The 20 Best Latin Albums of 2017: Critics' Picks

Getty Images; Design by Jessica Xie
From left: Residente, Shakira & Romeo Santos

2017 was a year of Latin singles, and perhaps that explains why Latin artists who actually released albums strove to deliver broad, comprehensive works that went deeper than one, or even a handful of songs.

Unfazed by radio trends, artists honed in on their individual sound and the integrity of their message, often going beyond traditional album formats in an effort to present works worthy of our listening.

Our top picks of the year, selected by Billboard’s Latin editors, range from the unprecedented exploration of Residente’s Residente to the naked beauty of Michel Camilo’s Live In London to the brash new sounds of Ozuna’s Odisea and Karol G’s Unstoppable. Enjoy! 

20. Juanes, Mis Planes Son Amarte

​Juanes' first studio offering in three years is also perhaps the first-ever visual album by a Latino artist. The unprecedented LP earned five Latin Grammy noms, including album of the year. Juanes this year ultimately took home a coveted gramophone for best pop/rock album for Mis Planes Son Amarte, which trails the story of a Colombian astronaut's voyage in finding eternal, true love. - MARJUA ESTEVEZ

19. Natalia Lafourcade, Musas 

Natalia Lafourcade carefully selected the songs of her seventh studio album that debuted on the top 10 of the Latin Pop Albums chart. Her honeyed voice together with the sounds of Los Macorinos make for an exceptional fusion, which praises her Mexican roots and the original versions of these artists. The acoustic guitars and double bass are impeccable. This is an album that genuinely exhales art. -- PAMELA BUSTIOS

18.  Arturo Ofarrill and Chucho Valdes, Familia: Tribute to Bebo & Chico

Two Latin jazz giants honor their fathers -- the greats Chico O’Farrill and Bebo Valdes -- and an entire history of Cuban music. This obviously heart-led collaboration of masters Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes also features members of a third generation from these two grand musical families. -- JUDY CANTOR-NAVAS 

17. Karol G, Unstoppable 

One of the few female artists making waves in urban Latin, Karol G’s Unstoppable assembles a collection of brand new jams. Combining tropical beats and poppy hooks, Karol’s debut album offers something for everyone, from the club-hopper to the sensual romantic to the braggadocious diva. Having studded the studio project with well-executed collaborations, Karol also shines on solo cuts like “Los Sabe Dios.” -- MARJUA ESTEVEZ

16. Wisin, Victory 

The reggaeton megastar’s newest solo effort combines glitz and grime in a collection of international club bangers. Wisin’s Victory opens with a spoken-word homage to his late daughter Victoria, who tragically died in Sept. 2016 at one month old due to a rare genetic condition. -- M.E.

15. Prince Royce, Five  

After exploring new paths with a full English-language album, Prince Royce went back to his roots with his album Five. Royce returned to bachata, the style of music that made him a household name in Latin music, and made all his featured guests -- Shakira, Chris Brown, Gerardo Ortiz and the like -- sing bachata as well (whether in English or Spanish), turning the set into a special LP. Five marked Royce’s fourth No. 1 entry on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart. -- SUZETTE FERNANDEZ

14. Shakira, El Dorado 

Just in time for the summer, Shakira pleased all her fans with the long-awaited album El Dorado. The set has 13 songs and includes hits such as "Chantaje" (featuring Maluma), "Me Enamore," "La Bicicleta"(with Carlos Vives) and "Perro Fiel" (featuring Nicky Jam). - SUZETTE FERNANDEZ

 

13. Alejandra Guzman & Gloria Trevi, Versus World Tour 

Live albums are not usually fare for best-of lists. But Versus is history in the making: Getting Mexico’s two most iconic living divas together for the first time on tour was iconic in and of itself. The fact that they sound so fantastic on that stage together takes things to another level. Especially for those who haven’t seen the show, this is a must-hear. -- LEILA COBO 

12. Pirulo y La Tribu, Calle Linda 2 

Is salsa alive and well? Not often do we see a salsa album done well by an artist from a newer generation. Pirulo y la Tribu’s Calle Linda 2 breathes new life into traditional Puerto Rican salsa with an urban twist. With this album, the group earned their second top 10 on Top Latin Albums. Calle Linda 2 is definitely a classic piece, which confirms that salsa still has its own space in Latin music. - S.F.

