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The Sonic And Cultural Evolution Of Reggaeton In 10 Songs

Reggaeton is now firmly in the mainstream, with stars like Bad Bunny and Karol G topping charts with consecutive hits. But the genre has had a complex history and development over decades; read on for 10 songs that track reggateon's evolution.

GRAMMYs/Oct 17, 2023 - 01:41 pm

Once a marginalized genre associated with lewdness and criminality — much like the genres from which it draws so much influence, dancehall and hip-hop —  reggaeton is now firmly in the mainstream. While dominant across Latin America in the new millennium, reggaeton has made huge inroads with English-speaking audiences in the past decade, particularly with crossover hits like "Bailando," "Despacito," and numerous Bad Bunny songs from the past three years.

Although many associate reggaeton with Puerto Rico, the roots of the genre can be found in Panama, with artists like El General and Nando Boom taking Jamaican dancehall riddims — like dembow, first introduced in the Shabba Ranks song of the same name — and rapping in Spanish over them in the early 1990s. In Puerto Rico, early reggaeton was called "underground," and gained popularity in the mid-1990s through mixtapes put out by DJs like Playero and Negro, who utilized hip-hop techniques to alter the dancehall riddims as an instrumental track for local rappers and singers like Daddy Yankee.

Reggaeton has long been a male-dominated genre (with Ivy Queen being the main exception to the rule), but in recent years female singers have become more prominent. Colombian singer Karol G, for example, is currently one of the genre’s biggest stars, and Spanish singer Rosalía pivoted to reggaeton for her 2022 album Motomami, which won a Latin GRAMMY for Album Of The Year. 

Colombian artists have also been making their way to the top of the reggaeton charts in recent years — alongside Karol G, there’s J Balvin and Maluma — although Puerto Rican artists still dominate the genre, with current stars like Rauw Alejandro and Anuel AA.

Reggaeton will only continue to evolve and develop; read on for 10 songs that represent the sonic and cultural evolution of the genre in the past three decades.

El General - "Tu Pum Pum" (1990)

Years before the term reggaeton was invented, Panamanian rapper El General (Edgardo Franco) was the first artist to gain recognition recording reggae en español. Given the history of West Indian immigration to Panama to build the Canal, it’s not surprising that the story of reggaeton begins there. This proto-reggaeton style emulated Jamaican dancehall much more closely than later styles would. El General and his friends got started by taking Jamaican riddims like the genre-defining dembow and rapping in Spanish over them; they used to board buses in Panama City and perform for fellow riders. El General was known as a skilled improvisor.

He moved to New York to study in the late 1980s, and hooked up with fellow Panamanian and producer Michael Ellis, who is said to have invented the term "reggaeton." El General’s first hit, "Tu Pun Pun" is a Spanish-language version of Jamaican dancehall artist Little Lenny’s 1990 song "Punnany Tegereg" that’s quite faithful musically to the original. 

The title of the song is slang for female genitals, and the lyrics chronicle El General’s sexual prowess in graphic detail. Its chorus chants, "Your pum pum, baby baby, won’t kill (tame) me." The song became a hit in the U.S. and El General went on to have a successful, albeit brief, career. 

Tego Calderón - "Pa’ Que Retozen" (2003)

One of the biggest tracks on Tego Calderón’s debut album, El Abayarde, "Pa’ Que Retozen" was a party anthem and one of the first reggaeton hits in the U.S. It represents the culmination of many musical shifts that took place during the 1990s in Puerto Rico. By the mid-1990s, the dembow riddim began to dominate the Puerto Rican underground scene. As the millennium approached, DJs and producers began to incorporate elements of Latin popular music genres as well.

"Pa’ Que Retozen" is a good example of this trend, as bachata-style guitar riffs play underneath Calderón’s rapping. The background track switches up several times in this song, including an incredibly catchy, high-pitched synth riff heard in the second verse. Other tracks on El Abayarde also incorporate Latin genres and instruments — like bongó drums on "Abayarde," Afro-Puerto Rican bomba percussion on "Loíza," and a full salsa orchestra and vocals on "Planté Bandera."

Ivy Queen - "Quiero Bailar" (2002)

Known as the "Queen of Reggaeton," Ivy Queen was the only prominent female reggaeton artist for nearly two decades. She released two albums in the late 1990s, but it was her third album, Diva, in 2003, that really broke through. Ivy Queen intentionally wrote from a female perspective, as she had come up in a male-dominated scene in San Juan where women were constantly being objectified.

With her deep, throaty vocal tone, Ivy Queen proclaims on "Quiero Bailar" that although she wants to dance — even in the sexualized perreo style that had become synonymous with reggaeton — that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to have sex with her dance partner. The song is still an important anthem for women who want to feel free to bump and grind and express themselves on the dancefloor without men expecting a sexual encounter. 

