1999: The Year Latin Pop Conquered America
1999 saw an unprecedented dominance of Latin pop sounds in American music, opening the public's ears to multilingual songwriting
The U.S. music scene in 1999 saw an unprecedented surge in the popularity of Latin pop.
Hispanic artists and various elements of Latin sounds dominated the charts to such an extent that by the end of the year even artists with no Latin heritage to speak of were looking to capitalize on the movement by recording Spanish-language versions of their singles in hopes of activating the crossover market.
"It was completely sudden, and it had a lot to do with Ricky. After his performance at the GRAMMYs, everyone was on alert, so to speak, and expecting his new album. The first hit, of course, was "Livin' La Vida Loca" with that sensational video. I think that was the beginning." — Leila Cobo, executive director of Latin content and programming, Billboard
As a young man, Martin came to prominence between the ages of 12 and 17 as a member of the GRAMMY-nominated boy band Menudo. The Puerto Rico native was also a successful actor and solo recording artist before he burst onto the U.S. music scene in 1999. In the '90s, he acted in TV series such as "General Hospital" and "Getting By," telenovelas and stage plays, and he'd released four successful Spanish-language albums.
Martin won his first career GRAMMY — Best Latin Pop Performance for Vuelve — at the 41st GRAMMY Awards in 1999, but it was his show-stopping performance of "La Copa De La Vida" that same year that made it clear something big was on the horizon.
Martin's "Livin La Vida Loca" was released one month after his spectacular GRAMMY performance, and quickly became his first-ever No. 1 charting single, holding the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks.
The singer's self-titled fifth solo album — his English debut — was released two months later, and hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 almost immediately. The most successful album of Martin's career, it has gone on to sell well over 15 million copies worldwide. Needless to say, 1999 was a big year for the Puerto Rican pop star.
Leila Cobo, executive director of Latin content and programming for Billboard, was working as Miami Herald's pop music critic at the time, recalls one event that served as an interesting tell sign.
"I went to cover [the signing] and found a line of hysterical girls at 11 a.m. on a school day that went on for blocks," she says. "I had never seen anything like this, ever."
Writing for Billboard roughly a month after "Livin La Vida Loca" hit store shelves, Michael Paoletta, now executive producer, A&R and music supervision for Comma Music, commented prophetically, "In the weeks since [the GRAMMYs], it seems like every record label exec has been in a heated search for the next Latin hottie."
Jennifer Lopez had worked as a successful dancer and actress during the '90s, notably appearing as a Fly Girl on Keenan and Damon Wayans' sketch comedy and variety show "In Living Color." In 1997 Lopez earned a huge breakthrough in the leading role as GRAMMY-winning Tejano singer Selena in the titular biopic about her life and tragic death. The Bronx native's performance in the film was lauded by critics and fans alike, putting her in the entertainment spotlight and at the same time making her ripe to become the breakout female star to help propel the Latin pop movement.
Lopez's debut single, "If You Had My Love," was released in May 1999, just a week before Martin's self-titled album hit the shelves, arriving at the perfect time to sate the appetites of stateside listeners. The single climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and became one of the best-selling singles in the U.S. for 1999. Lopez's first studio album, On The 6, released a few weeks later, also skyrocketed, debuting at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 and ultimately earning triple-platinum status.
The same month that saw Lopez release On The 6 also saw another well-established Latin pop star blow up in the U.S.
Enrique Iglesias had previously won his first GRAMMY for Best Latin Pop Performance for his first self-titled 1995 studio album. The Spanish singer also came from an impressive musical pedigree, being the son of GRAMMY-winning Latin pop crooner Julio Iglesias.
"Bailamos," the junior Iglesias' inaugural English language release, was selected for the 1999 blockbuster action flick Wild Wild West, thanks in part to a request from GRAMMY winner Will Smith. The single would top the Billboard Hot 100 and become an immense success, eventually selling more than 5 million copies worldwide.
Almost certainly the biggest success story of the 1999 Latin pop explosion, however, was to be the eponymous band led by then-52-year-old guitar god Carlos Santana.
