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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Inside the growing hit genre from Latin America

Reggaeton is more than just Bad Bunny

When most Americans think of reggaeton, they often think of superstar Bad Bunny. The Puerto Rican hit artist has over 67.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify. But what actually is reggaeton?

Reggaeton Origins

The origins of reggaeton trace back to the Panama Canal. Immigrants from the Caribbean moved to Panama for work and brought reggae and dancehall to Panama with them. It was during this move that Panamanian artists such as “Nando Boom” and “El General” fused Caribbean rhythm with Spanish lyrics to create “reggae en español.” 

Nando Boom also used the infamous “boom-ch-boom-ch” rhythm which is now at the heart of reggaeton songs known as dembow

After growth in Panama, the sound migrated to Puerto Rico, where it became part of the underground scene. There, the sound fused with American hip-hop. Reggaeton soon became stigmatized by politicians and police as raids were conducted to confiscate cassettes.

Reggaeton’s first appearance stateside came with “Oye Mi Canto” and, of course, Daddy Yankee’s hit song “Gasolina.” But reggaeton did not make it mainstream at the time in the United States. That is until Luis Fonsi’s hit song “Despacito” arrived, which now has over 8.3 billion views on YouTube.

A genre boom

Since “Despacito,” the reggaeton genre has seen an incredible amount of growth in a variety of areas. 

In a male-dominated genre that has been criticized for hypersexualizing women, there has been an incredible expansion in recognizable female artists since the legendary Ivy Queen entered the game.

This year, Karol G became the first Latina to win Billboard Woman of the Year. Other female artists such as Rosalia, Becky G, Natti Natasha, Anitta and others have made significant gains in breaking through a male-dominated industry.

Reggaeton has been increasingly popular in clubs and outside the Latino community within the U.S. In 2022, this genre grossed over $1.1 billion, marking a 24 percent growth from the previous year.

Along with Puerto Rico, Colombia has also become a new home for reggaeton superstars with the likes of Maluma, Feid, Karol G, J Balvin and many others, including the rising talents of Sebastian Yatra and Manuel Turizo, who worked together to drop the hit song “Vagabundo.” 

Take a Listen

Even if you don’t speak Spanish, reggaeton is a must-listen. 

Why? As J Balvin put it, “even if they aren’t understanding what I’m saying, they’re feeling the good vibes.”

Truly, that is what reggaeton is about. Good vibes with an upbeat rhythm and artists who focus on themes of love, heartbreak and struggles in life. Reggaeton has truly entered the U.S. music scene. 

Whether it’s Feid’s “Si Te La Encuentras Por Ahí” or Manuel Turizo’s “El Merengue,” this genre will have any listener dancing in a heartbeat. 

This article was edited by Marina Zaczkiewicz, Zoe Bell, Sara Winick and Abigail Turner. Copy editing by Luna Jinks, Sydney Kornmeyer and Leta Lattin.

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