Latin wave: Spanish-language streaming music ruled the year

December 27, 2017 GMT

It was the year of “Despacito.” Suave, suavecito.

Luis Fonsi’s record-shattering hit wasn’t just inescapable. It became part of the public consciousness. The song about dancing with and undressing your partner - slowly, as in “despacito” - topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks and was Spotify’s most-streamed song globally for more than three months. The accompanying video, which plays like a love letter to Puerto Rico, is the only clip ever to reach 4 billion YouTube views.

The reason? It’s ridiculously catchy. But “Despacito” also illustrated a seamless fusion of cultures and genres. Fonsi, previously known as a Latin pop balladeer, got a big assist from reggaeton superstar Daddy Yankee, who gave the song some much-needed grit; and Justin Bieber, who opened it up to top 40 playlists.

“Despacito” is up for three Grammys next month, including record and song of the year and best pop duo/group performance. But it’s not the only reason Spanish-language music was rey - that’s king - throughout 2017.

Latin music streaming as a whole was up 66 percent in 2017, according to Nielsen Music. Daily views of Latin artists have grown more than 75 percent over the past two years on YouTube. And six of the year’s top 10 videos on YouTube feature Latin artists.

Daddy Yankee topped Spotify’s global list for several months. And several English-language acts recorded in Spanish this year, signaling a cultural shift that’s much bigger than a novelty song or a one-off collaboration.

Cardi B rejiggered breakout hit “Bodak Yellow” as a Latin trap remix. J Balvin’s “Mi Gente,” already a massive hit that had reached 1 billion YouTube views and topped worldwide charts, was reworked with Beyoncé singing in Spanish and English. Boy band CNCO teamed up with British girl group Little Mix for a new version of “Reggaeton Lento” that logged more than 130 million YouTube views and 118 million Spotify streams.

Bachata singer Romeo Santos, who regularly sells out Toyota Center, has collaborated with Drake, Usher and Lil Wayne. And girl group Fifth Harmony has recorded in Spanish with reggaeton heartthrob Maluma and the late Juan Gabriel.

This is just the beginning. Several young acts - Ozuna, Karol G, Luis Coronel, Bad Bunny - seem poised for a huge 2018 after spending the past year cultivating fan bases and working on smart collaborations.

And, believe it or not, a new Fonsi song featuring Demi Lovato, ”Échame la Culpa,” is scaling the charts and inciting some serious hip swiveling. Time to brush up on those Spanish lessons.