Perhaps jumping on the bandwagon kickstarted by Latin trap titans Bad Bunny and J Balvin teaming up on a collaborative project last year, two of the genre’s B-tier names (to North American audiences at least) have elected to do the same. Anuel AA has always been a bit of a lite version of Bad Bunny with his similarly garbled cadence and menacing flows, but Ozuna provides much more of a contrast here with an often stunningly high belted voice and impressive range, often taking control of the hook while AA handles the more rhythmic verses. Mostly sticking in the tried-and-true realm of hard-hitting dancehall beats with the odd hi-hat roll thrown into the mix, there’s not much here that we haven’t heard before from a structural standpoint. However, I can’t deny that the chemistry and charisma from these two often make these standard-issue beats hit just as hard as if we were still in the reggaeton boom of 2016 or 2017. There are definitely still a small handful of tracks that adhere too much to formulas and quickly lose my interest, but the odd quirky instrumental choice, impressive vocal take from Ozuna or heart-racing verse from AA keep the energy flowing.
The album opens with its title track, a dark and cinematic trap number where the two establish themselves as “Los Dioses” – or, “The Gods,” in English – dropping into the track with a Conor McGregor speech and John Cena’s theme music before trading off some verses full of extravagant flexes of their success and domination over the industry. The synergy displayed on this track really does come across like the two are a wrestling tag team, hamming it up for the audience and simultaneously providing the best entertainment and carnage that they can. As AA’s trademark grunted gunshot of an ad-lib rings out constantly as the track progresses, hearing the juxtaposition between his bellowed raps and Ozuna’s smoother singing voice up in the stratosphere, just as dominant and ready to throw down, signals a promising partnership to come. There’s something about the crisp way the two deliver the “matrícula/película” rhyme on the chorus as well that’s ridiculously addictive. The album’s opening and closing sections are on another level compared to the filler in its middle, and the first couple tracks here keep that promise alive for a while. “100,” one of the three tracks here done by Tainy, the producer who has an absolute stranglehold on the genre’s sound like no other musician in the world. It certainly drops into a familiar place with its rhythmic patterns, but the accompanying melody and the way the drums hit make it easy to forget about originality. “Antes” has a bit of a tropical house flair with its prominently syncopated rhythms, as AA casually walks through a party dropping bars about having a great time with a delightfully conversational cadence before Ozuna drops another classic-sounding hook.
After the great opening run, the track “Dime Tú” slows the tempo down on another Tainy beat. The same dancehall rhythm that echoes through speakers worldwide persists, but without as much urgency and dedicating the majority of the track to a suave hook from Ozuna, AA is thrown out of his comfort zone and the perfect balance between the two is upset. Without as many flashy tricks to distract on the track, the tired reggaeton and dancehall trends begin to make themselves all the more evident as well, the slower track eventually putting me to sleep by its end. Tainy’s other track here, “Perreo,” jumps on the current wave of upbeat Latin dance tracks referencing the titular popular dance style and adds nothing new at all to the mix – it’s just that now we have one of these tracks by AA and Ozuna, if they happen to be your favourites. The track “Contra el Mundo,” as well, never really gets itself off the ground from a creative standpoint. The obligatory campfire-side raw acoustic track set to little more than a somber guitar hook, AA’s percussive voice delivering a rap verse overtop sounds a little ridiculous before Ozuna counters with a tear-streaked segment featuring some hilariously melodramatic and cliched lines about how the end of a relationship affected him – it’s like the two were trying to create a Latin XXXTENTACION track.
Despite “Dime Tú” falling flat and these two artists excelling with more aggressive styles, not all of the more romantic tracks here suffer the same fate. “RD” sees AA smoothing out his vocals and actually sounding surprisingly fantastic in comparison to some of his other singing performances trying out a more tender and passionate style. Contrasted with Ozuna singing the same great hook an octave up and reaching some truly mindblowing heights in his chest voice and the calming, light chimes of the instrumental, we get the strongest track here showing off these two dominators’ other side. “Nena Buena” closes out the album’s first half with a bit of a structural misstep. The track alternates from a couple energetic verses and a chorus that rides over some more traditionally bouncy and tropical, almost reggae-inspired synth stabs as AA’s stuttered flow shines, but deflates all of the energy in a couple segments where the percussion is taken away completely and the two sing a slower section in unison. Ozuna’s vocals are often fantastic, but his chipmunk-style cadence is made a lot more grating when even the slightest of filters are applied to it. “Nunca,” tacked on as the penultimate track, feels rather redundant as well, another pretty standard-issue reggaeton number without as strong of a melody as other tracks here.
The album saves some of its best tracks until the end. “Perfecto” on its surface is a ridiculously catchy and heartfelt melody that’s perfect for singing along to as loudly as possible, but when the lyrics are translated it reveals a genuinely touching take from these two artists admitting their faults and grappling with mental health struggles due to a lack of forgiveness from the other party as a relationship comes to an end. Set initially to little more than a chilling and simplistic piano melody, a trap beat ultimately roars in to complete the picture as Ozuna delivers one of the strongest hooks on the album and AA backs him up with some lyrics that expand on the matter. “La Maria” is the most Western-style trap song here, built around a single menacing synth melody and rattling hi-hats as they boast about criminal activity and blow through quite a few quotable pop culture references, but these are easily two of the most charismatic performances on the album – even Ozuna tries his hand at rapping and kills it. The project closes with “Municiones,” which is easily the most out-there creative choice here as the two once again build themselves up over what sounds like the oom-pah-pahs of a marching band tuba section, singing joyfully and having a blast in the booth with the sillier material, but the track’s subject is guns – a Pusha T-style track where they flawlessly play the alluring villain.
Although Ozuna and Anuel AA do fall into a couple traps of reggaeton filler across this project, if we’re having this one go up against the most obvious comparison in Bad Bunny and J Balvin’s OASIS, I genuinely think this one stands out just a tiny bit more due to the juxtaposition of the two styles on display here. Both artists genuinely sound like they’re out to prove they are “Los Dioses” of the Latin music game, and their best efforts rise to the occasion.
Favourite Tracks: Los Dioses, Perfecto, La Maria, RD, Municiones
Least Favourite Track: Dime Tú