Young Bachata: The New Crossover?

Young bachata stars are fashioning a new, bilingual sound that connects with a key demographic. So why aren't brands taking more notice?

There are three bachata tracks -- Prince Royce's "Darte un Beso, " Enrique Iglesias' "Loco" (a duet with Romeo Santos) and Santos' "Propuesta Indecente" -- in the top five of Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart.

These three tracks have been duking it out for the top slot for the past several weeks, as other bachata songs bubble under.

Although bachata is hot on the charts, it's not the music du jour among advertisers or music supervisors.

"There is interest for bachata as an urban act," says Carlos Munoz, VP/group account director at LatinWorks, an agency in Austin. "But the real interest is in crossover artists."

But crossover has changed since Iglesias, Ricky Martin and Shakira first made a splash. A new generation of U.S.-grown Latin talent is creating a new kind of crossover -- one that doesn't come from abroad but from within.

The most visible purveyors are Royce and Santos, who both perform a youthful, urban take on traditional Dominican bachata. Santos is a seasoned act who spent a decade in the group Aventura before going solo. But Royce first topped the charts as a teenager, appealing to a young Latin demographic with few idols. No wonder brands love Royce.

Budweiser's Made in America Festival featured him last year, and recently he appeared in a series of vignettes for Dodge Dart's "New Rules" campaign.

"[Brands] are asking for people who have youthful appeal with a bilingual flavor, and bachata is one of those genres that's been successful at that," says Ben De Jesus, chief creative officer for NGL Media, which did the Dodge Dart campaign.

"If there were more artists like him or Romeo Santos, there would be more demand," Munoz says.

The fact is, there are more artists like Santos and Royce -- including Leslie Grace and Karlos Rose, both still in their teens and U.S.-born -- but they fly under the radar of decision-makers.

The challenge, then, is to get brands and agencies to look beyond the big names to rising acts whose music and identity falls under that uptempo, tropical, home-grown genre that has youth appeal.

Coca-Cola, for example, has used such Latin acts as part of its "Perfect Harmony" campaign, which targets a teen audience.

"We're trying to pick artists who really embody the brand," said Reinaldo Padua, assistant VP of Hispanic marketing for Coca-Cola North America, when the program launched last year. "They have uplifting personalities, they can communicate togetherness and inspiration and can connect well with our teen and young-adult audience."

One artist who fit the bill was Joey Montana, who plays a mix of urban and pop. And although Montana is from Panama, not the United States, he has clean-cut good looks and a youthful appeal that have landed him several sponsorships, including one with Acura. Those partnerships are the direct result of pitches by his label, Universal Music Latino.

If brands and sponsors aren't seeing the value of Latin stars on the rise, it will fall to labels, publishers and agents to spread the word.