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Some Latinos Feel Betrayed By Their Favorite Reggaetoneros As Some Artists Are Turning To American Classics For Inspiration

Reggaetón has spread out into the world like wildfire, signaling a whole era of Latinx representation in mainstream culture. The infectious musical movement has become a wave that artists from all over the world want to ride. And in the process, Reggaeton has been Americanized, Europeanized, watered-down, dressed-up and recomposed to fit a thousand new contexts —and here’s why it’s a problem.

The 2010s saw a rise in global popularity of what used to be a Latinx exclusive genre.

This last decade will go down in history as the beginning of the global Reggaeton and Latin trap era. In the past years we’ve seen these two genres take over the globe, from North America, to Europe, to Asia.

“Despacito” was a major moment in the expansion of Latin Trap and Reggaetón.

In 2017, Luis Fonsi’s hit transcended borders and geographic locations. From a Latinx point of view, it was the first time a reggaeton song infected audiences everywhere, and it became clear that this was a bigger movement now. With the help of Justin Bieber, who later hopped on for the most commercially successful remix of the decade— the song reached worldwide dancefloors and broke records for the most views on YouTube.

Luis Fonsi’s mega-hit opened the doors for artists like J Balvin, Ozuna, and Bad Bunny, to show global audiences what they were capable of.

Following the breakout success of “Despacito,” the world was finally ready to listen to what reggaetoneros had to offer. Artists were recognized by fans and media members alike as worldwide sensations, despite achieving notoriety on a local and regional level.

In the mind of executives, Reggaeton was an untapped market which people from different backgrounds could be targeted.

The growth of artists like Bad Bunny, Karol G, and others, was such that mainstream outlets eventually began to call them “global popstars,” a white-washed term that took away their reggaeton roots. This practice has made these artists more digestible to American audiences. But, removing their reggaeton tags strips them of who they are and becomes a disrespectful denial of cultural history.

In 2018, ‘Mi Gente’ shot up the Billboard charts and became another worldwide hit.

In the opening lines of J Balvin’s reggaetón hit Mi Gente, the Colombian superstar made a few promises. For one, this song is gonna be for everyone—Latino, or otherwise. “Mi música no discrimina a nadie así que vamos a romper, Toda mi gente se mueve.” Mi Gente shot up the Billboard charts in both the Spanish speaking world and, somewhat more surprisingly, in the United States. From Madrid to Mountain View, its thumping bass and infectious rhythm received countless hours of playtime on mainstream FM radio and made innumerable appearances at bars, nightclubs and parties.

Mi Gente, however, was far from alone.

J Balvin’s success was largely indicative of a new wave of music, the likes of which hadn’t been seen stateside since the famed ‘British Invasion’ of the 1960s. But unlike the English-language popularity of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones that so characterized that era, this particular ‘invasion’ is in largely in Spanish—or so it had been.

And then came one of the weirdest trends in reggaeton: Its interpolation with American music.

On March 20, 2018, Alex Rose and Myke Towers released “Darte,” a trap song borrowing the melody from Akon’s 2006 hit “I Wanna Love You” to create a smash single that would change the immediate future of the industry. With this formula, Rose and Towers created a blueprint for quick success, putting the originality of the Latin trap genre in danger.

After “Darte,” in January 2019, Daddy Yankee dropped “Con Calma.”

The catchy hit took its charm from Snow’s 1992 single “Informer,” using the melody and adapting new lyrics. Another example is Anuel AA’s posse cut “China” which turned the melody from Shaggy’s 1999 classic hit “It Wasn’t Me” into the earworm of the year. Later that year, in October, J Balvin, alongside the Black Eyed Peas, released “RITMO,” a dry tune that uses the same chorus as Corona’s “Rhythm Of The Night.”

The lazy formula has spread into 2020.

Less than one month into the year, not one but two different songs copied the chant from Ini Kamoze’s 1995 single “Here Comes the Hotstepper”—Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam’s long-awaited comeback single as Los Cangris, “Muévelo,” and the collaboration between Static & Ben El and Pitbull, “Further Up.” These songs were released only two days apart.

