The writing’s on the wall, so bright it’ll sear your retinas: Reggaeton and trap win streaming. So if you’re an artist over 30 and you hope to stream successfully, adjust accordingly. This is true for Latin stars — check out new songs from Ricardo Montaner, Olga Tañon and Alejandro Sanz — and Anglo stars alike: See recent singles from Katy Perry and Madonna.
Either Marc Anthony had his Aviators on while making his new album, Opus — or he is just blithely uninterested in the awkward contortions the middle-aged make when they attempt to seem hip. Salsa turned Anthony into a million-selling star in the Nineties, and salsa is what he gives you in 2019. He doesn’t even attempt another version of 2013’s “Vivir Mi Vida,” which traded tenacity and specificity for the benign, anyone-can-chant-this qualities that make global hits.
Anthony’s refusal to change with the times on Opus is unfashionable, but intelligent. Change is one of pop’s most overused and inconsistently applied narratives — many transformations are ill-advised, and change for change’s sake isn’t all that different from inertia. Anthony, on the other hand, is focused on continuity. Opus is co-produced by Sergio George, who oversaw Anthony’s masterful 1995 breakthrough, Toda a Su Tiempo. The keyboard tuning sounds just as it did 25 years ago.
Many of the tracks on Opus aim for the melodic ferocity of Anthony’s Nineties catalog, with stampeding bass lines, strafing runs on the piano and magnificently coordinated horns (“Parecen Viernes,” the end of “Reconozco”). There is princely attention to detail — listen to the way the strings double and then elaborate on the keyboard riff in “Un Amor Eterno” — and brass melodies that sound stirring enough to be stolen from a standard but are not (“Lo Peor de Mi,” which throws in a killer key-change for good measure).
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In the middle of the whirlwind, Anthony sings with tremendous ability, running notes down and sitting on them for long periods just because he can — and, it’s worth noting, the majority of his younger peers cannot. Every vulnerable quaver of Anthony’s voice doubles as a show of brute, you-can’t-touch-this strength.
Even with all the horsepower in these songs, they take their time and enjoy a longer game. Maybe that’s because they know something you don’t: In the final section of each, after a long simmer, everything finally boils over. At this point, it’s as if a musical relay race devolves into an all-out brawl. Anthony, his horns, his bass player, his pianist and his backup singers each attempt to wrest control of the track, vying for the honor of guiding it over the finish line. It turns out that continuity can be plenty exciting.