Though it arrived a little less than a year after J Balvin began teasing it in interviews, Oasis, the "surprise" collaborative album with Bad Bunny, finally materializes. The pair -- at the top of their respective games -- have been collaborating since 2015, and have netted a few smash hits together including their collabo on Balvin's "Sensualidad" (with Prince Royce, DJ Luian, and Mambo Kingz in the mix) and on Cardi B's global chart-topper "I Like It." The current king of gender fluid urbano fashion, Bad Bunny is no stranger to surprise: X 100Pre, his debut long-player, was released with only a day's notice at midnight on Christmas Eve. Though ubiquitous for his hook-and-smooth-groove presence on the charts, Balvin is just as likely to turn up as an unexpected guest on concert stages and in videos as he is recordings.
Oasis could have been anything given the ambition and explosive creativity the pair share. This is an exercise in summertime excess, fleshed out by airy, infectious mixes and great beats that fuel songs themed with hedonism -- unprotected sex, casual relationships, consumption of prodigious amounts of alcohol, dance parties, etc. Dembow and trap beats are juxtaposed and entwined throughout, with Bad Bunny's nasal yet attractive baritone claiming the foreground on the majority of these eight tracks. While Sky produced the set's first single "Qué Pretendes," master producer Tainy helmed three cuts, including the crunchy, heavier, dembow-drenched second single "Cuidao por Ahí." That said, Nicael Arroyo co-produced "La Canción" with Bad Bunny, and it's the set's finest moment: A killer, post-club comedown groover laced with a lonely jazz trumpet sample atop its late-night rhythms. The pair team with Marciano Cantero on the charango-driven reggaeton-cum-jam "Un Peso," produced by Tainy. The spacy, jazzy dembow ballad "Odio" was co-produced by Sky and HTM. Balvin claims the lead vocal, regaling spite with an effortless openness seldom heard in reggaeton, while Bad Bunny croons behind him, underscoring the sentiment. Closer "Como un Bebé," produced by Legendury Beatz, all but erases the cultural boundaries between African and Latin pop musics. It features a guest collaboration with Mr. Eazi (aka Oluwatosin Ajibade), whose tri-lingual rapping and beat consciousness add traces of Ghanaian highlife, juju, and skeletal Afro-funk via his self-created "Banku music" genre. The only arguments against Oasis are that it's a tad too short at 31 minutes, and it could have stood a bit more variation in tempo. But these are small complaints. Throughout, the slippery beats, rangy songwriting, crisp, breezy production, and the streetwise pleasure-seeking confessionals and sideways jokes, make for a feel-good (even in its darker moments) summertime urbano album to be pumped loudly from car stereos, at parties, or on the beach.