The latest single in this mashup trend, dropped January 12.

“Me Gusta” by Shakira and Anuel AA takes Bob Marley’s classic ‘A Lalala long” copying the melody and chorus chant.

The trend is resulting in a lack of creativity that’s stripping away the boldness of reggaetón.

This mix and mashup trend is changing the sound of reggaeton and Latin Trap to cater to international audiences and make the Latinx genre more palatable. The innovative nature of reggaeton is the reason for the genre’s international success in the first place.

Reggaeton artists and producers have the means and creative drive to give us innovative, fun, and fresh material.

It only takes one quick glance at Bad Bunny’s career. His aesthetic, innovative sound and daring lyrics have been well received in American magazines. We know reggaetoneros can make genre-shifting music, because they have. Which is why the laziness behind this trend is almost offensive—especially for Latinos who’ve grown up listening to the genre and adopted it as our primary sound.

Now that reggaeton has conquered the US market, and with this breakthrough, artists and producers have amassed more money, resources, popularity and respect; this trend towards the interpolation of Latinx sound with classic American songs—an effort to make the genre more palatable to English-speaking listeners—feels like a betrayal.

Kali Uchis’s ‘Solita’ Is The Sexy And Empowering Reggaeton Song You Need To Get Over Your Ex

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Kali Uchis’s ‘Solita’ Is The Sexy And Empowering Reggaeton Song You Need To Get Over Your Ex

kaliuchis / Instagram

Kali Uchis’s soulful voice has the whole world hypnotized. The Colombian-American’s songs embody female empowerment and strong womanhood, though Uchis says that’s coincidental. Empowerment has always been a recurrent theme in her music and now she’s back at it with her new release “Solita.”

Born in the United States but largely raised in Colombia, Kali Uchis’s music speaks of a multi-cultural conversation, a mosaic of influences, colors, and sounds.

Her debut album ‘Isolation’ made a huge impact on its 2018 release, the singer then hit the road for a tour of dazzling appearances.

“Bailando aquí sola, es mejor que con el diablo.”

Incoming single ‘Solita’ is her first blast of new material in 12 months, and it’s an ode to independence, to rejecting societal pressure to embrace a relationship; “Bailando aquí sola, es mejor que con el diablo.”

“Solita” is a song about the pleasures of being alone.

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siempre sola . <3

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Her first drop in 12 months, this new material is a song all about that classic Latino saying that goes a little like: “Mas vale sol@ que mal acompañad@.“ On the pleasures of being alone, Kali says, “I’d rather dance alone than with the devil. This song is about healing, freedom and embracing the mixed emotions that come with that. I hope my fans feel sexy when they listen to it. I’m so excited to share more…”

Uchis’s new single is a mellow, sexy, reggaeton song.

Credit: kaliuchis / Instagram

Over a reggaetón beat, Uchis’s pained vocals announce that she’d rather be alone than stay with someone who hurts her. Embellished with croons and synth echoes, the song continues to show off her omnivorous approach to the genre.

The singer’s new single is her first bilingual single.

Credit: kaliuchis / Instagram

“Solita,” her first new music since 2018 and her first bilingual single. Describing a relationship raw with “open wounds,” as long as she stays, she’s suffocating: “Rooted in your ways/You won’t ever know, you won’t ever see/Who I am today.” She switches to Spanish for the chorus, affirming that her decision to leave is the right one, even if it hurts: “Bailando aquí sola, como a mi me gusta” (“Dancing here alone, as I like”). It’s better, she says, than dancing with the devil. With each aching repetition of the word “sola,” she braces for a future where she’ll be able to rely on herself.

The sultry track was produced by Tainy, who’s worked with J Balvin and Bad Bunny.

Credit: tainy / Instagram

In an interview with Apple Music, she elaborated on the song: “The vibe was sad, yet horny. There’s a little bit of sexiness in it, but it’s also nostalgic. The hook basically translates to, ‘I’d rather dance alone than with the devil.’ I think that just goes back to wanting to feel empowered about independence, rather than feel like, ‘Oh, poor me, I’m alone.’ It’s not really like that.” She added, “I wrote the song a year ago. I was coming out of a breakup from a really long relationship. I think the song still resonates with me because I definitely look at relationships really differently.”

