When: Sat., May 30, 9 p.m. 2015
Born in The Bronx, 33-year-old Romeo Santos is an international sex symbol, yet in most neighborhoods in America, his name recognition is about as poor as Bernie Sanders’. Or, they might know him as that tanned wealth-god from Furious Seven who hides Jordana Brewster from bad guys in his Dominican mansion. In real life, Santos is known as the King of Bachata, taking the traditional Dominican form and campaigning with it across the globe. Bachata has been a piece of Dominican culture since the early 20th century, a summit of the bolero and African rhythms on the guitar. For most of the century, the music remained stranded in the Caribbean island, locked away by the cultural repression of dictator Rafael Trujillo. But when El Jefe was assassinated in 1961, bachata met the modern wonder of the vinyl press and the style quickly came to America. In New York, the pressure cooker of American music, the electric guitar was introduced to the swaying rhythms of bachata. Santos enters the picture in 1994, when his bachata boy band Aventura became a dominant name in the genre. In the time-tested fashion of American boy bands, Santos ditched the successful crew to become wildly successful with his 2011 album Formula, Vol. 1. On Formula and its follow-up, Santos roots the music in the bachata guitar rhythm, waxing romantic in a high tenor. Not quite a crossover into straight-up pop, Santos works with enough Top 40 melodies and I-V-vi-IV chord progressions — the common ancestor of American music, from Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” — to put him in the family tree as his English-singing cousins. Click here to read Matt Stieb's full story on Santos.