The recording session for “Sensualidad” took place in January at Prince Royce’s Miami home studio. Bad Bunny, producer DJ Luian of the Mambo Kings, and Royce were sitting around throwing out ideas for their pop-washed dancehall cut when Luian had an idea; why didn’t they get J. Balvin to do a verse? A call later and it was settled. “Sensualidad” would be a serenade from three of music’s reigning Latino stars.
In an interview with Remezcla, Royce says he’s a fan of the way the song united his emotive sound with that of Colombia’s pop reggaeton kingpin and Puerto Rico’s pretty boy Latin trap upstart. “Sensualidad” is an addictive, romantic single that aims to be a part of the redrawing of genre lines and market overlap that has dominated 2017. “It’s a good fusion of three artists that bring in something different,” says Royce.
Bad Bunny had similar thoughts about his first collaboration with the NYC bachata legend, which is also the follow up to Bad Bunny and Balvin’s chart topping “Si Tu Novio Te Deja Sola.”
“It was truly a pleasure,” el Conejo Malo said in a statement to Remezcla. “[Royce] is so talented and doing it with my friend J Balvin made it an even more special experience. We took over Dominican Republic making this video and I hope we take over more places to create other explosive collaborations in the future.”
Aside from artistic chemistry, “Sensualidad” seems like a sign of 2017 genre flexibility, a calculated move to blend the fan bases of its three stars. “It’s important as a Latin artist to continue to push the boundaries, push the limits,” says Royce. He should know. The Dominican Bronx-born artist’s career was launched by the success of the largely English lyrics on his bachata cover of the Ben E. King 1961 classic “Stand By Me,” which landed him on Latin radio stations. (“Which was kind of strange if you think about it,” he laughs.)
After years of releasing fan favorite bachata albums mainly en español, 2015’s Double Vision marked a major shift in Royce’s strategy. The LP was dominated by English lyrics over R&B and EDM pop beats featuring Tyga, Snoop Dogg, Kid Ink, Pitbull, and JLo. “I do think maybe my core fans were — concerned,” Royce remembers. “People always have that idea like, ‘Oh my god, he’s leaving bachata!’ Obviously my intent is never to leave bachata, it’s the genre that made me successful. It represents my culture and my community, my parents.” This year’s album FIVE marked his return to Spanish lyrics — though it does include the Spiff TV-produced “Just As I Am,” a Spanglish duet with Chris Brown.
Royce’s point is that in 2017, he doesn’t have to choose. “I hope to be able to continue to switch it up, whether it’s in Spanish or English rhythms,” he says. “For me it’s fun to see reactions of what people are thinking and saying. You always learn from every album.” He underscored the way streaming services have opened markets for genres that, like Bad Bunny’s Latin trap, represent a hybrid of cultural influences. It’s a resistance to the linguistic rules of industry engagement that makes his continued experiments with genre a journey that’s important to watch.