“Despacito” isn’t just the song of the summer it’s hopefully a sign of things to come.
The most streamed song of all time has opened the door a crack more for Spanish-language songs to capture our attention on the world stage, and perhaps chart-topping artists will look toward the remix collaboration between Justin Bieber, Louis Fonsi, and Daddy Yankee for inspiration. What’s more, we’ve already seen pop stars remixing their own songs into Spanish this year, like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” release with Puerto Rican duo Zion & Lennox and One Republic’s collaboration with Columbian pop star Sebastian Yatra.
But even more exciting than all this is the roster of Spanish-language hit-makers ready for the spotlight. That, plus an abundance of streaming services, and a growing Latino population in the U.S., makes for fervent ground for more songs like “Despacito.”
“I think one day were going to get to a place where the songs coming from your favorite streaming app are going to sound different than 20 years ago. Everything is going to become a hybrid its like full of color,” said Karli Henriquez, a music manager at TuneIn, who will be leading the streaming service’s relaunch of its Latin station next month.
To be fair, Latin pop artists have crossed over into the American charts before Ricky Martin, Shakira, etc. but they were singing in English. The last Spanish-language song to top the Hot 100 list was “La Macarena” in 1996. And now, here we are, with “Despacito” clocking in more than 4.6 billion streams globally. To put that in perspective, Bieber’s “Sorry” is second with 4.38 billion plays (which, by the way, was remixed with Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin.)
“A song is a song, right, if it’s a hit, it’s a hit.”
The song’s prevalence comes at an uncertain time in music, but that could also lead to a willingness to try something different.
“Everything’s been a question mark with the music industry lately,” said Henriquez. “I feel like Latin artists have had a very difficult time crossing into the general market.” But now, with “Despacito,” she said, music marketers are beginning to think you don’t need to put Spanish music into a category of its own.
“A song is a song, right, if it’s a hit, it’s a hit,” she said.
So after you’ve listened to “Despacito” for the millionth time, take Henriquez’s advice and give these other Reggaeton-pop songs a try.
And as a bonus, if Reggaton-pop’s not your thing, here are some alternative songs from the Latin music scene that KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez digs.
“In the alternative scene, there’s no pressure to make the hit. Theres more freedom to experiment,” Valadez said. “Theres more freedom to be the space program of Latin alternative music.”
Valadez said Reggaeton’s “been around for awhile, and Im happy to see it shine. Im happy to see non-Latino audience’s dance to it. Im also happy to see Latinos challenge music boundaries and do things that are nontraditional.”
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