Music is the universal language by definition. Notes and beats transcend languages in ways that often surprise us.
This versatility is evident through “crossover” — musical works aimed at different types of audiences and which, over the last few decades, have offered us the best collaborations between musical genres. Think Karol G‘s “Tusa” with Nicki Minaj or Bad Bunny‘s “Mia” with Drake.
Whether through remakes, covers, samples, features, or quick mentions, these crossovers help artists appeal to a different kind of audience and, in doing so, grow their fan base.
Looking back over our favorite pop culture moments, we came up with five of our favorite Latin music crossovers.
Whether it’s Spanish to English, English to Spanish or both, we can’t get enough of these era-defining pop culture moments. Do you remember when they were released?
“Mi Reflejo” (album) – Christina Aguilera
In 1999, pop music experienced a ‘Latin Explosion’ where a lot of pop artists almost had to crossover to appeal to the additional market, whether it was from the U.S. market to Latine market or vice versa. Because of that record label formula, many mainstream late 90’s and 00’s artists of the time have both versions of their popular tracks at the time. Such is the case of Mi Reflejo. Although Aguilera didn’t continue embracing her Latine roots after this album – well, until decades later – we enjoyed her Spanish-language versions of hits like “Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tú),” also known as “Come on Over Baby (All I Want Is You)” and “Genio Atrapado” also known as “Genie in a Bottle.” It wasn’t until earlier this year that she finally tapped into her father’s Ecuadorian side, releasing her much-awaited Spanish EP called La Fuerza.
“Laundry Service” (album) – Shakira
During this time, as mentioned before, we experienced a lot of the same pop songs in both languages due to the hype over tackling both markets. When this came out, I thought every artist who played on the radio needed to release albums in both languages (which I now know was a record label’s way of making money). My naive bilingual brain, at age 9, thought that it was the norm to have different versions of each single in one album. To be young and innocent, I know. Anyway, in 2001, Shakira blessed us with her fifth album Laundry Service, which was her first in English and the one that helped her succeed in the U.S. market. What an epic release that recently turned 20 years old.
“The Cup Of Life/La Copa De La Vida” – Ricky Martin
If it was up to me, I’d mention Ricky Martin in every playlist and music conversation ever. Not only was the pop trailblazer in the late 90s, but a lot of the crossover experimentation actually started with his single “La Copa De La Vida.” In this same NPR article, Billboard Latin’s Leila Cobo, who studied Latine crossovers for her book Decoding Despacito: An Oral History of Latin Music, says: “The great story about Ricky was that [music executives] decided to do this ‘crossover’ with him.” And, well, the formula worked, and the rest is history.
“Nunca Te Haré Llorar (I’ll Never Break Your Heart)” – Backstreet Boys
Alright, so it works both ways. Latine artists charm anglo audiences with their bilingual efforts and English-speaking artists attract Spanish-speaking fans by recording their hits in Spanish. I remember listening to this particular version over and over when it was released. The popular track from BSB left such an impression on their Latine fans that I vividly remember my family from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico being so obsessed with them because of this song. It’s always interesting to see artists passionately sing in a foreign language without actively knowing what they’re saying. They still perform this song in Spanish, by the way. Here’s a video of them singing it on their DNA Tour in 2019 in Madrid, Spain.
“Que Maldición” – Banda Ms and Snoop Dogg
Although crossovers may work differently now, we see songs featuring both languages rather than making them a completely different track – we still embrace the blend and opportunity of both cultures. Take this song for an example. This was a culture reset, as some may say. How do two different artists come together and create such a successful song that appeals to their audiences? I’m talking about the Mexican banda genre Banda MS coming all the way from Mazatlán, Sinaloa, and American rapper and entrepreneur Snoop Dogg from Long Beach, California – two incredibly distinctive artists in different spectrums of music. It aligned perfectly, though, considering that the two artists still perform the song together whenever they get a chance to.