Styles & Forms | Noughties Latin Pop

Buoyed by its unprecedented international exposure in the 1990s, Latin pop greeted the new century with the first-ever Latin Grammy awards, which took place in the United States in September 2000.

Conceived as an internationally minded award, clearly distinct from – although related to – the Grammys, one of the objectives of the Latin Grammys was to ‘promote the vitality of the many regional forms of Latin music’. What emerged in much of the pop showcased from different countries was music that mixed folk elements from specific regions with more universal elements, as well as more sophisticated orchestrations and arrangements.

Bringing traditional music to the forefront remains a clear trend in Latin pop of this decade, with the Spaniard Alejandro Sanz, whose pop is based on flamenco harmonies and improvizations, being one of the clear leaders in the field. With his insightful songs, Sanz became a star in Spain in the 1990s before achieving prominence in the Latin market with ‘Corazón Partío’, a mix of flamenco and pop that included virtuoso flamenco guitar solos and gospel-like backing vocals. Thanks to two award-winning albums, El Alma Al Aire and MTV Unplugged, and to collaborations with artists as varied as the Irish pop-folk band The Corrs and flamenco guitarist Vicente Amigo, Sanz expanded his reach – notably to the United States and Europe – in the early 2000s.

But even as an increasingly broad-minded audience has embraced rootsy Latin pop, the crossover trend from Spanish to English with a more international sound shows no sign of abating. Indeed, artists are now passing back and forth between languages with considerable ease.

Christina Aguilera And R&B

The precursor for the decade was Christina Aguilera, a US teen act with a Latin surname, courtesy of an Ecuadorian father. After scoring a huge hit with her English-language debut in the late 1990s, Aguilera recorded a Spanish-language album, Mi Reflejo, in 2000, featuring translations from her English disc, original tracks and, in a move aimed to please traditional Latin audiences, a cover of a bolero standard, ‘Contigo En la Distancia’.

Aside from this one track, there was nothing conspicuously Latin about Aguilera’s sound. Instead, through songs such as ‘Ven Conmigo’, she introduced Latin pop laced with both an R&B vocal sensibility and hip hop beats. The entire Aguilera package appealed to a younger Latin fan and in the ensuing years, R&B-tinged vocalizing has become a standard of Latin pop, particularly for a younger generation of acts, even as the more traditional renditions continued to hold court.

Aguilera’s success in both languages also signalled that Latin audiences were open to a kind of linguistic passing back and forth. Enrique Iglesias furthered his English-language career with a generic pop sound (Escape) that he carried over to his return to Latin pop in 2002. Marc Anthony also recorded in Spanish in 2001, but put forth a full salsa album, Libre, whose strong sales suggest that it was also purchased by his...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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