A churning yet hollow percussion wanders around in the shadows of a cryptic melody as we enter “Dueños de Aquí,” the all new single by Mexican R&B crooner Labán, and in its haunting echo our hearts synchronize to his in what could be described as a true moment in artistic transcendence. This beat doesn’t grab our attention with the same ferocious grip that Labán’s vocals do, but it plays its part well just the same; setting the stage, drawing back the curtain and killing the house lights so that its composer can shine. “Dueños de Aquí” isn’t driven by the strength of its percussion, but it certainly would possess an entirely different identity were it not accented by the stirring drum salvo that introduces the song.
Labán’s vocals are very on point in his latest single, to the degree where you don’t need to look for a translator if you’re unfamiliar with the Spanish language. He sways like a pendulum in this track; one minute raising an eyebrow at the confidence of the bass, the next contemptuously scowling at the audacity of the guitar. He commands our focus but doesn’t quite overshadow the delicately woven instrumentation that he’s utilizing as a template for his harmonies. Labán strikes me as the kind of artist who has the potential to go off the rails really easily, but “Dueños de Aquí” is his craft at its most controlled and disciplined. The raw passion that burns within his soul is still present, it’s just been somewhat condensed for mass consumption.
The smoke-stained guitar that hangs in the foreground of “Dueños de Aquí” isn’t nearly as loud as it needs to be, especially in contrast to the bass, which steals the lion’s share of the attention among the instrumental players. The middle-heavy mix doesn’t do the guitar parts any favors either; instead of highlighting what would have been a blistering solo towards the end of the song, it sounds like the producer was trying to bury its strings in subtle white noise. It doesn’t take too much away from Labán’s performance behind the mic, but it is an unfortunate element to an otherwise very accessible R&B song that is as tightly wound compositionally as it is elegantly executed musically.
“Dueños de Aquí” pivots with an urban sleekness that bodes well in today’s diversified R&B genre but falls short of swinging due to an unrefined representation of its instrumental climax. Labán’s singing satisfies on all fronts and justly conveys the stately swagger of the song with grandeur, and I think that in a live setting this single would come alive under the influence of a crowded concert hall. Though the production leaves a little to be desired when it arguably counts the most, there’s never any mistaking what this song was meant to do; showcase the immaculately constructed vocal attack of Labán, who neither holds back nor goes overboard in the performance that he offers us here. I like the bones of this single more than anything else, and that’s why I’ll be paying close attention to its composer’s work in the future.