THE 2010S WERE THE DECADE THAT...
2010: Turbo-Pop Ruled the Radio | 2011: Adele Revived the Music Industry | 2012: EDM Infiltrated Everything | 2013: Streaming Became Unignorable | 2014: Cultural Appropriation Dominated the Pop Music Discussion | 2015: Canadians Ran Popular Music | 2016: Every Major Album Release Was an Event | 2018: Hip-Hop Took Its Victory Lap 2019: Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' Put a Bow on the Decade
Though Iglesias' hit was by far the biggest of the Spanish-language songs that impacted the U.S. mainstream in the decade's first half -- and Iglesias himself the most recognizable name and face to American audiences, from his days as an English-language pop star -- he was far from the only Latin artist growing to massive stateside popularity at the time. Romeo Santos, another boy band grad from his days with '00s bachata heartthrobs Aventura, had also become an idol as a solo artist, selling out New York's Madison Square Garden three nights in a row in 2012, and scoring guest appearances from North American hitmakers Usher and Drake on Hot 100-cameoing singles of his own. After a promising career in the '00s was derailed by personal issues, reggaetón survivor Nicky Jam experienced a major comeback in the mid-'10s with international smash "El Perdón," which again featured Iglesias, and crossed over on the Billboard charts, assisted by an English-language edit titled "Forgiveness." And J Balvin, a Colombia native raised on rock and reggaetón, was starting to make U.S. inroads, gracing the Hot 100 with "Ginza" in 2016, and appearing on official remixes from the pop-conquering likes of Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber.
While Latin pop was starting to make its impact felt on U.S. airwaves, it now had another venue through which its international popularity was becoming increasingly undeniable. The boom in popularity of streaming services largely removed the gatekeepers who would often blanch at giving most foreign-language music a chance to win over U.S. listeners. That let the music's increasing accessibility to non-Spanish speaking American audiences speak for itself in play counts on YouTube and Spotify, where artists like J Balvin and fellow Colombian singer/songwriter Maluma were consistently putting up massive numbers.
It seemed like only a matter of time until one of these artists released a song that would prove undeniable both through viral spread on streaming and through crossover appeal on American Top 40 radio, and become the single that really marked Latin pop's stake in the ground in the U.S. mainstream. Still, expectations from its biggest artists were tempered: In an April 2017 Billboard cover story, Nicky Jam answered a question about language choice by offering, "I don’t see a Spanish [language] song being No. 1 on the Hot 100. I mean, if it happens, fantastic. But I don’t think it will." His interview co-star J Balvin disagreed, but was also hesitant: "I think it's possible, but we’re not there yet. It may take many years, as new generations emerge and realize the United States isn’t the only place on the planet and English isn’t the only language of value."
In fact, it was possible, and it didn't take many years -- or even many months. The week before the Balvin/Jam cover story, the biggest new Spanish-language U.S. hit since "Bailando" had hit an early peak on the Hot 100: "Despacito," a seductive mid-tempo banger from a pair of veteran hitmakers, Puerto Rican pop singer-songwriter Luis Fonsi and reggaetón MC Daddy Yankee. The irresistible single had steadily climbed the chart since its February debut, making it to No. 44 in mid-April. It stalled from there, but by then it had captured the attention of an artist who would completely change its stateside trajectory: Bieber, once again one of North America's hottest pop stars following his mid-'10s comeback, who heard it during a Colombian stop on his South American tour and noted how it enraptured club audiences. Inspired, he and manager Scooter Braun set up studio time with vocal producer Josh Gudwin and Colombian musician Juan Felipe Samper, to help Bieber record both a new English-language verse for the song, and his own attempt at its Spanish-language chorus.
With Bieber's contributions added to the Fonsi and Yankee original, the new "Despacito" remix exploded instantly. The week after its late-April release, the song vaulted into the Hot 100's top 10, and just three weeks later, it hit No. 1 -- the first song sung primarily in Spanish (or any foreign language) to top the chart since Los Del Rio's dance craze-accompanying "Macarena" in 1996. Even after reaching the chart's apex, the song continued to grow in popularity, hitting new peaks in sales, streams and radio airplay, conquering all three of Billboard's Hot 100 component charts for several weeks. As the song's reign continued on well into the summer, it started to verge on the truly historic -- and indeed, when it reached its 16th week at No. 1 in early September, it tied Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's mid-'90s mega-ballad "One Sweet Day" for the all-time longest stay atop the chart. (The shared record has, of course, since been broken.)