Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias among others led the Latin Pop Explosion of 1999, a period that changed the way the music industry viewed Latin America as a market. Though not the first musical wave, it is the most significant — opening doors for Latin-American artists like Shakira and genres like reggaetón to the U.S. market.
Since Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” featuring Daddy Yankee in early 2017, there has been a nonstop Latin “wave” convo. And with artists like Justin Bieber and Alicia Keys hopping on remixes, singing in the Spanish-language, it’s hard to think otherwise. Not only are we now hearing features sung fully in Spanish, but we are also fusing American pop and Latin beats.
The representation is exciting, but it’s not the first time it’s happened, and it definitely isn’t new. Take the year 1999 for example, “The Latin Pop Explosion,” led and opened doors to generations of Latin artists to come. But the presence was there even before that year, in the years between 1955 and 1999, 25 Latin artists had No. 1 records peak on the Billboard Hot 100 and throughout those years 117 artists made the list. One thing is for certain, the Latin pop “explosion of 99” served as an interlude to the early 2000’s bubblegum pop stage and laid the groundwork for the reggaetón crossover in later years. Artists like Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, and J. Lo created a space in pop music that embraced Latinidad, and everyone from N’sync to Christina Aguilera created music to cross borders. These moments made music executives understand how big the Latin market really was. Now we have award shows like the Latin Grammys and Latin Billboard.
Ricky Martin “Livin La Vida Loca”
Ricky Martin stunning the 1999 American audience at the 41st Grammys was just a sample of his role in the super-trend. One month after the Puerto Rican native’s epic performance of “Vuelve,” he dropped “Livin‘ La Vida Loca,” which quickly rose to the charts and became his first No. 1 single. It held the top spot on Billboards Hot 100 for five weeks straight. This moment sparked a craving for Latin artists or Latin-oriented songs.
Carlos Santana, “Maria, Maria”
Carlos Santana’s 17th studio album Supernatural was one of the most diverse projects of its time. The 1999 album included songs like “Smooth” featuring Rob Thomas, and connected with both white middle America and Latin-Americans. The Mexican-American didn’t fail to add hip-hop and R&B elements either, linking up with Wyclef and The Product G&B, they created “Maria Maria” (the song would later be sampled in 2017 by DJ Khalid for “Wild Thoughts.”)
Enrique Iglesias, “Bailamos”
The track that means “we dance” was included in the Wild Wild West soundtrack and was a lead single on his fourth studio album, Enriques. His debut in the English-language market, “Bailamos” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard Hot 100. As the privileged son of superstar Julio Iglesias, he had a lot to prove in his early years. “Bailamos” successfully pushed his career to the English market.
Backstreet Boys, “Nunca Te Haré Llorar”
The Spanish version to “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” was recorded while the bandmates were in Switzerland. The American vocal group consisting of Nick Carter, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell recorded the original track in English as the second single to their self-titled debut.
Marc Anthony “I Need to Know”
Continuing the Latin trend for the millennium, Nuyorican Marc Anthony’s “I Need to Know” won the inaugural awards at the first Latin Grammys for Song of the Year, as well as Record of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
Christina Aguilera “Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tu)”
Following the success of Christina Aguilera, the pop star with Ecuadorian roots recorded Mi Reflejo, which included five Spanish-language versions of hit songs like 1999’s “Genie in the Bottle” (Genio Atrapado) and “Come on Over” (Ven Conmigo.)
N’sync, “Yo Te Voy Amar”
Serving as the Spanish version of “This I Promise You,” the American pop group N’sync recorded the track at the same time as the original, which was the boy band’s fifth Top 10 single. They performed the song at the Latin Grammys in 2001 .
Shakira, “Whenever, Wherever”
Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira was booming in the Latin-American market before her English-language debut, Laundry Service. For the crossover, she got rid of the red hair and her once socially conscious writings focused instead on romance and sex appeal. “Whenever, Wherever” was released as the lead single in 2001 and quickly became a hit in the U.S.