2012 has been a promising year for the future of Spanglish music in the United States, introducing us to the rise of a new generation of bilingual artists. While the voice of Latin Crossover artists was once limited to a handful of well-known pop stars such as Ricky Martin and Carlos Santana – both fantastic musicians in their own right – it is my view that the growth of the US Hispanic population, combined with the mainstream acceptance of the mid-2000′s reggaeton fad and a thirst for new compositional influences, are the primary reasons that today’s Spanglish artist is capable of developing a noteworthy fan base and career in the United States. To further explore the impact and possible future of Spanglish music, Spanglish Noise organized a “Resonant Thoughts Carnival” and we encourage you to share your thoughts below and to also connect also with the other participating blogs, Dancing Composer and Las Gringas Blog.
I partially credit the mainland popularity of reggaeton – which in my opinion peaked around 2005-2006 – with paving the way for tomorrow’s bilingual artist. The fact that a musical movement rooted in Puerto Rico (yeah ok, Panama too) and its defining dembow rhythm could procure airtime on MTV was monumental – I still remember the first time I saw Daddy Yankee‘s Gasolina video on an MTV late night countdown! While not all listeners could understand the Spanish lyrics, the rhythm and catchy melodies made it appealing to a mainstream audience. Several other mainstream artists have also experienced a range of success with the genre, from Shakira to Sean Kingston. While I do not see the genre reclaiming its fame with a traditional dembow format, it certainly caused the mainstream media to take note while also exposing listeners to an early dose of Spanish lyrics.
Today I firmly believe that the Dominican-led resurgence of bachata and mambo is ripe for picking up where reggaeton left off. Not only are these artists infusing the traditional music of their heritage with the urban sounds of hip-hop, electronica, and R&B, but they have also learned how to present the music in a way that can be understood by (and is therefore accessible to) a Spanish and English-speaking audience. On one hand you have Spanish-dominant artists like Aventura’s Romeo Santos, who creates an atmosphere of crossover through his collaborations with mainstream artists and ad-libs spoken in English. Then you also have artists such as Prince Royce, Eli Jas, and Leslie Grace, who appear to favor lyrics in Spanglish. These artists have done a wonderful job of engaging multiple generations of Hispanics throughout the country and it is my hope that they will continue to develop their relation with the mainstream media as well. I would love to see how their music sales compare to those of the reggaeton generation and how the consumer demographics break down – but that’s just the music industry nerd inside of me.
So bachata and mambo aside, what’s next? I find it hard to believe that Mexico can be situated right below the United States and blow out the other Hispanic groups in terms of population, but have yet to create a mainstream movement. Sure, Mexican music dominates the Latin charts, but the vast majority of the songs are in Spanish and lack that magical crossover touch and mainstream appeal that I have been expecting. I am not at all the first one to say this, but I believe 3Ball Monterrey will be the first Mexican group to achieve a high level of mainstream success (according to my definition – feel free to ask), which should truly start to take place once they begin to collaborate with well-established North American artists – and this will happen. The fact that they specialize in electronic sounds and dance music will help to facilitate this success. I don’t see this group incorporating Spanglish lyrics into their songs, although it is certainly a possibility, but the fusion of Latin and Electronic dance tunes, aided by popular U.S. artists, certainly introduces many new elements to the existing mainstream market.
If I had to try to guess the future musical landscape, I would predict that there will be more Spanglish lyrics in the mainstream – although English will always remain an integral (and dominant) medium of the mainstream market. Consumer tastes are ever-changing and there will always be a new influence coming in to replace the old. The new phenomenon of the U.S.-raised Latin artist who connects with their roots through the music, while embracing their North American lifestyle through English lyrics and fashion, is sure to be the next big thing – first in large cities such as Miami and New York, later trickling down to produce some hidden gems in the small- and mid-sized cities. Are there any Spanglish-wielding singers or artists with potential for Latin Crossover success who you see defining the future? Let us know and check out the other Resonant Thought Carnival blog posts to see what my peers had to say on this topic!
Las Gringas Blog (Miami-based Latino Lifestye Blog):
Dancing Composer (New York Composer/Julliard Grad):