Don Omar - "Dile" (2003)

Three of the genre’s most influential artists exploded on the scene at roughly the same time: Calderón, Daddy Yankee and Don Omar, with the latter two involved in a rivalry for the title of "King of Reggaeton." However, Don Omar always stood out among the three for the lyricism of his voice — he was a more gifted singer than many of his peers.

His debut album, The Last Don, is considered to be a classic, utilizing a similar approach as Calderón of injecting more melodic Latin styles, like bachata and salsa, into his music. The Dominican production team Luny Tunes, who was instrumental in expanding the sound of reggaeton and distinguishing it further from its Jamaican roots,  produced about half the album’s tracks.

Like "Pa’ Que Retozen," Don Omar’s first major single, "Dile" relies heavily on a bachata guitar line, but his vocal style is quite different from the deep, resonant rapping of Calderón. The combination of Don Omar’s tenor voice with the melodic instrumentals of "Dile" makes for a very aesthetically pleasing, yet danceable song. In addition, he interpolates a salsa song, Joe Arroyo’s "La Noche," into a bridge-like section in the middle of "Dile." 

The subject matter is also more emotional than many reggaeton songs had been up to this point, as he’s pleading with a woman to tell her boyfriend that she wants to be with someone else (Don Omar).  

 Daddy Yankee - "Gasolina" (2004)

The first reggaeton song to be nominated for Record Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs, "Gasolina" still stands as the genre’s most iconic and recognizable song. The song catapulted not only Daddy Yankee into the mainstream, but also the genre itself. It appeared on Daddy Yankee’s third studio album, Barrio Fino, which broke numerous records and won many awards.

Barrio Fino took a broad approach, which proved incredibly successful. Many of the album’s tracks were produced by Luny Tunes, including its two biggest hits, "Gasolina" and "Lo Que Pasó, Pasó." The album also features a salsa-reggaeton fusion and an R&B-inflected rap song that sounds like it could have been recorded by Big Pun.

As for the concept behind "Gasolina," Daddy Yankee was living in a San Juan housing project with his family, where he often heard people on the street shouting, "iComo le gusta las gasolina!" ("How she likes gasoline!"), referring to women who accept rides from men with nice cars. He took that phrase and ran with it, creating the famous hook "A mí me gusta la gasolina, dame más gasolina" ("I like gasoline, give me more gasoline"). A decade later he laughed at the idea that the term "gasolina" referred to drugs — as many people assumed — claiming that he used it literally, to refer to cars

"Oye Mi Canto" - N.O.R.E., feat. Nina Sky, Gem Star, Daddy Yankee, and Big Mato

Reggaeton exploded in popularity in the mid-aughts, which explains why there are so many classic songs from that time period. "Oye Mi Canto" was the first collaboration between an American rapper (N.O.R.E.) and reggaeton artists, and included verses in English and Spanish.

The song originally featured Tego Calderón but Daddy Yankee replaced him in the video. It also signaled an acceptance of reggaeton by New York hip hop artists — Fat Joe also appears in the video. It peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Top 100, a first for a reggaeton song.

The song utilizes a common feature of commercial hip hop at the time, a catchy R&B hook sung by a female vocalist, Nina Sky. The hook borrows from and adapts the recognizable chorus "Boricua, morena, Boricua, morena," which was heard on Big Pun’s massive 1998 hit "Still Not A Player," but extends it to include other Latino ethnicities beyond "Boricua" (Puerto Rican).

Calle 13 -"Atrévete-te-te" (2005)

Hardly a traditional reggaeton group, Calle 13 nonetheless created one of the genre’s most popular, beloved songs in 2005 with their irreverent hit "Atrévete-te-te." Rapper Residente and instrumentalist/producer Visitante, step-brothers, founded the group in 2004, and gained fame with a song about the FBI killing of Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos called "Querido FBI."

Residente is the most politically outspoken rapper within reggaeton, a genre the two musicians have tended to distance themselves from, preferring not to be labeled. The group’s music has always been eclectic, using live instrumentation and unusual timbres. These elements undoubtedly relate to the fact that Visitante plays dozens of instruments. The brothers still hold the record for most Latin GRAMMY Awards in history, a whopping 27 each!

"Atrévete-te-te" is an infectious cumbia-reggaeton hybrid featuring an unforgettable high-register clarinet. Residente’s lyrics are raunchy, witty, and replete with American pop culture references and anglicisms. He dares a "Miss Intellectual" to get down off her culturally elitist high horse and let loose: "I know you like Latin pop rock, but reggaeton gets into your intestines, under your skirt like a submarine, and brings out your ‘Taino’ (indigenous people native to Puerto Rico)." He reinforces his point later, singing, "Who cares if you like Green Day? Who cares if you like Coldplay?"

