Unless you’ve been living under a rock or you never ever turn on the radio (or the TV, or check social media, or step out into the light of day) then you probably already know that Latin music is taking over the world one pop hit at a time. From the Billboard charts to radio countdowns to awards shows, music festivals and streaming services, Latin artists are undeniably dominating the music industry. We’ll bet you can’t go more than 5 minutes without hearing a hot new song from Camila Cabello or Bad Bunny and more. Nor would you want to. These artists and their toe-tapping, can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head hits are bringing joy and fun to music lovers everywhere. And they share more in common than just their chart-topping status — many of these artists are bilingual superstars changing the way we approach language and culture just by making music.
Take Pitbull for example. Mr. 305 (whose given name is Armando Christian Pérez) has been cranking out hit after hit for years, causing fans from all walks of life to bust a move and shake their hips in ways they didn’t know they could. Suddenly we’re all suave and sexy, shouting “dale” while belting out Spanglish lyrics at the top of our lungs. And his bilingual hits are not just a phase or a temporary trend that has lost its luster over time. To date he’s sold more than 65 million records worldwide and has endorsement deals, restaurants, production companies and a clothing line to his name. His fame and fortune is thanks to his global takeover, which he has achieved while staying true to his Miami upbringing and his Cuban roots. In a recent NPR interview Pitbull credited this rise in popularity of Latin music to the changing culture. “At this point right now, the reason that it’s going to be a bigger movement — or I would even call it a revolution — is because now music is tapped into worldwide, literally. So you can hear records from different countries on your phone; before, you didn’t have that access,” he said.
And it’s not just Pitbull. Ricky Martin, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and Marc Anthony have had a similar impact on how we not only digest but also crave Latin pop music. When Shakira comes on we’re no longer whoever we were ten minutes ago, we are taken over by her music and our hips have a mind of their own. Suddenly it’s no long about pop hits versus Spanish-language music — they are one in the same.
It’s undeniable that Latin music is having a moment — though we would argue it’s been a long time coming, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. In 2018 Latin music took a 9.4% share of the market as the fifth-biggest genre examined in terms of album consumption, according to data company BuzzAngle, which tracks music consumption. This is a really big deal as Latin music has officially passed country and EDM music.
And now, a new generation of bilingual Latin acts are emerging in the United States. These artists are American but also in touch with their Latin roots and passionate about their language and their culture. They might be homegrown here in the US, but they are unapologetically loyal and passionate about their Latino backgrounds, and are creating a musical style that is all their own, blending languages, lyrics and cultures into one unique sound.
If you ask the experts, this sound is not new. In fact, it’s been around for decades. What’s different is how the world is embracing this genre. As Billboard reports, according to Afo Verde, chairman/CEO of Sony Music Latin Iberia, “the world changed, and certain communities are no longer visitors but locals…it’s not new, these U.S.-born artists with Latin roots. What’s new is that they’re now accepted.”
Latin music is continuing to dominate the radio waves, streaming platforms and awards shows, and this crop of up-and-coming bilingual superstars is sure to be making big waves in this global takeover. Here are the ones to watch and listen to.
21-year-old Omar Banos, otherwise known as Cuco, is far from your typical Los Angeles performer or teen idol. First of all, he’s not just a singer but also a multi-instrumentalist. He’s also a Mexican-American musician blending Chicano sounds and styles with psych rock vibes. At just 19 he performed at Coachella despite the fact that he was an independent artist not backed by any record label or sponsor (currently he’s backed by Interscope, which he signed with in March 2019). Today he’s selling out shows across the country and recently released his first studio album, “Para Mi.” He is using his personality, his story and his music to appeal to Latinx alternative kids, creating unique hits that combine oldies themed melodies, bilingual lyrics and an oscillating synthesizer.
It’s hard to call her “new” on the music scene, since we’ve been crushing on Camila Cabello since her days in Fifth Harmony and her first solo hits back in 2015. But still, it feels like she’s currently coming into her own, creating pop hits with Latin flavor and tons of Cuban pride. Her chart-topper “Havana” is hard to forget (and impossible to get out of your head), and her most recent duet with rumored boyfriend Shawn Mendes “Señorita” is equally catchy with a sexy Latin flavor and even sexier music video. Cabello, who is of half-Mexican descent, was born in, where else, Havana, Cuba, but came to the U.S. with her mother in 2003, speaking very little English. She went on to become one of the top selling artists of 2018 with her debut album “Camila” and she continues to create magical music from duets to solo ballads and more. While she might not be an unknown artist by any means, we truly believe this is only the beginning for this superstar talent.
