C Tangana, Karol, Mon Laferte, Camilo
Latin

The 25 Best Latin Albums of 2021 So Far: Staff Picks

In 2020, many artists took advantage of the quarantine lockdown to create more music than ever. Some set up a recording studio at home, others taught themselves how to produce their own music, and others adapted to making music via videocalls with their producers. It was challenging but not impossible.

As a result, some of the biggest names in Latin music dropped new studio albums for fans -- including Camilo's sophomore set Mis Manos, Rauw Alejandro's experimental Vice Versa, Sech's ultra-personal 42, and Karol G's edgy KG0516, all of which charted on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart.

From Andres Calamaro's star-studded Dios Los Cria to Tommy Torres' El Playlist de Anoche, produced by Benito Martinez (Bad Bunny), here are our editors' picks for our favorite 25 Latin albums of 2021 (so far) -- arranged in alphabetical order by artist, and excluding live albums and EPs.

Andres Calamaro, Dios Los Cría

With the abundance of talent on this album, Dios Los Cria is simply exquisite music for your ears. On this set, which pays homage to a commonly used term in the Spanish language meaning "God raises them," the Argentine rock icon revisits some of his greatest hits, opening with “Bohemio” featuring Julio Iglesias. Home to beautiful mellow harmonics, piano pieces and more, Dios Los Cria is full of epic covers that reintroduce tracks to a new generation of artists and fans. -- INGRID FAJARDO

C. Tangana, El Madrileño 

Spaniard C. Tangana made a name for himself as a rapper both hardcore and cerebral, appealing to music snobs and the masses alike, co-writing with Rosalía and zipping up Spain’s charts. It would have been easy to stay the course with more rap and reggaetón tinged collabs. Instead, Tangana turns inwards in El Madrileño (The Man From Madrid), an homage to his hometown that digs deep into the roots of Madrid’s essential music. Tangana raps and sings, accompanied by traditional Spanish guitar that intertwines with electronic loops and handclaps. The 12 collabs here are unexpected, ranging from Cuban veteran Eliades Ochoa and icons Toquinho and José Feliciano to alt up-and-comers like Omar Apollo and Ed Maverick. -- LEILA COBO

Camilo, Mis Manos

Home to 11 tracks, where Camilo experiments with new rhythms such as bachata, calypso, cumbia, and even perreo, Mis Manos was born during the global pandemic, while in lockdown with his wife, actress-singer Evaluna Montaner. “The most beautiful things come out of the most complex moments,” the Colombian singer-songwriter told Billboard. “Frustration invokes a lot more creativity.” A modern-day troubadour whose rhythmic pop fusions are the canvas for his sincere lyrics, Camilo says Mis Manos is “an exploration of all sides of my identity.” Mis Manos secured Camilo his second top five entry on the Top Latin Albums chart. -- JESSICA ROIZ

Carin León, Inédito 

For his new album, released in May, Mexican singer-songwriter Carin León takes his core genre, which is regional Mexican, and fuses it with different sounds for a more mainstream approach. The end result is Inédito, which showcases the musical influences that have inspired his career; from corridors to sierreño to country and pop. "In it, I'm revolutionizing my sound and I want it to really reflect my taste in music,” he previously told Billboard. “I want to show who Oscar Diaz is as a musician, not so much Carin." -- GRISELDA FLORES

Diego Valenzuela
Carin Leon

Danna Paola, K.O.

On K.O., Danna Paola makes it her mission to empower herself and others through her music. “With this album, I knocked out all of the bad stuff that was killing me, emotionally,” she said to Billboard, calling it an album that represents healing. “I used it to drain everything I had in my heart. That’s why I named it ‘K.O.’ -- because it was like the last punch to the heart during this whole process.” The Mexican singer says the way the set's 11 tracks, including “Friend de Semana” with Luisa Sonza and Aitana, and the Sebastian Yatra-assisted “No Bailes Sola,” are organized is in the exact order that everything was occurring in her life. -- J.R.

Denise Rosenthal, Todas Seremos Reinas

Todas Seremos Reinas (We'll All Be Queens) is an ode to womanhood from start to end, with songs that will remind women they are beautiful, perfect, fierce, and strong. The Chilean artist best explains it herself as "a narrative journey because everything has a reason." Singles such as "Tiene Sabor," "Agua Segura" and "Dormir" easily set the tone for Todas Seremos Reina, an album with dance-pop/R&B fusions, injected with Rosenthal's powerhouse vocals and empowering lyrics. Guests on this album include Spanish queens Mala Rodriguez and Lola Indigo. -- J.R.