The Colombian-American singer has hinted at a Spanish album in the near future. 

“For my next album, I’m really going back to my roots, experimenting more with my music, not thinking so hard and not trying so hard — just free-flowing,” she said in an interview. The album would be predominantly in Spanish with some Spanglish, because that’s how Latinos live their everyday lives and we can’t wait to listen to the final result. “When I really want to say something that I feel I have to say in English, I will switch over because I’m not going to force it, but a lot of it will be in Spanish,” Uchis told People en Español. “Solita” is the first single off the album. “I’m at a point in my life where I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anybody anymore. I’m growing every year.”

Kali Uchis wonders if she tried a little ‘too hard’ to prove herself in her debut album. 

Credit: kaliuchis / Instagram

Reflecting on “Isolation”, Kali says she wonders if worrying about proving herself led her to overthink too much. “Looking back on it, I did tell true stories that were happening in my life on ‘Isolation,’ but I was a little too concerned about like, ‘This is my first album, I have to get the Gorillaz on it, Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, Tyler [the Creator], Bootsy [Collins].’ I felt like I had to pull everyone that I love into the project in order to prove myself as this genius.” 

She’s very proud of the result, nonetheless.

Credit: kaliuchis / Instagram

“Someone coming from where I come from would have never even thought I would be able to get all those different artists on a project and be able to make it sound like one cohesive project,” Uchis told People en Español. “Project is the best word for [Isolation] — it was an experiment.”

Now, she’s happy to feel less pressure when she’s in the studio.

Who else is ready for some new music from Kali Uchis?

READ: In Her Latest Video, Kali Uchis Goes Shopping For A Lover, Who Turns Out To Be Tyler, The Creator

The Evolution Of Reggaeton In The 2010s: From ‘Despacito’ To ‘Te Bote’, This Is How Latinx Music Turned Into A Global Phenomenon

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The Evolution Of Reggaeton In The 2010s: From ‘Despacito’ To ‘Te Bote’, This Is How Latinx Music Turned Into A Global Phenomenon

Universal Latin

Reggaeton has infected the whole world with dembow, signaling a whole era of Latinx representation in mainstream culture. The infectious Latin Caribbean’s particular take on dancehall reggae has become a global movement that artists from all over the world want a part in. During this decade reggaeton has galloped into the Anglo-world, its flow has been Americanized, Europeanized, watered-down, dressed-up and recomposed to fit a thousand new contexts. So let’s look back on the last ten years to see how the genre has changed and what has become of the rhythm we all love. 

The decade started with a heavy EDM influence, case in point, Juan Magan’s 2011 album ‘Bailando Por Ahi’ or Don Omar’s hit, ‘Hasta que salga el Sol’.

The rhythm made inroads into the more frequently foursquare sound of EDM. The early 2010s were an EDM boom, a movement that established pulsating, treble-soaked electronic dance as not only the dominant form of crowd-pleasing live music, but the contemporary lingua franca for all of pop, and the default mode of the Top 40 back in the day. So it’s no surprise that reggaeton took in some of that influence to produce ‘Electrolatino’, music. The vivacious melodic reggaeton mixed with hard-hitting electronic beats saw its highest moment in 2015 with Bomba Estereo’s ‘Fiesta’ —the song even brought Will Smith out of a decade-long music hiatus when he reached out to the band to lend his voice for a remix.

Fast forward to 2017 and Daddy Yankee is featured on Luis Fonsi’s chart-busting hit, Despacito, making way for another reggaeton revolution.

By2018, the song’s unprecedented commercial success had even garnered Fonsi Guinness World Records recognition: it spent 16 weeks at No. 1 in the Billboard charts (a feat only topped by Old Town Road). It became the most-streamed song worldwide and was the first YouTube video to hit five billion views. And that was only the beginning.

Reggaeton’s latest commercial iterations rely heavily on trap and pop, harnessed by chart-topping artists like J Balvin, Ozuna and Arcangel.