"Bailando" - Enrique Iglesias feat.Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona (2014)

In the 2010s reggaeton’s popularity continued to grow, and "Bailando" was one of the songs that significantly raised the genre’s visibility among English-language audiences. Nonetheless, Spanish pop singer Enrique Iglesias originally didn’t like the song.

"Bailando" was written and recorded by Cuban singer/songwriter Descemer Bueno and Cuban reggaeton duo Gente de Zona, who had become one of the island’s biggest musical groups. When Iglesias heard Bueno’s recording, he changed his mind and they added his vocals. 

Garnering many awards, and winning Song of the Year at the 2014 Latin GRAMMYs, "Bailando" was flamenco-infused reggaeton designed for mass appeal. It follows a traditional pop song format, with Iglesias singing the verses and trading off with Gente de Zona and Bueno in the extended chorus sections. The lyrics are standard love song fare, and don’t include any of the rapped vocals or Cuban slang that had made Gente de Zona so popular in Cuba. Nonetheless, it peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent a record-breaking 41 weeks at the top of the U.S. Latin charts. 

"Despacito" - Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee, with a remix feat. Justin Bieber (2017)

Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to ignore the cultural impact of "Despacito." It was already a huge hit in its original version, by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. But when Justin Bieber called Fonsi up to inquire about doing a remix, it became 2017’s song of the summer.

Like "Bailando," the original version was already as much Latin pop as it was reggaeton, and although Daddy Yankee has some rapped vocals in the second verse, he’s mainly singing as well. The producers decided to use a Puerto Rican cuatro, which opens the song, in addition to an acoustic guitar in order to give the song a more local feel. One unique element was the insertion of a rhythmic break right before the chorus "Despacito" (which translates to "slowly") comes in. The way Fonsi breaks up the three syllables in the title word, taking his time with them, is a nice touch.

The Justin Bieber remix was released three months later, and maintained the song’s original rhythms and Daddy Yankee’s verses. An English verse was added for Bieber at the beginning of the song, and he sang the "Despacito" choruses in Spanish — the first time he’d ever sung in Spanish. It quickly rose to No. 1 on the Hot 100 charts, which gave Fonsi and Daddy Yankee their first No. 1 hit. It stayed at the top of the charts for 16 weeks, tying with "One Sweet Day," by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, and remained the longest-leading No. 1 single until 2019. "Despacito" also won Song and Record Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs.  

"Titi Me Preguntó" - Bad Bunny (2022)

Bad Bunny is not only the most prominent artist in contemporary reggaeton — he was the biggest artist in the world in 2022. It’s impossible to list all of the accolades Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio has attained in his short career, but here are a few: His latest, Un Verano Sin Tí, was the first Spanish-language one to be nominated for Album Of The Year at the 2023 GRAMMYs, he's been Spotify's most streamed artist in the world for three straight years.

Un Verano Sin Tí was a masterful achievement, showcasing a wide variety of contemporary Latin music beyond reggaeton, including Dominican dembow and mambo, bachata, electro-cumbia, and even indie rock — all anchored by Bad Bunny’s emo vocal style. The album is a celebration of Spanish Caribbean identity, paying homage as much to Dominican as to Puerto Rican music.

"Titi Me Preguntó" is not only one of the album’s biggest hits, but also one of its most complex tracks, featuring several discrete sections. It begins with a bachata guitar intro, followed by Bad Bunny’s rapped vocals accompanied by a sparse backbeat. His aunt is asking why he goes out with so many girls and won’t settle down. The body of the song speeds way up, keeping a sparse accompaniment, as Bad Bunny lists the names and cities of different girlfriends. 

But there’s an interesting shift at the 2:15 mark, where the bachata guitar returns and we hear a woman’s voice admonishing him for being an f-boi. It’s followed by anguished Bad Bunny vocals singing, "I’d like to fall in love but I can’t." The music changes back to the sparse backbeat accompaniment when he sings: "I don’t even trust myself," and notes how many women say they want to have his first-born child. The singing returns, as a spooky electronica melody is added into the background mix: "Listen to your friend, I’ll only break your heart…I don’t know why I’m like this." 

This is a man struggling with interpersonal demons, and this vulnerable masculinity (and his past refusal to conform to rigid gender norms) is precisely why Bad Bunny is so beloved by his female fans.  

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Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya pose for a photo together at the 2024 Met Gala
Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya attend The 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

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2024 Met Gala Red Carpet: Music Icons & Celebrities Charm In The "Garden of Time" Including Bad Bunny, Zendaya, Doja Cat & More

From groundbreaking florals to silhouettes in black and piles of tulle, discover all of the spell-binding looks worn by music icons on the Met Gala red carpet in celebration of "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion."

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 10:52 pm

This year's Met Gala invited guests to step into the enchanting "Garden of Time" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where fashion meets fantasy. Celebrating the Met's exhibit "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion," the first Monday in May saw stars transform the red carpet into a vibrant display of sartorial storytelling. The theme showcased a collection too delicate to wear but alive with the stories of fashion's past.

