It seems like every day there’s more and more Latin artists topping the charts, and it’s no surprise. With more native Spanish speakers in the world than those who speak English as a first language, it makes sense that music is finally leaning more toward songs full of Spanish lyrics and Latin beats. In some cases, it’s a formula for success, really: a Romance language for a romantic song — what could go wrong?
But Latin music isn’t all love songs and heartbreak ballads. There’s plenty of new Latin artists on the scene whose sound will change up the genre altogether. Latin music went from opera-like ballads, to reggaeton and now it’s seeing a shift to R&B. There’s not much this genre hasn’t tried, and so far it hasn’t failed. Latin music has been on the rise since the ‘90s, and the recent success of artists like Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee has brought it to a global stage.
With so many voices all over the world, it’s hard to decide who to listen to and who to skip, but don’t worry. Here’s a quick guide to some of the up and coming Latin artists you definitely need on your playlist.
Yashua is an American-Dominican artist based in New York, and he’s one of the first artists to merge the energy of Latin music with the calm vibes of R&B. His hit song, “Pena,” began his popularity with lyrics about longing for love, accompanied by a prominent bassline mixed with haunting vocals and the classic background beat of reggaeton. He’s followed this up with other singles, like “Dime Tu,” about two lovers being cheated on. He’s staying true to his reggaeton roots while adding elements of R&B to refresh the sound and make him stand out. Not many Latin artists are making straight R&B tracks consistently, and each song Yashua releases is better than the last.
Yoandri and Yashua have something in common: They both competed on a reality show called “La Banda,” whose main purpose was to find the next Latin boy band. Neither Yoandri nor Yashua made it through the competition, but they seem to be doing pretty well on their own. Like Yashua, Yoandri is incorporating aspects of other genres into his music, but in more subtle ways. His song “Perdoname” fits the bill for a Latin ballad, but his song “Only You” turns that classic sound on its head. Each song sounds like a conversation between you and him, and “Only You” has that easy sound coupled with buzzing bass and snappy beats that’ll have you wanting to play the song on repeat. Plus, for all the non-Spanish speakers, “Only You” is totally in English. Yoandri switches between languages from song to song, giving each track its own individual sound.
Another artist that switches between Spanish and English, Omar Apollo is quickly gaining popularity for his rock-inspired songs based in the Latin genre. The most distinct thing about Apollo’s music is his quirky way of speak-singing that has you listening to every word. “Ashamed” from his newest EP, “Friends,” displays his sound best. With funky guitar and a nostalgic feeling that takes you to a summer years ago, “Trouble” is Apollo’s voice and style at its most creative. Other songs, like “Unbothered,” offer a sombre contrast with chilling harmonies and calming guitar melodies.
All right, Cuco might not be a new name for some. At least one of your friends has posted a screenshot of them listening to his song “Bossa No Sé.” Featuring Jean Carter, Cuco laments a relationship that’s over in this track that switches between Spanish and English effortlessly. Cuco is talented at writing bilingual songs, using his Spanglish skills as much as possible to create flows that make you stop and wonder when he switched from one language to the next. His psychedelic sound carries through in each piece he makes, especially “Dontmakemefallinlove.” A song with essentially the same lyrics over and over again for three minutes, “Dontmakemefallinlove” will make you fall in love with Cuco’s sound.
Cardi B isn’t the only artist on the scene who can rap in Spanish from time to time. Cazzu, who’s from Argentina, made waves when she was on “Loca” with Khea and Bad Bunny back in 2017. She recently released her first album, and it established her voice as a strong female rapper. Her songs are typically seductive, like “Puedo Ser” featuring another rising Latin artist, Maikel Delacalle. She’s creating a persona for herself, using the same skull girl on a lot of the marketing for her first album. The song “Brujeria” plays with that concept, using witchcraft to lure a lover. But “Ya No Quiero” from her album “Error 93” is the opposite of her regular seductive sound. It’s more upbeat and speaks of love you don’t want to wait for. It’s cute and inviting — a nice contrast to the powerful songs you can find on the rest of the album.
Most of the artists so far can be commended for sticking to the Latin genre while adding aspects of other music into it to create a more diverse musical sound. Diana Fuentes isn’t doing that. Fuentes sticks to her roots in “Libre,” a song that sounds like an instant classic with her soothing and robust vocals, paired with the Spanish guitar in the background. “La Gravedad” from the same album could lull you to sleep in the best way, by making you close your eyes and fully listen to the song. All of her songs remind listeners where Latin music came from, and show just how beautiful a beat and a guitar can be behind a captivating voice.
Santana is another Latin artist with plenty of songs in English for all the monolingual listeners out there, but her music is most heavily inspired by steadfasts in Latin music. Recurring themes in her music like falling into and out of love are the most common topics for traditional Latin pieces, and her unconventional additions to the songs make her voice stand out. In “Steady,” the intro of the song grabs your attention and doesn’t let go even after the track is over. It’s the kind of song you’d see in a movie and immediately want to add to your favorites playlist. In contrast to the fast paced vibe of “Steady,” Santana’s most popular song, “Friends,” has a comforting sound with lots of wordless lyrics (lots of “ooh’s” and “aah’s”) and it’s great. Another song you hear and instantly want to hear it again.
Be careful when searching for the final Latin artist to watch — Mariah Carey will come up first, but you have to keep looking. This Mariah is worth the search. Her song “Blah” is the perfect way to curb someone you don’t want to talk to anymore, and it has a chorus that’s bound to get stuck in your head. “Malo” complements the rest of her music well, starting with the plucking of a guitar that provides the melody for the trap beat that comes in soon after. This is another song that switches easily between Spanish and English, melding the two styles in a way that hasn’t been done before.
Of course, these are only a few of the rising Latin artists you should be listening to. From traditional love songs to funky party anthems, there’s so much music to enjoy if you’re comfortable knocking down a language barrier.
All of the songs mentioned in this article, and then some, have been compiled into a playlist that you can listen to here.