"We connected with hip-hoppers. … We connected with middle white America, we connected with Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australia. It's like the Champs-Elysées in Paris: This CD is connected to all the streets." — Carlos Santana on Supernatural, 1999
When Santana's 17th studio album, Supernatural, was released in 1999, the group had been playing live together for longer than the likes of Martin, Lopez and Iglesias had been alive. The album's lead single, "Smooth," featuring Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas, was an absolute phenomenon that year. It spent an astonishing 12 weeks in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Santana's first chart-topping song.
Supernatural would net Santana a total of eight GRAMMYs at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards, including Album Of The Year and Best Rock Album, with "Smooth" taking home Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. Commercially, Supernatural would eventually sell more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. Due to its equally strong chart performance, "Smooth" would be the final song of the decade to stand atop the Hot 100.
The Latin GRAMMY Awards
Following the incredible explosion of Latin pop music in 1999, the year 2000 heralded the inception of the Latin GRAMMY Awards, hosted by the Latin Recording Academy, which was established in 1997 as a counterpart to the Recording Academy.
Nuyorican Marc Anthony would become the first artist to take home the inaugural Latin GRAMMY for Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "I Need To Know (Dímelo)," from his Top 10 1999 self-titled album.
While some later argued that the 1999 Latin explosion was a brief high-gloss blip on the pop culture radar, its impact cannot be underestimated. The 2000s and beyond have seen a steady stream of Latin artists dent the Billboard charts — including Shakira, Juanes, Luis Fonsi, J Balvin, and Nicky Jam, among others. The past year has seen the continuing dominance of Latin sounds in the modern pop scene, with crossover hits such as Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" serving as but one example.
And the Latin GRAMMY Awards has emerged as The Biggest Night in Latin Music, honoring top Latin music talent and featuring top-shelf performances that thrill millions worldwide — a testament to the staying power of Latin music.
"To have a song in Spanish, and to be in the top of the Hot 100, that's something that rarely happens," Fonsi told CNN regarding "Despacito." "I'm just very proud that Latin music has grown so much and people are just really connecting to it."
Photo: Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Luisaviaroma
Jennifer Lopez's Biggest Hits, From Her Best Hip-Hop Collaborations To The Dance Floor Classics
As fans await the much-anticipated arrival of J.Lo's new album, 'This Is Me…Now,' revisit the hits and deep cuts that have made her a beloved icon for nearly three decades.
Jennifer Lopez boasts one of the most impactful resumes in entertainment. Along with selling over 80 million albums and garnering four Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers, she has smashed barriers for Latin performers as a career chameleon — becoming the ultimate multi-hyphenate icon.
It feels almost unbelievable to think that J.Lo's balancing act was once deemed too risky. By the time she was releasing her debut album, On the 6, in 1999, Lopez had made a name for herself in Hollywood thanks to her starring role in 1997's biographical musical drama Selena (which foreshadowed her power in the entertainment business, as her $1 million salary made her the highest paid Latina actress at the time). Under the guidance of music mogul Tommy Mottola, On the 6 was met with much acclaim and propelled J.Lo into another stratosphere.
Now, nearly 25 years later, Lopez has released eight albums, starred in over 30 films — which have collectively grossed over $3 billion — and embarked on numerous business ventures, including her launch of JLo Beauty and alcohol brand Delola. Her fragrances alone have raked in over $2 billion.
Of the many hats Lopez wears, her music career is the most awe-inspiring for many of her fans. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, and ahead of Lopez's eagerly awaited This Is Me… Now album (her first in nearly a decade), GRAMMY.com is revisiting the hits that made the Bronx native a household name, as well as lesser-known songs that rival even her biggest anthems.
"If You Had My Love," On the 6 (1999)
"If You Had My Love" was first offered to King of Pop, Michael Jackson, before finding a home on Lopez's debut album, On the 6, named after a New York City subway line that she frequented before fame. On the Rodney Jerkins-produced tune, Lopez's assertiveness takes center stage as she addresses a potential lover: "Now if I give you me, this is how it's got to be/ First of all I won't take you cheating on me/ Tell me who can I trust if I can't trust in you/ And I refuse to let you play me for a fool."
