Latin American music has taken over in 2020, and it's mainly due to one artist who has continued to release hit after hit and lives on top of the charts. While Latinx representation remains minuscule in the film and TV industry, its growth and presence in the music industry have been much larger than in other industries. This is not to say that Latin American music isn't misunderstood or grouped into a singular entity. Not all Spanish speakers are Mexican, so obviously, not all Spanish music is Mexican. It's also important for people to recognize that there are numerous music genres in Latin America and these genres originate from different Latin American countries. As a Mexican-American, I don't consider myself to be an expert on Latin American music either. Still, I'm excited to share what I know about the most popular Latin American music genres and artists in the United States in the most recent years.
Reggaeton is a music style that originated in Puerto Rico in the mid-1990s, and it was influenced by American hip-hop, Latin American, and Caribbean music. This style typically includes rapping and singing in Spanish. Throughout the years, Reggaeton has become one of the most popular genres of music in Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia, and Venezuela. It has also become increasingly popular in mainstream Western countries. The word "reggaeton" was first used in 1994 by Daddy Yankee and DJ Playero, and now Daddy Yankee is known as "the King of Reggaeton." Artists have transformed reggaeton by fusing it with other genres, and at the forefront of that transformation are J Balvin, Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Karol G, Sech, and many more.
Regional Mexican technically isn't a genre. Instead, it's a radio format that makes up the genres banda, Duranguense, grupero, mariachi, New Mexico music, Norteno, Tejano, and others. Essentially, these are music genres from different parts of rural Mexico and the South Western United States. From what I've seen, one of the most popular growing styles of Regional Mexican music is corridos. These songs are ballads, and I compare them to the Spanish version of rap. This music style has recently been popularized by the Mexican musician Natanael Cano who fuses trap and corridos to create his own unique style. Although I don't listen to Regional Mexican music, I am aware that its popularity has risen in the United States in recent years because the younger generation is embracing it.
The Bachata genre emerged in the Dominican Republic in the first half of the 20th century. Bachata mainly has Spanish influences and remnants of indigenous and African musical elements. Bachata is also a form of dance. Having spent my whole life in the U.S. going to quinceañeras and other family parties where bachata was always played, I thought Bachata was created in Mexico. This is why I want to make sure the Dominican Republic gets credit as the country that created Bachata because I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought it originated in Mexico. There have been many great musicians who have popularized bachata, but today Juan Luis Guerra and the bachata group Aventura are seen as the musicians who elevated this musical genre to new heights. Additionally, Anthony "Romeo" Santos from Aventura and Prince Royce are leading bachata into continued success through consistent innovation. These artists have collaborated with huge American artists, have sung in English and Spanish, and have mixed other musical elements into bachata.
Although rock, in general, hasn't been as popular as it once was, Latin Rock remains quite popular among listeners based on my experience. Some musicians who continue to be incredibly popular (at least among Mexicans) are rock groups Maná, Camila, and Café Tacuba. Solo artists include Santana, Juanes, and I'd even include Shakira. Although most of Shakira's music today is pop, she began her career as primarily a rock artist, and her past hits are frequently played on Spanish radio stations.
Latin pop is a combination of Latin music and American pop music. Many artists today fit into the Latin pop genre, and some of the biggest names include Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Enrique Inglesias, to name a few. What's beautiful about Latin pop artists is their persistence to experiment with all sorts of musical genres and styles. Take Shakira, for example. Her 2019 Super Bowl Halftime Show displayed the rich and beautiful elements that make up Latin American music. At this point, I think Shakira has done it all, and she is a queen we were so happy to see represent our culture on one of the biggest stages ever.
Latinx artists thrived in the music industry this year, but no one compares to Bad Bunny. Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, known as Bad Bunny, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in 2020, and take my word for it when I say he is the biggest pop star of this year. With three albums in one year, Bad Bunny has saved 2020. His first album of the year, YHLQMDLG (Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana), was a huge success, and just when we thought he couldn't do better, he released El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo on Thanksgiving day, AN ALBUM WITH NO SKIPS. I could write a whole dissertation on Bad Bunny and how he's changing music, but I'll keep it brief. Although Bad Bunny is primarily known for reggaeton and Latin trap, El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo shows us that labels will not define him. I truly believe this album had it all, from post-punk, rock, R&B, to reggaeton, Latin trap, and just all kinds of mixings of musical genres and styles. Bad Bunny's sound is like nothing I've heard before, and I'm convinced exciting times are ahead for Latin American music. Although Bad Bunny has lyrics that scare parents, it's fun seeing parents' reactions, and if you have cool parents, they'll eventually warm up to the songs and join you in blasting them. As someone who grew up mainly listening to English music and preferring it over Spanish music, I'm glad to have found a Latinx artist I love and who helps my generation learn Spanish or retain our Spanish-speaking skills. Puerto Rican Spanish is different from Mexican, or any other country's Spanish, especially our slang, but I've enjoyed learning about Puerto Rican culture through Bad Bunny's songs. The power of music and representation is strong, and I hope we see more Latinx artists dominate the music industry like Bad Bunny.
Bad Bunny Recommendations
"Otra Noche en Miami"
“Si Estuviéramos Juntos”
"Solo de Mi"
"Si Veo a Tu Mamá"
"Pero Ya No"
"Yo Perreo Sola"
El Último Tour Del Mundo
"EL MUNDO ES MÍO"
"TE DESEO LO MEJOR"
"YO VISTO ASÍ"
"ANTES QUE SE ACABE"
Some of my Favorite Songs by Latinx Artists:
“Locos” and “Brillas” by León Larregui
“Todo Cambió” and “Coleccionista de Canciones” by Camila
“El Perdedor” and “11 PM” by Maluma
“Pies Descalzos,” “Suenos Blancos,” and “Ojos Así” by Shakira
“Odio” and “Imitadora” by Romeo Santos
“Es Por Ti” and “Una Flor” by Juanes
“Eres Tu” and “Te Regalo” by Carla Morrison
“La Carretera” and “Corazón Sin Cara” by Prince Royce
“Clavado En Un Bar” and “Corazon Espinado” by Maná
"Tusa" and "Pineapple" by Karol G
“Hasta la Raíz” and “Lo Que Construimos” by Natalia Lafourcade