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Taki Taki Takeover: How Latinx Music Exploded Into The Top 40

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Latin music is a force in its own right, with higher streaming revenues on ad-supported streams than those created by the overall U.S. market, a more passionate fanbase than mainstream pop, and a market value of over $200 million. The new Latin music boom has broken-through to exclusively English-speaking audiences in a way that has been mutually beneficial to Latinx musicians and Top 40 pop. A pattern has emerged setting this Latin music explosion apart from previous crossover successes by Latin artists in the 1950s and 1990s — the music being consumed is predominantly Spanish-language. Listeners that don’t speak any Spanish are listening to artists like J Balvin and Daddy Yankee on Spotify, YouTube, and the radio predominantly in their original language, without any Shakira-style English albums or easily-translatable hooks. This is a departure from the typical U.S. mainstream resistance to songs in other languages, with nineteen majority Spanish-language tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017 and sixteen in 2018, compared to less than five charting songs in the three years preceding the “Despacito”-led breakthrough. While the passion of Latinx fans has contributed to the enduring popularity of Latin music as a genre outside of the mainstream U.S. charts, the newfound success of Latin music in the American mainstream can be attributed to three main factors: streaming, collaborations, and the universality of reggaeton.

Billboard’s article on Nielson trends reported that streaming services increased the availability of Latin music after recognizing its consumer power across demographics, which in turn increased its exposure to non-Hispanic U.S. adults. This, combined with Hispanic consumer demographics that show music as a passion point amongst a formidable marketing demographic with over $1.5 trillion in buying power, has inspired platforms such as the Viva Latino playlist on Spotify, which is now the third most-streamed playlist on Earth. With the power now shifted to artists through streaming revenue and a decrease in music piracy, Spanish-language artists are making money globally, selling music through streaming across the U.S. and in Latin America. Through appealing to the massive buying power of the Latin market, reggaeton has been propelled into the spotlight.

Billboard columnist Jeff Benjamin credits streaming services and social media with bringing a new sense of democracy to the music industry.

“Latinx music and K-pop have always been popular music scenes online, but there were not always means to measure how much of an impact they were having,” Benjamin said. He continued, drawing parallels between the rise of Latinx music and the newfound mainstream popularity of K-Pop, “When someone sees how much of an impact a K-pop artist has on social media, they’re going to be more likely to give that artist a chance to perform on larger stages and give them more opportunities in line with the other big pop artists, regardless of what language they sing.”

While the core demographic’s power is enough to create a degree of success, the massive Latin music takeover wouldn’t have been possible without a universally-likable product. Reggaeton has seen a 119% growth in the past four years, which is exponentially higher than all other genres. 95% of reggaeton today is listened to outside of the countries where it’s being created (namely, Colombia and Puerto Rico), largely because the danceability of the creates a product that Billboard describes as “language-agnostic.” With this in mind, Latin producers are now creating music for audiences outside of its core Hispanic audience, as opposed to the country music-style of marketing only to their niche. Even American artists are noticing the infectious nature of reggaeton, with tracks like Ed Sheeran’s hit “Shape of You” taking inspiration from Caribbean reggaeton rhythms. Streaming is what allowed reggaeton to finally be found, sustainably, by non-Hispanic audiences nearly forty years after its creation. The new popularity of reggaeton has also allowed a newer Spanish-language genre to enter the collective consciousness, Latin trap. Latin trap, which shares characteristics with contemporary hip-hop, has faced more difficulty breaking-through due to criticisms over its raunchy content that, coincidentally, echo the same concerns voiced regarding reggaeton decades ago.

 

 

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Latin trap music, rappers, and reggaetoneros all generally favor collaboration, leading to Latin trap remixes of songs like Post Malone’s “Rockstar” featuring Ozuna and Farruko’s “Krippy Krush” featuring Nicki Minaj and 21 Savage, as explained in Rolling Stone. Meanwhile, it is reggaeton remixes that finally cemented Latin music’s supremacy on U.S. charts, best exemplified by Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” remix and its massive success. “Despacito” is one of only eighteen singles to receive a “Diamond” certification by the RIAA and is the 33rd best performing Hot 100 single of all time. While “Despacito” gave Latin music the final push it needed to achieve legendary success, Nielson reports that collaborations between Latin and American mainstream artists are what introduced Latinx talent to global listeners, especially in the U.S., who have been slower to catch onto the genius of Latin music than the rest of the world. DJs who find their EDM singles losing steam in American music trends are shifting to become middlemen between non-English artists and American consumers, including many Latinx collaborations through DJs such as Diplo and Dillon Frances. Collaborations have proved mutually beneficial, allowing artists to re-release hits to even larger successes, such as Beyoncé’s inclusion on “Mi Gente” or Juanes’ feature on Logic’s re-release of “1-800-273-8255”. That’s not to say that predominately-Spanish songs don’t perform well on initial release. Cardi B’s “I Like It” with Bad Bunny and J Balvin has gone four times Platinum, and there’s also been an overlooked pattern of American artists with Latinx heritage who rarely highlight their roots like Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and Cardi B, creating cross-over collaborations with popular Latinx artists.

 

“While Ricky Martin and Shakira were popular in their own rights, they didn’t blow up on a mainstream level until they recorded and released music in English. Now, we can see Latinx artists recording in their native language and finding interest and success without needing to translate it,” Benjamin concluded. “In fact, you could argue the opposite is happening when Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, and Drake are all starting to sing in Spanish to collaborate with artists like Luis Fonsi, J Balvin and Bad Bunny.”

The rise of Latin and American collaborations won’t be ending anytime soon, with releases from the past few months like “MIA” by Bad Bunny featuring Drake and “Taki Taki” by DJ Snake featuring Cardi B, Selena Gomez, and Ozuna still in the top twenty of the Hot 100. Streaming is only increasing its reach, and new classics like “Mi Gente,” “Gasolina,” and “Despacito” continue to maintain their places in the general American consciousness. While it’s unclear whether this type of crossover success can be repeated by other global genres, although the newfound notoriety of South Korean boy band BTS and Blackpink‘s spot in the Coachella lineup shows promise for KPop’s reach, it seems that due to streaming, marketing demographics, and continually inventive reggaeton singles, Latin music is finally here to stay.

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