Staying atop the Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks, "If You Had My Love" was undeniable proof that Lopez was capable of achieving crossover success in the music industry. It also coincided with 1999's "Latin Explosion" — which launched the careers of fellow Latin pop icons Shakira and Ricky Martin.
"Waiting for Tonight," On the 6 (1999)
Of all of Lopez's smash hits, "Waiting for Tonight" is arguably one of the most timeless. As Lopez's first song to top the Dance Club Songs chart (she has since scored 18), "Waiting for Tonight" is synonymous with helping to usher in the Y2K era, thanks to its celebratory lyrics and accompanying New Year's Eve-themed video. It showed that she had critical clout, too, as "Waiting for Tonight" earned Lopez her first GRAMMY nomination for Best Dance Recording in 2000.
The Latin house anthem is so quintessentially J.Lo that it's easy to forget that it's a remake of short-lived girl group 3rd Party's song, further exemplifying her star power. What's more, it teased her future Spanish-language project, as she cut a sultry Spanish version titled "Una Noche Más" which closes out On the 6.
"Let's Get Loud," On the 6 (1999)
On the 6 opens with a string of R&B tracks — including "Feelin' So Good" featuring Fat Joe and Big Pun — before taking a different turn with "Let's Get Loud," which flaunts Lopez's Latin heritage. Within the first few seconds, the proud Nuyorican declares "Ya Jeny llegó, presente!" (translating to "Jenny has arrived, present!"), and it's impossible not to dance along.
Co-written by Gloria Estefan, the salsa number mostly flew under the radar, never cracking the Hot 100. Even so, "Let's Get Loud" managed to score Lopez her second GRAMMY nomination for Best Dance Recording in 2001. It also remains one of J.Lo's signature songs, becoming a set list staple and playing part in career-defining performances, including the Super Bowl halftime show in early 2020 and Joe Biden's inauguration the next year.
"Love Don't Cost a Thing," J.Lo (2001)
A self-proclaimed "hopeless romantic," Lopez told potential suitors that her love don't cost a thing on her second album, J.Lo. Reaching No. 3 on the Hot 100 and even taking the top spot in several countries, the song's commercial success solidified her hitmaker status, simultaneously thrusting her relationship with then-boyfriend Sean "Diddy" Combs further into the spotlight. It's rumored that "Love Don't Cost a Thing" was aimed toward the Bad Boy Records founder: "When I took a chance, thought you'd understand/ Baby, credit cards aren't romance/ Still, you're tryna buy what's already yours/ What I need from is not available in stores," she sings in the second verse.
"Love Don't Cost a Thing" also kicked off Lopez's tradition of releasing catchy earworms like "I'm Glad," "I'm Into You," and "Marry Me" that chronicle the A-lister's quest for happily ever after.
"Walking on Sunshine," J.Lo (2001)
With anticipation-filled lyrics like "I can't wait, wanna see how this night is gonna be," "Walking on Sunshine" (not to be confused with Katrina and the Waves' 1985 classic) sounds like a sequel to On the 6's "Waiting for Tonight." Lopez even performed a mashup of the songs during her 2001 tour.
The infectious song follows platinum hits "I'm Real" and "Play" on J.Lo — and yet, it still manages to outshine both. At its core, "Walking on Sunshine" is pure bliss, and perfectly captures the dance-pop genre that flourished in the early aughts.
"I'm Real" (Murder Remix) feat. Ja Rule, J to tha L-O! The Remixes (2001)
Armed with a slinky smooth Rick James sample, Ja Rule's grittiness paired with Lopez's soft coos are a match made in vocal heaven on the "Murder Remix" of "I'm Real," which pushed her more into urban territory after Black radio stations complained that her J.Lo album lacked an R&B-leaning single. (And Ja Rule screaming "What's my motherf—in' name?," to which Lopez responds "R-U-L-E, still reigns as one of the best opening lines in a song.)
