Couple the era of streaming with a pandemic imposed lockdown and you have a perfect storm for creativity. In a business that is increasingly about singles, never in recent memory have we seen such an output of material from Latin artists of every stripe. Throughout 2020, it felt like every single week brought with it an avalanche of singles.
From major hits like “Ritmo,” the Black Eyed Peas’ smash alongside J Balvin, to gems that catapulted careers like Carin Leon’s “Tú,” here are our editors’ picks for our favorite 25 Latin singles of the year, arranged in alphabetical order by title.
Carla Morrison, “Ansiedad”
“Ansiedad” marked Carla Morrison’s rebirth. After relocating to Paris and not releasing new music in five years, Morrison came back to life thanks to this uptempo R&B-fused pop track that explores her own relationship with mental health. “I want to talk and I can’t. I want to breathe and I can’t. I want to be and I can’t,” she sings, allowing herself to be vulnerable. “Ansiedad” was the first single off Morrison’s forthcoming album, the highly anticipated follow-up her 2015 Grammy-nominated Amor Supremo. — GRISELDA FLORES
Karol G, “Bichota”
Following in the vein of “Tusa” and “Ay, DiOs Mio!,” Karol G has found her stride with her brand of languorous reggaetón; sensual but not overtly sexual, empowering but also feminine. “Bichota” produced with longtime collaborator Ovy on the Drums, is more assertive in both lyrics and hooks. From the title, which roughly translates to “Boss” and is often used as street slang referring to men, “Bichota” is less about empowerment in the traditional sense, than self-confidence and taking control. “I feel like a bichota, they all want to break me but don’t know how,” she purrs in the opening, immediately catchy refrain. Set to sparse keyboards, “Bichota” is successful by virtue of its simplicity. At a time when the word “empowerment” has been bandied around to support every video that features sexualized images of women, here’s one that celebrates body image and attitude without subverting to masculine needs or approval. — LEILA COBO
Mon Laferte, “Biutiful”
Chilean singer-songwriter Mon Laferte became everyone’s quarantine alter ego with her encouraging track that is a dose of self-love and empowerment. According to Laferte, the song was born a day she woke up “feeling pretty.” Confidently, she sings, “Today, I will make love to myself because I feel biutiful,” followed by an explosion of powerful vocals going into the chorus. The alt-pop track dropped alongside a DIY music video recorded in her best friend’s apartment in Mexico City. — G.F.
Nathy Peluso, “Buenos Aires”
The Argentine singer-songwriter kicked off her career in the underground Hip-Hop scene in Spain, writing street poetry and killer rap bars that soon would get her on the map. A true box of surprises, Peluso experiments with neo-soul, perreo fusions, old-school ’90s rap, tango, and tropical music but one of her finer pieces is “Buenos Aires.” In an urban-dominated world, Peluso blessed music lovers with this intimate alternative blues-meets-soul R&B production, where her impressive falsetto vocals also came out to play. “I composed it in an unusual place and it shows another side of me,” Peluso told Billboard. “Buenos Aires” was nominated at the 2020 Latin Grammys for best alternative song, and was performed alongside Fito Paez during the awards ceremony. — JESSICA ROIZ
Ecko & Cazzu, “Cama Vacia”
Call it Pimpinela for the new generation. This infectious and sultry trap gem about a former couple whose back-and-forth on what went wrong with their relationship has Ecko spitting some fiery freestyle skills that are married with Cazzuâ’s sugary vocals. The collab brings to the forefront two of the pioneers of the Argentine trap movement and their musical evolution. On “Cama Vacia,” they keep true to that underground sound that catapulted them, but also add a touch of romance in this intriguing love story. The black-and-white music video, directed by Renderpanic in Argentina, shows both artists paying a model homage to Bonnie & Clyde. — J.R.
Ozuna feat. Karol G and Myke Towers, “Caramelo” (Remix)
The first single of Ozuna’s ENOC is a sticky track, made sweeter still by Karol G’s feminine touch and Myke Tower’s deeper baritone contrasting with Ozuna’s high tenor. “Caramelo” doesn’t go the raunchy remix route, but instead, sticks close to the whimsy of the original, sexy but not sexual, suggestive but never showing too much. It helps, of course, that Ozuna has an uncanny knack for penning highly melodic tracks with immediately catchy choruses. The original “Caramelo” was a pop smash with a reggaetón beat. The remix with Karol G and Towers lends it additional texture to become a highly addictive track. — L.C.
Prince Royce feat. Myke Towers, “Carita de Inocente (Remix)”
Prince Royce returned to his bachata roots with “Carita de Inocente.” The song, which held strong atop Billboard‘s Tropical Airplay chart for a record 29 weeks at No. 1, got a reboot with Myke Towers that improves the original. It starts with traditional bachata and then transitions to Latin trap beats with alternative guitar riffs before picking up to bachata again. We also get a taste of Towers singing abilities — as opposed to the hip-hop, freestyle flow that characterizes him. Who ever knew that Towers’ crisp, almost hoarse vocals could merge so well with bachata — J.R.
