Latin music produced in 2020 was as experimental as ever, with Bad Bunny delivering a batch of rock en Español-inspired songs on El Último Tour del Mundo and regional Mexican trio Eslabon Armado placing their bets on old-school ballads for a deeper connection with fans.
We predict 2021 will be just as promising, surprising and exciting in terms of trends we’ll see throughout the year. Some of the trends we’ll see thrive this year include tapping into the ’80s and ’90s for inspiration, a more musically rich reggaeton (one that incorporates live instruments), and a continuation of the Argentine trap takeover.
Below, Billboard breaks down five Latin music trends for 2021.
Taking it back
An experimental Bad Bunny felt compelled to tap into the rock en Español vibe — think ’90s Spanish rock or Enanitos Verdes — for his third album of 2020, El Último Tour del Mundo. It was unprecedented, fresh and nostalgic, which was the effect he wanted to have with this ultra-personal album. Bad Bunny wasn’t the only one taking it back. Such was the case for Eslabon Armado, who gave us all the feels with their vintage bolero style regional Mexican ballads featured on Corta Venas. 2021 may be a new year, but artists will travel back in time to find inspiration.
“I think we’re going to hear a lot of different sounds in 2021,” says chart-topping producer and songwriter Edgar Barrera. “What we’ve seen in the American market is that artists such as Dua Lipa and The Weeknd are tapping into the ’80s sound. And Bad Bunny did it on our side when he brought rock back. For someone as big as Bad Bunny to do it, I think he has the power to move the needle and start trends.”
Argentine trap takeover
Five out of the 11 best new artist nominees at the 2020 Latin Grammys were Argentine, a reflection of the emerging talent coming out of Argentina. Four of them — Nicki Nicole, Nathy Peluso, Cazzu and Wos — represent the flourishing trap scene in the country that has exploded locally. Argentine trap producer Duki, whose catalog has earned 44.6 million on-demand U.S. audio streams, was also nominated for best urban fusion/performance at the Latin Grammys.
The genre is likely to be catapulted into the international spotlight in 2021. “I’m very happy with everything that’s happening in Argentina,” says award-winning producer Rafa Arcaute. “These are artists who are writing a lot, exploring new melodies, and they have a certain flow with how they do and say things. I think this movement has a lot of strength that’s distinguishable and noticeable with a lot of relevant personalities that’s marking a generation.”
Urban meets tropical
Daddy Yankee and Marc Anthony’s unprecedented collaboration “De Vuelta Pa’ La Vuelta,” which deftly incorporates elements of urban with salsa, turned heads in 2020 and kicked off the new year topping the Tropical Airplay chart. Sergio George, the track’s producer, says the collaboration between these two genres has the potential to start a movement in 2021, but in order to make an urban-infused salsa hit, it has to be done right, he warns. “To avoid what’s happening with reggaeton and the saturation of it, an urban/salsa collaboration has to be done by people who know and respect the genres,” George says. “It’s gotta be honest and real in order to be done right. These guys personify both cultures, they know all about the genre and its key players, it takes people like that to really make a good song. I do believe that Marc and Daddy Yankee started a movement that we’ll see play out this year.”
Reggaeton with a twist
Reggaeton artists will have to find a way to remain relevant and innovative in order to stand out in a crowded field of experimental emerging artists. Unpredictability will be key in 2021.
“Without a doubt, urban music is dominating. We feel that an urban, less tropical and more alternative, would be cool,” say producers Andres Torres and Mauricio Rengifo. “We both like punk rock and we see that many artists are incorporating electric guitars and drums. In the U.S., we see artists such as Machine Gun Kelly have this rock and urban fusion and I think it would be another wing for Latin music. We’re working with that vision right now, trying out urban music with more instruments.”
Barrera echoes Torres and Rengifo. “More urban artists will start searching for a new sound instead of leaning on the same base of sounds we’ve been using these past years. Reggaeton is here to stay, it’s not a trend anymore, but this year, we’ll start seeing how its artists will start incorporating live musicians to the production.”
More Spanglish collaborations
A highlight of 2020 was hearing The Weeknd sing in Spanish next to superstar Maluma in “Hawái.” The pairing between the Canadian and the Colombian artists wasn’t the only bilingual collaboration that was born during quarantine. In fact, last year we saw unprecedented collaborations between artists such as Banda MS and Snoop Dogg, David Bisbal and Carrie Underwood, Rosalía and Travis Scott, and the Spanish singer with The Weeknd too for a reimagined version of “Blinding Lights.”
The ever-growing trend is a reflection of an open musical landscape, as Epic Records executive vp/head of A&R Ezekiel Lewis puts it. “I think as you see more collaborations between artists from different genres and backgrounds, genres are being thrown out of the window,” Lewis previously told Billboard. “I’m seeing more than ever that music breaks down barriers, it brings people together that might not otherwise be together. And, I think that what we can learn from this is that there are not many differences between us and we in general share a common affinity for a great melody and something that makes us all feel good. We all need a soundtrack to our lives.”