Enrique Iglesias for Billboard

Enrique Iglesias photographed by David Needleman for Billboard

David Needleman

In the latest mailbag: Industry execs analyze the song's barrier-breaking explosion. Plus, magic chart moves, Hilary Duff's best sellers & Tom Petty favorites

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

HOW HAS ENRIQUE IGLESIAS' 'BAILANDO' BECOME SUCH A BIG HIT?

Hi Gary,

"Bailando" by Enrique Iglesias, featuring Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, climbs 23-17 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A few thoughts:

- How has this song become such a big pop hit? It seems rare that a song that's largely in Spanish, and sounds like many Latin, not necessarily pop, hits, is doing so well.

- "Bailando" joins the list of successful Spanish-language hits on the Hot 100. I'm remembering songs like "Eres Tú" by Mocedades back in 1973 and "La Tortura" by Shakira, featuring Alejandro Sanz, more recently (2005).

- Gente de Zona is a Cuban act, composed of people actually living in Cuba. Historically, Cuban Pérez Prado had hits in the '50s, although he was then living in Mexico, not Cuba.

Keep up the good work and all the best,

Fernando Jerez
Havana, Cuba

Hi Fernando,

Thanks for some great historical, and geographical, context. The success of "Bailando" is notable on many levels.

To answer your questions in reverse order, the act carries on a tradition of acts of Cuban descent (if not necessarily living in Cuba at the time of their hits). That includes Pitbull, Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada, Irene Cara and Martika. Also: Nayer, who's featured on Pitbull's 2011 Hot 100 No. 1 "Give Me Everything."

FYI, the name Gente do Zona means "people from the neighborhood," and the trio is a leader in Cuban reggaeton.

As for successful Spanish-language hits, one of the most famous ever reached the Hot 100's top 40 around this time in 1987 on its way to No. 1: Los Lobos' "La Bamba," from the biopic of one of Latin crossover music's pioneers, the iconic Ritchie Valens.

"Bailando" also marks another achievement for Latin music this year. As we wrote when Romeo Santos' "Odio," featuring Drake, debuted at No. 45 on the Hot 100 in February: "'Odio' claims the highest debut for a Spanish-language song in the chart's 55-year history, arriving at No. 45 as the list's highest new entry. Santos is just the third tropical act to rank as high in a first week, following Gloria Estefan, whose 'Heaven's What I Feel' (an English-language track) entered at No. 34 in 1998, and iconic Mambo act Perez Prado and His Orchestra, whose instrumental classic 'Patricia' ranked and peaked at No. 2 the week that the Hot 100 launched (Aug. 4, 1958)."

Santos, of course, just made more headlines when he knocked out hits at Yankee Stadium.

And, directly below "Bailando" on this week's Hot 100 at No. 18 is Becky G's "Shower." Earlier this year, she reached No. 1 on Latin Digital Songs and No. 2 on Latin Airplay with "Can't Get Enough," featuring Pitbull. While both songs are in English, she adds to the ever-increasing mix of Latin and American pop music. Mexican culture is a "big part of my life," she told Latina back in 2012. "In my household, it's more of a Spanglish thing, aside from just the language. [It's] the lifestyle, on both my mom and dad's sides. Family get-togethers, the soul, the music … it just comes naturally. I'm very proud to be Latina."

So, how has "Bailando" (Spanish for "dancing") hit the Hot 100's top 20, given its core Latin sound and potential language barriers? Between your question and hearing the song lately so much on Z100 in New York – where it sounds great, standing out, but still a fit for the format with its steadily pulsating beat and catchy verses and chorus, along with Iglesias' friendly, familiar voice – I went to Charlie Walk, executive VP of Republic Records, which is promoting the song. As it scales the Hot 100, spends a 12th week at No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs and rises 30-25 on the Pop Songs airplay chart, with only a Spanglish remix updating its original Spanish-language release (and a new Sean Paul guest rap), I asked what's led to its success at pop radio and its run up the Hot 100.

"This is a classic case of a data-driven record," Walk explained. "The Spanish version started building at Latin radio around February in Miami, at WMGE, WXDJ and WAMR. Plus, WYUU in Tampa. To date, those stations have played it 2,000, 1,500, 800 and 1,100 times [according to Nielsen BDS]. That's massive Latin airplay.

"We also saw big Shazam and iTunes numbers – without a single play at pop radio. It's one of the few Latin records I've seen react before even pop play. So, it was delivering. We knew we had a hit."

Walks says that Pop Songs reporter WHYI Miami adding "Bailando" in April was the first major step in its journey to mass appeal. "Again, more sales, research and Shazam-ing. That started it on its way to becoming a hit with pop audiences."

WHYI program director Alex Tear calls "Bailando" "cool and smooth," with Iglesias "the ultimate ambassador of this vibe. 'Bailando' carves through the clutter of summer to make you sit back and enjoy the tropical moments. It's now in our highest rotation with no sign of slowing down."

Continues Walk: "Now, you could say, 'Well, it's Miami, so obviously Enrique is going to work there.' But, his last few singles didn't there. It's not Miami – it's the record. 'Bailando' has a reggae/Latin sound. It's unique, and very different from his recent songs, which just weren't all-out hits.

"'Bailando' is reacting like a hit. You can't fake that: hit records react. Market-by-market, you can see that Latin airplay has led to pop play."

Walk notes the influence of the song's videos, too: the original version, released three months ago, has 220 million YouTube views and the English version, released a month ago, 18 million. "That provides an amazing visual. It's a one-two punch."

Ultimately, Walk feels that the Spanglish version of "Bailando" proved that it's a song that translates, while still keeping the "essence of its DNA. He brilliantly, when we were breaking it at Latin, came up with the Spanglish version. It didn't hurt his core at Latin, while Sean Paul added another voice familiar at pop.

"In all, it's a perfect storm. Other markets, including in the Midwest, are now coming on-board. All signs point to people liking it; it doesn't matter where you are. I call it a tri-coastal hit: from New York to L.A. to Miami, where it started.

"It's Enrique at his core – it just sounds like him. He went back to being who he is. That's why it's a hit."

One other key contributor to "Bailando" is also intrigued by the song: Iglesias. "Of all the songs I've written in Spanish, there's something about this song," he recently mused. (Thanks to Billboard's executive director of Latin content and programming Leila Cobo for the quote.)

"The more I listen to it, the more I seem to like it. There's something addictive about this song."

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