This week former President Barack Obama expressed his love for J Balvin while campaigning for the midterm elections. The Colombian reggaeton artist is only one of several Latinx artists making the crossover into the United States and taking the over the music charts.
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Although Balvin’s sound may seem fresh to English listeners, the Puerto Rican music genre is far from new. It first became popular in Latin America in the mid-1990s. Influenced by hip-hop and Caribbean music, the Spanish music genre is composed of a combination of rapping and singing. It gained traction in Latin America and Latinx communities in the United States rather quickly; however, it was still hardly present in the mainstream music scene. It was not until the arrival of Daddy Yankee that the first glimpse of reggaeton artists appeared in the U.S. airwaves. Known as the King of the Reggaeton, Yankee was one of the first reggaeton artists to crossover into the English-dominated radio scene with his global hit “Gasolina” in 2004.
Many artists who wanted to reach a larger audience took notice of this trend. Justin Bieber took a shot at his Spanish abilities on Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” which further heightened the song on a global scale. Resulting in a Grammy nomination for record of the year and song of the year, the track broke down the wall between Spanish and English pop. It would be no surprise if one of these Latinx artists headlined a major music festival like Coachella performing in Spanish in the near future.
With nearly two billion views on "Mi Gente" on YouTube, the Medellin native is captivating people across the world, even Beyonce – who jumped on the track after its release. However, Balvin is far from being a one-hit-wonder artist. While more traditional reggaeton music makes you want to twerk for the entire song, Balvin’s delivery is much slower, smoother and romantic. I suggest beginning with his past albums such as La Familia and Energia because they demonstrate an evolution of his artistic abilities. On La Familia, the break out song is "6 AM,” featuring Farruko. The catchy chorus and sultry beat will make you think you are in a club in Miami. Notably, "Safari" featuring Pharrell Williams, BIA, and Sky and "Bobo" reflect Balvin’s smooth and slick style. His most recent album, Vibras, which came out earlier this year, pushes the envelope by deviating from the traditional reggaeton and experimenting with different beats. Balvin’s Energia emanates a relaxed twist to reggaeton. "Peligrosa" and "Ahora" are upbeat but laid back songs that are perfect for getting ready for a night out.
Bad Bunny or El Conejo’s music encompasses Latin trap, a relatively new subgenre within Latin music. The heavy Spanish rap genre only began attracting listeners in Latin America a couple of years ago. The Puerto Rican native’s rise to fame began with him posting songs on SoundCloud. His husky baritone voice captivated listeners in Puerto Rico, and in a matter of months, he signed with Hear This Music record company. The 24-year-old is currently finishing his debut album La Nueva Religion.
Despite his recent rise to fame, Bad Bunny has stuck to his roots. The rapper dedicated his television debut performance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" to the people of Puerto Rico, who are still dealing with the destruction of Hurricane Maria. Performing " Estamos Bien," or "we good," Bad Bunny used his new platform to provide to awareness to the strength of the Puerto Rican people. In less than two years, the tiny-sunglass-wearing artist secured two No. 1 hits and 10 Top 10 songs, according to Billboard. El Conejo’s music is definitely hype music, so I suggest adding "Chambea," and "Te Bote" to your pregame playlist.
His most recent track, “Mia,” featuring Drake, came out on Oct. 11. Teased on social media by both artists, fans eagerly awaited the collaboration. “Mia” is Drake’s first collaboration with a Spanish artist since 2014, when he was featured on Romeo Santos' “Odio”. The new track and video makes makes you feel like you’re at a summer beach party, despite crisp autumn air hitting your face. Climate change is that you?
Currently on his 30-city tour in the U.S., this Puerto Rican reggaeton artist is unstoppable. Born Carlos Ozuna Rosado, Ozuna has risen to become one of the most relevant Latinx artists. His first studio album Odiesa combines reggaeton, latin trap and bachata. Given his malleability, Ozuna is able to slide into a myriad of Latin genres. As the most streamed artist of 2018 on YouTube so far, Ozuna’s high-pitched voice leaves listeners in a trance that they can’t seem to snap out of. “Siguelo Bailando” and “Se Preparó” are instant classics and should definitely be added to your turn-up playlist. For more tender and romantic vibes, “Quiero Repetir” is the track for you. Featuring J Balvin, this track makes you want hit up an ex you never had. At this point, you might as well listen to the 16-track album. This Puerto Rican album will hype you up and make you cry regardless if you speak Spanish or not.
In late August, Ozuna released his sophomore album Aura. With 20 songs, this album is stacked with features from J. Balvin, Cardi B and Akon (yes, Akon) to name a few. My personal favorites include “Quiero Mas” and “Commentale.”
More recently, Ozuna is featured on DJ Snake’s “Taki Taki” with Cardi B and Selena Gomez. While “Taki Taki” doesn’t mean anything in Spanish, it’s super catchy and gets you moving. First on the track, Ozuna’s reggaetonero side comes out hyping up listeners for Cardi B’s and Gomez’s verses. In only a month, the song has over 200 million views on YouTube.
These Latinx artists are only a few of many greatly influencing the U.S music scene and, to some extent, U.S. pop culture. As the platform for Latinx artists grows, more doors can open to allow for a more diverse music scene representative of the world and foster collaborations between artists from diverse backgrounds.