Genre in Focus: Reggaetón

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If you have listened to the radio in the last ten years, you are likely to know at least one reggaetón song. Gone is the era of the ‘Macarena’ and ‘The Ketchup Song’, Spanish music is catchy, current, and sexy.

Reggaetón originated in Panama in the 1970s, and quickly spread and developed in Puerto Rico. In the 1990s the genre hit the US market, and spawned a new generation of artists. Daddy Yankee first coined the name ‘reggaetón’ in 1994 to describe the new genre, which combines reggae and hip-hop beats with Spanish vocals.

On my year abroad in Barcelona, my Spanish housemates educated me in all things reggaetón, the most popular type of music in the clubs and bars in the city. The infectious rhythms, upbeat tempo and Spanish sound makes you want to dance, wherever you are in the world. Daddy Yankee’s ‘Gasolina’ is arguably one of the biggest songs that introduced a wider population to the reggaetón genre in 2004. After its release, it was on the UK charts for 9 weeks, peaking at number 5. Artists like Pitbull, Shakira, and Enrique Iglesias also began to use a blend of English and Spanish in their songs, widening their appeal to both English and Latin markets.

Streaming services like Spotify have helped to boost the popularity of reggaetón. With their Global Chart playlist, they can introduce users to songs they never would have heard of. The ‘¡Viva Latino!’ Spotify playlist has over 10 million followers, and the ‘Baila Reggaeton’ playlist has just shy of 10, both of which are in some of the top played playlists curated by Spotify. If a song does well on these charts, they are then likely to enter the Global Chart playlist, where they are far more likely to be discovered and listened to.

The wider influence of this genre can be felt even in songs that you wouldn’t consider to be Latin. Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, and Drake’s ‘One Dance’ are both heavily influenced by reggaetón. There has been an increase in popularity of reggaetón music worldwide, especially during the summer months. Spanglish songs have taken over the charts in recent years, with artists hoping to cash in on the trend with examples like ‘Despacito’ featuring Justin Bieber, ‘Reggaetón Lento’ with Little Mix, ‘Havana’ with Camilla Cabello, and Cardi B’s ‘I Like It’, featuring J Balvin and Bad Bunny.

Whilst the lyrics of some of these songs when translated to English are a bit…creepy, (“I want to breathe in your neck slowly”, “Let me trespass your danger zones” (thanks Luis Fonso, I can’t listen to ‘Despacito’ the same way again), there is no denying that this genre is making waves in the music industry.

My top songs include:

Daddy Yankee: ‘Dura’, ‘Con Calma’, ‘Gasolina’

J Balvin: ‘Mi Gente’

Ana Guerra: ‘Ni La Hora’

Enrique Iglesias: ‘Bailando’, ‘EL BAÑO’

Ozuna: ‘Vaina Loca’

Becky G: ‘Sin Pijama’

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A fourth year Film and English student who unsurprisingly loves writing about films and books.

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