Despite drawing criticism at the time due to Lopez's use of the n-word, the collaboration became so popular that it was added to the reissue of J.Lo, making the original version seem almost nonexistent — paving the way for more major reworkings of Lopez's songs, including "I'm Gonna Be Alright" and "Ain't It Funny." The latter started as a Latin pop record before being reimagined as a hip-hop track with all-new lyrics and an in-your-face "Flava In Ya Ear" sample, making it completely unrecognizable to listeners while serving multiple demographics.
"I'm Gonna Be Alright" (Track Masters Remix) feat. Nas, J to tha L-O! The Remixes (2001)
Reworked for her J to tha L-O! The Remixes album, "I'm Gonna Be Alright" is easily Lopez's most forgotten hit — but it's one of her finest, thanks to Lopez's confident delivery, along with its captivating melody and resilient lyrics. "I said I couldn't do it but I did it/ After telling everybody that I wasn't with it," she sings on the chorus. "Though it brings tears to my eyes, I can feel it/ And that voice inside says I'm gonna be alright."
Featuring Nas (who replaced then-rising rapper 50 Cent, which ignited a feud between the two), and a sample of "Why You Treat Me So Bad" by Club Nouveau, "I'm Gonna Be Alright" stands out as one of Lopez's few singles that deal with a failed relationship.
"Still," This Is Me… Then (2002)
Creatively, Lopez was at the top of her game when her third studio album, This Is Me… Then, arrived in late 2002. Yet, it sold fewer copies compared to J.Lo, even despite producing megahits "Jenny from the Block" and "All I Have" (more on those later). As iconic as those songs are, they don't compare to the soulful album's opener "Still," which set the perfect tone for This Is Me… Then — her most romantic and sonically cohesive project to date.
Built around a sample of Teddy Pendergrass' 1979 song "Set Me Free" and enhanced with synthetic record scratches for a retro feel, the lyrics heard in "Still" are actually quite simple. But it's the haunting melody and Lopez's sincerity that pulls in the listener immediately, and makes them wonder why it wasn't released as a single in lieu of "Baby, I Love U!," which stalled at No. 72 on the Hot 100.
"Jenny from the Block" feat. Styles P and Jadakiss, This Is Me… Then (2002)
It's a running joke that Lopez shouts out The Bronx every chance she gets, so it's only fitting that a song like "Jenny from the Block" exists in her arsenal.
Featuring The LOX's Styles P and Jadakiss, "Jenny from the Block" teeters on pretentious as Lopez insists that fame and fortune haven't changed her. But fans and music lovers alike ate it up: The song spent three weeks at No. 3 on the Hot 100 and remains one of her most-streamed and highest-charting singles.
At the time, she was still riding high off making history as the first person to have a No. 1 album (J.Lo) and movie (The Wedding Planner) in the same week. By then, Lopez and then-boyfriend (and now husband!) Ben Affleck's romance had turned into total tabloid fodder, as seen in its accompanying video — which is infiltrated with shots of Bennifer on a yacht, grabbing lunch, and stopping for gas while the paparazzi captures their every move.
In a lot of ways, "Jenny from the Block" represents just how ubiquitous J.Lo was in the early 2000s. Outside the Bennifer craze, the rags-to-riches song remains an ode to Lopez's Bronx upbringing. It even birthed Becky G's "Becky from the Block" and seemingly inspired Fergie's "Glamorous," which topped the Hot 100 in 2007.
"All I Have" feat. LL Cool J, This Is Me… Then (2002)
Lopez and LL Cool J's chemistry is undeniable on "All I Have." Relying on a controversial sample of Debra Laws' "Very Special," the song's call-and-response quality is what makes it so fun to sing along to even after all these years.
Though the ballad showcases Lopez's softer side, female empowerment takes over: "'Cause I'm good holdin' down my spot/ And I'm good reppin' the girls on the block/ And I'm good, I got this thing on lock/ So without me you'll be fine, right," she sings on the song's pre-chorus.