From co-chairs Zendaya and Bad Bunny to Tyla and Jennifer Lopez, see how music icons and film stars embodied this year's theme with spectacular flair. The gala not only highlighted the sensory and emotional richness of fashion but also set the stage for a night of memorable styles — groundbreaking florals, tiered tulle and all. 

Explore the full spectrum of this year's enchanting looks from fashion's grandest night in the showcase below.

Bad Bunny

Bad Bunny at the 2024 Met Gala

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Zendaya

Zendaya at the 2024 Met Gala

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Tyla

Tyla at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Glover

Donald Glover at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Stray Kids

K-pop group Stray Kids at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Christian Cowan and Sam Smith

Christian Cowan and Sam Smith at the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Jack Harlow

Jack Harlow at the 2024 Met Gala

Marleen Moise/Getty Images

Teyana Taylor

Teyana Taylor at the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande at the 2024 Met Gala

Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Rosalía

Rosalia attends the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Laufey

Laufey at the 2024 Met Gala

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Shakira

Shakira at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage

Doja Cat

Doja Cat attends the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

FKA Twigs, Stella McCartney, Ed Sheeran & Cara Delevingne

FKA Twigs and Ed Sheeran on the 2024 Met Gala red carpet

John Shearer/WireImage

Lana Del Ray

Lana Del Ray at the 2024 Met Gala

Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Karol G

Karol G at the 2024 Met Gala

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X at the 2024 Met Gala

John Shearer/WireImage

Charli XCX

Charli XCX at the 2024 Met Gala

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Cardi B

Cardi B at the 2024 Met Gala

Gotham/Getty Images

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa at the 2024 Met Gala

Gotham/Getty Images

Lizzo

Lizzo at the 2024 Met Gala

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Eryka Badu

Eryka Badu at the 2024 Met Gala
Enrique Iglesias stands with his arms out on stage during the opening night of the Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin Live in Concert tour at MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 25, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Enrique Iglesias performs in Las Vegas

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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Enrique Iglesias Forever: 10 Songs That Prove He's A Latin Pop Hero

Ahead of what might be his final album — 'Final (Vol. 2),' out March 29 — celebrate Enrique Iglesias' legacy of groundbreaking Latin pop with 10 tracks of heartbreak, sensuality and dancefloor bangers.

GRAMMYs/Mar 29, 2024 - 01:27 pm

Latin music has gone global and Enrique Iglesias is one of the superstars who laid the foundation for that crossover. The Spanish pop icon's music career spans four decades of hits both in his native tongue and in English. Following his reign as Billboard’s Greatest Latin Artist of All-Time, Iglesias marks the end of an era with the last album of his career, Final Vol. 2.

Iglesias followed in the footsteps of his father, singer/songwriter Julio Iglesias, and made his own debut in the 1990s with Spanish-language love songs. He began singing in English at the end of the decade, and subsequently led an explosion of interest in Latin pop alongside acts like Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and later Shakira

As of writing, Iglesias has a record-breaking 27 No. 1 singles on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart, and solidified himself as a global heartthrob with an allure that defies language barriers. For his efforts, Iglesias has won one GRAMMY and five Latin GRAMMY Awards.

Enrique Iglesias will release what will likely be his final album on March 29, aptly titled Final (Vol. 2). Ahead of his final bow, here are 10 tracks that celebrate Iglesias' legacy in Latin music. 

"Experiencia Religiosa" (1995)

Iglesias made his debut in 1995 with a self-titled first album. Among the ballads on the10-track LP, the otherworldly "Experiencia Religiosa" best demonstrates the power of his charm.  

Backed by the piano with elements of gospel music, Iglesias belts his heart out about a night of passion that felt like spiritual awakening. To capture the energy of the sparks flying, an electric guitar solo rounded out his soulful yet sexy sermon. Iglesias demonstrated his knack for seamlessly blending together romance and sex appeal, which would go on to define his artistry and style.

Enrique Iglesias earned the singer his first golden gramophone at the 39th GRAMMY Awards for Best Latin Pop Performance.

"Nunca Te Olvidaré" (1997)

Iglesias proved that he was here to stay with his third album, 1997's Cosas Del Amor. The LP includes one of his signature love songs, "Nunca Te Olvidaré." 

Iglesias' voice reached angelic highs in the Spanish-language power ballad, which details  romance that left a lasting impression. No matter what happened, the love Iglesias shared with that person couldn't be forgotten — much like his impact on the Latin pop explosion that was brewing.

"Bailamos" (1999)

Proving he was so much bigger than the Iglesias last name, he crossed over into the English-language market with his 1999 album Enrique. Iglesias became a global Latin pop heartthrob with the sultry club banger "Bailamos." The song was featured on the Wild Wild West soundtrack, after Will Smith personally invited Iglesias to contribute music to the project.

