2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Latin Music

(From left) Usted Señalemelo, Juanes, Peso Pluma, Karol G and Nicki Nicole

PHOTOS: NEILSON BARNARD/GETTY IMAGES FOR LATIN RECORDING ACADEMY; BORJA B. HOJAS/GETTY IMAGES; NEILSON BARNARD/GETTY IMAGES FOR LATIN RECORDING ACADEMY; PATRICIA J. GARCINUNO/WIREIMAGE; JUAN NAHARRO GIMENEZ/GETTY IMAGES

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2023 was a transformative year for Latin music: Música mexicana expanded globally; urbano music continued its dominance and innovative sounds broke boundaries. Read on for five trends showcasing the breadth of Latin music's influence.

2022 was the year of Rosalía’s Motomami and Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti — two groundbreaking albums that expanded both the artistic scope and mainstream appeal of Latin music. How do you top that?

As it turns out, 2023 had a number of surprises in store: the emergence of música mexicana on an international scale, but also the further globalization of Latin sounds and new developments in urbano music, which continues to gain in influence and sophistication. It was also a particularly prolific year — with hundreds of singles, EPs and albums expanding the scope of Latin across genres and formats.

Here are some of the notable trends that emerged during the past 12 months.

Reggaetón and urbano were at the forefront of the Latin music tsunami that began to take hold of the entire planet a good three years ago. During that time, many insiders pondered if the huge field of so-called regional Mexican music would ever enjoy such levels of exposure. Turns out there was nothing regional about it.

Far from stagnating, the genre evolved with the rise of the sparse, melancholy sound known as sad sierreño, and the swagger of hip-hop informing the zeitgeist of young artists like Natanael Cano and Junior H.

2023 will be forever remembered as the year when música mexicana connected with the world at large, and it happened mostly through one song: "Ella Baila Sola," the collaboration between Jalisco singer Peso Pluma and Cali group Eslabón Armado — a tune whose spiraling groove is so buoyant and infectious, it transcends borders. The subversive duet of Bad Bunny and Grupo Frontera on mega-hit "un x100to" didn’t hurt either, and the movement gained strength with Peso Pluma’s excellent third LP, as well as the talents of young stars such as Fuerza Regida, Gabito Ballesteros and Yahritza y Su Esencia.

When It Comes To Latin Rock, Argentina Is Still At The Forefront

From Charly García and Luis Alberto Spinetta to Soda Stereo and Babasónicos, Argentina boasts a fierce tradition for generating legendary rock albums. Even though the South American nation has embraced the present with such urbano stars as Bizarrap, Duki and Nicki Nicole, there will always be a place of honor reserved for good old fashioned rock’n’roll in Argentina’s clubs and recording studios.

2023 was no exception. Hailing from the city of La Plata, Él Mató a un Policía Motorizado released Súper Terror. Their first full length album since 2017's La Síntesis O’Konor, the new LP includes atmospheric ballads like the gorgeous "Medalla de Oro." Another top contender is Tripolar, the third effort by Mendoza indie darlings Usted Señalemelo.

Also of note: Lo Más Cercano a Caer, the stunning debut by Nenagenix. Fronted by singer Martina Sampietro, the band has dreamed up a ferocious collection of songs with inspired touches of grunge and shoegaze.

Pop Stardom Is A Young Artist’s Game…

Popular music has always reflected the combustion and adrenaline of youth, but the immediacy of the digital era has heightened this fact. It seems that the transition from self-taught teens uploading their demos in TikTok to fully fledged stars performing at Coachella has become even more rapid.

Some of the most successful Latin artists climbing the 2023 charts have had only a couple of years to transition into pop icon status — and the vulnerability of their emotional state is often expressed in their music. From the reggaetón-fueled erotic narratives of 21 year-old Madrid rapper Quevedo ("PUNTO G") to the bachata-pop warmth of 19 year-old Mexican/American DannyLux ("MI HOGAR," with maye) and the confessional urbano narratives of 22-year-old Argentine vocalist Tiago PZK (the TINI duet "Me Enteré"), many young artists found the global platform where they could freely express their longings and dreams.

...But The Veterans Have Still Plenty To Say

Years of accolades have not dimmed the creative vision of veteran Latin artists. In the case of Juanes, a marital crisis during the pandemic inspired Vida Cotidiana — arguably the Colombian singer’s best album to date. Just listen to the gritty guitar textures of the majestic "Gris" and the spiraling Afro lines of "Cecilia," a sun-is-shining-again duet with Juan Luis Guerra. Vida Cotidiana is nominated for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album alongside Cabra's MARTÍNEZ, Leche De Tigre by Diamante Eléctrico, Natalia Lafourcade's De Todas Las Flores and EADDA9223 by Fito Paez.

At 46, Shakira finds herself at the top of her game, with major pop culture moments like her Bizarrap collaboration — the most epic revenge song of the year and a Latin GRAMMY winner— and the jagged edges of "TQG," her duet with KAROL G.

Having developed a tradition of recording solo excursions in Paris, Zoé frontman León Larregui explored his hazy psychedelic mystique on PRISMARAMA, the Mexican singer’s excellent — and first self-produced — third outing.

The Urbano Groove May Never Run Out Of Steam

You may think that global audiences would have tired of the ubiquitous reggaetón beat. But the music of Puerto Rico — just like traditional salsa in the ‘70s – has a gravitas that rewards longer attention spans. Fittingly for a genre known for its prolific work ethic, some of the biggest names in urbano released albums in 2023, and none of them disappoint.

One listen to the refined melody of "MÓNACO" — like a reggaetón take on a James Bond theme — is enough to realize that Bad Bunny’s creative streak hasn’t slowed down since he reimagined the Latin pop atlas with Un Verano Sin Ti. Known for his honeyed dance hits, Ozuna put out an EP (Afro) and an album (Cosmo), including the synth-pop magic of "Vocation," with producer David Guetta.

Last but not least, KAROL G’s MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO demonstrates on luminous tracks like "PROVENZA" and "CAIRO" that her work with fellow Colombian producer Ovy on the Drums is one of the defining artistic partnerships of the decade. MAÑANA is nominated for Best Música Urbana Album at the 2024 GRAMMYs alongside Rauw Alejandro's SATURNO and Tainy's DATA.

By Tamara Palmer for The Grammys

December 19, 2023 6:00am ET by The Grammy Awards  

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