Latin music consumption in the United States continued its outsized growth trajectory, with a 21.1% increase in total album consumption in 2021 — more than any other core music genre and behind only comedy — according to MRC Data’s newly released year-end report.
All told, total album consumption of Latin music — which comprises traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA) — stood at 48.2 million, up from 39.8 million in 2020. It’s a robust showing that once again makes Latin the fifth most-consumed music genre in the U.S. behind country (72.2 million), pop (116.5 million), rock (178.7 million) and of course the behemoth that is R&B/hip-hop, which led with 247.5 million units earned in 2021.
In terms of on-demand song streams, Latin’s showing is even more impressive, registering the highest percentage growth of any core music genre. In terms of on-demand song streams of video and audio combined, Latin grew by 16.7% to 77.37 billion streams. That puts it just behind country (84.26 billion), followed by pop (151.2 billion), rock (184.28 billion) and R&B/hip-hop (340.35 billion, up 2.8%).
While there’s obviously a vast numerical disparity between Latin and R&B/hip-hop numbers, the Latin genre’s growth is nonetheless remarkable. Given that the broad “Latin music” moniker isn’t a genre so much as a nomenclature representing music performed predominantly in Spanish, this is great news for Spanish-language music on the whole. At a time when fluidity between genres and languages has become more commonplace, the 2021 numbers signal a healthy future for Latin, which was led last year by its biggest ambassador, Bad Bunny.
The Puerto Rican star ended 2021 with three out of the four most-consumed Latin albums of the year, including leader El Ultimo Tour del Mundo (released in November 2020), which earned 854,000 units and made history when it debuted at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first, and still only, all-Spanish No. 1 album on the tally. El Ultimo was followed at No. 2 by Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG (released in February 2020) with 755,000 units, while 2018’s X100pre landed at No. 4 with 390,000 units, just behind Karol G’s KG0516 (419,000 units).
Bad Bunny’s dominance in the Latin genre extended to Top Songs (which combines songs sales and SES on-demand streams) as well as the Top Radio Songs year-end lists, with “Dákiti” alongside Jhay Cortez leading both tallies. The rapper’s “Yonaguni” also made a strong showing, finishing the year at No. 3 on both Top Songs and the most-streamed songs of the year, while his “La Noche de Anoche” with Rosalia finished at No. 5 on the streaming chart.
Following years of scant showings for female acts in the top 10, much less the top 5, of the year-end Latin tallies, last year proved to be a strong one for women (if there was ever a time to put to rest the myth that Latin female artists just don’t have the same traction as men, it would be now). As mentioned, reggaetón star Karol G’s KG0516 ended the year as the third most-consumed Latin album of 2021, a huge accomplishment that marks the highest placement ever for a female act on the year-end Latin charts. Rounding out the top 5 albums tally was Selena’s Ones, a perennial favorite that highlights the fact that music driven by urban beats isn’t the only popular variety of Latin music.
Another female artist, Kali Uchis, snagged the No. 2 spot on all three Latin song charts — Top Songs, Top Radio Songs and Top Streamed Songs — with her bilingual track “Telepatía.” That’s a particularly impressive showing for a song that’s not a collaboration.
Overall, urban beats dominated the song charts. Farruko’s banger — and current Hot Latin Songs No. 1 — “Pepas” ended 2021 at No. 4 on the Top Songs chart (one can only wonder what it could have accomplished had it been released earlier than August). It was closely followed by another reggaetón track, Rauw Alejandro’s “Todo De Ti,” which finished at No. 5 on the Top Songs tally. “Pepas” also finished in fourth place on the Top Radio Songs and most-streamed songs tallies, while “Todo De Ti” finished in fifth place on Top Radio Songs and in sixth place on the list of most-streamed songs.
Cementing the notion that genre-blending is here to stay, Maluma’s “Hawái” also continued to deliver, coming in at No. 3 on Top Radio Songs and at No. 7 among the most-streamed songs of the year, despite the fact that it was released in mid-2020. Other songs ranking in the top 10 on the most-streamed list were “Bandido” by Myke Towers and Juhn at No. 8; “AM” by Nío García (who is shaping up to be a major hitmaker) alongside J Balvin and Bad Bunny at No. 9; and “Fiel” by Los Legendarios, Wisin and Jhay Cortez (again) at No. 10.
Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield.