Multiple forms of regional Mexican music and Latin dance music continue to dominate the landscape of U.S. Latin music, as evidenced by Billboard’s midyear recaps of the top Latin songwriters and publishers.
This midyear recap of top Latin songwriters was based on performance on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart for the period beginning with the issue dated Dec. 1, 2012, through the June 29 issue. The chart tracks airplay, streaming and digital sales.
Even then, regional Mexican and dance — with dance ranging from romantic bachata and joyful salsa to frenetic reggaeton and edgy collaborations-ruled the results.
Regional Mexican music enjoys dominance by sheer numbers; there are more stations in that format than any other in Spanish-language radio, and the Hispanic audience share for regional Mexican is 19.2%, followed by Spanish contemporary with 10.7%, according to Arbitron numbers from its 2013 Hispanic Radio Today report.
That trend is reflected in this recap. Half of the top 10 songwriters fall within the regional Mexican realm while four write some form of Latin dance (although two are co-writers on the same tracks). Only one songwriter belongs to what could be termed traditional pop, underscoring the direction Latin pop stations have taken toward more danceable fare.
Regional Mexican and uptempo dance fare or urban bachata also dominate the top songs from the top Latin publishers. In fact, only one publishing house, WB Music, had a preponderance of more traditional pop songs by the likes of Alejandro Sanz and Kany Garcia among its most-performed fare.
The dance/uptempo trend shows no signs of diminishing, particularly with new albums by Romeo Santos and Prince Royce around the corner, plus Marc Anthony’s recently released album.
Not all is fun and games, however. Regardless of genre, and despite the fact that there are many purely feel-good tracks in the chart recap, romance and heartache are still the dominant themes of most of these songs, marking — as they have for decades — the heartbeat of Latin music.
Here’s a look at the top 10 Latin songwriters on Billboard’s midyear chart recap.
1. Luciano Luna Diaz
Fresh from winning a SESAC Latina Music Award in June, Sinaloa, Mexico-born Diaz again pops up with four titles on the midyear recap, including “La Mejor de Todas,” performed by Banda El Recodo de Cruz Lizarraga. This isn’t the first successful collaboration between Diaz — who in 2011 sent “Dime Que Me Quieres” (co-written with Miguel Angel Romero) — and the fabled band. In fact, Diaz regularly delivers hits for regional Mexican acts, including Julion Alvarez’s “Ni lo Intentes.” Originally a singer for several little-known bands, Diaz got his break in 2007 after El Recodo recorded his song “Tus Palabras.” In a 2011 interview, Diaz said, “I [write] like I talk. There’s humor but never vulgarity. I like to maintain romance in my lyrics.” Diaz, who sold newspapers as a boy and worked as a shoemaker as an adult, says his secret lies in staying humble: “When you stay close to your roots, your people, you don’t lose perspective.”
2. Anthony Romeo Santos
Romeo Santos, as he’s known as a performer, took a career risk by leaving popular bachata group Aventura. But the ASCAP songwriter remained on the charts since he released his 2011 solo album, Formula: Vol. 1. His four charting titles from that album include “Que Se Mueran” (Let Them Die), which lambasts those critical of a relationship between a younger man and an older woman, and “Soberbio,” a straight-ahead bachata. “It’s an album that has a little bit of everything,” Santos said in 2011. “I’ve been in this group over 13 years. These guys gave me the confidence to produce, write, make business decisions, to pretty much come up with so many ideas and concepts, and I got used to doing it so much that now it’s a continuation.”
3. Gerardo Ortiz
Another star who writes and performs his own fare — but in the regional Mexican realm — Ortiz (BMI) continues to surprise. Although he gained notoriety as an artist who wrote and performed hardcore corridos, Ortiz has made a conscientious effort to diversify, and lately he has ventured into more romantic fare. His three titles contributing to his appearance on the midyear recap include “Damaso,” a corrido about a free-spending drug dealer’s son (or at least he appears to be a drug dealer with suitcases full of cash in the video) and the surprisingly touching banda ballad “Solo Vine a Despedirme.”
