Beyond 'Despacito': Why Latin's New Wave Is Here to Stay
publish date: 2017-11-03
In October, J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente” (featuring Beyoncé) and Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” (featuring Justin Bieber) sat at No. 3 and No. 9, respectively, on the Hot 100. (This was after “Despacito” ruled the summer, sitting for 16 weeks on top of the Hot 100.) It isn't the first time Latin artists shared space in the upper strata of the chart, but it is the first time two Spanish-language songs have.
A history lesson: In 1999, the year of the Latin explosion, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez were all in the top 10 together thanks to their English-language, Latin-tinged songs. In 2011, Iglesias’ English-language “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)” reached the top 10 alongside a rotation of English-language Pitbull tracks. In 2014, Iglesias’ Spanish-language “Bailando” broke Latin chart records, peaking at No. 12 on the Hot 100.
Why did “Despacito” and “Mi Gente” reach higher than “Bailando”? The megastar co-signs (Bieber, Beyoncé) helped. But shifting demographics -- nearly 60 percent of U.S. Hispanics are now millennials, according to the Pew Research Center -- and bicultural entertainment trends (non-Spanish speakers largely watch Spanish-language shows, like Netflix’s Narcos) suggest other factors at play. And critically, there’s streaming, which brings Latin music to its core listeners but also to a global and non-Spanish-speaking audience. Top streaming playlists -- two of Spotify’s top five playlists globally, for example -- are Latin.