It’s a steady, sweltering 90 degrees here in the Dominican Republic, but sound systems never seem to overheat. Cars blast music from morning till night. On the streets, in the colmados, on the beaches and in homes everywhere, the familiar dembow rhythm and the familiar voices of Romeo Santos, Plan B, and…uh… Romeo Santos croon away. But I’ve been here on the island for a week now and have not heard a single Prince Royce song. Not once. Anywhere.
Is anyone really paying attention to Prince Royce at the moment? It would appear the artist’s latest endeavor is catering specifically to the American market, highlighted with his new English LP Double Vision. His latest tour to promote the deluxe album, which includes the donut licking Ariana Grande, is heading to many cities across the US this fall, from prestigious stadiums like Barclays Center in New York to, well, Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.
Some of the tracks on the latest album seem like bonafide radio hits, like the lead single “Stuck on a Feeling” feat. Snoop Dogg. Upon listening, the track definitely feels pretty familiar. We could say with certainty that it borrows a lot of its flavor from 112’s “Dance with Me,” since it non-coincidently shares some of the same writers (Daron Jones, Jason Boyd). But who needs to write their own lyrics when you look as good as Prince Royce?
Unfortunately, many of the tracks are tried, tested, and ultimately boring fodder to fill in the rest of the near hour-long album. More than anything else, they remind the listeners of polished knockoffs of other artists – be it the bland hyper ballad “Lucky One,” (which sounds like BSB), the Latin vibes like “There For You,” (a recycled Enrique Iglesias sound) or the uncomfortable references to paparazzi and media, like the title single, “Double Vision,” which could well be the theme song for guest artist’s Tyga’s recent scandal with Mia Isabella and current girlfriend, Kylie Jenner. The worst on the list is the obnoxious “Back It Up,” which not even the star power of JLo and Pitbull together could salvage. Probably best saved for an alcohol commercial.
It’s a shame that Prince Royce’s vanilla departure from his original sound will mark his attempt at his American market takeover. If Romeo Santos has taught us anything, it’s that abandoning obvious signifiers of Latinidad (Spanish, tropical rhythms), is no longer a pre-requisite for “crossing over” into the U.S. mainstream. But ultimately, the motivations behind the overwhelming lack of bachata or urban latin production on the album are ambiguous: does Royce just genuinely want to take on r&b and pop genres, or is this more about his management’s attempt at selling Prince Royce as the ‘sexy, American boy next door’ instead of an international Latin superstar?
Upon finishing listening to the album, I can’t help but think his career would greatly benefit from following the 2015 ‘Justin Bieber’ model. If his goal is to sell stadiums in America, he could enlist some high profile EDM artists (Skrillex, Diplo, etc) for production credits that could widen his American and global audience. The instantly recognizable hook of “Where Are U Now?” just boomed past my apartment on Avenida Sarasota here in Santo Domingo; I’m left wondering how big Prince Royce would be right now if his voice was on that track instead.