Last April, Colombian pop star Karol G teased the arrival of her fourth studio album with the delicately layered “Provenza,” one of the most gorgeous and evocative Latin songs in recent years. In the visual, shot on the rugged Spanish island of Lanzarote, a group of women has fun by the ocean, their worries washed away by a sudden summer rainstorm.
This message of bucolic self-acceptance comes with the same kind of relaxed, magnetic panache that Karol G has specialized in since she emerged as a leader of the booming urbano music scene in 2017. The same lush feeling informed her 2019 megahit “Tusa,” a collaboration with Nicki Minaj that furthered Latin pop’s mainstream appeal, and it’s at the emotional center of the sprawling Mañana Será Bonito, her strongest effort to date.
Auto-Tuned or not, Karol’s voice is open and warm, blessed with a laid-back purity that is rare in the raucous urbano field. But it’s not only the voice that’s beautiful, it’s also the wistful energy behind it. Like any global diva worth her salt, Karol engineers the fickle illusion that she’s addressing you, the listener, directly — whether evoking unfulfilled desire for a past lover or compiling a list of future erotic delights.
The album begins in epic, post-breakup mode. On opening track “Mientras Me Curo Del Cora,” Karol counts her blessings (good health, a supportive family) and reassures our wounded hearts that it’s OK to feel sad at times. She finds a supportive sonic partner in producer and compatriot Ovy on the Drums, a digital architect able to inject a sense of purpose into the most tired reggaeton back beat. Ovy’s aural world-building is nimble and cool, kinetic and futuristic. On the sumptuous “Cairo” — complete with a video shot at the pyramids of Egypt — he keeps the metallic yet velvet-like rhythm moving inexorably forward, leading to a bombastic outro of sheer EDM delight.
Not everything works here. A duet with Quevedo, “Pero Tú,” sounds strangely disjointed. Karol’s incursion into música Mexicana is a distracting detour, and her much-anticipated track with Colombian icon Shakira, “TQG,” feels underwhelming, especially since it arrives only weeks after the media circus that surrounded Shakira’s massive new track with Bizarrap.
But the songs hit their ambitious heights more often than not. A fiery dembow with Justin Quiles and Angel Dior, “Ojos Ferrari,” is reckless and addictive; the autobiographical “Carolina” floats in a honeyed layer of Afro-beats smoothness; and the brief, encyclopedic musical references throughout the LP (a nod to “Don’t Worry Be Happy” on the opening track; an homage to the salsa anthem “La Cura,” by Frankie Ruiz, on the bouncy “Amargura”) add context to her innovations.
“Mañana será bonito,” Karol coos on the last track. Tomorrow will be pretty. Today is pretty great, too, and this LP is a testament to her place as one of Latin music’s true originals.