Hola salseros. For this edition I thought I’d do a merengue battle. The songs I’ve chosen may not be mainstream but they are from artists well known to fans of merengue. The first is a song by Tono Rosario and the second is by the king himself, Elvis Crespo (though not the one most automatically think of). Merengue tends to tell funny stories, or happy upbeat ones, which makes sense when you hear the music. The two contenders today do something a little differently, as you will soon see. So, let’s get to it.

The contenders:

1. Cortame las venas: Tono Rosario; album “Tu Gusto” (2007).
2. Nuestra cancion: Elvis Crespo; album “Suavemente” (1998).

Now, remember how I said these songs were different than your typical happy merengue beats? Well, one look at the translation of the title will give you an indication as to why. Cortame las venas means “cut my veins.” Now, before we get too macabre, let me put it in context for you. This is a song about the pain we go through for love, nothing more. Let’s see what the lyrics tell us.

Cut my veins and let me bleed
Because you live for another and you’re not coming back
Cut my veins, do me that favour
Because I don’t want this life if I don’t have your passion
And I just can’t live anymore, I miss your love, sweetheart
Come cut my veins, please, and end this pain
And I just can’t live anymore, save me from this perdition
Come cut my veins, please, and end this pain.

Once you’ve stopped laughing at the video (bad video, bad hair, need I say more) and read the lyrics, you can see how the song still conveys a light mood, even if the lyrics are somewhat strong. However, this is the beauty of merengue, it has a way of making heartache seem manageable. The song speaks of a serious emotion without weighing itself down in it. The first time I heard this song I was so caught up with the catchy beat that the words struck me only after hearing the chorus a few times. It was only after really listening to all the lyrics that I understood what was trying to be said and why the lyrics weren’t necessarily shocking as much as they were perfect with the feel of the instrumentation. Close your eyes and listen to the instrumentation. It is clearly merengue but with a slightly somber sound, not quite as rambunctious as others.

Nuestra cancion (Our Song) is a bittersweet tune. Read these lyrics and see what you think.

I want you to remember me with this song that used to make us still
That song that used to tell us that one day the end would come
No, it isn’t out of spite, its just something that I want to ask of you
Now and forever so that you will remember me

I’m so sad ’cause today that you left I heard our song
So that neither of us would ever forget it

We can’t go on anymore
I’m sorry, I couldn’t make you happy
I’m leaving, but I take with me
The love I felt for you
Search your dreams and don’t think of me anymore.

I hope you can see why this song is so bittersweet. It is a reluctant release of a relationship that was at its end yet whose memories and feelings left an indelible effect. This sounds like the lingering tremors of a romance that didn’t so much end bitterly as it simply ran its course. I know that personally this song always brings a smile to my face because it seems that Elvis Crespo manages to perfectly convey the respect deserved by the situation and capture the sentiment that both people are better off apart yet still miss each other due to the importance they each played in each other’s lives. Simple lyrics, yet effective nonetheless with a similarly subdued sound as its fellow competitor.


Sound of the song
As I’ve said, the songs are both more subdued than a ‘typical’ merengue yet still clearly of the genre. On a personal note, I love the slower tempo, it provides a nice change of pace from the other hip shaking merengues. Listening to the voices, both do an excellent job expressing the emotion. Tono Rosario’s voice just seems to be crying at times which goes hand in hand with his feeling of loss and despair. Elvis Crespo interprets the song with a more composed voice that still manages to make you feel the respectful nostalgia of the song. Cortame las venas has a more complex instrumentation but I enjoy the “oh-oh oh-oh” backup vocalization in Nuestra cancion. A tough category to call and I don’t think I can. Draw: 5-5.

The first thing required here is to be able to slow down the merengue moves in your head. The ususal tendency is to just go nuts and move those hips like there’s no tomorrow and drive the song to its conclusion. However, a slower merengue can give so much more opportunity for the little things that make a dance special. Having said that, there is more opportunity to do that with Cortame las venas, provided mainly by the extra instrumentation and pauses. Also notice how the lessened pace gives the chance for a little more closeness ;). I have to give the edge to Cortame las venas, 4.5-4.

Musical and lyrical sync
To me, this is where the songs differ most. Not because they aren’t synced well in regards to lyrics and music, but because I feel that the emotion of one is more difficult to express than the other. Pain of loss is a strong feeling and an essential part of the human condition yet it is also easier to express. This is not to say that it is insignificant, just that it is a very real, obvious and universally understood sentiment. Being at ease with a respectful and nostalgic longing takes time. Furthermore, being happy with that longing (not in spite of or because of it) is an emotion most people know yet would have a hard time verbalizing. The lyrics of Nuestra cancion do a great job of making that clear but even in the absence of knowledge of the lyrics, Crespo’s vocals just bring it to life. In the end, merengue as a vehicle for that sentiment makes perfect sense. Category goes to Nuestra cancion, 5-4.

Nuestra Cancion 14, Cortame Las Venas 13.5.

Hasta la proxima…

Sigan Bailando!