Eslabon Armado “Con Tus Besos”
This regional Mexican teenage trio proved that you don’t need raunchy lyrics to make a hit in 2020. Placing all bets on an ultra romantic ballad, frontman Pedro Tovar innocently sings, “You make me feel good with your kisses, I just love the way you are.” Staying true to the band’s identifiable fusion of traditional acoustic guitars with the electric bass, this sierreño track almost didn’t make it on Eslabon Armado’s Vibras de Noche album, because it wasn’t “good enough” for the band — but they were ultimately convinced to include by Tovar’s mom. It peaked at No. 15 on the Hot Latin Songs chart. — G.F.
Bad Bunny, Jhay Cortez “Dákiti”
This genre-bending reggaetón track made Billboard history, becoming the first Latin hit to simultaneously crown both the Billboard Global 200 and the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. charts. The futuristic and daring single, built around an edgy synth riff, works for many reasons — namely a catchy chorus and the melding of two distinctive voices — but what makes this song The Song is the track’s ultimate head-bobbing climax, which instantly turns the song into a euphoric synth-pop banger. — G.F.
Christian Nodal & Ángela Aguilar, “Dime Como Quieres”
As part of the new generation of regional Mexican artists, Nodal and Aguilar are hoping to revive the tradition of spectacular duets in the genre. “Think of what the duet between Juan Gabriel and Rocio Durcal meant back then,” Aguilar told Billboard. Sure, those are pretty big shoes to fill. But still, Nodal and Aguilera have taken a convincing step in the right direction with some nostalgia despite their ages. — J.R.
“Dolerme” was an outlier in every sense of the word: An acoustic, guitar-based pop track with rock spirit — albeit with electronic and flamenco brush strokes — it sounded unlike anything Rosalía had done before. This was another, perhaps more urgent Rosalía than the one we usually hear in her big commercial hits. But this cowrite with Frank Dukes, Matthew Tavares and longtime collaborator El Guincho underscored the Spanish star’s versatility, while showcasing her vocals in a different, yet equally impressive light. — L.C.
Maluma’s plaintive lyrics on “Hawái,” about a girl he’s lost to another man, gain added urgency when it’s revealed to be a song of love for the time of social media (“Vacation in Hawái, congratulations; really nice what you post on Instagram so I see it”), After all, haven’t we all been there? It sounds facile, but “Hawái” is not only catchy but poignant, with wistful verses that already feel like a distant memory. A juggernaut in its original version (topping Billboard’s first-ever Global Excl. U.S. chart) “Hawái” gained new traction when The Weeknd jumped on the track, singing that opening verse in English and then the chorus in Spanish, his smooth vocals meshing perfectly with Maluma’s; two huge pop stars in a single track for double the appeal. It was added validation for a song that managed to capture the universal feelings of loss and spite, and mesh them with the fleeting yet permanent trappings of a digital era. — L.C.
Carlos Vives & Jessie Reyez, “Hechicera”
This powerful and explosive collaboration opens Carlos Vives’ beautiful and soul-searching album Cumbiana. The two generations of Colombian artists come together for this tropipop Spanglish track that fuses Vives’ distinctive vallenato and cumbia beats, and honors Bachué, a goddess that emerges from the water. It’s a perfect example of two distinct generations and styles brought together through a profound respect for music. — G.F.
Gente de Zona & Becky G, “Muchacha”
The first collab between the Cuban duo and the Mexican American singer is a departure from Gente De Zona’s more tropical fare of late, incorporating a Cuban clave rhythm with Becky G’s raps — as she transforms from car mechanic to princess (after praying to la virgen y los santos) in the video, clad in a slinky blue dress with sneakers. The video for “Muchacha” was eye candy, while the song was fun to dance to — but also fun to decipher in its use of the clave to the beat of the word “Mu-cha-cha,” a clever nod that kicks things up a notch. — L.C.
Banda MS, Snoop Dogg “Qué Maldición”
Speculations of a collaboration between Snoop Dogg and Banda MS began circulating the after the rapper posted a Banda MS song on his Instagram in 2016. Nothing happened until last May when the West Coast icon and the regional Mexican chart-topping band delivered their bicultural, bilingual smash hit “Qué Maldición.” Not surprisingly, the track organically fuses banda with hip-hop, an unorthodox combination that proves effective once again. The fusion was pioneered in the early 2000s by Mexican hip-hop duo Akwid. “Qué Maldición,” about a curse that falls on a man following a heartbreak, debuted at No. 4 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, becoming both acts’ first fop 10 debut on the listing. — G.F.
Alejandro Fernández & Mon Laferte, “Que Se Sepa Nuestro Amor”
From the cover art, which evokes the golden age of Mexican cinema, we know we’re in for a treat with Alejandro Fernández and Mon Laferte together. “Que Se Sepa Nuestro Amor” is a grandiose ranchera, performed by not just two great voices, but two great personalities — a beautifully executed reminder of true excellence across genres. Please, put this in a film. — L.C.