You might have heard of Ozuna, the Puerto Rican-Dominican superstar who’s been making waves at awards shows for years. At the 2018 Billboard Latin Music Awards the reggaeton star had a whopping 23 nominations in 15 categories and went on to win a record-breaking 11 awards including Latin Pop Song of the Year and Artist of the Year. More recently he’s working on his soon-to-be-released second album, “Nibiru,” a follow-up to his 2018 masterpiece, “Aura.” On this album he’s collaborating with Brazil’s leading lady of pop, Anitta, on a sexy bilingual track “Muito Calor.”
This 25-year-old Colombian heartthrob has officially crossed over to the mainstream music market, selling out shows, rocking collaborations and making bilingual hits seem effortless. He’s been dominating a music genre he calls the “Maluma genre,” unlike any other artists and making a name for himself doing what he does best. In 2017 his music videos garnered more than a billion views on YouTube – more than any other Spanish-speaking act and comparable to the popularity of English-language artists like Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj. And today he’s continuing to find success and fame in new places with new fans. He collaborated with Madonna on her recent hit “Medellin,” he recently appeared in the YouTube documentary “Lo Que Era, Lo Que Soy, Lo Que Seré” and he’s selling out shows on his current 11:11 world tour. But he’s more than just a pretty face or a musical talent — he’s also eyeing a role opposite Jennifer Lopez in the forthcoming film Marry Me, set to begin filming this fall. Expect to hear (and see) a lot more from Maluma in the future.
You’ve probably heard of Becky G before, and we’re guessing you’ve belted out her hits in the car, in the club, or even in the shower. Her 2013 hit “Oath,” a collaboration with Cher Lloyd, was a top 100 Billboard hit, and her solo hit “Shower” peaked at #16 in 2014. After launching her career and earning success as an English artist, the Mexican American artist, who grew up with one foot in each world, has perfected her Spanish and is releasing chart-toppers like “Sin Pijama” through Sony Music Latin. She’s very proud of her roots and explains that the best part of being a Latina artist is making hits for an entire generation of Latinx fans who are empowered by her music and who can relate to her cultural blending of Spanish and English content.
Born as Omar Velasco to Mexican parents, this 21-year-old artist taught himself how to play guitar, sing, and produce his own music, inspired by his parents’ hard work and dedication. It seems as if their inspiration and his hard work both paid off — today his debut EP, “Stereo,” has earned a lot of buzz thanks to his bilingual collection of psych-pop hits. The crooner sings of love and loss, cranking out emotional hits that are partially inspired by Mexican soul and partially inspired by rock artists like the Beatles. And his upbringing as a Mexican living in Indiana also influences his music — he recalls experiencing prejudice in school, but notes that trying to fit in and dealing with racism only made him stronger and more driven to succeed and create.
With 3 million Instagram followers, it’s safe to say that the Chilean artist Paloma Mami has found global fame thanks to the viral success of her debut hit single “Not Steady.” This Spanglish single is the first song she ever made in her life, and it catapulted her to spotlight of the music industry thanks to her unique sound and her unique vibe. The 19-year-old powerhouse combines and embraces different cultures in her music, resulting in an elegant flow, as she calls it. “Living in New York has taught me a lot about the lingo, the way we talk and the attitude. My culture and my roots in Chile have taught me my Latina spice,” she said in a Billboard interview. Since the instant success of her first hit, this singer/songwriter was signed to Sony Music US Latin, she has big plans for the future in terms of the music she wants to make and the message she wants to send to her fans.
This artist has mastered the art of combining cultures to create music with his Latin trap hits. The Washington D.C. native (with Dominican roots) fuses sounds from his youth and his heritage to create a unique sound that is part American hip-hop and part Latin beats. His musical style is often called Urban Latino, and though he’s been active in the music industry for years, he really rose to fame in 2015 after creating a Spanish-language remake of Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” which we might be so bold as to argue is better than the original. (There, we said it.)