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Timeline: 12 Latin Music Crossover Hits Through the Years

DJ Experience, News | Nov 21, 2018   

Timeline: 12 Latin Music Crossover Hits Through the Years

The 19th Annual Latin Grammys, Latin music’s biggest night of the year, aired live on Univision from the Las Vegas Strip this past week. Among the top winners were Daddy Yankee for Best Urban Song, J Balvin for Best Urban Album, Maluma for Best Pop Album, Luis Miguel for Album of the Year, and Karol G for Best New Artist. 

This year’s award show was one of the biggest to date, likely because of the enormous resurgence that Latin genres like pop, urban, and reggaeton have made since early 2017. In fact, 19 predominantly Spanish-language tracks made the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017, compared to just four in 2016.

But what’s perhaps even more interesting than the number of Latin tunes hitting mainstream charts is that Latin music “explosions” are actually nothing new. The popularity of worldwide Latin sounds seem to top the charts in ebbs and flows over the decades.

Here’s a brief timeline of 12 Latin crossover hits through the years:

Ritchie Valens – “La Bamba” (1958)

Ritchie Valens’ 1958 release catapulted “La Bamba” into history by merging Latin American music and American rock. Valens is considered a pioneer in the Chicano and Latin rock movement and was one of the first Latin artists to cross over into Top 40 territory, according to Rolling Stone. Sadly, in 1959 at just 17 years old, Valens died in a plane crash. “La Bamba” lives on as a classic, and was revamped by the rock group, Los Lobos in the late ’80s.

Santana – “Oye Como Va” (1970)

In 1970, Mexican American rock group, Santana, successfully created a salsa music movement with the second single released off the album, Abraxas. “Oye Como Va” reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and defined a new style of Latin rock music that incorporated electric guitar, organ, and a rock drum kit.

Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine – “Conga” (1985)

Dubbed the ‘Queen of Latin Pop,’ Gloria Estefan helped push traditional Latin rhythms into American households with “Conga.” The song was released off of the band’s first full-length English album, Eyes of Innocence, and achieved multi-platinum status in the U.S.

Selena – “I Could Fall in Love” (1995)

As the lead promotional track from Selena’s fifth and final album, “I Could Fall in Love” showcased her versatility from Spanish to English songs and quickly became Selena’s most famous and recognizable recordings. The album itself, Dreaming of You, was released posthumously in 1995 and was the first predominately Spanish-language album to top the Billboard 200 in the U.S.

Los del Río  “Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix)” (1996)

According to Billboard, in 1996, two songs by Latin artists on appeared on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 list. Both were “Macarena,” with number one being the Bayside Boys Mix, and number 98 being Los del Rio’s original version. By creating a remix with some English lyrics and combining it with step-by-step dance moves, the “Macarena” became a massive hit and created the recipe for songs with dances. Read more about how this song was way ahead of its time here.

Ricky Martin – “La Copa de la Vida” (“The Cup of Life”) (1998)

Before Ricky Martin’s single “Livin’ La Vida Loca” became one of the best selling singles of all time, the Latino American artist put on a show-stopping performance of “The Cup of Life” at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards. The single off of his solo album, Vuelve, became the official song of the 1998 FIFA World Cup and topped the charts in countries around the world. Many argue that this song was responsible for the Latin pop boom in the U.S. in the late ‘90s.

Elvis Crespo – “Suavemente” (1998)

In the late ‘90s at any wedding, graduation, baptism or quinceañera, you were sure to hear Elvis Crespo’s breakout hit, “Suavemente,” and not much has changed since then. The song became an immediate classic and helped to popularized merengue music in worldwide markets.

Jennifer Lopez – “Waiting For Tonight” (1999)

When you mix ‘90s dance music with touches of Latin flavor, it’s a recipe for success. Off of J. Lo’s 1999 album, On the 6, two singles, “Waiting for Tonight” and “Let’s Get Loud,” made their way to Billboard Hot 100. The album’s success not only secured J. Lo’s place in Latin pop music for years to come but also paved the way for future Latina American pop stars.

Daddy Yankee – “Gasolina” (2004)

From Daddy Yankee’s 2004 album, Barrio Fino, “Gasolina” opened the door for reggaeton and created a pathway for the reggaeton cross over into the U.S. and Europe. The song became a worldwide hit and was the first reggaeton song to be nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

Shakira ft. Wyclef Jean – “Hips Don’t Lie” (2006)

Shakira’s first number one single in the U.S., “Hips Don’t Lie” received numerous accolades such as a Grammy nomination, the Latin Billboard Award for Hot Latin Song, and the MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography in a Video. Now certified as Triple Platinum by the RIAA, “Hips Don’t Lie” is one of the best selling singles of all time with 13 million downloads.

Enrique Iglesias ft. Sean Paul, Descemer Bueno, Gente De Zona – “Bailando” (2014)

After a few quiet years for Latin music in the U.S. market, Enrique Iglesias stormed onto the scene with the 2014 Spanglish remix of “Bailando” with Sean Paul. Packed with Latin pop and Cuban flavor, the track became an instant crossover hit and helped open the floodgates to the Latin explosion we’re seeing today.

Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee – “Despacito” (2017)

Just a few years following the success of “Bailando,” the world would become entranced and inescapably singing along to the catchy sound of “Despacito.” The smash hit by breakout artist, Luis Fonsi, and Daddy Yankee became one of the biggest songs of 2017, while the remix with Justin Bieber became one of the most streamed songs of all time. According to Billboard, the “Despacito effect” has created a wave of mainstream crossovers in genres like Latin trap and reggaeton. 

Following “Despacito,” the list of Latin hits goes on and on. Artists from DJ Snake to Ozuna are taking advantage of the sensation that is Latin music in 2018.

This year’s Latin Grammys may have been bigger and better than ever, but collaborations between artists like Bad Bunny and Drake, J Balvin and Cardi B, and Nicky Jam and Will Smith, are what make us believe that the U.S. is riding the Latin music wave clear past 2018 and into 2019. 

What do you think we can expect for the 20th Anniversary of the Latin Grammys next year? Do you think Latin pop and urban music have the staying power to top the charts in 2019 and beyond? Leave a comment below.


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