Latin Pop’s New Wave

Young artists carry the torch for Latin music’s rich history of pop crossover.

by
Anitta, Camilo, Sebastián Yatra and Danna Paola (clockwise from top left). Images: Courtesy of the Artists.

At a time when reggaeton and Latin trap are dominating the music game, the power of Latin pop appears to have waned. Yet the once-leading genre thrives today with a new wave of Latin-music stars who are redefining pop by pushing the boundaries and embracing today’s top sounds.

Pop is, of course, short for “popular,” so the genre has evolved over the years to reflect the sweep of chart-topping trends. In the ’80s, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine turned Latin music into pop music with the larger-than-life smash “Conga.” In the following decade, Puerto Rican-born Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias, of Spanish heritage, embraced the Latin-lover trope to keep the global audience enticed.

At the same time, rock en español was on top, leading to Shakira’s emergence as a pop rockera. With dance music making an impact toward the end of the ’90s as well, dance-pop anthems by Thalía and Paulina Rubio made those artists Latin icons. Then there was the convergence of pop and reggaeton that gained prominence when Nicky Jam teamed up with Iglesias for 2015’s “El Perdón” and, on an even bigger scale, when Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee unleashed “Despacito” in 2017.

In 2021, artists continue to straddle the line between pop and reggaeton, in addition to those still carrying the torch for Latin pop that would make LuisMi in his prime proud. Here is a survey of current Latin musicians finding diverse and inspired ways to blend the music of their people with pop.

Danna Paola

At just 25, Danna Paola has a career in acting and music that spans over two decades. She reached beyond Mexico and hit the global stage in 2018 thanks to her starring role on the hit Netflix series Elite. In 2019 she embraced reggaeton on her star-making hits “Mala Fama” and “Oye Pablo.” Now that Paola’s graduated from Elite, her music career is center stage with a new album, K.O. On it she serves up more reggaeton-pop as well as soaring ballads like “Amor Ordinario,” which includes an incredible whistle-register note.

Sebastián Yatra

Sebastián Yatra arrived on the international scene in 2016 thanks to his reggaeton-flavored anthem “Traicionera.” His debut album, Mantra, followed in 2018, and boasted co-signs from reggaetoneros like Wisin on “Alguien Robo.” The Colombian singer also tackled rock-influenced ballads like “Devuélveme El Corazón,” later giving his fans a ballads album with 2019’s Fantasía. As an opening act for Martin and Iglesias’ joint tour this year, he’s following in their footsteps as the next big Latin-pop superstar — even if his “Chica Ideal,” released last year and featuring Guaynaa, remains thoroughly in the reggaeton groove.

Camilo

Camilo found his way to music through his brothers-in-law Mau y Ricky (the sons of pop balladeer legend Ricardo Montaner). They pushed him into the spotlight in 2018 on the smash hit “Desconocidos” with Manuel Turizo. In 2020, the Colombian singer-songwriter found his space in the current Latin-music climate by blending reggaeton with his quirky Latin-pop spirit on bubbly songs like “Tutu” and “Favorito.” The man with one of the most famous mustaches of this century keeps things interesting by experimenting with bachata on “Bebé” featuring El Alfa and cumbia on “Vida de Rico.” His second album, Por Primera Vez, earned him a Latin Grammy in November.

CNCO

With the help of Martin, CNCO was formed on the reality-TV series La Banda in 2015. In the past five years, the Latin boy band has proved its staying power with reggaeton-pop hits like “Reggaetón Lento” and “Hey DJ” with Yandel. The quintet representing Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Cuba and Puerto Rico also recently won a fan-voted MTV Video Music Award over Lady Gaga and Post Malone. Now CNCO is putting a new twist on Latin-pop classics like “Tan Enamorados,” off their Déjà Vu album due out Feb. 5.

Rosalía

The Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía made a splash in Latin music with her album El Mal Querer in 2018, blending elements of flamenco and pop music on her breakthrough single “Malamente.” She later tackled reggaeton with co-signs from heavy-hitters like J Balvin on “Con Altura” and Ozuna on “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi.” Following the success of those hits, Rosalía continues to branch out to other genres, among them rock, on “Dolerme,” and trap music, on “TKN” with Travis Scott.

Juan Ingaramo

There are no limits to Juan Ingaramo’s pop nacional. As an alternative to Argentina’s rock nacional, the singer-songwriter coined his own genre where he can put his pop spin on genres like reggaeton, as on “El Campeón,” and Latin trap, on “Hace Calor.” Ingaramo beautifully blends bachata and trap on “Romeo y Violeta,” and revives the cuarteto from his hometown of Córdoba on a reggaeton remake of Rodrigo’s “Fuego y Pasión.” With the help of Los Ángeles Azules he’s found his groove in cumbia on “Acaríñame” with Julieta Venegas.

Anitta

In the landscape of Latin music, Anitta is putting Brazil on the map. A triple-language pop threat in Portuguese, Spanish and English, she’s been in the game for nearly a decade and has immersed herself in all sorts of genres, from reggaeton on “Downtown” with J Balvin to EDM on “Sua Cara” with Major Lazer and fellow Brazilian star Pabllo Vittar. She’s also bringing her country’s baile funk into the fold on her recent bilingual hit “Me Gusta” with Cardi B and Myke Towers.

Kany García

As other artists have tackled multiple genres, Kany García has been the most traditional in her approach to Latin pop. Since debuting in 2007, the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter has remained a breath of fresh air with her stirring pop bops and captivating ballads. Her latest album, Mesa Para Dos, is her most adventurous yet. As an artist in the LGBTQ+ community, García demonstrates how universal her stunning love song “Lo Que en Ti Veo” is in its music video, singing the lyrics to her partner.

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