Ed Maverick, Eduardo

When 20-year-old Mexican folk singer Ed Maverick released “niño” as the focus track to his debut album Eduardo -- opening with the cryptic lyrics, "Life is a beast that is slowly killing me, and I don’t know what’s going to happen” -- listeners were intrigued instantly. The subsequent set didn't disappoint, with Maverick's raspy voice and powerful guitar riffs narrating an existential crisis over 12 emotionally heavy and sonically psychedelic tracks -- a testament to the young talent's ability to create empathetic lyrics that define and reflect his generation’s fears and anxieties. -- G.F.

Gerardo Ortiz, Décimo Aniversario 

Regional Mexican singer-songwriter Gerardo Ortiz celebrated his 10th anniversary in the Latin music scene with his new album aptly titled Décimo Aniversario, which was released in February. As ever, Ortiz places all bets on an eclectic sound that ranges from corridos to melodic rancheras, and reflective tracks powered by banda, mariachi and norteño for a wider appeal, and to showcase his versatility as an artist. -- G.F.

Sterling Hampton
Gerardo Ortiz

Joss Favela, Llegando al Rancho

Favela dedicated his time to music during the quarantine lockdown, penning all 13 songs that form his third studio album. The Banda-style melodies are an ode to his ranchero roots -- but his lyrics say otherwise, dedicated, for the most part, to love and heartbreak. "Alguien Especial," for example, has soul-striking guitar riffs and tuba melodies accompanying the story of a person who’s disappointed due to lost love. The focus track, "Tu Adiós Como Tequila," continues that same line of pain and despair, with Favela drinking his sorrows away as he remembers an ex-lover. The only collaboration on Llegando al Rancho is the Jessi Uribe-assisted "El Alumno.” -- J.R.

Juan Pablo Vega, Juan Pablo Vega 

Colombian singer-songwriter Juan Pablo Vega is best known in some circles as a producer. But Vega is also a recording artist in his own right -- one is increasingly unafraid of taking risks in his off-center pop. His self-titled sophomore album drives the point home, including an all-instrumental track, “El Vacile del Tío,” dedicated to his bass player, as well as the Estemán-featuring “Eso que me das” (which blends disco with Brazilian beats), and the Beatlesque “Joderlo todo.” It's eclectic but still cohesive, atmospheric but highly melodic -- and a great example of the variety that can still be found in good pop. -- L.C. 

Juanes, Origen

After experimenting with urban and dance beats, Juanes went back to basics with a vengeance. Origen, his homage to the songs that defined him as an artist and a musician, reimagines 12 classic tracks -- from Carlos Gardel’s quintessential “Volver” to Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” -- Juanes style, relying heavily on electric and acoustic guitars, and on retro elements like the Rhodes organ, for a vintage, rock 'n' roll sound. This is what Juanes does best, and tracks like Juan Gabriel’s “No tengo dinero” take unexpected twists and turns. This is also a great opportunity to discover gems like “Todo Hombre Es una Historia” by Medellín rock band Kraken, one of Juanes’ defining influences. -- L.C.

Mario Alzate
Juanes

Junior H, $ad Boyz 4 Life 

As the Mexican singer-songwriter at the forefront of the sad sierreño movement, Junior H took a slight departure from his streetwise and flashy corridos on $ad Boyz 4 Life to deliver guitar-heavy ballads with ultra-nostalgic and personal lyrics on love, lust, and heartbreak. Powered by melancholic melodies, which became the perfect canvas for the 21-year-old’s deep and hoarse vocals, the aptly titled 16-track set not only defies macho culture in regional Mexican music but also captures the zeitgeist of a new generation of artists, who are once again embracing the artistic resonance of pure sadness, a pillar of regional Mexican music. The album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Albums chart in February, securing the urban corridos act his second leader on the listing, and fourth straight top five entry. -- G.F.

