The next time you turn on the radio (or use Spotify), you’re increasingly likely to hear something in Spanish. And that’s okay. Much like music in English is popular abroad, regardless of whether people can fully understand every word in the song, music in Spanish is widely listened to and enjoyed by English speakers. And why not? Music is universal, even if the language isn’t, and a good beat is a good beat. Besides, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of English speakers have trouble understanding some songs in English.
A lot of this change in taste is likely reflecting the changing demographics of the country. The increased exposure young artists get to traditionally “Latino” forms of music influences their music as they create and become influences themselves. This holds true for both Spanish speaking and English speaking artists.
Or perhaps it doesn’t. While English speaking artists incorporate elements and change the nature of their genres, Spanish speaking artists immediately get shunted off into “Latino” genres and “Latino” charts. This can limit their exposure, the kind of support they get from labels, and their entire livelihood. In many ways, it forms a glass ceiling for many Spanish speaking aspiring artists who are looking to make it in what are traditionally English speaking markets.
This is an issue because many of the biggest music markets, with the strongest infrastructure to support artists, are traditionally English speaking. It also tends to glaze over the distinctions between Spanish speaking artists’ music. Why shouldn’t a Spanish speaking hip-hop artist just be a “hip-hop artist” rather than a “Latino artist”?
Luckily, it does seem that the increasing popularity of Spanish speaking artists, and English speaking artists’ embracing what is traditionally Latino music, is causing a shift at the very top of the music industry. For an artist as big as Luis Fonsi, the labels and distinctions don’t really matter.
Hopefully, this trickles down. That’s all we can really rely on because of the music industry’s insistence that this is how their industry works, with a very small upper crust leading trends and money-making with the hundreds of thousands of smaller artists following in their wake. But if the two markets do fuse, it will give Spanish speaking artists the same opportunity as their English speaking counterparts to make it big (but that’s a topic for another day).