Latin music (Portuguese and Spanish: música latina) is a term used by the music industry as a catch-all arbitrary category for various styles of music from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and the United States inspired by older Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese music genres, as well as music sung in the Spanish or Portuguese language.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Terminology and categorizations

Spanish singer Julio Iglesias was recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2013 as the best-selling male Latin artist of all time.[8]
Spanish singer Julio Iglesias was recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2013 as the best-selling male Latin artist of all time.[8]

Because the majority of Latino immigrants living in New York City in the 1950s were of Puerto Rican or Cuban descent, "Latin music" had been stereotyped as music simply originating from the Spanish Caribbean. The popularization of bossa nova and Herb Alpert's Mexican-influenced sounds in the 1960s did little to change the perceived image of Latin music. Since then, the music industry classifies all music sung in Spanish or Portuguese as Latin music, including musics from Spain and Portugal.[4]

Following protests from Latinos in New York, a category for Latin music was created by National Recording Academy (NARAS) for the Grammy Awards titled Best Latin Recording in 1975.[9] Enrique Fernandez wrote on Billboard that the single category for Latin music meant that all Latin music genres had to compete with each other despite the distinct sounds of the genre. He also noted that the accolade was mostly given to performers of tropical music. Eight years later, the organization debuted three new categories for Latin music: Best Latin Pop Performance, Best Mexican/Mexican-American Performance, and Best Tropical Latin Performance.[10] Latin pop is a catch-all for any pop music sung in Spanish, while Mexican/Mexican-American (also to referred to as Regional Mexican) is based any musical style originating from Mexico or influences by its immigrants in the United States including Tejano, and tropical music focuses any music from the Spanish Caribbean.[11]

In 1997, NARAS established the Latin Recording Academy (LARAS) in an effort to expand its operations in both Latin America and Spain.[12] In September 2000, LARAS launched the Latin Grammy Awards, a separate award ceremony from the Grammy Awards, which organizers stated that the Latin music universe was too large to fit on the latter awards. Michael Greene, former head of NARAS, said that the process of creating the Latin Grammy Awards was complicated due to the diverse Latin musical styles, noting that the only thing they had in common was language. As a result, the Latin Grammy Awards are presented to records performed in Spanish or Portuguese,[13] while the organization focuses on music from Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.[14]

Since the late 1990s, the United States has had a substantially rising population of "Latinos",[15] a term popularized since the 1960s due to the wrong and confusing use of the term "Spanish" and the more proper but less popular term "Hispanic".[16] The music industry in the United States started to refer to any kind of music featuring Spanish vocals as "Latin music".[17][18][19] Under this definition, Spanish sung in any genre is categorized as "Latin".[20] In turn, this has also led to artists from Spain being labelled as "Latin" as they sing in the same language.[21]

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Billboard magazine use this definition of Latin music to track sales of Spanish-language records in the United States.[22][23] Billboard however considers an artist to be "Latin" if they perform in Spanish or Portuguese.[24] The RIAA initiated the "Los Premios de Oro y Platino" ("The Gold and Platinum Awards" in Spanish) in 2000 to certify sales of Latin music albums and singles under a different threshold than its standard certifications.[25] Billboard divides its Latin music charts into three subcategories: Latin pop, Regional Mexican, and tropical.[26] A fourth subcategory was eventually added in the mid 2000s to address the rise of Latin urban music genres such as Latin hip hop and reggaeton.[27]



The term "Latin music" originated from the United States due to the growing influence of Latino Americans in the American music market, with notable pioneers including Xavier Cugat (1940s) and Tito Puente (1950s) and then accelerating in later decades.[2][3] As one author explained the rising popularity from the 1940s: "Latin America, the one part of the world not engulfed in World War II, became a favorite topic for songs and films for Americans who wanted momentarily to forget about the conflagration."[28] Wartime propaganda for America's "Good Neighbor Policy" further enhanced the cultural impact.[29] Pérez Prado is the composer of such famous pieces as "Mambo No. 5" and "Mambo No. 8". At the height of the mambo movement in 1955, Pérez hit the American charts at number one with a cha-cha-chá version of "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White".[30] El manisero, known in English as The Peanut Vendor, is a Cuban son-pregón composed by Moisés Simons. Together with "Guantanamera", it is arguably the most famous piece of music created by a Cuban musician.[31] "The Peanut Vendor" has been recorded more than 160 times,[32] sold over a million copies of the sheet music, and was the first million-selling 78 rpm single of Cuban music.


The Brazilian bossa nova became widespread in Latin America and later became an international trend, led especially by Antônio Carlos Jobim.[33] Rock en español became popular with the younger generation of Latinos in Latin America,[34] notably including Argentine bands such as Almendra.[35] Mexican-American Latin rock guitarist Carlos Santana began his decades of popularity.[36] Late 60s, boogaloo boom was coming, and boogaloo musicians such as Pérez Prado, Tito Rodríguez and Tito Puente[37] released boogaloo singles and albums. Most of the other groups were young musicians such as Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers and Joe Bataan.