"All I Have" not only became Lopez's fourth No. 1 hit, but thanks to its holiday-timed release and winter wonderland-themed video, it was dubbed a "Christmastime breakup theme."
"Get Right," Rebirth (2005)
In the three-year gap between This Is Me... Then and Lopez's fourth album, Rebirth, she hit a career low when Gigli bombed at the box office. She and Ben Affleck famously called off their engagement a mere five months later. Surprisingly, though, much of Rebirth is void of heartbreak and takes a lighter approach, as evidenced by the horn-laden lead single "Get Right," which sees Lopez enjoying herself at a club.
"My hips moving, oh, so slow/ Bar tab looking like a car note," she sings in the second verse. At face value, it's easy to view "Get Right" as just another dance tune, but it doubles as a metaphor for Lopez's openness to finding love again in the face of heartbreak.
"Qué Hiciste," Como Ama una Mujer (2007)
Lopez fully embraced her Puerto Rican roots from day one, recording Spanish-language and bilingual songs here and there, like 1999's "No Me Ames" and 2001's "Cariño." But after recording 2004's "Escapémonos," a duet with then-husband Marc Anthony, she was inspired to go all in — and she did so with 2007's Como Ama una Mujer.
A self-described "dream come true," Como Ama una Mujer spawned the rock-infused "Qué Hiciste" (translating into "What Did You Do"), Lopez's first Spanish-language song to crack the Hot 100 at No. 86 — though it ruled the US Hot Latin Songs chart. On the tune, Lopez sings from a scorned woman's perspective (e.g., "Hoy empañaste con tu furia mi mirada," which translates to "Today you clouded my gaze with your fury"), showing off her flair for drama with a blazing hot video to match.
"Stay Together," Brave (2007)
Seven months after Como Ama una Mujer's release, Lopez returned to her more radio-friendly sound, but it came with a funky twist à la her sixth album, Brave. Lead singles "Do It Well" and "Hold It Don't Drop It" were lauded by music critics, though "Stay Together," the LP's opener, arguably steals the show.
On the pro-monogamy track, Lopez exudes confidence while dropping words of wisdom: "Through the bumpy roads, the others bite the dust/ 'Cause they be thinking they're in love when they're in lust."
"On the Floor" feat. Pitbull, Love? (2011)
Ahead of joining the 10th season of "American Idol" as a judge, "On the Floor" was the chart comeback Lopez needed after two back-to-back underperforming albums. The lead single off her seventh studio album, Love?, pays homage to her dance background as she sings lyrics like "If you're a criminal, kill it on the floor/ Steal it quick on the floor" over a thumping beat.
Heavily interpolating Kaoma's "Lambada" from 1989 and featuring guest verses from Pitbull, "On the Floor" skyrocketed to No. 1 in over 30 countries and became 2011's best-selling single by a female artist, reinstating Lopez's staying power. (To further prove its impact, there are two versions of "On The Floor" on Spotify — both of which have more than 400 million streams each.)
"First Love," A.K.A. (2014)
Lopez was dating backup dancer Casper Smart, who was nearly 20 years her junior, when she dropped the feel-good "First Love." Their age difference raised eyebrows, but in typical J.Lo fashion, she wore her heart on her sleeve.
On the percussion-heavy track, she sounds carefree while seemingly acknowledging her failed romances. "I wish you were my first love/ 'Cause if you were first/ Baby, there would have been no second, third or fourth love," she sings on the chorus.
Even though it didn't fare well on the Hot 100, it marked her first and only time joining forces with pop genius Max Martin. It also gave Lopez her 15th No. 1 dance hit, tying with Donna Summer for the seventh-most on the chart at the time. Earning three more No. 1 dance hits between 2014 and 2020, Lopez surpassed Summer with an impressive 18.
