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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.

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