Backed by the strum of the Spanish guitar with alluring synths, he invited the world to dance with him in English and Spanish. In a major moment for Latin acts at the time, the song topped the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart. The massive success of the song led Iglesias to sign with Interscope Records, where he released his breakthrough album. 

"Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (1999)

One of the underrated gems on Iglesias' Enrique album is his collaboration with six-time GRAMMY-winner Whitney Houston

The late pop legend joined forces with him for the sensual "Could I Have This Kiss Forever," making worlds collide with an irresistible mix of Latin percussion, Spanish guitar, and R&B. Houston also sang a bit in Spanish with Iglesias. His dreamy duet with Houston (who also sings in Spanish) broke down barriers for collaborations between Latin and English-language pop acts. In the years that followed, he collaborated with superstars like Kelis, Ciara, and Usher.  

"Hero" (2001)

Iglesias' love songs in English touched the hearts of millions around the world. One of his enduring classics is the empowering "Hero" from his 2001 album Escape

The beautiful ballad was released in both English and Spanish. In one of most tender vocal performances, Iglesias serenades his lover with sweet lyrics about always being by her side. After the song impressively peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, Iglesias proved that his star power was here to stay. 

The song also became an anthem of hope for the U.S. following the Sept. 11 attacks, and Iglesias was invited to perform "Hero" for the broadcast special "America: A Tribute to Heroes." 

"Bailando" (2014)

After laying the foundation for the globalization of Latin music, Iglesias enjoyed one of his greatest career triumphs in 2014 — in both Spanish and English. 

The feel-good smash "Bailando" blended Caribbean rhythms with flamenco influences, bringing together Sean Paul and Cuba's Descemer Bueno and Gente De Zona. The Spanglish banger peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. At the 2014 Latin GRAMMYs, Iglesias and his collaborators took home golden gramophones for Song Of The Year, Best Urban Performance, and Best Urban Song. 

The success of the song also helped usher in the reggaeton music revival of the last decade. Pop and reggaeton collaborations became more commonplace with songs like "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee and J Balvin’s "Mi Gente" remix with Beyoncé later following suit.  

"Beautiful" (2014)

Iglesias joined forces with GRAMMY-winning dance-pop icon Kylie Minogue for "Beautiful," a  haunting love song about a formidable romance that could withstand the apocalypse. 

The electronic ballad was co-produced by Mark Taylor, who was also at the helm of Iglesias' collaboration with Houston. Iglesias and Minogue's voices melted together in a hypnotic harmony that made this song live up to its name. The song was included on Minogue’s Kiss Me Once album and deluxe edition of Iglesias’ Sex and Love LP.  

"El Baño" (2018)

Before he became a GRAMMY-winning global star, Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny teamed up with Iglesias for a freaky reggaeton romp, "El Baño." 

Iglesias first turned up the heat by singing about getting intimate with his lover in the restroom. Bad Bunny dropped in that halfway point as his wingman with a fiery guest verse. The hypnotic collaboration was included on Iglesias' penultimate album Final (Vol. 1)

Iglesias later added a woman’s perspective to the song, bringing on Dominican reggaeton star Natti Natasha joining them on the remix. As one of Latin pop’s most daring artists, he was never afraid to push boundaries with his risque tracks. 

"Space In My Heart" (2024)

After the release of his reggaeton-heavy Final (Vol. 1), Iglesias was ready to be more adventurous with the music that followed. In 2022, Iglesias ventured into country music for the first time with "Espacio En Tu Corazón." 

To bring some more authenticity to the English-language version of the song, "Space In My Heart," Iglesias teamed up with GRAMMY-winning country star Miranda Lambert. The breathtaking country-pop ballad features Iglesias and Lambert singing passionately about winning over the hearts of their crushes. 

The song is a highlight on the last album of his career, Final (Vol. 2). And while it seems like this may be the singer's final hurrah, Iglesias told PEOPLE in 2021: "No, I'm never gonna retire! I'm gonna keep on writing songs but that doesn't mean I need to be putting out albums every so often."

"Fría" (2024)

Iglesias is going out in style with "Fría." For the most vibrant song on Final Vol. 2,  Iglesias collaborates with Cuban singer/songwriter Yotuel on a frisky and refreshing banger, which blends reggaeton beats with elements of tropical music.

Iglesias sounds like he's having a blast with Yotuel as they try to convince their partners there was no infidelity at last night's wild party. "I just went out for a cold one," Iglesias winkingly sings in Spanish. Cheers to the legacy of one of Latin pop's greater stars.  

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Karol G
Karol G

Photo: Patricia J. Garcinuno / WireImage / Getty Images

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Mañana Y Siempre: How Karol G Has Made The World Mas Bonito

'Mañana Será Bonito' may have been the vehicle for Karol G's massive year, but the 2024 GRAMMY nominee for Best Música Urbana Album has been making strides in reggaeton, urbano and the music industry at large for a long time.

