Latin Pop is the necessary subgenre to Pop that offers flavour and rhythm to a genre that can occasionally over-synthesise tunes and lack musical diversity. The history of this music style can be categorised as a subgenre combining classic Pop with Latin American and Caribbean roots.
It is typically associated with countries such as, ‘Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Argentina’1. This subgenre can be difficult to pinpoint its takeover of the American music scene but once it arrived – it was here to stay. Pop’s high pace merges well with the rhythmic elements often found in music originating from Latin America and can allow songs to maintain a steady base rhythm without becoming too repetitive. Some may look towards artists such as Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias as their figureheads for the rise of Latin Pop within the western world, although whilst they are major contributors, we can potentially dive earlier into the musical history books.
How It Began
The talented crossover artist, Gloria Estefan, can be seen as setting the path for the big names of Latin Pop, like Jennifer Lopez and Luis Fontes, to follow. The Cuban American singer/songwriter began her career as the lead singer of ‘Miami Sound Machine’ and has since built up a diverse and impressive resume, notably with her work producing film soundtracks and ‘pioneering in the Latin-crossover music in the 1980’s’2.
Another multi-talented female voice that maintained the budding relationship of the genre with the United States is Selena. Originally, Selena Quintanilla’s musical introduction to the industry began in her family band. After winning the Tejano Music Award for Female Entertainer of the Year at age 153, Selena signed with Capitol Records and went on to release five studio albums during her career with her final album Dreaming of You (1995) releasing posthumously.
Selena also launched a clothing line during her career, branching into fashion whilst her music career was thriving. It is interesting to note that Selena actually ‘grew up speaking English’4 and was later taught Spanish which is why her decision to release songs in this language acted as a further supporting push to bring Latin Pop into the American music scene.
The next evolution to this fascinating subgenre includes the names of stars such as Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez5 whose careers as both artists and actors popularized the subgenre once more for more mainstream Pop music listeners. Both artists have released Spanish and English language songs throughout their careers. For instance, Martin released multiple Spanish-language solo albums during the 1990s before releasing an English-language album in 19996.
Lopez has similarly chosen to release a mixture of English and Spanish language songs with her first Spanish language album, Como Ama Una Mujer, debuting in 2007. Whether there is a correlation between the rising popularity of Latin Pop within the western world and the multi-talented artists that figurehead this genre, it is hard to be sure. However, it is apparent that the artists that populated the genre’s music scene during the 80s and 90s diversified and branch into new mediums and industries which could potentially have gained traction for Latin Pop.
Looking Towards The Future
Now, more than twenty years after Martin and Lopez helped solidify the prominence of the sound within the western world, a whole host of artists from around the world are producing, collaborating, and embracing this fantastic area of music history. You might remember the overwhelming fame of Despacito by Luis Fonso feat. Daddy Yankee from 2017 which was seemingly played in every club across the UK for months after its release. The song’s popularity heightened when Justin Bieber, the Canadian pop star, re-released the track in collaboration with the original artists in the same year.
The partnership of western artists with those who originate within the Latin Pop movement has become a trend within the community, yet Bieber definitely wasn’t the first to do so. Shakira, for example, has collaborated on multiple tracks with artists outside of this subgenre such as Wyclef Jean with the 2006 release, Hips Don’t Lie. As well as collaborations between artists with various backgrounds promoting the genre, there seems to have been a rise in younger, artists such as Paloma Mami7, a Chilean-American artist, and Bad Bunny whose music draws inspiration from these sounds.
For the foreseeable future, these collaborations and new talent suggest that Latin Pop is here to thrive.
- History of Latin Pop, Adobe Spark, History of Latin Pop (adobe.com), https://spark.adobe.com/page/ycpn3jwty5qz5/
- Gloria Esefan, IMDb, Gloria Estefan – Biography – IMDb
- Selena, IMDb, Selena – Biography – IMDb
- Selena Quintanilla, Biography, Selena Quintanilla – Death, Outfits & Husband – Biography
- Latin Pop, Latin Pop Music Genre Overview | AllMusic, https://www.allmusic.com/subgenre/latin-pop-ma0000004461
- Net, Nuria. 20 Years Ago, Ricky Matin Ushered in a Latin Pop Explosion, But Couldn’t Escape the “Crossover” Curse, 20 Years Ago, Ricky Martin Ushered in a Latin Pop Explosion, But Couldn’t Escape the “Crossover” Curse (remezcla.com), October 2019.
- Niles, Billy. Latin Pop Primer: The 15 Female Artists You Need to Know Now, E! Online, Latin Pop Primer: The 15 Female Artists You Need to Know Now – E! Online (eonline.com) September 2019.