11. Ednita Nazario, Una Vida 

Ednita Nazario’s Una Vida reflects her personal and professional experiences and triumphs. The 13-track album is a mixture of her usual style and modern music, in which she includes collaborations with Gilberto Santa Rosa, Albita and Axel. What makes this album special is that Nazario shows who she is today, personally and musically. The Puerto Rican diva debuted at No. 8 on the Top Latin Albums chart (dated May 20) with this album, and marked her 17th career entry on the tally. - S.F.

10. Danay Suarez, Palabras Manuales

Her greatest redemption song yet, Danay Suarez’s triumphant Palabras Manuales -- which had to be recorded three times over before it could see the light of day, went severely under-discussed this year. The sophomore set, a 13-track LP made up of equal parts so-called conscious rap and reggae in Spanish, wound up earning Danay four Latin Grammy nominations, in the categories of album of the year, best new artist, best alternative album and best new song. - M.E.

9. Michel Camilo, Live In London

Dominican pianist Michel Camilo has classical chops and jazzy inclinations, and puts both to play together in this superb solo recording -- where, alone with his piano, he mines unexpected depths. Virtuosity at its finest. - L.C.

8.  Pablo Alboran, Prometo 

Prometo, Pablo Alborán’s fourth studio album, brings his romanticism to another level.  The Spanish singer took a good time off to define his feelings and translate them into a great set, which encompasses feelings from love to passion, and even touches on political matters. It is a brilliant piece that makes you feel every emotion of each song. - S.F.

7. Mon Laferte, La Trenza  

A little playfulness can’t hurt right now, and singer-songwriter Mon Laferte’s burlesque-tinged ballads beckoned as an intimate distraction from 2017’s barrage of unsettling world events. The tracks in which Mon Laferte invokes her roots with strains of Chilean folklore are particular standouts, on an album that announces the arrival of an artist with range and staying power. - J. C.-N.

6. Carlos Vives, Vives 

Carlos Vives is back with innovative and fresh music with his new album, Vives. On the 17-track set, the Colombian singer offered a variety of music in every song, switching from ballad to rock, and from children's music to urban sounds, without leaving behind the vallenato. The LP is Vives’ 10th studio album. - S.F.

5. Nicky Jam, Fénix 

Nicky Jam’s Fénix completely changes traditional reggaeton themes with his unique romanticism, showing that the genre is not only about sex, drugs and misogyny. This album, released at the beginning of the year, marked Jam’s comeback after overcoming many difficulties in life. These experiences were reflected in his 26-track set, which does not leave aside great collaborations with J Balvin, Daddy Yankee and Wisin, among many others. Fénix was nominated as album of the year at the 2017 Latin Grammys. - S.F.

4. Ruben Blades, Salsa Big Band

Ruben Blades brings back 20th Century big band flair on his Latin Grammy-winning album with the Roberto Delgado orchestra, paying homage to iconic power players like Ray Barretto (Arayue) and his own Fania legacy (Como un Hurucán). With his signature storytelling phrasing backed by punchy arrangements that flash the evolution of tropical dance music before our ears, Blades is the definition of a class act. - JUDY CANTOR-NAVAS

3. Ozuna, Odisea 

Ozuna scored his first No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart with Odisea, which finds this year’s reggaeton breakout star drawing on his late-night R&B goodness and trap rap rawness. - MARJUA ESTEVEZ

2. Romeo Santos, Golden 

Romeo Santos takes his sweet time to record his albums, and the results show why. Golden is a journey into the classic and alternative heart of bachata, boasting urban leaning collabs with Ozuna and Nicky Jam and pop leaning collabs with Julio Iglesias, and a roster of songs whose lyrics beg you to listen again and again. - LEILA COBO

1. Residente, Residente  

A musician takes a DNA test and records an album based on the results. Sounds like the premise of a movie, and Residente is indeed an album and film project. The first solo venture by René "Residente" Pérez, formerly of Calle 13, is exciting, thought-provoking, touching and shocking. - LEILA COBO

Billboard Year in Music 2017


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