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The Best Latin Music of 2021


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Photo Illustration by Renee Klahr/NPR ; Getty Images

Photo Illustration by Renee Klahr/NPR; Getty Images

Through Latin music, we are able to see the on-key roll of the Latinx identity — the range of music that this genre encompasses spans multiple languages, cultures, and experiences in a way that no early musical class does. And the singles and albums that came out this year seem to reflect that diversity more than ever.

Alt.Latino looks back at the best albums of 2021




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In the Latin music music genre, we rightfully have it all, and this class ‘s best releases allowed us to experience a moment of everything. From the pop stylings of Puerto Rican singer Rauw Alejandro, to the irregular and lavish neoperreo of Cuban artist La Goony Chonga and the elusive instrumentality of mexican vocalist-composer Silvana Estrada, 2021 ‘s best romance music reflects the huge and expansive reach of this musical classification.

Alt.Latino presents the best singles of 2021

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While the distinctions between these artists are more apparent than ever, the endowment and musical art of these artists and their releases work to make a beautiful and complicate amalgamation of listening experiences. This year in Latin music proves that the music genre continues to transcend all expectations. —Cat Sposato

Albums


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Alea, Alborotá

Alborotá is a great new record by the Bronx-based, emerging colombian singer-songwriter Alea. After being captivated by her at a NYC clubhouse gig in 2019, I awaited the let go of of this album produced with Mexican artist and producer Sinuhé Padilla Isunza. It ‘s a genre-bender of original songs and covers that creatively break traditional Latin music molds, fusing jazz, blues, Mexican tribe and Alea ‘s impregnable Afro-Indigenous colombian roots to express a sparkle show of art and self-affirming female might. —Marisa Arbona-Ruiz

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Cimafunk, El Alimento

The Cuban singer and composer ‘s consummate sophomore album is the soundtrack for a euphoric soul string, one that gleefully ambles between Havana and New Orleans. Cimafunk serves up funkadelic grooves, kinetically punctuated by Cuban rhythm such as guaguancó, cha-cha and mambo, in the very well company of leading guests such as Lupe Fiasco, CeeLo Green, Cuban icons Los Papines and, of course, Funkmaster General George Clinton. Cimafunk named the album “ the nutriment ” and indeed it serves up sustenance for the liveliness, distilling the gladden of being alive in its every note. —Catalina Maria Johnson

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Xenia Rubinos, Una Rosa

Xenia Rubinos ‘ third gear album does n’t waste time on storm sense-making. alternatively, it unfold emotions of passing and affection in the present with the sounds of the past. Using rhumba, bolero, and remembered Caribbean melodies filtered through gilded synthesizers and electronic output, she renders a feel in incomplete shards. It ‘s a cleaning ritual for a present heart, not a perfect one. —Stefanie Fernández

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Sech, 42

On Sech ‘s one-third studio apartment album, the reggaetonero continues to ground the genre in its proper birthplace of Panama. Titled after the baseball jersey number of both Panamian legend Mariano Rivera and Jackie Robinson, 42 is rife with bangers but sparse in features — a deliberate move that leaves room for Sech ‘s key signature sweetness to seep through on every track. Whether it ‘s in his melodious vocals on “ Feliz de Mentira ” or the rebuff, lyric despecho of “ Mi Ex, ” Sech is claiming his true place in the foreground and we ‘re all heed. —Isabella Gomez Sarmiento

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Rodrigo Amarante, Drama

Listening to any Rodrigo Amarante album I typically find myself yearning to return to a quaint, seaside village animation I ‘ve never actually experienced. Drama fulfills that fantasy, but with a twist. In this universe you have a whirlwind chat up where you travel the world and tear down the patriarchy in a single revolution around the dance floor. The album is a share moment of affair and imperativeness — featuring full-bodied string and brass arrangements and crude fluidity of language, it invites the hearer to open themselves up to feeling the wide staginess of its name. —Anamaria Sayre

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C. Tangana, El Madrileño

El Madrileño made an impression on me when it was first released at the begin of the class and my appreciation had only gotten stronger since then. spanish singer C. Tangana has crafted such a sonically rich and stylistically divers record that you ‘d be forgiven for not knowing he is a major pop headliner in his native Spain. This entire album is the heavy of a curious artist who is not afraid to confront his own identity through melodious exploration. The result is both a commercial and artistic success, and do n’t even get me started on his Tiny Desk ( home ) concert from earlier this class ! —Felix Contreras

