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The reggaeton revolution

December 4, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the author.
Kayla Snyder

Every December, music streaming service Spotify releases their annual “Wrapped” review, which examines the most popular music of the year for both individual users and the platform as a whole. Across social media, Spotify users shared their most beloved artists, songs and genres, as well as the occasional “top 0.5 percent of listeners” badge. Unsurprisingly, Spotify “Wrapped” declared “Latin” as my top genre and Colombian artist J Balvin as my most streamed artist.

Surprisingly, however, Spotify “Wrapped” also declared Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, better known for his stage name Bad Bunny, as the most streamed artist of the year globally. Meanwhile my favorite J Balvin came in third only behind number two Drake and Bad Bunny. Although initially taken by surprise by these statistics, I took a closer analysis of the global rise of the “Latin” genre and its most powerhouse subgenera reggaeton, only to find out all the indicators leading to this stat had been there since 2017.

Not to be confused with reggae, a Jamaican genre, reggaeton traces its origins to Panama in the ’80s and Puerto Rico in the ’90s. Due to reggae’s popularity in the Caribbean, many black Latin Americans decided to adapt reggae’s Jamaican beats and English lyrics for the Spanish-speaking world, thus yielding the original “reggae en español.” This new blend of reggae rap and Spanish lyrics grew popular among young people in Puerto Rico, where it quickly became a favorite in the underground nightlife of the island.

The origin of the term “reggaeton” is often disputed due to some attributing credit to Nelson “DJ Nelson” Martinez and some to Daddy Yankee, often called “the King of Reggaeton.” Although originally rejected as “immoral” due its often explicit lyrics and the government crackdown on the underground music industry, reggaeton quickly became a unique fusion of the Puerto Rican youth identity which allowed the genre to go mainstream in Latin America with its first international hit “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee.

The early 2000’s and 2010’s saw many of reggaeton’s pioneers such as Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Ivy Queen, Tony Dize, Angel y Kriz and Luny Tunes make their names due to the fusion of reggaeton with other popular Latin American genres such as bachata. Latin American immigration to the United States slowly moved the genre to North America and into Spanish speaking neighborhoods, bodegas and nightclubs.

Although some early reggaeton songs became major hits, no song has skyrocketed reggaeton and the Latin genre into mainstream, popular culture as much as the phenomenon “Despacito” by Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi. Released in 2017, Despacito’s music video became the most viewed YouTube video of all time, and the song itself became a hit even in non-Spanish speaking countries. A later remix by Justin Bieber began a series of major crossovers with non-Latin American artists further boosting the genre’s popularity.

We are currently living through the prime of the “Latin” genre, where artists wield considerable influence both in the world of music and outside of it. Without question, Latin American music holds an even more powerful appeal to a now rising Latin American population in the United States.

For example, in February 2020, Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez performed during the Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show to vast critical acclaim. Many other famous artists like Drake (“MIA” with Bad Bunny), The Weeknd (“Hawai” with Maluma), Beyonce (“Mi Gente” with J Balvin) have even been featured in or have remixed popular songs of the reggae ton, with various degrees of success. The Donald Trump campaign even tried remixing a Spanish tune in an effort to appeal to Latin American voters. Many other major names in modern reggaeton like Anuel AA, Maluma and Ozuna have further used their platforms to raise awareness for various issues. Regardless of personal opinion of the “Latin” genre, its influence and growing power in the world is undeniable and will stay as such for years to come.

This article serves as my last one for the semester, I want to thank you (yes, you) so much for reading and supporting my pieces! As a parting gift from “Sazón y Corazón,” here is a list of “Latin” artists and some of their songs so you can get a taste of the genre I just wrote about.

J Balvin: “Morado,” “Mi Gente,” “Que Pretendes,” “La Canción”;
Maluma: “Hawai, 11 PM,” “Borro Cassette”;
Bad Bunny: “Safaera,” “La Santa,” “Yo Perreo Sola”;
Anuel AA: “Reloj”;
Ozuna: “Te Bote,” “Siguelo Bailando”;
Nicky Jam: “X,” “Travesuras.”

Other artists you can check out: Romeo Santos, Daddy Yankee, Farruko, Manuel Turizo, Sebastian Yatra, Nacho, Don Omar, Yandel, Karol G, Christian Nodal.

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