Growing popularity in Latin music may be indicative of social change

Camille Botello, Staff writer

The fast tempo reggaeton hit of the summer was only the beginning of a Latin American music trend to permeate North American pop charts.

Justin Bieber heard the original Spanish version of “Despacito” in a Colombian club and decided he wanted in. His remix with Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee soared to unbelievable heights, becoming a global sensation in a short amount of time.

“Despacito” broke all kinds of records: In 2017 it was on the Billboard Hot 100 list for 16 consecutive weeks, it was the second most played song on Spotify after Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” and it was the most viewed video on YouTube, according to Forbes. It currently has 4.8 billion views, making it the most watched YouTube music video of all time. “Shape of You” trails at 3.3 billion views.

After the people in the United States danced to the rhythmic island beats and heard Bieber sing a couple verses in Spanish last summer, they yearned for more. Recently many other Spanish-speaking artists are collaborating with North American pop stars to create remixes and bilingual songs:

  1. “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber
  2. “Mi Gente” by J. Balvin, Willy William, Beyonce
  3. “Echame La Culpa” by Luis Fonsi, Demi Lovato
  4. “Havana” by Camila Cabello, Daddy Yankee
  5. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia, Nicky Jam
  6. “Hola” by Flo Rida, Maluma
  7. “1, 2, 3” by Sofia Reyes, De La Ghetto, Jason Derulo
  8. “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, J. Balvin
  9. “Reggaeton Lento” by CNCO, Little Mix
  10. “1-800-273-8255” by Logic, Alessia Cara, Khalid, Juanes

“I believe all musical expressions of the world enrich and add value to our own musical culture, and I believe it is important to sustain and preserve the language and musical expressions of all cultures, particularly of indigenous peoples,” said Linfield music professor Joan Paddock, who is on sabbatical researching vocal expression of indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia.

So what does the emergence of Latin music in United States pop charts mean for people living here? It could mean that the growing population of Latinos in this country are utilizing their voices and sounds to support artists with similar cultures.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to listen to some more great music. Also, it’s an opportunity to practice your Spanish if you’re attempting to learn the language,” said senior music and theater double major Marcos A. Galvez. “The fact that the songs are in Spanish is almost meaningless because music is the universal language.”

The growing popularity of the Latin sound can also be a gateway into cultures that some otherwise are not exposed to.

“I’m really happy about it– it’s very cool to see cultures other than ‘straight white male’ getting representation in America; we’re supposed to be the Great Melting Pot and all that,” said senior music and computer science double major Grey Patterson.

“To the people who don’t practice Latin cultures, I think it can only be a good thing. Being exposed to other cultures broadens your thinking. It’s really important for white folks like me to make sure we’re being respectful of these other cultures and not doing anything…like exoticizing or stereotyping,” Patterson added.

Either way, statistics show that Latin music is in and on the rise in the United States, perhaps indicating a progressive social shift that has been needed for some time.