GRAMMYs/Feb 1, 2024 - 04:16 pm

For Karol G, 2023 was a watershed year. Her fourth album, Mañana Será Bonito, peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and took home the golden gramophone for Album Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs. Her many milestones also included a Rolling Stone cover, and signing with Interscope. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Mañana Será Bonito is nominated for Best Música Urbana Album. 

The Colombian singer and songwriter was suddenly everywhere in 2023, but this moment is the culmination of a long, steady rise. Karol G has been on the scene for some time, and changing it for the better just by being who she is: an extremely talented woman making waves in a genre still dominated by men.  

Karol G has been a pivotal figure in the world of urbano since 2017, when she collaborated with Bad Bunny on the Latin trap single "Ahora Me Llama." It was a transformative moment for both artists, whose careers took off precipitously after its release. The track led Ms. G’s aptly titled debut album, Unstoppable, which went multi-platinum and peaked at No. 2 on both the U.S. Top Latin Albums and U.S. Latin Rhythm Albums charts. At the 2018 Latin GRAMMYs, Karol was awarded Best New Artist

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Although she came out of the gate in an unstoppable fashion, Karol G's chart-topping debut was the result of years of touring and recording. The artist born Carolina Giraldo Navarro was no overnight success.

She started singing as a teenager growing up in Medellín and, after signing to Colombia's Flamingo Records, chose the name Karol G and began releasing music. Early on, she flew to Miami for a meeting with Universal Records, but they chose not to sign her on the basis that a woman would not be successful making reggaeton — a severe miscalculation, that belies female pioneers and a blossoming roster of contemporary acts

Thankfully, she ignored them. A year after "Ahora Me Llama" and Unstoppable, Karol G won her first Latin GRAMMY. 

The star’s determination makes her a role model, but Karol G's career has also been defined by an inspiring integrity around her principles and artistic vision. By now, it is a well-known anecdote that she turned down the song "Sin Pijama" because it references marijuana use. Karol does not smoke, so the lyrics would not have been authentic to her as a person, or as an artist. 

This authenticity has doubtless been key to Karol G's success. Rather than try to fit an established mold, she brings a uniquely sunny swagger and sporty style to reggaeton. She projects a powerful and feminine energy, and her music often expresses a healthy sense of sexual independence and self-empowerment. This is an intentional part of her message, especially to her female fans.

"They teach us it’s wrong to celebrate ourselves for something we have," she told Rolling Stone of her musical messaging. "And it’s not. We have to be the first ones to give ourselves credit."

Like early collaborator Bad Bunny, Karol G is able to reach a global audience without having to change the language she sings in, her genre of choice, or her messages. Case in point: One of her 2023 accomplishments was becoming the first Latina to headline a global stadium tour, and the highest-grossing Latin touring artist of the year.

She also became the first Latina to headline Lollapalooza and, in between record-breaking tour dates, saw her song "WATATI" featured on Barbie The Album. (The soundtrack is nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media at the 66th GRAMMY Awards.)

In November, she closed out her big year with a sweep of the Latin GRAMMYs: Mañana Será Bonito received the award for Best Música Urbana Album and Album Of The Year; her Shakira collab "TQG" took home the golden gramophone for Best Urban Fusion/Performance. When she accepted her award for Best Música Urbana Album, Karol exclaimed, "How cool is it for a woman to win this?" 

Karol G’s wins made up a large part of an awards ceremony where women won big:  Shakira won Song Of The Year for her collaboration with Bizzarap, while Natalia Lafourcade won Record Of The Year and Joaquina took home Best New Artist. This was the first year that women won in all the general categories — something that suggests progress for the Latin music industry. The last time a woman won the Latin GRAMMY for Best Música Urbana Album was in 2013, when Spanish rapper Mala Rodríguez took home the award for Bruja. 

Watching the Latin GRAMMYs this year, it was easy to forget that women still have a long way to go to achieve parity with their male counterparts in the music industry. If you lost sight of that, the year-end Latin charts would bring you back to reality: Of the top 50 tracks on the Hot Latin Songs chart, 11 primarily featured women, but six of those tracks belonged to Karol G. Karol’s presence matters and she knows it. 

Karol G brings a powerful feminine energy to reggaeton and Latin trap, but also an unapologetic feminism. While this is explicit in her music, it's also clear in the creative partnerships she makes. She’s had many high profile collaborations with male artists, but just as many with a diverse roster of female artists from reggaeton OG Ivy Queen ("Leyendas") to Latin fusion pop singer Kali Uchis ("Me Tengo Que Ir," "Labios Mordidos"). In an arena so dominated by male artists, each collaboration with another woman is meaningful, but her collaborations with rising artists, such as Young Miko — who appears on the song "Dispo" from Karol’s Bichota Season — truly make a difference. 

