How Camila Cabello, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Cardi B & More Embrace Their Latin Roots

Camila Cabello, American Music Awards

Camila Cabello attends the 2019 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Nov. 24, 2019 in Los Angeles. 

Like Christina Aguilera almost two decades before her, Camila Cabello was one of the big Latin-crossover winners at the 2019 Latin Grammy Awards. The Cuban-born, Miami-raised star won record of the year and best pop song for "Mi Persona Favorita," her collaboration with Spanish singer-songwriter Alejandro Sanz.

Aguilera, who dipped into Latin music early on in her career, was nominated at the very first Latin Grammy Awards in 2000 for best female pop vocal performance for "Genio Atrapado," the Spanish-language version of her hit single "Genie in a Bottle." At the 2001 ceremony, she was nominated for record of the year for "Pero Me Acuerdo de Ti" and won best female pop vocal album for Mi Reflejo.    

We've seen a trend in American pop acts with Latin backgrounds embracing their cultural roots at some point in their musical careers, like Aguilera and Cabello did. Over the past 10 years, as Latin music experiences another global breakthrough, more singers have been recording in Spanish. See below for 10 U.S. acts who paid musical homage to their Latin heritage this decade.   

Camila Cabello
The caveat about Camila Cabello is that she was actually born in Havana and spent the first few years of her life moving between there and Mexico City. Her family then settled in Miami, where she became an American citizen. Because the majority of Fifth Harmony members were Latinas--including Ally Brooke Hernandez and Lauren Jauregui--they recorded some songs in Spanish, including the "Worth It" translation, "Dame Esta Noche."  When Cabello later went solo, she embraced her roots more and sang on "Hey Ma" with Latin superstars Pitbull and J Balvin. At the 2017 Latin Grammy Awards, they were nominated for best urban song. A Spanglish version of "Havana" followed before she made her mark with Sanz on "Mi Persona Favorita."    

Christina Aguilera
After making a splash in Latin music with 2000's Mi Reflejo, Aguilera spent most of that decade focused on her pop career. On 2010's Bionic, however, she made a brief return to Spanish-language music with the raunchy "Desnudate." Aguilera playfully nodded her Ecuadorian roots again in 2012 on the over-the-top "La Casa de Mi Padre" for the soundtrack to the movie of the same name that spoofed telenovelas. She became a force on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart once more in 2013 with "Hoy Tengo Ganas de Ti," a duet with Mexican singer Alejandro Fernández that peaked at No. 5.   

Mariah Carey
A little-known fact about pop superstar Mariah Carey is that she's an Afro-Latina with Venezuelan roots by way of her grandfather. She has revealed in the past that his last name was actually Nuñez but that he changed it to Carey upon entering the U.S. in the '90s. Over the course of her career, the chanteuse released Spanish-language versions of her singles "My All," "Hero" and her cover of Journey's "Open Arms." In 2013, she recorded her Miguel collab, "#Beautiful," as "#Hermosa" in Spanglish.

Speaking of Miguel, whose full name is Miguel Pimentel, he is also Afro-Latino with Mexican roots on his father's side of the family. He started to sing a bit in Spanish with "Destinado a Morir" on 2015's Wildheart and "Caramelo Duro" with Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis on 2017's War & Leisure. Later that year, Miguel displayed his Mexican roots in full force on "Remember Me," with Natalia Lafourcade for the soundtrack to Disney's Coco. In April 2019, he released the Te Lo Dije EP with select War & Leisure cuts fully recorded in Spanish.

Cardi B
Another Afro-Latina superstar is Cardi B, who has cultural roots in the Dominican Republic. Since her breakthrough with "Bodak Yellow" in 2017, Cardi has released a number of songs in Spanglish like "Dinero" with Jennifer Lopez and DJ Khaled and the Hot Latin Songs chart topper "Taki Taki" with DJ Snake, Selena Gomez, and Ozuna. She dipped her toes into some reggaeton on her Hot 100 No.1 hit "I Like It" with J Balvin and Bad Bunny, and then on a remix of Chris Jeday's "Ahora Dice." Her biggest hit fully in Spanish is the hypnotic "La Modelo" with Ozuna, which hit No. 3 on the Hot Latin Songs chart in 2018.

Selena Gomez
Cardi B's collaborator on "Taki Taki," pop princess Selena Gomez, is Mexican-American. Throughout this past decade, she has recorded a few Spanish versions of songs from 2010's A Year Without Rain and 2011's When the Sun Goes Down. In 2012, she sang in Spanish on a digital duet of "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" with the late Tex-Mex queen Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, whom Gomez is named after. Her biggest Latin music hit is "Taki Taki," where she switches between English and Spanish and sings, "Porque I am the party / Yo soy fiesta."  Gomez embraced more reggaeton sounds on this year's "I Can't Get Enough" with J Balvin, Benny Blanco, and Tainy.

Demi Lovato
Like her old BFF Gomez, Demi Lovato is a former Disney actress who spent the past decade becoming a certified a pop star. Lovato is also Mexican-American, though she claimed in 2017 that a DNA test revealed her roots are mostly Spanish. In 2008, Lovato recorded her Camp Rock smash "This is Me" as "Lo Que Soy" and later recorded Spanish versions of 2011's "Skyscraper," 2017's "Tell Me You Love Me" and last year's "Solo" with U.K. trio Clean Bandit. Her biggest hit on the Hot Latin Songs chart is the tropical "Échame La Culpa" with Puerto Rican superstar Luis Fonsi, which peaked at No. 3. It was released as the follow-up to Fonsi's game-changing, global smash "Despacito" with Daddy Yankee.

Becky G
Mexican-American singer Becky G started out her career this decade in pop music with 2014's "Shower," which reached No. 16 on the Hot 100 chart. In 2016, she shifted gears to Latin music with songs like "Sola" and "Mangú." The following year, Becky G solidified herself as true superstar in reggaeton music with Bad Bunny on "Mayores." That collaboration peaked at No. 3 on the Hot Latin Songs chart. She kept the momentum going in 2018 with Natti Natasha on the girl-powered anthem, "Sin Pijama," which placed one spot lower at No. 4. Both music videos crossed an astonishing billion views on YouTube. Most of Becky G's music is recorded in Spanish now and can be found on her debut album, Mala Santa.

Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis grew up moving between the U.S. and Colombia. The singer-songwriter's rise this past decade has seen her go from recording music in her bedroom on 2012's Drunken Babble EP to releasing of her major label debut album Isolation in 2018. In 2017, she really started to dabble in Latin music on the reggaeton-influenced "Nuestro Planeta" featuring Colombian singer Reykon and on Juanes' "El Ratico" from his Mis Planes Son Amarte album. The latter was nominated for record of the year at the 2017 Latin Grammy Awards. Uchis' second album due out next year will be a Spanish-language set produced by reggaeton music legend Tainy.

Omar Apollo
The newest artist on this list is Mexican-American singer-songwriter Omar Apollo. Embracing his Chicano heritage, Apollo's soulful music draws on blues and funk influences. After dropping the Stereo and Friends EPs, he released his very first Spanish-language single "Frío" last month. On the heartbreaking banger, Apollo sings about a lover that's left him out in the cold. With his first foray in Latin music sounding this good, things are only going to be heating up for the 22-year-old artist.


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