Sech, Rosalía, Balvin, Daddy Yankee & Farruko, “Relación” (Remix)
Sech’s “Relación,” a song about living your best life after a toxic relationship, took on a life of its own on TikTok, with over four million creator videos on the app as of press time. Spurred on by the song’s success on social media, Sech whipped together a star-studded remix featuring Rosalía, Daddy Yankee, J Balvin, and Farruko, with producers Dimelo Flow and Slow Mike transitioning the track from a reggaetón beat to an infectious merengue fusion. Rosalía also gives this remix a nice touch, flaunting her high vocals at the very beginning. — J.R.
Residente’s most intimate and personal song to date is a seven-minute long story of his life, going through childhood, depression, death and censorship — and using his birth name, René, as the title. The “therapeutic” single was born two years ago and sheds light on his self-discovery process. “I had a lot of situations happening at the moment,” he told Billboard, recalling a time he felt so bad that he didn’t want to go on stage. “I had never felt like that in my life.” He started writing the track the following day. “René” was released in February during Residente’s birthday week, and helped inspire other confessional tracks in 2020, including Kendo Kaponi’s “Resistencia,” Ozuna’s “Gracias,” and Anuel’s “3 de Abril” — J.R.
Black Eyed Peas & J Balvin “Ritmo (Bad Boys For Life)”
So simple but so devastatingly effective — did anyone not dance or work out to this song by the time the year was over? Aside from reviving ’90s dance hitmaker Corona “Ritmo” — with its bilingual lyrics and irresistible beats — marked the return of the Black Eyed Peas to the top 40 of the Hot 100 after a decade. It also gave the group its first ever No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart. — L.C.
J Balvin, “Rojo”
On his conceptual album Colores, where he names each song after a color, “Rojo” is one of the softer reggaetón tracks on the set, fused with galactic-inspired rhythms. Coming after the head-bopping “Blanco” and hip-shaking “Morado,” it once again showcased J Balvin’s romantic side. The cinematic music video, directed by Colin Tilley, pays tribute to that, showing Balvin getting into a fatal car accident while on his way to the hospital to see his newborn. “Rojo” scored Balvin his 23rd No. 1 on Latin Airplay, good for the second-most of any artist. -J.R.
Rauw Alejandro & Camilo, “Tattoo” (Remix)
Rauw Alejandro’s “Tattoo” landed a remix in July featuring fellow emerging artist Camilo, who took the already great reggaetón track to the next level with his distinctive poetic lyrics and ever-so-soothing vocals. Staying true to its rhythmic pop core, the new take on “Tattoo” finds Alejandro and Camilo trading slick verses about falling for a girl who has them wrapped around her finger. The track is pure bliss, with catchy and innocent lyrics — a nice change of pace these days — such as, “I’m dying for the type of kiss that you don’t give to a friend/ I realized that I live for that smile” – G.F.
Farruko, “La Tóxica”
Short, precise and catchy. That’s how we’d best describe Farruko’s chart-topping summer smash — a core reggaetón bop that takes the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter back to his roots. “La Tóxica” starts off with a simple piano tune. Then, nearly one minute in, an explosive reggaetón beat carries the rest of the song. “La Tóxica” scored Farruko his ninth career No. 1 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart (dated Nov. 28). — G.F.
Carin Leon, “Tú”
Banda and norteño up and comer Carin Leon gathered his band in a home studio during lockdown in Mexico, and recorded a series of acoustic songs — “some originals, other versions” — which he gathered into two excellent albums. “Tú,” a cover of a pop song originally penned by hitmaker Estéfano back in the 2000s, is particularly outstanding in Leon’s poignant vocals, a reminder that a good song works in so many settings. It’s also a great step for an artist who took a risk, and won the gamble. He is a voice to reckon with in regional Mexican. –– L.C.
J Balvin, Dua Lipa, Bad Bunny & Tainy, “Un Día (One Day)”
Bad Bunny, J Balvin and Tainy have already proven to be an effective formula. So, what do you get when you add pop darling Dua Lipa to the mix? A nostalgic, dreamy track that laces seductive pop melodies with dancehall and reggaetón flair, it reflects on love and heartbreak, portrayed on the video by actress Úrsula Corberó (Money Heist). The Spanglish bop topped the Hot Latin Songs chart in August, staying at No. 1 for five weeks. — G.F.
Bad Bunny, “Yo Perreo Sola”
A standout track on Bunny’s first of three albums in 2020, YHLQMDLG, “Yo Perreo Sola” (I Twerk Alone) is the ultimate quarantine anthem for its embrace of twerking by yourself and being single as a way of life. “If she needs you, she’ll call you, but right now she’s on her own” the artist born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio sings. The simple female empowerment song became a hit in large part because of its catchy chorus, delivered via Nesi’s distinctive, fresh vocals, which captivate you instantly and will have you reciting after her “Yo Perreo Sola” hook over and over again.– G.F.