Artists like Karol G increase the range of possibilities for artists in their wake, and for anyone in the music industry who flouts narrow expectations. Karol G knows that her victories have larger implications, and this eye toward the future has helped her reach unprecedented heights. "I understand how hard it is [for women to break through] because of how hard it was for me,"she recently told Billboard.

It wasn't easy for Karol G to get where she is today, but she has been opening doors for others — women, artists in reggaeton, artists in urbano and others —  every step of the way. From here on, the title of her album is ringing more and more prescient, and that’s mas bonito.  

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

Edgar Barrera
Edgar Barrera

Photo: Courtesy Edgar Barrera

interview

Edgar Barrera, The Songwriter Behind 2023's Top Latin Hits, Shares How He Remains Grounded Amidst Success

Edgar Barrera is known for building musical bridges, blending unexpected genres and enabling fruitful collaborations. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, the prolific songwriter and producer is the only Latino nominated for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical.

GRAMMYs/Jan 16, 2024 - 02:56 pm

The life of producer and songwriter Edgar Barrera was shaped by cultural dichotomy. Born in McAllen, Texas, and raised between the Lone Star state and the Mexican border town of Miguel Alemán, Barrera spent his days connecting cultures and languages, making a space for himself.

"I was born on the border. I'm always trying to adapt to Mexican or American culture, growing up in the middle of those two worlds," Barrera tells GRAMMY.com. "This is what I always end up doing in the songs and with the artists I work with, I adapt to them, I adapt to their world, I learn [from them]."

This duality and his innate code-switching ability defined his essence as a musician. In the music industry, Barrera is known among artists as a great bridge-builder between stars. He forges unexpected collaborations and blends genres in effortless ways.

For example, "Un x100to", the smasher collaboration between Grupo Frontera and Bad Bunny, became one of the biggest Latin songs of 2023. It won the Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Regional Mexican Song, climbed to the top of Spotify's global chart, and made its way to Billboard’s Hot 100’s Top 10.

The single is one of nine songs that has earned Barrera a nomination for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical at the 2024 GRAMMYs. He is the only Latino in this group and has been nominated for all Spanish-language songs. "It means that Latinos are breaking those barriers and that Latin music is important to the industry," Barrera says of the nomination. "To be considered in that category is already a victory. I feel I am paving the way for a Latin songwriter to be in future nominations."

The nod came days before he received the inaugural Latin GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year. At the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, Barrera received 13 nominations and won three awards, including Producer Of The Year, and was featured in a collaborative performance with Camilo, Manuel Carrasco, and IZA.

Ahead of the 66th GRAMMY Awards, Barrera discusses how his upbringing shaped his career and creative process, as well as the importance of recognition for Latinos in the music industry. 

 This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

2023 has been an excellent year for you. What are you the most grateful for?

It has been a great year in my career. I have to be thankful for life and to God. I’m grateful to say that I make a living from this.

 This is the only thing I know how to do; I am not good at anything other than making music. It is a blessing that people connect with the songs you create. What gives me the most satisfaction is knowing that people are enjoying, connecting, and experiencing the songs [I've worked on].

What did it mean to win the inaugural Songwriter Of The Year award at the Latin GRAMMYs?

I didn't think much about whether I was going to win or not. I was feeling happier and more excited because the Latin GRAMMYs were creating a category for those behind [the songs].

I said it that day they gave me the award; sometimes, the songwriter is the one who suffers the most in the entire music pyramid of how the industry is structured. The songwriter is the last one who gets paid and often doesn't get as much credit. For me, everything starts with a song. Without a good song, the artist is unknown; without a good song, the producer is unknown.

Music starts with a good song you can sing with just a guitar. That's what I like to do. I write the song, have it on guitar and vocals, and see what genre fits the best. That's why I always switch genres; I don't like to limit myself by saying that I only make urban, pop, or Mexican music. I'm not following trends but doing what feels right for the song.

What was your reaction upon discovering that you are the only nominee for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical one competing with Spanish songs at the 2024 GRAMMYs?

I was in Madrid, and even though I knew the GRAMMY nominations were coming up, I wasn’t on top of it because it is usually tough to be nominated for those categories. I didn't expect it.

We had a Zoom with all the composers nominated in that category to get to know each other, and I kept thinking, what am I doing in this Zoom with all these people who write songs in English, country songs, rap songs, or pop songs? Here I am with my songs in Spanish.

I am happy with [the nomination] because it means that Latinos are breaking those barriers and that Latin music is important to the industry. It has become the elephant in the room that you can no longer ignore.

To be considered in that category is already a victory. I feel I am paving the way for a Latin songwriter to be in future nominations. I feel I have some responsibility; I am representing Latinos at an important moment in the industry.