4. Espinoza Paz
Paz (real name: Isidro Chavez Espinoza) is one of those rare artists whose career as a recording star is rivaled by his career as a songwriter for other acts. Paz (BMI) appears on the midyear top 10 songwriters recap thanks to three songs. All are examples of Paz’s clever writing style, melodically full of unexpected modulations and using lyrically catchy concepts as a starting point for quirky narratives. Such is the case with “Amor Express,” performed by Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizarraga, and the more recent “El Ruido de Tus Zapatos” (The Sound of Your Shoes), a romantic banda song performed by Arrolladora Banda el Limon that reached No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart.
5. Alma Rosario
Rosario (SESAC), the only woman in the midyear top 10, qualifies on the strength of a single song. But what a song it is. “Y Ahora Resulta” (And Now It Turns Out), recorded by young banda act Voz de Mando, is deliciously spiteful: “I bought you designer bags and outfits/Gave you tits, gave you an ass/And now it turns out you think you’re the most beautiful monument/You were a bad investment and I’m sorry.” The parting words — “Before me you were nothing” — are probably something every jilted lover thinks but dares not speak. The lyrics contributed to a hit that spent seven weeks atop Regional Mexican Airplay.
6. Carlos Vives
Colombian star Vives (BMI) returned to the limelight after an eight-year absence with his pop/vallenato hybrid and a roster of celebratory songs. They include “Volvi a Nacer,” which celebrates his relationship with wife Claudia, and “Como le Gusta a Tu Cuerpo,” a duet with Brazil’s Michel Teló, who has long been a fan of vallento and Vives. They both hit No. 1 on the Latin Airplay Chart. “My children are a driving force. [My wife] is a driving force,” Vives says. “When you have a partner who feels pride, admiration and even compassion, that’s important. I don’t have words to express how important Claudia has been to my work, to my return, to my results. I can only write pretty songs.”
7. Andres Castro
Guitarist/producer Castro (ASCAP) has collaborated with some of Latin music’s biggest names — from Thalía to Cristian Castro to Kany Garcia — in different capacities, and he’s known for an earthy sound and dazzling guitar chops. He has also long been affiliated with Vives and has worked on all of his albums for more than a decade. In qualifying for the midyear top 10 songwriters recap, he co-wrote many of the songs on Vives’ comeback album with him, including “Volvi a Nacer” and “Como le Gusta a Tu Cuerpo.” Vives contacted Castro early in the process, almost from the moment he began penning songs for the album, and describes him as “essential” in his musical process.
8. Prince Royce
Like Romeo Santos, the radio appeal of Prince Royce (BMI)shows no signs of slowing down. Royce (real name: Geoffrey R. Rojas) achieves a place on the midyear songwriters recap with the lilting, romantic “Te Me Vas,” from sophomore set Phase II. The track spent eight weeks atop Latin Pop Airplay. But he also charted with “Te Perdiste Mi Amor,” a song included on Thalía’s ”Habitame Siempre,” for which she invited Royce to collaborate. As Royce prepares for his new release due this fall, one can again expect to see his songs soar on the Latin charts.
9. Mario Alberto Zapata Montalvo
Zapata (BMI) is the accordionist and lead voice for norteño group Pesado. The group’s single Mi Promesa” reached No. 5 on Hot Latin Songs and No. 1 on Regional Mexican Airplay. “Mi Primer Amor” (My First Love) reached No. 8 on the Hot Latin Songs chart and No. 8 on the regional Mexican airplay charts. The track was the single from a Pesado greatest hits compilation released last Spring.
10. Ricky Muñoz
Intocable lead singer Ricky Muñoz (SESAC) ranks among Latin’s top 10 songwriters at midyear with his group’s single “Te Amo (Para Siempre)” (I Love You Forever), which reached No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart and has remained in the top 10 for five months. The track is from “Peligro de Extincion,” Intocable’s first album with Fonovisa/Universal Music Latin Entertainment after a short stint as an indie act. “Te Amo” was equally successful in Mexico and also launched Muñoz’s association as a writer with SESAC Latina.