In the nine years that have passed since Lopez's last studio album, A.K.A., Lopez has released dozens of one-off singles, including "Ain't Your Mama," "El Anillo," "Dinero," and "Medicine." Much to her fans' surprise and delight in the fall of 2022, she commemorated the 20th anniversary of This Is Me... Then with an announcement of This Is Me… Now, an aptly-titled sequel to her 2002 album. Lopez told Vogue that the forthcoming endeavor — which chronicles her rekindled relationship with now-husband Ben Affleck — is not only her most honest work to date, but "a culmination of who I am as a person and an artist."
While J.Lo has yet to announce an official release date, she just performed nine songs from the album at a special Apple Music Live show on Sept. 21. Once This Is Me… Now is finally unveiled, it will unlock a new era for the triple threat — one that only continues her awe-inspiring, ever-influential legacy.
Photo: Courtesy of Alé Araya
ReImagined: Alé Araya Puts An Atmospheric Spin On Bon Iver's "Holocene"
Chilean artist Alé Araya uses her laptop, synthesizer and a well-worn piano to create an enchanting new version of Bon Iver's GRAMMY-nominated hit "Holocene."
Bon Iver's breakout moment came in 2011 with the release of "Holocene," the second single off the indie rock act's sophomore album Bon Iver, Bon Iver.
"And at once, I knew I was not magnificent/ Strayed above the highway aisle/ Jagged vacance, thick with ice/ But I could see for miles, miles, miles," frontman and founder Justin Vernon sang in floating falsetto on the song's chorus, over the strum of acoustic guitar and gentle percussion.
In this episode of ReImagined, Chilean artist Alé Araya turns the delicate track into a wistful piano ballad. She shows off her many musical talents as well, pivoting between her laptop, synthesizer and a well-worn upright piano as her crystalline vocals tie everything together.
Bon Iver earned dual GRAMMY nominations for both Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for "Holocene" the following year. While both of those awards went to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," Vernon and co. ultimately took home two other trophies — for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album.
Araya is having a breakout year of her own in 2023, recently releasing her debut EP, in pieces, which featured collaborations with greek ("Endless Sky"), aisu ("Citrine") and Joseph Chilliams ("Midnight Gospel"). She also joined forces with honey and Vrdnyn on the collaborative 2023 single "Prada Princess."
Press play on the video above to watch Araya interpretation of Bon Iver's fan-favorite single, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of ReImagined.
Graphic Courtesy of the Latin Recording Academy
Latin GRAMMYs 2023: Hear The Album Of The Year Nominees
Here are the nominees for Album Of The Year at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, which will air Thursday, Nov. 16 from Sevilla, Spain.
The Latin GRAMMYs Album Of The Year category honors the work of both the established leaders and hottest rising stars in Latin music. The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs nominees for Album Of The Year include recordings by reggaeton and pop artists who are breaking down barriers in the music industry, alongside some of the most well-known and beloved singer/songwriters in Spanish.
These 10 albums were chosen to represent the most significant voices in Latin music for 2023: La Cu4rta Hoja (Pablo Alborán), A Ciegas (Paula Arenas), De Adentro Pa Afuera (Camilo), Décimo Cuarto (Andrés Cepeda), Vida Cotidiana (Juanes), Mañana Será Bonito (Karol G), De Todas Las Flores (Natalia Lafourcade), Play (Ricky Martín), Eadda9223 (Fito Páez), and Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así (Carlos Vives).
Ahead of the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, officially known as the 24th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards — which will be held on Thursday, Nov. 16, in Sevilla, Spain — learn about the nominees for this prestigious category. Don’t miss the broadcast on Univision at 8 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. CT).
La Cu4rta Hoja – Pablo Alborán
Pop singer/songwriter Pablo Alborán closed out 2022 with an explosion of optimism and carefree experimentation titled La Cu4rta Hoja.
Throwing off the isolation of the pandemic, the Spanish chart-topper found himself ready to collaborate. The album features bold duets with música Mexicana star Carín León and Argentinian singer María Becerra, providing Alborán with the opportunity to branch out into genres, such as flamenco, that he’d never flirted with before.