Coming from Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas, a town with 20,000 residents with no songwriters or producers, the fact that I can make music and dedicate myself to it is already a victory. Everything is a blessing and feels surreal.

You have been nominated for your work in nine songs. Is there a specific song that has brought you the most satisfaction?

They have all fulfilled something specific. For example, Karol G is a Selena [Quintanilla] fan, and she wanted to make a song in cumbia ["Mi Ex Tenía Razón"], a genre I grew up with. [The song] is like that tribute to my roots. Having an artist as big as Karol G on that song is very special.

In songs like "Un x100to," [a collaboration between] Bad Bunny, and a band like Grupo Frontera from my hometown, [it feels special because] we have many friends and grew up with the same cultural background. Returning to McAllen, Tamaulipas, to support a local group and having one of the biggest songs of the year with one of the biggest artists of the moment is also very special to me. It shows the newcomers that it is possible to reach those places — even coming from the same place we did. I would never have thought that the song would be No. 1 worldwide.

When did you first realize that you had a talent for songwriting?

It has always been my plan. I didn't go to school; I've never had a plan B. I've always been very stubborn in what I do. 

I discovered I could write songs and liked writing songs when I was 15. I moved to Miami and started working from the bottom, lifting cables in a studio. I had to serve coffee. I went through the entire process to enjoy what is happening now. It didn't happen overnight. 

I've never let it get to my head. I have no recognition, paintings, or awards if you go to my studio. I mean nothing; there is none of that. I don't like to think about that. I'm in my house right now, and you don't see anything on the walls; they're blank. I want to work as I have since day 1.

You have won 21 Latin GRAMMYs. Where do you keep the awards?

Those awards are at my parents' house. I send everything there. I don't have any awards at my house. My wife also tells me that our home is a place to disconnect, not to continue thinking about work. That helps me to stay rooted.

To know that the day before, I could have been with the biggest artist in the world, I could be with Shakira, Karol G or Benito, whoever I am currently working with, but when I come home, I feel that I am an ordinary person who has the blessing of working with the greatest artists of the moment. Realizing that also resets you, it keeps me grounded.

Did maintaining a lower profile help you in your career as a songwriter?

I am very quiet and shy. I express myself better by writing than by speaking. I like that people gradually discover who is behind the songs. I like that some people find that I wrote a song, and they make the connection, like the movie's endings, when you start connecting all the dots. I don't like telling people I did this or that.

When working with an artist, I am very clear that I am an instrument; I work for them. I don't have any ego. When working with artists, I listen to them and help them translate what they want to say in the songs. That is my job, and I try to be a tool for them; I don't want to be the protagonist.

You are known for your ability to make unexpected connections between artists and topliners; where did this talent come from?

It comes very naturally to me; I do it unconsciously. For example, in the collaboration between Carin León and Maluma, ["Según Quién"], I ended up being the person who connected them. In their case, I sent the song to Carin's team and introduced them about a week later. We organized a meal, and I made them get to know each other before recording the song.

In ["De Vuelta Pa' La Vuelta"] by Daddy Yankee with Marc Anthony, I was with Yankee in the studio. Yankee told me he wanted to do something different, and I showed him this salsa song. He likes it and tells me he wants to record it and do it in salsa. I connected Yankee with Marc — two legends who know each other, but I will gladly make that [musical] connection if I can.

That is part of why I created my record label, Border Kid Records, which is like a border that connects [two places], like the bridge between the United States and Mexico; I am a bridge between the artists.

You are a big fan of the Swedish producer and songwriter Max Martin. What have you learned from his career?

I am Max Martin's No. 1 fan. To me, he is the greatest of all time, and what I like about him is that he is not bragging about his achievements.

It felt like such a great discovery when I found out how he was. I told my friends you like this song because this songwriter made it, so you are not a fan of the artist; you are a fan of the songwriter.

I dreamed that one day, my songs would have a similar effect in Latin music and the way people would discover me. He has always kept a shallow profile. I'm not comparing myself to him at all, but something that he has and that I also do unconsciously is constantly collaborating with people; we are always nourishing ourselves with new songwriters and producers.

I always check Max Martin's credits and see him working with new people. And that's all about not believing that you know everything but learning and always listening to new people that has something new to say.

What advice can you give to songwriters or singers starting their careers?

Always be authentic and do not follow trends. I differentiated myself from the songwriters and producers when I started because I didn't use many bad words [in my songs]. I always wanted to avoid jumping on that bandwagon, following a trend.

It is about doing things differently and creating your own trends. I am one of those who make a bachata or a merengue; when a merengue is not even trending, you make it a trend by [picking] the right artist and song.

What is Edgar Barrera's mark in music?

My lyrics are simple, honest, straightforward, and up-to-date; that's my trademark. Production-wise, if you hear a real instrument or a musician playing live, guitars, or things like that, that's always my mark.

 2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List