It’s so exciting to finally reveal our editors’ picks for the best Latin songs of the decade. A special shout out goes to Carl Chery for championing this initiative across all genres at Spotify and of course to the best team ever: Antonio Vásquez, Monica Damashek and Marylu Ramos. We had so much fun co-curating this. It was far from easy, but we hope you enjoy reminiscing on an incredible journey of music. As you listen, it’s hard not to feel proud of our culture, and the myriad textures and sounds that compose it. Gracias a los artistas por llevar por lo más alto nuestra cultura. Here’s to the next decade…it’s going to be good! Sound off in the comments: which songs do you agree with, which songs do you wish were there? We’re not afraid of a healthy debate.
I just want to share a few thoughts as I reflect on the past decade. This might get a little lengthy, but I’m a music nerd at heart and it’s fun to think as a journalist once again. Thank you for indulging me:
- Without question, “Despacito” is the juggernaut. It transcended language and borders as Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi (later assisted by Justin Bieber for the remix) led the entire world in singing the same 4 syllables while proudly waving the Puerto Rican flag. The “Conga” and “Livin La Vida Loca” of our generation but amplified by streaming into a musical revolution of epic proportions. There is simply no turning back.
- J Balvin’s “Mi Gente” featuring Willy William. The France-Colombia collab became an anthem for all people, everywhere, and elevated reggaeton to unprecedented heights.
- The most remarkably rapid ascent into superstardom goes to Bad Bunny, who went from bagging groceries to one of the hottest artists in the world seemingly overnight. Even Drake couldn’t resist jumping on a Bad Bunny track (“MIA,” 2018), proving why the Puerto Rican superstar’s appeal is “the new religion.”
- “I Like It” coined the “Latino Gang” movement. The trifecta of Cardi B, J Balvin, and Bad Bunny came together for a party vibe that was at once refreshing and familiar thanks to its clever sampling of boogaloo king Pete Rodriguez’s iconic 1967 song.
- The above examples are notable because the concept of collaboration ruled the Latin scene in the past decade, the bridging and blurring of styles, language, and cultures always amplifying the impact of a single song with a larger message of unification. Within the context of our politics, this is the most urgent and important message of our time.
- Much credit is due to “Danza Kuduro,” from one of the OGs of reggaeton, Puerto Rico’s own Don Omar, and featuring Portuguese-French artist Lucenzo. Released in 2010, it was way ahead of the curve in terms of collaborations amongst artists of different global cultures — a trend that shows no signs of slowing down in the next decade.
- The urban pop sounds of Puerto Rico and Colombia were ubiquitous in this decade (personified by the king of reggaeton, Daddy Yankee, and an artist who diligently studied the latter’s career, J Balvin). Both reached the milestone of becoming the #1 artist on Spotify —Daddy Yankee in 2017, making history as the first Latin artist to hold that title, and then Balvin in 2018.
- “Malamente” (2018) was the dose of futuristic flamenco fusion the world didn’t know it needed. With this track, an artist from across the pond, Rosalía, disrupted the music scene and let us know we can count on her to do exactly that for years to come. We predict she will own the next decade.
- Marc Anthony’s “Vivir Mi Vida,” released in 2013, is more than a song about resilience; it’s a way of life and proves why salsa is possibly Latin music’s most timeless genre.
- The emergence of prominent female voices in the Latin urban space. Becky G, Natti Natasha, and Karol G are some of the women who rose to prominence this past decade and joined reggaeton pioneer Ivy Queen, once alone in the male dominated field of reggaeton.
- The story of Danny Ocean. He left his politically torn home country of Venezuela and relocated to Miami in search of a better life. It was in Miami that he wrote a song about a long distance relationship with a girl back home. That song was “Me Rehúso” (almost 900 million streams to date). Thanks to his success on Spotify, the once completely unknown artist was signed by Warner and keeps releasing great music today. He is the best example in the Latin world from this past decade of how anyone can find a massive global audience thanks to the right song and unified editorial support on the right platform. In 2017, after we discovered his single on the Central American viral charts, editors began programming the song locally in different markets. The success of the song at a local level allowed it to graduate to relevant genre playlists and top local hits playlists with a larger reach, eventually making it to Spotify’s top regional and global hits playlists, including Viva Latino. At the time Ocean said: “Spotify has changed my life and career, no doubt. I say this because of the reach my song has achieved, getting to the ears of people all over the world. Every artist wants their songs to be heard, that’s the most important thing to us, and Spotify has given me that great opportunity.”