Evidently, he also felt like dancing as the normally ballad oriented artist stacked his album with breezy, playa-ready dance beats. Alborán has already been nominated for 24 Latin GRAMMYs, including a nomination for Best New Artist. He was nominated for Album Of The Year in 2013 for his sophomore album Tanto, making this his second Album Of The Year nomination.
A Ciegas – Paula Arenas
Colombian singer/songwriter Paula Arenas’ career has been defined by an independent spirit since its beginning. The unconventional pop artist sang covers in nightclubs until she scored a hit single with "Lo Que El Tiempo Dejó" (featuring alt-pop legend Esteman) from her self-released debut EP, and except for a brief period with Sony Music Colombia, when she released her debut album Visceral, all her other releases have been with smaller labels.
The indie darling’s roots are still showing on the clever, intimate A Ciegas, which finds her exploring a more stripped down version of her piano driven sound. Lead single "Puro Sentimiento," featuring fellow Colombian Manuel Medrano, shines with quirky-cool, ’80s inspired glamor. Being just a little different doesn’t seem to be holding her back: The video for "Puro Sentimiento" has more than 1 million streams on YouTube and counting.
De Adentro Pa Afuera – Camilo
Iconic, stylish, unforgettable — and we’re not just talking about Camilo's mustache. The mononymous pop singer with the disarming soprano already has a few Latin GRAMMYs to his name, notably album of the year for 2021’s Mis Manos. He’s written hits for Becky G and Bad Bunny, but solo work is where Camilo really lets his creativity off the leash.
The songs on his third studio album, De Adentro Pa Afuera, range from scruffy, loosely slung takes on reggaeton to bouncy folk pop jams that showcase his romantic side. It also hosts such diverse musical guests as Camila Cabello, Myke Towers and Grupo Firme. In the hands of a lesser artist it might be disjointed, but with Camilo at the controls it’s a masterclass in joyful chaos.
Décimo Cuarto – Andrés Cepeda
A master of the devastating love song made an exuberant return this year with help from a few equally formidable friends. Colombia’s Andrés Cepeda corralled the talents of such artists as Ximena Sariñana and Gusi for a delicately tropical, massively emotional album titled simply Décimo Cuarto.
Gentle danzón and milonga rhythms ("Le Viene Bien") and lyrics about love that defies time, space and reality ("En Otra Vida") are just a couple of the elements that make up the album's restrained, yet robust mix. Décimo Cuarto also includes sweeping power ballads with Reik and Joss Favela ("Tu Despertador" and "Si Todo Se Acaba," respectively). Cepeda previously won a Latin GRAMMY in 2013 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Lo Mejor Que Hay En Mi Vida.
Vida Cotidiana – Juanes
Loyal fans of Juanes’ rock side were rewarded for their patience when the Colombian superstar released Vida Cotidiana, an epic return to form complete with psychedelic flourishes and a healthy dose of funk and varied Caribbean influences.
Early pandemic quarantine found the artist with a lot of time at home with his family, which provided some of the inspiration for the album. He used the unanticipated pause to study poetry, take voice and guitar lessons, and record the numerous demos that would, in time, become Vida Cotidiana. Juanes said he considers it his best album, and the time and passion he put into it is obvious.
The legendary singer and songwriter has brought home 26 Latin GRAMMYs over the years and, with his 10th solo album he’s made a strong case for a 27th.
Mañana Será Bonito – Karol G
Musical powerhouse, reggaetonera and general bichota, Karol G is one major reason why all eyes are on Colombia. After establishing herself as a hit-making star in the adjoining worlds of reggaeton and Latin trap is clearly enjoying her success and savoring the moment.
As you might be able to guess from the sunshine and rainbows doodled on the album cover, Mañana Será Bonito was one of 2023' most fun albums, bubbling over with sass and unapologetic sexuality. Everyone is invited to the party: Mañana Será Bonito has features with Romeo Santos, Shakira, Carla Morrison and Sean Paul. It debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 200 making it the first all-Spanish language album by a female artist with that distinction.