 It’s upped the dancehall quotient at times, and dialled it down, incorporated more or less of its fundamental rhythm, dembow, and even spawned surprise mutations, like when Bad Bunny’s Tenemos Que Hablar folded in touches of pop-punk.

Halfway through the 2010s, Latin Trap, began to gain notoriety. 

instagram @badbunnypr

The less dominant wing of Spanish-language hip hip began to surge as a response to developments in American rap, it embraced the slow-rolling rhythms and gooey vocal delivery of Southern hip-hop. 

Now a variety of artists associated with the movement are riding high.

instagram @chrisjeday

Five of the Top 30 music videos on YouTube’s chart of 2017 involved artists associated with Latin trap – Bad Bunny, Chris Jeday, Karol G. Bad Bunny, the sound’s best-known proponent, also appeared three times in the Top 25 of Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart on the same year. “It goes beyond trap: the music we call ‘Latin urban’ is now diversifying into many different forms,” Horacio Rodriguez, VP of Marketing for Universal Music Latino, said to Rolling Stone magazine. “It’s popping in the streets right now with zero radio airplay. It’s a counter-culture of young kids listening to this music.”

Older stars stampeded to endorse the latest style, boosting its mainstream exposure. 

instagram @jbalvin

The Colombian superstar J Balvin’s Energia album contained songs like “35 Pa Las 12,” a booming, American-rap-radio-ready collaboration with the Dominican singer/rapper Fuego. Farruko’s record dropped around the same time was titled TrapXFicante. Maluma, a supple pop-reggaeton heartthrob, anchored the hook of the Trap Capos single “Cuatro Babys,” which skyrocketed him to fame. 

Bad Bunny, the undisputed champion of Latin trap, sings and raps with an unhurried, conversational tone.

The video to San Benito’s hit “Soy Peor” now has 703 million views. He can do a song with Drake, he can do a song with Travis scott, he’s the guy who’s taken ‘Latin Trap’ mainstream. His music is a rich tapestry of trap, reggaeton and bachata. He can feature Ricky Martin on a self-love anthem, and with Solo de Mi, Bad Bunny fortified the song’s affecting lyrics with a message of solidarity with domestic abuse survivors in its music video. Most notably, though, his work is praised for its unabashed emotional vulnerability and, paired with Bad Bunny’s meticulous manicures and eccentric, neon-hued fashion sense, he’s presented male reggaetoneros in a different light altogether. 

Reggaeton and Urbano are, in some corners, also running parallel to the #MeToo movement.

Artists like Natti Natasha, Karol G and Becky G are flipping the genre’s overt male-narrated sexuality to the female POV, reclaiming agency with each beat.

The various styles that encompass música urbana —hip-hop, reggaetón, dembow, and champeta, to name a few— have reached a critical mass in the Americas.

Música urbana is American music. The loosely defined term encapsulates Spanish-language “urban” music with roots in the culture of descendants of enslaved peoples across North, South, and Central America. Toward the end of the decade, the genre became a worldwide sound, an art recognized by some of pop’s biggest stars. From Drake, to Beyonce and Cardi B, all have acknowledged the power and the audience of ‘urbano’. 

Language is no longer a barrier for its mainstream consumption. 

Any discussion of música urbana in 2019 inevitably begins with it’s biggest stars, the holy trinity atop the YouTube charts: J Balvin, Bad Bunny, and Ozuna. They were the three most-streamed artists in the world on YouTube in 2018. Which goes to show that the myth that Spanish language as a barrier to mainstream consumption has also been obliterated —according to a report from the music consumption company BuzzAngle, last year “Latin” music (measured by physical and digital sales as well as on-demand streams) represented 9.4 percent of listening in the U.S., overtaking country music (8.7 percent). 

Reggaeton is a fountain of joy for many, it offers close dancing and unrepentant sexuality as a form of catharsis. And as its prominence rose, spreading to other Latin American countries, the US, and ultimately the whole world, the genre became an unmatchable source of pride for Latinxs. This was the decade Latinxs demanded space and reggaeton became truly visible –and we invited the world the ride, one perreo intenso at a time.