After a long drought in the up-and-coming pipeline, the Latin music scene is benefiting from a slew of new talent — from Ozuna to Bad Bunny — that’s burning up the Billboard charts. The newfound interest has opened the door for a wide array of acts representing many genres, and with the success of Latin hits in 2017, 2018 looks bright for the genre’s stars new and old.
Here are 10 acts Billboard feels are on the brink of widespread recognition in 2018.
A child of hip-hop and overall student of the music industry, Spiff TV has spent the last decade building his résumé most notably as Rick Ross’ chief video director. Since 2016, however, the filmmaker born Carlos Suarez has steady clocked in the hours at the studio executive-producing what is slated to be one of the biggest crossover projects yet: a compilation album made up entirely of collaborations between hip-hop and R&B luminaries and Latin America’s foremost recording artists. Ping-ponging between the likes of Fetty Wap and De La Ghetto, Spiff gave us a taste with records like Chris Brown and Prince Royce’s “Just As I Am” and Yandel and Future’s “Mi Combo,” but the project in its entirety will finally culminate in The Union, sometime between April and May of this year. Also expect appearances from DJ Khalid, Arcangel, T.I. and Anuel AA, among many others. — Marjua Estevez
The Colombian teen with the deep baritone voice already aced it with his very first single, “Una Lady Como Tu” (A Lady Like You), which has been streamed more than 225 million times on Spotify. A fusion of reggae and merengue, this sweet, romantic appeal (“I’m looking for a lady like you”) struck a chord with young and older listeners alike, who also yearned for a touch of cool devoid of reggaeton’s hard edges. Turizo has now followed up with a featured spot in Piso 21’s “Déjala que vuelva” where, like Bad Bunny in trap, he lends distinctive vocals that elevate; the track is currently on Spotify’s Global Top 50. Newly signed to Sony Music through La Industria, the team that handles Nicky Jam, it will likely be the fist of many features for Turizo in 2018. — Leila Cobo
The Dominican singer has long been one of the lone females doing reggaeton. But although Natti Natasha had big supporters — she was long Don Omar’s protégé and reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart in 2012 as a featured act in his “Dutty Love” — she hadn’t been able to sustain the momentum. Now, with “Criminal,” her own track featuring Ozuna, she appears to be doing just that. Sexy without being vulgar, “Criminal’s” immediate catchiness has made it the video a YouTube sensation with nearly a billion views. And Natti Natasha, now signed to Pina Records, is poised to finally break out on her own. — L.C.
The Spanish band hasn’t played in the United States since they appeared at SXSW in 2012, but we have a feeling that will change soon. Vetusta Morla is such a part of the collective consciousness of the Spanish rock-loving public that the group´s every move makes headlines. It was news when the indie icons signed their first major label deal with Sony Music last year, and bigger news when their new album, Mismo Sitio, Distinto Lugar was released in November, going straight to No. 1 in both physical and digital sales in Spain’s charts. Such celebrity is somewhat ironic for a band that has garnered its faithful following over more than a decade based on its anti-fame attitude and music that band members describe as “honest” and “sincere.” It’s a message that’s brought them a following of thousands who can sing every word to their songs at stadium concerts. That popularity has spread to Latin America, where they’ll be doing a seven-country tour starting in March. –Judy Cantor-Navas
Rozalén is the kind of pop star we need right now. The Spanish-singer songwriter´s latest single, “La Puerta Violeta,” speaks out against gender violence, and for female strength. Like her influences Chavela Vargas and Violeta Parra, Rozalén is an iconoclastic performer who lets the music carry her personal-meets-political messages. Fresh from a tour of sold-out dates in Latin America, she returns for a string of shows this month in Spain, where her third album Cuando el Río Suena… has spent 15 weeks on the Top Albums chart. We expect her to sing out even further in 2018. — J.C.N.
Amara La Negra
Dominican singer-songwriter Amara La Negra has been making noise throughout Latin America since she was a child star on Sabado Gigante. After years of perfecting her entertainer’s craft, she accepted an offer from VH1 to star in the inaugural season of Love and Hip-Hop: Miami, marking her big foray into the Anglo market. Now 26, La Negra just inked a multi-million, multi-album record deal with Fast Life Entertainment Worldwide and BMG and was featured as a Billboard Artist on the Rise. Expect her first single under the new deal out in the first quarter of 2018 with production by hit-makers Rock City (Rihanna, Beyoncé, Nicky Minaj and Miley Cyrus). — M.E.
This young Tijuana quintet got started as a DIY group that worked heavily its videos and social media. Now signed to Sony through Rancho Humilde Records, they finished the year with a No. 1 debut album on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Albums chart, and their single “No te pido mucho” hit No. 26 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart early this year. It’s only their second entry into that chart, following last year’s “Culpable Tu.” Mixing tuba and acoustic guitars, Alta Consigna can veer from country-ish to pure norteño, showing both grit and romantic edges. — L.C.
After working her butt off in her native Colombia for years, Martina garnered a Best new artist nomination at this year’s Latin Grammys with her mix of traditional sounds from Colombia’s Atlantic Coast and a dose of pop. Her amazing dance moves don’t hurt either. Now, she says, she’s focusing on exporting her music abroad. — L.C.
Fuerza de Tijuana
The Tijuana quartet brings rock ‘n’ roll swagger in every sense of the word to its regional Mexican music. Adding electric guitar, bass and drums to the traditional accordion gives the group’s music a contemporary edge; their choice of subjects, including former Pablo Escobar henchman Popeye, is often controversial. Of course, that alone is no reason to listen to Fuerza. Their tight chops, though, are, and this week, the group’s best-of album made the top 10 Billboard Heatseeker’s chart. Now, former Fonovisa head Gustavo Lopez signed the group to a joint venture deal through his Talento Uno, the company he formed after leaving Universal last year. Among his Fuerza plans is having the group expand from hardcore corridos and into radio-friendly romantic fare. — L.C.
Gustavo Elis is an urban singer from Venezuela who began his career as a breakdancer and eventually discovered the music path after auditioning — via a reality show — for the boy band Calle Ciega. On YouTube, his videos have accumulated more than 75 million views and his style of reggaeton includes romantic lyrics as you can see in his clip “La Ultima Vez.” Gustavo Elis kicked off 2018 with a new single and video called “Habibi,” which so far has collected over 5 millions of views in less than a week. Also, Elis will be touring in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru and United States, among others. — Suzette Fernandez