Early examples of boogaloo were 1966 music by Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. The biggest boogaloo hit of the '60s was "Bang Bang" by the Joe Cuba Sextet in 1966. Hits by other groups included Johnny Colón's "Boogaloo Blues", Pete Rodríguez's "I Like It like That"(1967).[38]


Salsa music became the dominant genre of tropical music in the 1970s. Fania Records was credited for popularizing salsa music, with acts such as Rubén Blades, Héctor Lavoe, and Celia Cruz expanding the audience.[39] In the late 1970s, an influx of balladeers from Spain such as Julio Iglesias, Camilo Sesto, and Raphael established their presence on the music charts both in Latin America and the US Latin market.[40] In 1972, OTI Festival was established by the Organización de Telecomunicaciones de Iberoamérica as a songwriting contest to connect the Ibero-American countries (Latin America, Spain, and Portugal) together. Ramiro Burr of Billboard noted that the contest was considered to be the "largest and most prestigious songwriting festival in the Latin music world".[41]


Main article: 1980s in Latin music

In the 1980s, the Latin ballad continued to be the main form of Latin pop music, with Juan Gabriel, José José, Julio Iglesias, Roberto Carlos, and José Luis Rodríguez dominating the charts.[42] Salsa music lost some traction, and its musical style changed to a slower rhythm with more emphasis on romantic lyrics. This became known as the salsa romantica era.[43]


Bolero music saw a resurgence of popularity with the younger audience. Mexican singer Luis Miguel was credited for the renewed interest due to the success of his album, Romance (1991), a collection of classics covered by the artist.[44] By the mid-1990s, Latin pop music was dominated by younger artists such as Menudo alumnus Ricky Martin, Colombian teen Shakira, and Julio's son Enrique Iglesias.[45] Around the same time, artists from Italy such as Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini, and Nek successfully crossed over to the Latin music field by recording Spanish-language versions of their songs.[46] In the Regional Mexican field, Tejano became the most prominent genre. Selena helped push Tejano music into the mainstream market with her albums Entre a Mi Mundo (1992) and Amor Prohibido (1994), although the genre's popularity declined following her murder in 1995.[47] In the tropical music field, merengue, which gained attention in the 1980s, rivaled salsa in popularity.[48]


In the mid-2000s, reggaeton became popular in the mainstream market, with Hector 'El Father' Tego Calderon, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Wisin & Yandel considered to be the frontiers of the genre.[49] In the tropical music scene, bachata mus esic became popular in the field, with artists such as Monchy & Alexandra and Aventura finding success in the urban areas of Latin America.[50] Banda was the dominant genre in the Regional Mexican music field.[51]


By the turn of the decade, the Latin music field became dominated by up-tempo rhythms, including electropop, reggaeton, urbano, banda and contemporary bachata music, as Latin ballads and crooners fell out of favor among U.S. Latin radio programmers.[52] Streaming has become the dominant form of revenue in the Latin music industry in the United States, Latin America and Spain.[53] Latin trap gained mainstream attention in the mid-2010s with notable artists such as Ozuna, Bad Bunny, and Anuel AA.[54] In May 2013, Christina Aguilera appeared on Mexican singer Alejandro Fernández's cover of "Hoy Tengo Ganas de Ti" from his album Confidencias.[55] Latin music accounted for 9.4 percent of all album listening in the U.S. in 2018, surpassing the Country music genre for the first time.


United States

The origins of Latin Music in the United States dates back to the 1930s with Rhumba.[56] Rhumba was prominent with Cuban style ballroom dancing in the 1930s, but was not mainstream.[56] It was not until the 1950s and 1960s that Latin Music started to become intertwined with American culture.[57] Latin music is starting to become mainstream in the US as Latin artists are teaming up with English speaking artists.[57] In 2017, a song named, “Despacito” by Justin Bieber, Luis Fonsi, and Daddy Yankee had 4.5 billion views on YouTube.[58] In 2017, six of the top ten viewed songs on YouTube feature Latin Artists.[58] The song was the beginning for the boom of Latin music in the United States.[58] Some of the most popular forms of Latin music are Salsa, Bachata, Regional Mexican music, Tango, Merengue, Latin Pop, and Reggaeton.[59] Today, reggaeton is a very popular style that combines reggae and American hip-hop.[57] Some of the most popular artists today are Daddy Yankee, Melymel, J Balvin and Nicky Jam.[57] In 2018, Latin music came second in total video streams with 21.8% market share.[60] Latin music listeners tend to be younger, more tech savvy, 95% of Latin music coming from streaming suggests, according to Jeff Benjamin.[60]

Immigration and globalization has caused Latin music to skyrocket in popularity.[57] Historically, the United States and Britain have had control over the music industry but the internet and technology has allowed for diversification and local music to become more prominent throughout the world.[57] The technological advancements have allowed streaming services to flourish that offer a wide variety of music without having to pay for each individual song/album.[61] The increase in Latin artists working with English speaking American artists has caused songs such as Ritmo by An American band, The Black Eyed Peas, and J Balvin, a Latin singer, to be number one on the billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. This increase has caused Latin music sales revenue in the US to rise from 176 million to 413 million dollars in 2018.[57] From 2016 to 2017, the amount of latin songs on the billboard hot 100 increased from four to 19. Latin music surpassed Country and EDM in terms of album sales in the US in 2018.[57] This trend has caused pop music in the US to adopt certain styles from Latin music.[62] This has some experts questioning whether less popular Latin genres will become more niche in the future as record labels focus on products in industries with a greater concentration of money.[62]


Numerous computer science and music experts have reported a common error on streaming services such as Spotify. Overlooking mainstay artists in catch-all genre terms such as Latin music, potentially causing a categorical homogenization of musical styles; incorrectly miscategorizing musicians and songs from heritage styles, such as Norteño, New Mexico music, Duranguense, and Tejano music, leading to underperformance of these styles on their platforms.[63][64][65][66]

See also


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Further reading