’s endless capacity for romance, Ozuna has captured the hearts of fans and sidestepped the familiar moralistic critics of the genre, who lambast the movement as inherently misogynistic. Thanks to his radio-friendly lyrics, Ozuna is reggaeton’s Prince Charming.

Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

Rafael and Whitney Romero. Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

The Puerto Rican artist performed his first sold out show at MSG on Saturday to a crowd of over 20,000 people, effortlessly replicating the versatility of his vocal styles on mournful trap baladas like “El Farsante” and the addictive melodrama of summer smash “Te Boté.” In between explosive pyrotechnics and more somber serenades, Ozuna beamed to deafening roars from the crowd, evidently awe-struck at the accomplishment and his own rapid ascent to fame.

Outside, before the show, fans decked in bootleg merch and carrying Puerto Rican and Dominican flags giddily chatted about their love of Ozuna before entering the venue. Whitney Romero, 28, said, “I love Ozuna’s voice, it’s just so angelic.” Citing Aura‘s Romeo Santos collab “Ibiza” as her favorite song of the moment, she continued, “How do you just not like a song with Romeo Santos and Ozuna together? Both of their voices are the voices of angels.” And praising the clean lyrics that have catapulted him to international fame, the mother of Cecily Lopez, 27, added, “It feels like, ‘Yes that’s the way you’re supposed to be treated as a woman.’”

Leslie Pagan. Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

Cecily Lopez. Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

But it’s not just his vocal power or lyrics that are a draw, either. As one of the leading figures of the new generation of reggaetoneros, Ozuna is a major part of the renewed visibility that the genre is having across the globe – and one of the few black artists to be a part of the current wave. “Honestly, I did not listen to reggaeton for a very long time and I am Latina, but Ozuna has brought me back,” said Romero. And attendee Rafael argues that the resurgence of the genre speaks volumes about Latinos’ musical influence. “It says that Latinos are here and we’re a very loud voice all over the world, regardless of the languages that are spoken in that country. We’re making an impact and people are realizing that.” Leslie Pagan, 20, agrees. “I’ve always listened to [reggaeton]; [this moment] opens up opportunities for everybody.”

Whether reggaeton’s pop takeover reaches a point of saturation remains to be seen, but as the genre continues to command attention on an international level, one thing’s for sure: it’s only up from here for Ozuna.

Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

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