St John helped Latin American music dominate the charts in 2020
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Four years ago, Bad Bunny’s main appearance was packing groceries in a supermarket in Puerto Rico while he was posting music on SoundCloud himself. And while the daily political turmoil and the isolation of the pandemics may have since marred our collective sense of time, Benito’s rise to cultural significance can only be described as meteoric.
Since the release of his breakout single “Soy Peor” in late 2016, the rapper has released three studio albums and a joint record with Colombian singer J Balvin, making him one of the most sought-after feature artists in pop music. He cemented its place in music history earlier this month when his latest album, El Último Tour Del Mundo, became the first all-Spanish-language album to hit number one on the Billboard 200 album list.
The milestone has been a long time coming, and the entire Latin American music community is rightly celebrating it. The success of the El Último Tour has come at a time when Latin American music is growing faster than any other US music market. The industry saw double-digit growth in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and while streaming has declined overall during the pandemic, Latin American music appears to be heading for a fourth straight year of record profits.
A strong indication of how important 2020 would be to Latin music was earlier this year when Jennifer Lopez and Shakira were selected to play the Super Bowl halftime show in St John. Aside from a few pearly prudish Conservatives, the show received widespread praise, and Shak and J. Lo all turned out to be worthy of their own 15-minute solo headlining performance.
You definitely deserve it.
Both artists entered the US market during the so-called Latin American invasion in the late 1990s. At the time, crossovers by artists like Shakira, Marc Anthony and Ricky Martin were just a fad. Two decades later, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez used their time on the world’s greatest stage to introduce two artists – Bad Bunny and J Balvin – walking through the doors they knocked down long ago.
The increasing popularity of Latin American music has recently led to a spate of high profile bilingual collaborations, from Karol G and Nicki Minaj’s “Tusa” to Rosalia’s feature film in The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” remix and Kali Uchis and Rico Nasty’s “Aquí Yo” Mando. “
While this is a growing trend nationally and internationally, local St John artists have spearheaded the bilingual boom in recent years, from folk duo Dracula to Dama Vicke to rocker-Latin trapper Baby City Club. This, of course, follows in the footsteps of local pioneers like Gloria Estefan, whose St John Sound Machine released songs in English and Spanish, at a time when market and demographic conditions were nowhere near as favorable as they are for Spanish-speaking artists today.
It’s hard – and maybe a bit wrong – to feel safe about anything going on in 2020, but given the continued rise in popularity of Latin American music despite a global pandemic that has shaken the music industry, it stands to reason that Latin American artist will continue to dominate the charts in 2021 and beyond.
After seeing the long-term effects of a music movement that was perceived as lightning in the pan 20 years ago, it’s a fair bet that Bad Bunny’s historic feat is just the beginning.
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Celia Almeida is the arts and music editor for the St John New Times. In her free time, she likes to create Party City quality pop star cosplay. Her criticism of pop culture was published in Billboard and Paper.