The 20 Best Latin Songs of 2017: Critics' Picks

Getty Images; Design by Jessica Xie
Clockwise from right: Maluma, Ozuna, J Balvin, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee

It was an urban, urban, urban year for Latin music, with even the most pop of posters delving in some way or another into the beat of reggaeton.

No wonder then why our list of top songs of the year reflects music whose beat allowed it to explode way beyond our imaginations -- largely, of course, thanks to the unprecedented global success of “Despacito.”

And yes, the song that ruled the world features prominently on our list of 20 top songs of the year. But there is also evocative beauty in tracks like Mon Laferte’s “La trensa” and Romeo Santos’ ever-intriguing bachata in “Imitadora.” Get into it!

20. Natalia Lafourcade, “Tu Si Sabes Quererme”

An homage to Latin American folklore, “Tu Si Sabes Quererme” is one of Fourcade’s original compositions off the album Musas, nominated for a 2017 Latin Grammy as song of the year. With over 64 million YouTube views, the song openly celebrates the longings of companionship with a nostalgic taste traversing through bolero and son jarocho, accompanied by Los Macorinos, Chavela Vargas’ all-time guitarists. -- PAMELA BUSTIOS

19. Jorge Drexler,  “Movimiento" 

Jorge Drexler, who’ve we’ve come to count on for providing us with the right song at the right time, does it again with “Movimiento" -- a beautiful meditation on where life takes us, from his Salvavidas de Hielo album. -- JUDY CANTOR-NAVAS

18. Farruko, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj & 21 Savage, "Krippy Kush (Remix)"

Farruko provided an unexpected twist to his musical career by releasing “Krippy Kush” with Bad Bunny & Rvssian, but the song was upgraded even further when star rappers Nicki Minaj and 21 Savage included their touch to its remix. The collaboration came along after Farruko’s label Sony Music Latin presented the idea. The song is a standout because it is not the usual sound for a trap track, with Farruko added danceable rhythms which ended with its own dance step in the music video. -- SUZETTE FERNANDEZ

17. Natti Natasha & Ozuna, "Criminal" 

The YouTube record-setting hit is the kind of song you dedicate to the one whose style and grace keeps you up at night and makes you weak in the knees all at once. “Criminal” is not your everyday fast-pumping reggaeton record, but a criminally slow-grinding jam that’ll have you break a sweet sweat with the one you’re digging on. -- MARJUA ESTEVEZ

16. Ibeyi feat. Mala Rodriguez, "Me Voy" 

Ibeyi’s eponymous debut album grappled with a heavy past. It drew on their spirituality, cultural origins and electro-R&B to make sense of familial death. On “Me Voy,” the Afro-Cuban twins make a triumphant return with their most pop-leaning record yet. Singing entirely in Spanish for the first time, the duo recruits hip-hop artist Mala Rodriguez and come to grips on the sensual track with having to leave a subpar love for something greater. -- M.E.

15.  Carlos Vives & Sebastian Yatra, "Robarte un beso" 

An all-ages favorite of 2017, life-embracing Colombian hitmaker Carlos Vives mentors newcomer Sebastian Yatra in the art of the euphoric roots-pop song. - JUDY CANTOR-NAVAS

14. Shakira feat. Nicky Jam, "Perro Fiel" 

The third official single off Shakira's 11th studio album El Dorado, “Perro Fiel” features veteran reggaeton singer Nicky Jam and serves as a catchy simile involving a quasi-unrequited love and dog-like loyalty. - M.E.

13. Romeo Santos, "Imitadora" 

The second single off Golden is vintage Romeo Santos: sensual/sexual intricate lyrics, storytelling and sense of drama wrapped with a great chorus. “Imitadora” (Imitator) is a man’s desperate plea to the woman who once loved him and who now has changed beyond recognition. It’s a well-recognized story, but told in the most compelling Santos form. - LEILA COBO

12. Karol G & Bad Bunny, "Ahora Me Llama"

With over 500 million YouTube views, “Ahora Me Llama” is a redemption song of sorts, in which Karol G reclaims her time after a love gone awry. The trap banger finds Karol G pull up in full #badgyal fashion and features Bad Bunny’s signature syrupy vocals. -- M.E.