Karol G, KG0516

Despite the presence of Wisin, Yandel, Ozuna, Anuel, J Balvin and Ivy Queen, plus out-of-the-box guest spots from Camilo and Natty Peluso, Karol G’s KG0516 is very much a Karol G set, with enough solo tracks to firmly establish her as today’s leading lady of Latin urban music. This album of strong, melody-first songs highlights the Colombian star’s versatility -- and more than ever before, her vocal prowess. Tracks like “Gato Malo” alongside Nathy Peluso read like a tango-tinged torch song with a generous dollop of attitude -- a great pairing -- while the more melancholy “El Barco” and “200 Copas” dwell on Karol G’s favored topic of love and loss. -- L.C.

Lenny Tavarez, Krack

Tavarez’s highly-awaited solo album dropped this year, calling it his “first opportunity at life.” Part of his creative strategy was to release the album in “seasons” (a bundle of songs every other month) because he “wanted fans to digest all the flavors, sounds and lyrics that it brings.” With 14 tracks, including “La Neta,” “A Cien” and the ultra-personal “Lo Tengo Todo,” the set includes collaborations with Nicky Jam, Rauw Alejandro, Zion & Lennox, and Natanael Cano, to name a few. “My intention is to do different music without changing the genre,” he said to Billboard. Krack, which was “created with a lot of sacrifices and stories of perseverance,” includes old-school reggaetón, perreo, corridos, and more. -- J.R.

Los Legendarios, Wisin, Los Legendarios 001

Wisin and his longtime producers Los Legendarios dropped their joint album this year, home to 19 tracks featuring collaborations with Sech, Nicky Jam, Chencho Corleone, Jhay Cortez, to name a few. It’s also home to their summer hit “Fiel,” which became a viral success fueled by millions of TikTok videos. In addition to the many collaborative efforts on this album, including La Base’s new signees, Los Legendarios 001 is full of perreo fusions with old-school reggaetón beats. “We were able to focus more on our own music during the pandemic,” the producers previously told Billboard. “We got in touch with Wisin to prepare the tracks and for us, this is a dream come true.” -- I.F.

Carlos Pérez/Elastic People/Courtesy La Base Music
Wisin and Los Legendarios

Lunay, El Niño

With this album, released ahead of his 21st birthday, Lunay is closing a chapter of his life. The 15-song set, released under La Familia Records, Chris Jedi and Gaby Music's independent label, kicks off with the title track, which samples Jerry Rivera’s 1993 salsa hit “Cara de Niño” and transitions into a trap banger. The set is also home to edgy perreos, solid reggaetón jams, and even some slow-tempo urban bops. Collaborations include his sultry Anitta-assisted “Todo o Nada” and the infectious “Otra No” with Bryant Myers and Zion. Other features on El Niño include Chencho Corleone, Zion, Chanell, Giovakartoons, Juliito, and Chris Jedi.” -- J.R.

Manuel Turizo, Dopamina

Turizo's sophomore album Dopamina includes star-studded collaborations with Maluma, Wisin & Yandel, Rauw Alejandro, Justin Quiles, Dalex, El Alfa, Myke Towers, Will.i.am. and Farruko. For the Colombian artist, his music is dopamine, and that’s what’s reflected on this album. During the pandemic, he not only took the time to work on the set but also made his dream come true by dropping “Mala Costumbre” with Wisin & Yandel. This album, as he best described to Billboard, is a “neurotransmitter of emotions and feelings” with thumping beats, electric sounds, and Turizo’s signature vibrant voice. -- I.F.

Mon Laferte, Seis 

Chilean singer-songwriter Mon Laferte wrote as if the world was coming to an end during the pandemic, releasing all the emotions and uncertainties she was feeling while in lockdown. Unknowingly, she ended up writing her sixth album, aptly titled Seis, which was released in April. The achingly personal topics -- ranging from toxic relationships to her admiration for other women -- and vulnerable lyrics are paired with a new sound for Laferte: regional Mexican. Known for her raspy, often dramatic vocals and use of classic Latin rhythms such as cumbia, bolero, and alt-folk, the Latin Grammy-winning artist experiments with mariachi, norteño, and corridos tumbados in an homage to the genre's unique and ever-evolving sonority. -- G.F.

Myke Towers, Lyke Mike

An ode to basketball, el barrio and, his biggest inspiration, Michael Jordan, Lyke Mike marks Towers' return to the underground rap sound and lyrics that made him a household name. An ultra-personal production, with an album cover displaying the front of his childhood home in Puerto Rico, he narrates his struggles and successes on the set, as heard in tracks like “Cuando Me Ven,” “Joven Leyenda" and “Maldita Envidia." The album steps away from commercial reggaetón and Latin R&B sounds to navigate Towers' musical roots in hip-hop, trap, and drill -- with help from collaborators like Mikey Woodz, Ñengo Flow, Jon Z, and Sahir. Lyke Mike debuted at No. 3 on Top Latin Albums. -- J.R.

