Dec. 30, 2018 / 9:34 PM GMT
By Marisa Arbona-Ruiz
If 2018 showed one thing, it’s that Latin music is dominating the scene.
Billions of streams in English and Spanish drove Latin music’s consumer demand and record-breaking revenue growth.
Then there was the emergence of game-changing artists. This was definitely the year for Dominican-Trinidadian rapper Cardi B.
Her hit, “I Like It” is one of the year’s hottest songs. The hip-hop remix of Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 boogaloo hit “I Like It Like That” opens YouTube’s 2018 recap “Rewind.”
The single was also deemed ‘Song of the Year’ by Apple Music and was nominated for a 2019 Grammy in the record of the year category.
Cardi B scored five Grammy nominations, including “Album of the Year” for her debut studio album “Invasion Of Privacy,” and ended 2018 as part of Spotify’s top 5 most streamed female artists of the year.
Joining Cardi B when it comes to a stand-out 2018 are Puerto Rican Latin trap singer Bad Bunny and Colombian reggaeton artist J Balvin, both among the hottest pop artists of the year in mainstream and Latin music categories.
They both became part of the top 10 most streamed artists worldwide.
J Balvin dropped his new album “Vibras” earlier this year, earning him a Latin Grammy in November for “Best Urban Music Album.” Bad Bunny recently surprised fans on Christmas Eve by dropping his debut album, “X100PRE.”
Before his December album debut, Bad Bunny rose to the top of music streaming charts by doing collaborations with world-renowned artists like Drake, Marc Anthony, Jennifer López, Nicky Jam and others in over a dozen songs and remixes. Looking forward, 2019 promises to be a good year for Bad Bunny.
There were several trends that jumped out in the 2018 Latin music scene. Here’s a short list:
It happened: Spanish-language pop domination
Desssss-spaaaa-ciiiito…But wasn’t that last year? Not quite. In 2018, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” remix with Justin Bieber became a breakout No. 1 global hit “en español.”
It was the same for J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente” remix with Beyoncé, which was performed at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Both hits helped blow the doors open for a lot more collaborations, more Spanish and more memorable reggaeton beats.
On YouTube alone, Puerto Rican-Dominican reggaeton Latin trap artist Ozuna, as well as J Balvin and Bad Bunny garnered 21.8, 19.3 and 14.9 billion views respectively as the top three Latin artists globally.
“Te Boté” by Casper Mágico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna and Bad Bunny has now hit 1.5 billion views.
Female artists like Colombian singer Karol G, Dominican singer/songwriter Natti Natasha and singer and actress Becky G are a few of the young Latinas who climbed the male-dominated reggaeton music charts in 2018. This was especially true after Becky G and Natti Natasha’s sizzling single, “Sin Pajamas,” ranked in the top ten most viewed music uploads worldwide, according to Rolling Stone.
Almost a year after its August 2017 release, Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” featuring Young Thug, now has 1.4 billion YouTube views.
Cabello made history as the first artist to top the pop and adult pop radio charts with the first two singles from a debut LP, “Havana” and “Never Be The Same.”
The top ten of Billboard’s 50 top charting Latin artists, are, in this order: Ozuna, J Balvin, Romeo Santos, Daddy Yankee, Maluma, Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizarraga, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny, Shakira and Luis Fonsi.
Among the mainstream Billboard’s 100 top charting artists are Cardi B, Camila Cabello, Ozuna, Bad Bunny and more.
As for “Despacito,” it just landed the No. 3 spot after its 101th week straight on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart.
A year of alternative cross-cultural, cross-genre, cross-everything
One of the most exciting new albums came out late in the game: “El Mal Querer” by Spanish vocalist Rosalía, whose “new flamenco” sound blends pop and urban beats with Spain’s traditional music. The result was mesmerizing.
Eduardo Cabra, formerly known as “Visitante” of the Puerto Rican urban music group “Calle 13,” teamed up with Dominican musician Vicente Garcia to create the critically acclaimed project Trending Tropics, featuring various artists like French-Chilean musician Ana Tijoux.
Jazz, folk and blues artist Gaby Moreno released a cover of “The Immigrants” with film and television music composer Van Dyke Parks, to aid migrant children. The song made the New York Times’ Jon Pareles’ top 25 songs list.
Uruguay’s poetic songwriter Jorge Drexler is on top of his game with his beautiful album “Salvavidas de Hielo” that earned three Latin Grammys. So is the prolific Chilean singer-songwriter Mon Laferte, who released a new album titled “Norma” this past November and debuted as a director in her own gorgeous new Japanese-inspired music video for her single, “Antes de Ti.”
Stripped-down authenticity was a ‘thing’
Traditional roots music, acoustic instruments and analog recording made for some gorgeous songs.
Mexican singer and songwriter Natalia Lafourcade teamed up again with the elder duo Los Macorinos for an acoustic gem of traditional Latin American songs, “Musas Volume 2,” that earned a Latin Grammy for “Best Folk Album.”
And mambo is back. Singer José “Pepito” Gómez went to Cuba’s historic Areito recording studio with his big band Orquesta Akokán and recorded a spectacular album of the same name. Mon Laferte also recorded a new album of mambo, bolero and pop with no effects — an all-in-one take.
Social media, then music stardom: Look at Lele Pons
Lele Pons is a Venezuelan-American internet personality who recently launched a new music career. Since then, Pons has skyrocketed beyond hers — or anyone’s — wildest dreams.
It all started with goofy Vine videos in high school. Funny, self-deprecating and loaded with slapstick physical comedy, she quickly became popular. She gravitated to YouTube and began teaming with Shots Studio. Before long, Pons began appearing in paid Instagram posts and on magazine covers.
Forbes deemed her as the “internet superstar of 2017” — and that was millions of YouTube views ago.
This past summer, she appeared in the music video “Dicen,” from up-and-coming artist Matt Hunter.
Within three months, the song surpassed 100 million views on You Tube and went Platinum. She recently signed with Universal Music Group. As of late December, her solo song “Celoso” is No. 29 on Billboard’s Latin pop chart.
Pons’ story shows how social media has changed the equation for many artists.
But in the end, it’s all about the music. Judging from the billions of streams, Latin musicians have had a banner year.
Nicole Acevedo contributed.