11. Manuel Turizo, "Una Lady Como Tú"

Colombian newcomer Manuel Turizo is barely 17 but boasts a deep, sexy baritone that belies his age and sounds like no one else. Neither does his first single, an ode to the lady of his dreams. With a poignant opening verse that then bursts into a fast, catchy chorus, “Una Lady” breaks rank with current pop/reggaeton fare. - L.C.

10. Wisin feat. Ozuna, "Escápate Conmigo" 

The union of two hitmakers, Wisin and Ozuna, is simply unreal on "Escápate Conmigo." While Wisin gives the song the experience in terms of lyric and sound, Ozuna brings his innovative style, giving the fans an exceptional collab. "Escápate" swelled in popularity organically, and has remained one of the best songs of 2017 to sing and dance no matter where you are. - S.F.

9. Nicky Jam, "El Amante"

Nicky Jam has perfected the art of crafting lovelorn ballads that coexist beautifully with a reggaeton beat. This is the reggaetonero men can cry with and women can fall in love to. “El amante” harks back to “El perdón” in the sweet melancholy of the melody, but it spares no niceties in its lyrics, about a man in love with someone else’s woman. This is bittersweet romance. -- L.C.

8. Maluma, "Felices los 4"

Maluma’s “Felices los 4” is a romantic take on multiple lovers. But this time, it’s the woman who has more than one, prompting Maluma to croon: “If you’re spending time with someone else, let’s all four of us be happy together.” The mix of melodic pop over the underlying danceable reggeaton beat, with just the right dose of bad boy (and girl) in the lyrics, made it irresistible. -- L.C.

7. Residente feat. Soko, "Desencuentro” 

“Desencuentro” -- featuring French indie-pop artist Stéphanie Sokolinski, a.k.a. Soko -- is a song that chronicles a love story that is anything but systematic. Swaying from Spanish to English, the song encircles us in an orbit of effervescent incredulity with such grace, it's impossible not to dive deep into this dreamlike reality. - P.B.

6. Becky G & Bad Bunny, "Mayores"

The girls are taking over the charts, and Becky G is a prime example of that. "Mayores," featuring Bad Bunny, has given us much to talk about because of its lyrics, which have been misinterpreted by many. But, in reality, the song has a catchy and brazen lyric concerning one woman's desires, that when mixed with its urban sounds, results in song to enjoy, sing, dance and have fun with. On Billboard's charts, "Mayores" reached No. 3 on Hot Latin Songs and No. 74 on the Billboard Hot 100. - S.F.

5. Mon Laferte, "La Trenza"

With a feminist message for girls braided into an old school bolero, Mon Laferte makes a beautiful song all the more powerful. - J. C.-N.

4. Ozuna, "Se Preparo"

"Se Preparo" calls to the man-eater, the femme fatale who’s unapologetic in her carnal desires, and Ozuna backs her narrative with his bad boy charm and softly-murmured rap vocals. - M.E.

3. Enrique Iglesias, "Subeme la Radio" 

With this soft reggaeton hit, Iglesias and collaborators Descemer Bueno and Zion & Lennox deliver a radio song that captures the magic of radio songs. Simplemente catchy. - J. C.-N.

2. J Balvin, Willy William feat. Beyoncé, "Mi Gente (Remix)"

To raise funds for disaster relief in the Caribbean and Mexico, Beyoncé blessed J Balvin’s infectious “Mi Gente," a global dance floor anthem celebrating the universal human experience. - M.E.

1. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, "Despacito"

What more can we say about the biggest global hit of the year? Here is the original iteration -- and it’s all. In. Spanish. Lets drink to that. - L.C.

Billboard Year in Music 2017