Courtesy Photo

Natanael Cano, A Mis 20 

Strictly a corridos tumbados album, A Mis 20 is a slight departure from Natanael Cano's recent trap corridos albums Las 3 TorresSoy El Nata and Trap Tumbado. The 11-track set solidifies Cano as a bonafide storyteller with corridos that are flashy but also display his most vulnerable side detailing heartbreak powered by prickly guitars. The album peaked at No. 9 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart (dated June 11). -- G.F.

Paloma Mami, Sueños de Dali 

In a world where collaborations are a given to gain traction and streams, Paloma Mami’s debut album, Sueños de Dali, has no credited features. But the songs are wildly collaborative, with writing from Paloma Mami herself along with the likes of Tyla Parx, DJ Genius, Rosalía, El Guincho and Edgar Barrera. They range from sparse melodic reggaetón with the underlying retro sound of a Fender Rhodes in the R&B-tinged “For Ya” to the decidedly experimental, electro-funky “I Love Her.” In many of the tracks, Paloma Mami sings interchangeably in both Spanish and English, but, unlike most artists who attempt to do this, it flows off her tongue with ease. This is her. These are her songs. -- L.C.

Piso 21, El Amor en los Tiempos del Perreo

As a tribute to the timeless Colombian novel El Amor en Los Tiempos Del Cólera by Gabriel García Márquez, Piso 21 worked on this album in between tours and finalized it during the pandemic. Home to 15 tracks, including infectious collabs with Maluma, Black Eyed Peas, Christian Nodal, and Myke Towers, the Colombian group does not hold back from marrying its distinguished sound with new rhythms such as bossa nova and tropical-ranchera. El Amor en Los Tiempos Del Perreo, which earned Piso their second top 10 on Billboard's Latin Pop Albums chart, “defines our musical evolution, and it defines this precise moment in Piso 21’s career," group member Pablito told Billboard. -- J.R.

FALCO/Imagine It Media
Piso 21

Rauw Alejandro, Vice Versa

Created between 2020 and 2021 and started just two weeks after he finalized his debut set, Afrodisiaco, Rauw Alejandro's Vice Versa contains only three reggaetón songs and two collaborations (one with Anitta and his longtime friend, Lyanno). The rest is a rollercoaster of new fusions, including electro-pop, funk, and even Brazilian-inclined rhythms. The best example? Viral hit “Todo De Ti” which was inspired by the sounds of James Brown and Bruno Mars and charted in the top 40 of Billboard's all-genre Hot 100 chart. “This is the music I like to do,” he admits. The 14-track set — which tells stories of love, heartbreak, and healing, but is also full of summer jams — demonstrates a new side of Rauw, and secured him his first No. 1 on Top Latin Albums. -- J.R.

Sech, 42

Sech’s 42 is like his personal diary, where he turned his deepest feelings into songs -- and which he explained to Billboard all "are real, and part of my life." On this set, which earned him his third top 10 on Top Latin Albums, he collaborated with Wisin, Nicky Jam, and Rauw Alejandro. Born fully in the pandemic, the album also pays homage to his Afro roots: 42 represents the jersey number of barrier-breaking baseball legend Jackie Robinson, as well as of Panamanian star relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. Infectious perreo, dancehall, and romantic reggaetón beats bring to life standout tracks like “¿Que Somos?,” "911," “Wao,” and the viral TikTok hit “Sal y Perrea.” -- J.R.

Tommy Torres, El Playlist de Anoche

For his first album in almost a decade, Tommy Torres teamed up with Bad Bunny to co-produce and co-write the nine tracks on El Playlist de Anoche. Torres and Bunny may not have a lot of things in common, but both are very intentional with the music they write; they want their fans to feel via lyrics that are packed with tangible emotions. The pair does just that with this set, which touches on love and heartbreak. Torres remains true to his signature alt rock-tinged, sentimental pop but integrates a rock star attitude after learning how to phrase the way Bunny does. The set showcases Torres’ chameleonic ability to traverse between multiple style. -- G.F.