De Todas Las Flores – Natalia Lafourcade
De Todas Las Flores is the first collection of completely original material from Mexican singer/songwriter Natalia Lafourcade since 2015’s critically acclaimed Hasta La Raiz (for which she received two Latin GRAMMYs).
Both Lafourcade and producer Adán Jodorowsky took a less-is-more approach on this new offering, which allowed for a subtle play of emotion on songs such as the aching title track. Famously a fan of Mexico’s rich musical heritage, De Todas Las Flores finds Lafourcade experimenting with stripped down cumbia and son, while also branching out into other regions of Latin America with bossa nova, samba and bolero. The understated arrangements perfectly complement the profound and profoundly personal tracks, which Lafourcade has described as "a musical diary."
Play – Ricky Martín
After winning a Latin GRAMMY for his 2020 EP Pausa, Ricky Martín returned in 2022 with the logical bookend: a second EP titled Play. The Puerto Rican icon made the first recording in response to the cumulative challenges in his home island, ranging from Hurricane Maria to the pandemic. It also tackled heavy issues and served as a kind of therapy for Martín, who had started suffering from panic attacks.
If Pausa was a held breath, Play is the satisfying exhale. More upbeat and even decidedly danceable in the case of the songs "Ácido Sabor" and "Paris in Love," it represents a return to life, if not a return to normal, and a focus on the romance and sensuality for which Martín has long been world famous.
Eadda9223 – Fito Páez
The Argentinian rocker’s latest full-length is a revisiting of his epochal El Amor Después del Amor, this time letting a few more folks in on the caper. Besides the aforementioned co-conspirators, Páez is joined by Ca7riel and many other Argentinian iconoclasts who no doubt owe something to the trailblazing rock en español singer/songwriter. Each track on Eadda9223 is reimagined: The new version of "Sasha, Sissí Y El Círculo De Baba" with Mon Laferte crackles with Tex-Mex electricity that bears no connection to the original, but is a perfect vehicle for Laferte’s vocal range and flair for drama.
Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así – Carlos Vives
What happens when a legend offers a tribute to a legend? Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así, the Carlos Vives album celebrating the music of vallenato composer Rafael Escalona answers that question with moving clarity.
Vives has brought the tropical sounds of Colombian vallenato to the world mixing them with pop and rock music, becoming a major star in the process. His deepest debt is to Escalona, who is remembered in Colombia as a storyteller and legendary personality.
Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así updates the Escalona’s famous compositions while striving to preserve their inherent spirit. The album is also a celebration of Vives’ own career, which now spans three decades. In addition to his innovation and longevity, Vives is an extremely prolific artist whose many releases have brought him two GRAMMYs and 15 Latin GRAMMYs.
Photo: Andrea Asibor
Herbal Tea & White Sofas: That Mexican OT Brings Mexico To Every Live Show With This Beverage
Some might prefer water and tea while on tour, but Texas-based rapper That Mexican OT gets all of his energy from a cold bottle of Mexican coke.
If there is one thing That Mexican OT will do while on tour, it's stay hydrated. But not necessarily with water — he prefers an ice-cold glass of Mexican Coca-Cola.
"This bad mama jama right here is a go-to for sure," he says in the latest episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas. "A big part of me loving this is the Mexican heritage, but it also goes down perfectly."
Compared to American Coke, he says the Mexican version has a better taste because it uses natural cane sugar and no high fructose corn syrup.
When That Mexican OT wants something healthier, he opts for cranberry juice. "It's good for your kidneys," he shares. "Those antioxidants will keep you clean and running good, baby."
In his dream world, he would love to have a giant water slide in every green room. "I'm talking about a 20 to 40-footer," he quips with a smile. "Something simple. Easy to hit those dips."
You can catch That Mexican OT live on the Lonestar Luchador Tour through the United States, which ends on Oct. 4 in Oakland, California.
Press play on the video above to learn more about That Mexican OT's two favorite drinks to have while on tour, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas.