These Spanish-Language Albums Changed The Face And Feel Of The Music Industry
Whenever anyone dares to write a list of the most influential albums of all time, there are generally detractors who come up in arms. We do not wish to upset anybody with this selection of amazing albums, though. We just want to show you the depth and breath of the music that has come out of Latin America and out of the Latino diaspora in the United States. It is pretty easy to listen to all of these, so fire up your Spotify, get your headphones on and just let yourself go.
“Re” by Cafe Tacvba
Year released: 1994
Genre: rock mexicano
Credit: R-4391373-1363636582-9482.jpeg.jpg. Digital image. Discogs
Widely regarded as the best Mexican rock album ever released, this masterpiece has been appreciated by people like Madonna. The album borrows from genres such as danzon and Tex-Mex music and produces indelible sounds that will make you laugh, dance and cry.
“Dónde están los ladrones?” by Shakira
Year released: 1998
Genre: Rock en español
Credit: R-5843968-1439639530-5572.jpeg.jpg Discogs. Digital image.Discogs.
Before she told us that her hips don’t lie and became a world phenomenon, Shakira released this mellow album that revealed her talent as a songwriter. She was young, beautiful and intelligent, a true example of the power of Latina women.
“Siembra” by Willie Colón y Rubén Blades
Year released: 1978
Credit: Siembra-Colón-Blades. Digital image. Revista Replicante
It is not often that true legends collaborate. The New York native Willia and Blades from Panama released this album, which includes the classic “Pedro Navajas,” a true masterpiece that is violent and joyful at once.
“Una década” by Rubén Blades
Year released: 2003
Credit: Una-década-Blades. Digital image. Revista Replicante
This is an amazing collection with Blades’ recordings from the 1990s. What makes him special is the skillful combination of musical skill and social commentary in the poignant lyrics.
“Tijuana Sessions Vol. I” by Nortec Collective
Year released: 2001
Credit: 64. Digital image. Lado B.
This duo from the border city of Tijuana really got what it means to live in a liminal zone that is equally influenced by Anglo and Latino cultures. The result is as enigmatic as, say, Radiohead’s “OK Computer.” A real masterpiece that will make you fly.
“Leche” by Fobia
Year released: 1993
Genre: Latin Rock
Credit: 81. Digital image. Lado B.
The intellectual offspring of the likes of Lou Reed and David Bowie. The front singer Leonardo de Lozane held an enigmatic, androgynous vibe. This album is like a shot of tequila: kitsch, yet punchy.
“Mucho barato” by Control Machete
Year released: 1997
Genre: Hip Hop
Credit: 41. Digital image. Lado B.
The precursors of hip hop south of the Border. This album was revolutionary: as angry as Rage Against the Machine, yet using Spanglish in newfound ways that touched the vulgar and poetic.
“Chavela Live at Carnegie Hall” by Chavela Vargas
Year released: 2003
Credit: MI0001307534. Digital image. All Music
Chavela Vargas was a revolutionary on many fronts. She was one of the first openly queer personalities in Latin American music, and she revived her career well into her golden years. This album is a live performance in the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York: it is the stuff legends and dreams are made of.
“Adios Nonino” by Astor Pizzolla
Year released: 1969
Credit: 50-latin-albums-46.-astor-piazolla-y-su-quinteto-adios-nonino-1969-billboard-500×500 (1). Digital image. Billboard
After Carlos Gardel, Astor Piazzolla is perhaps the most representative tango musician in history. He revolutionized tango by giving the classic Argentinian and Uruguayan genre a modern twist. His accordion is damn sexy, the stuff that makes the blood and passions pump.
“Buena Vista Social Club” by Ry Cooder, Compay Segundo, Ruben Gonzalez, Eliades Ochoa and Ibrahim Ferrer
Year released: 1997
Genre: Son cubano
Credit: 50-spanish-language-albums-18.buena-vista-social-club-buena-vista-social-club-billboard-500×500. Digital image. Billboard
This is the soundtrack for Wim Wenders now-legendary film that follows a group of Cuban musicians. The album smells of rum, cigars and sunset at Havana. The album is groundbreaking because it helped Western countries get acquainted with the complexity of Latin music.
