Romeo Santos, Formula, Vol. 1 (2011)
After leaving Aventura in 2011 to embark on his solo career, Romeo Santos dropped his debut album Formula, Vol. 1, marking territory as the “King of Bachata.” The 20-set production includes a hilarious intro featuring Mexican comedian George Lopez, as well as hit tracks “La Diabla,” “Llevame Contigo,” and “Debate de 4" -- the latter of which sees Santos joining forces with bachata veterans Anthony Santos, Luis Vargas and Raulin Rodriguez. Vol. 1, which is Santo's longest-leading title on Billboard's Top Latin Albums (17 weeks in 2011-12), also fused bachata with flamenco (as heard in “Mi Santa,” featuring Spanish guitarist Tomatito), showcased Santos’ romantic pop side in “Rival” (featuring Mario Domm), and dipped into Spanglish with “Promise," a collab with American pop star Usher. -- J.R.
Jenni Rivera, Joyas Prestadas (2011)
While Jenni Rivera would always be at heart a banda singer, she was capable of much more. In Joyas Prestadas, her last studio album, she set out to demonstrate how big her range of action could be, recording covers of beloved songs in two genres: pop and banda. Bigger than life, Rivera delivered in both, a rare feat. The double-duty set, released a month before her death, showed that regional Mexican music could live outside its niche, and cemented Rivera’s stature as the most important female regional Mexican singer of her generation. -- L.C.
Ricardo Arjona, Independiente (2011)
After nearly two decades signed to major labels, the Guatemalan singer/songwriter went indie and released the aptly-titled Independiente on his own Metamorfosis Records. It debuted at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums, with two tracks, including the guitar driven “Te quiero,” reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart. An album of wonderful songs set to acoustic arrangements (with “Mi novia se me está poniendo vieja,” dedicated to his mom, a particular highlight), Independiente was Arjona’s triumph of music over industry. -- L.C.
Alejandro Sanz, La Música No Se Toca (2012)
Penning songs about love, heartbreak and music as usual, Alejandro Sanz’s 12th studio album was also his first album on Universal Music Latino after 20 years with Warner. “I needed a change,” Sanz told Billboard. “Starting again is like renovating your illusions." The set includes songs highlights as the alternative funk jam “Camino de Rosas,” the chart-topping “No Me Compares,” and the Latin Grammy-nominated “Mi Marciana.” Sanz said that his objective with this album was to create a monumental album of symphonic pop, and he certainly succeeded. -- J.R.