Our editors’ picks for the best Latin albums of the year run the gamut from electronic dance fare to old-school reggaeton. We looked for albums where artists pushed their own boundaries to come up with unexpected, even risky albums. Here are our picks, including Don Omar’s old-school reggaeton-filled The Last Don II and Bomba Estéreo’s edgy Amanecer.
10. Yandel, Dangerous
Like Wisin, Yandel has managed to reinvent himself as a soloist and Dangerous is a stellar example of his new chapter. Named after the single with Alex Sensation and Shaggy, it exemplifies the fusion sound Yandel has developed, going beyond the reggaeton realm and into collabos with the likes of hip-hop stars Lil Jon and French Montana.
9. Don Omar, The Last Don II
For The Last Don II, Don Omar went old school, “100% reggaeton,” in his own words. It’s danceable, often decidedly un-PC, but also peppered with truly beautiful melodic fare and fun collaborations with Wisin & Yandel (together), Daddy Yankee and Tego Calderon, among others.
8. Carla Morrison, Amor Supremo
Mexican alternative chanteuse Carla Morrison pours her heart out once again on this sparely produced electro-acoustic set of dreamy confessional songs. No sophomore slump for Morrison, who won two Grammys for her debut Dejenme Llorar.
7. Ricky Martin, A Quien Quiera Escuchar
One of a handful of household names in Latin music, Ricky Martin had the bestselling week in the genre when his latest studio album debuted in February — a collection of heart-wrenching power ballads mingling with rhythmic hip-shaking hits. The set’s star, “Isla Bella,” evokes a deep passion for Puerto Rico, painting a vivid landscape that swells into an explosive musical tribute.
6. Ariel Camacho, El Karma
It’s easy to imagine Ariel Camacho becoming one of Regional Mexican’s biggest crossover stars. His strong storytelling voice and the exceptional acoustic playing on El Karma’s chill country-style ballads have a transcendent appeal that recalls Freddy Fender or Los Lobos. Sadly, Camacho was 22 years old when he died in a car crash after a concert in Mexico in early 2015. He leaves us with this lasting album, and a fine band, Los Plebes del Rancho.
5. Juan Gabriel, Los Duo
Juanes, Luis Fonsi, Marco Antonio Solís and even Fifth Harmony gladly joined Juan Gabriel on 16 of his deliciously dramatic hits. This set of revamps of the kitschy classics that have defined Latin pop romance is simply irresistible, leaving listeners no choice but to sing along. Los Duo earned the 65-year-old Gabriel his first No. 1 on Top Latin Albums in 18 years.
4. Gloria Trevi, El Amor
The Mexican diva is also a killer songwriter. But in El Amor, Trevi dug deep into the Latin music songbook to find the most representative love songs, as seen from the point of view of men and women. In fact, she committed so much to the concept that she performs dressed as both genders. El Amor, produced by Humberto Gattica, is a vocal tour de force where Trevi covers music by the likes of Roberto Carlos and Manuel Alejandro. This is an album of sheer beauty, and anyone who still didn’t respect Trevi as an interpreter will emerge changed.
3. Maná, Cama Incendiada
Maná’s last studio album was 2011’s chiaroscuro Drama y Luz (Drama and Light), full of gothic tales, angst and, well, drama. Cama Incendiada (Burning Bed) is another animal altogether; pop-rock powered by sarcasm and a touch of whimsy in the lyrics, but particularly in the music. For the first time in their 30-year career, Maná teamed up with an outside producer, George Noriega, and it’s clear he pushed the band’s limits. Beginning with the title track, Cama often stems from their trademark Caribbean/reggae beats but also travels on different journeys, veering into heavily arranged territory with big strings behind power guitars, or even dance beats under Fher Olvera’s raspy and — this time — even sardonic vocals.
2. Natalia LaFourcade, Hasta la Raiz
Natalia Lafourcade’s intimate yet forceful and entreating Hasta La Raíz didn’t win the Latin Grammy for album of the year, but it should have. Lafourcade manages to be retro and futuristic at the same time, blending acoustic elements (guitars, strings, percussion) with loops and organ. The sound is so unexpected, that coupled with Lafourcade’s sweet vocals, it’s arresting. And at a time when women have been making nary a dent on Billboard’s Latin charts, these may be the kinds of songs they need; when Lafourcade says “You’re so used to love that you don’t see it; you don’t see that what I offer you is unconditional,” we believe her, and we’ve all been there. Hasta la Raíz has not been a commercial hit in the U.S.; there is no radio here for Lafourcade’s brand of alt music, although in Mexico, the album has sold well. But still, it reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Latin Pop Albums chart.
1. Bomba Estéreo, Amanecer
After a decade burning up festival stages, Bomba Estéreo broke through to a wider audience with Amanecer, and the band’s name recognition really blew up when Will Smith collaborated on a remix of the single “Fiesta.” The Colombian duo’s 2015 album is a seductive listen that marches to a carnival-friendly pop beat, encompassing tropical rhythms, EDM, and hip-hop. Singer Li Saumet’s primal screams have softened, but the band remains true to the Afro-Colombian roots of its fearless fusions. Amanecer reached No. 17 on Top Latin Albums and the “Fiesta” remix featuring Will Smith peaked at No. 11 on Hot Latin Songs.