“El circo” by La Maldita Vecindad
Year released: 1991
Genre: Urban rock / danzon
Credit: 18. Digital image. Lado B.
One of the great ways in which Latin American culture has pushed back against foreign cultural influence is of course music. This album tells everyday sad, courageous and unbelievable stories from Mexico City. From kids who live in the sewers to a bar where the saddest souls in the city dance, this is a true joya that mixes traditional and modern genres. “Kumbala” is one of the best songs ever written, period.
“Mundo Colombia” by Celso Piña
Year released: 2002
Credit: 51OKb1oU4CL._SX466_. Digital image. Amazon.
The great Celso is a musician from Monterrey, Mexico, who has nevertheless become one of the leading cumbia musicians. The genre is originally from Colombia, so in this album Celso offers an homage to the ritmos sabrosos of Colombian lands.
“Nada personal” by Soda Stereo
Year released: 1985
Genre: Rock argentino
Credit: 65. Digital image. Lado B.
We could argue that this band led by the late Gustavo Cerati was even better than Anglo groups like Duran Duran. This album is all energy and 1980s vibe. New Wave sounds that are still listed to by Latin American youth.
“Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo
Year released: 1998
Credit: 50-spanish-language-albums-17.elvis-crespo-suavemente-billboard-500×500. Digital image. Billboard
Suavemente, besame…. we are sure you have listened to this song at a wedding or at unos quince. Crespo brought Merengue to the mainstream and that is something that will never be taken away from him.
“Cielo de tambores” by Grupo Niche
Year released: 1990
Credit: R-5071556-1454493188-1038.jpeg. Digital image. Discog.
Perhaps the most influential Colombian album of all time. This album is energetic and sounds like the dark roast of Colombian coffee. Con sangre y con sudor su historia escribio.
“Secretos” by José José
Year released: 1983
Credit: 50-spanish-language-albums-27.-jose-jose-secretos-billboard-500×500. Digital image. Billboard.
The Mexican Frank Sinatra. This album is the epitome of his estilo llegador: songs like “El Amor Acaba” and “Lagrimas” will play in the late hours of the night while you sip a tequila and think of amores perdidos.
“En cico en la cárcel de Santa Martha” by El Tri
Year released: 1989
Genre: Rock mexicano
Credit: 19. Digital image. Lado B.
Just like Johnny Cash did in Saint Quentin and other prisons, the legendary band El Tri (think of a Mexican version of The Ramones) played for the inmates, creating one of the most lively records in the history of Latin American rock.
“Celia & Johnny” by Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco
Year released: 1974
Credit: 50-spanish-language-albums-14.celia-cruz-celia-johnny-billboard-500×50. Digital image. Billboard
Every legend has a beginning, and this was it for Celia Cruz, the absolute queen of salsa. Azuuuuuuucar!
“Bachata Rosa” by Juan Luis Guerra y sus 4.40
Year released: 1990
Credit: 94756091. Digital image. Toda coleccion.
This Dominican legend took pop music by storm with songs like “Burbujas de amor”. Quisiera ser un pezzzzz.
“Los de atras vienen conmigo” by Calle 13
Year released: 2008
Credit: 50-spanish-language-albums-5.-calle-13-los-de-atras-vienen-conmigo-billboard-500×500. Digital image. Billboard.
Residente and Visitante poured it all in this album, which is fun to listen to, but also contains some very punchy and politically incendiary lyrics.
“La espada y la pared” by Los Tres
Year released: 1995
Genre: Rock chileno
Credit: 56. Digital image. Lado B.
This Chilean band mixes rock, jazz, and cueca, a traditional genre of the indigenous peoples of Chile. This album was one of the first to be produced after Pinochet’s dictatorship and the energy is palpable: a new era of freedom was coming.