Release Date: November 19, 2012
If you’re a bilingual dance musician bent on taking over the world — by any means necessary — there’s really no clearer mission statement than starting your new album with a sample from “Macarena.” The 1996 dance hit by Los del Río is the biggest Spanish-language track ever to storm the Billboard charts, landing at No. 5 on their all-time Top 100. So when Global Warming‘s title track kicks off with that ever-recognizable synth twerk as Pitbull brags about his aim to captivate todos del mundo, there are no illusions about his end game: He’s going for the jugular, prepared to do whatever it takes to overtake every format and become a playlist standard for your cousin’s wedding.
To underscore that aim, he pairs up with Sensato, whose own quirky single “Watigatapitusberry” was upstreamed by Pitbull in 2010 for his own end, and who references Dyme-A-Duzin’s Brooklyn teen high-school hit “IDELY.” It’s a one-hit wonder trifecta, and this Möbius strip of meta-references sets the tone for an album that gets much of its juice from songs you already know, and from its total adherence to dance music that sounds more like radio-hit algorithms than bona-fide club bangers.
The mission statement of Pitbull’s last album, 2011’s Planet Pit, was to make every song a single, and it worked; so, here we are again. Three albums ago, the man dubbed “Mr. 305” became extremely famous, the closest thing American Latinos have to a homegrown answer to Shakira — or at least that was the hope. This is not an indictment of the Cuban-American’s earlier material — he produced some memorable tracks during the crunk years, and even “Maldito Alcohol,” his 2010 dance foray with thunk-thump producer Afrojack, maintained his originality. Let us not forget that the guy was experimenting with dance music as early as 2004, when he freestyled over Lethal Bizzle’s “Pow,” leading some overly optimistic grime fans to believe he’d be the guy to finally break the scuzzy British rap sound in the States. (We were hilariously wrong, but he did get it on New York’s Hot 97, at least.)
But even as the Internet has opened listeners’ ears across the world, it’s almost as if Pitbull doesn’t trust himself anymore — or, at least, his producers don’t. The global-takeover aspirations are understandable: What do any of us want but to be more and more beloved? But the songwriting attempts on Global Warming end up messy and corny, because they operate from the assumption that audiences react mostly to nostalgia. For instance, the Christina Aguilera collab “Feel This Moment” should be a major crossover situation — she chips in a slightly cheesy, Selena-alluding diva vocal combined with Miami-worthy sub-bass, but a-ha’s “Take on Me” hook played on a handsy techno synth overrides both vocalists. You end up feeling like you’ve landed in a commercial for Jock Jams 58, shilling lowest-common-denominator dance music that presumes our inability to appreciate anything that doesn’t smash us over the cranium with an eight-pound Neoprene exercise weight.
It goes on like that: “Back in Time” borrows the melody and actual chorus of Mickey and Sylvia’s “You’re the One” — first made famous in the crawling-across-the-floor scene from Dirty Dancing, now reupholstered to suit Men in Black III‘s time-travel conceit. “Have Some Fun” features the Wanted shamelessly flipping Sheryl Crow’s original chorus into a vaguely predatory EDM track (“I got a feeling / That you’re gonna give me some,” uh, yeah, no). In fact, there’s so much producer and so little Pitbull on Global Warming that maybe it’s best that so many songs contain pieces of other music: This album is a benchmark for the total colonization and replacement of dance-floor house and techno with its emotionless, pre-programmed robot doppelganger — the EDM Monster, uncontrollable and voracious for human flesh.
There are a couple of moments of reprieve, thank goodness, because Pitbull as an artist is too interesting and long-laboring to be fully sucked into the vortex. On “Party Ain’t Over,” Afrojack lets up off the gas for a bit, and Pit’s devotion to getting twisted in the club is witty enough, though it’s the insistent Usher hook that elevates the whole affair. “Drinks for You (Ladies Anthem)” is the best song on the record, thanks to DJ Class’ stripped-down B-more house allusions, wherein Jennifer Lopez borrows the chorus from Class’ Pit-featuring 2009 hit “I’m the Shit” and Pitbull devotes his bars to hardworking women while shouting out his mother.
But the deliverance is brief among Global Warming‘s incessant, caveman-like synth jernts. Even an Enrique Iglesias cameo, brilliantly referencing the rhythms of Brazilian funk carioca (“Tchu Tchu Tcha”), doesn’t curb the tsunami of heavy-handedness. Sadly, as Pit forges ahead in his campaign for world domination, his artistry is what’s really being colonized.