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Baiuca, Embruxo

Pagan folktronica from Galicia, Spain ? Sign me up. That ‘s the melodious concept producer Baiuca explores in his second gear album, connecting the mystic folklore of the region with ball-shaped bass beats. Rich, choral incantations designed to evoke the region ‘s meigas ( witches ) accompanied by relentlessly percussive pandeiretas galega ( tambourines ), hand drums and the periodic bagpipe, all make sonic address to the area ‘s ancient celtic ties to Ireland. Titled Embruxo ( The Spell ), the album ‘s hex, rhythmical brew casts an bewitching spell, guaranteed to keep you dancing into the night. —Catalina Maria Johnson

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Rauw Alejandro, VICE VERSA

Rauw Alejandro is anything but a one-trick shot glass. If 2020 ‘s Afrodisíaco was an pilfer outlining his inevitable course to Latin dad stardom, VICE VERSA is an experimental artist ‘s statement. Beyond the disco-pop bomb of single “ Todo de Ti, ” Alejandro tinkers with house, drum and bass, bolero, and baile funk with angstrom much drive as he does on his signature, immaculately formulated reggaetón and R & B tracks. It ‘s a record that sets the standard for what a massively successful Latin pop album can, and should, accomplish. —Stefanie Fernández

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The Marías, CINEMA

Infusing indie toss off with Latin sounds and old school beats, CINEMA boasts the kind of layers of complex history and emotion that make it feel light-years more mature than a typical introduction album. While on the rise to true, genre-transcending stardom, The Marías pause to capture the moment with an album filled with a drama and enigmatic intrigue befits their rocket success. —Anamaria Sayre

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Spanish Model

Raquel Sofía ‘s hood edginess paired against Fuego ‘s politic rap in “ ( Yo No Quiero Ir A ) Chelsea ( ( I Do n’t Want To Go To ) Chelsea ) ” sets the pace for this spectacularly reimagined interpretation of Elvis Costello & The Attractions ‘ 1978 album This class ‘s Model — en español. This stroke of flair by Costello and manufacturer Sebastian Krys lays spanish vocals over the master ‘s implemental tracks. An eclectic all-star cast of Latinx singers – including Juanes, Jorge Drexler, Luis Fonsi, and many more – are not merely perfectly matched by Krys to each song, but pack so much punch in color and texture that Costello likens the remake to an exciting newfangled album raw. —Marisa Arbona-Ruiz

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Helado Negro, Far In

Helado Negro ‘s ambient, high layered music envelops listeners in a easy hug, but Far In besides poses more experiential questions about the current state of our universe than his past albums. What are we demanding from our planet and at what cost ? The record is a call for personal and global accountability, but with a tender hopefulness that reaches an ultimate decision — at the end of the day, we could all do, and be, a little better. —Isabella Gomez Sarmiento

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Dom La Nena, Tempo

The brazilian singer, composer, producer and cellist Dom La Nena ‘s third album Tempo is a quietly knock-down, aglow muffin, structured around her capricious art songs. Adding electronic effects to cello playing and ethereal vocals in spanish, portuguese and french, these elegant tunes veer from experimental chamber pop, dreamy french chanson to nostalgic, samba-tinged waltz. It ‘s an expressive, transportive album that reveals different emotions as one sips and savors it fourth dimension and time again. —Catalina Maria Johnson

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Alex Cuba, Mendó

I ‘m constantly amazed at how Alex Cuba defies limitations. This time about, the “ charming kernel of the soul ” that he calls “ mendó ” flows in spontaneous virtuosity on this cross-genre masterpiece. From flinch to bossa ballads and flamenco, the prolific singer-songwriter plays everything on the album but the horns – and self-engineered it with layers of stripped down sophistication and some dainty collaborations – all of which makes its Latin Grammy nomination well deserved. Oh, but what a dainty to hear him on upright bass and vocals with Cuban sensation Cimafunk on “ Hablando x Hablar. ” ¡Divino ! —Marisa Arbona-Ruiz

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Rita Payés and Elisabeth Roma, Como La Piel

The charm of Como La Piel encompasses more than barely angelic vocals and stunning instrumentalism. The synchronous paragon of the mother-daughter duet invokes a feel of serendipity, whisking us away to a universe where roses are constantly in efflorescence and the sunday is constantly shining. It ‘s the kind of musical feel that only comes from a perfect blend of musical vision and corazón, something the two are able to capture organically and apparently effortlessly across these sweet, flashy tracks. —Anamaria Sayre

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Pachyman, The Return Of…

Inspired by knight artists of the twentieth hundred, Pachyman carries the innovative bequest of engineers like King Tubby and Scientist forward in his long-awaited The Return Of … The blend of his Puerto Rican roots and current West Coast mansion breathes new life into his reggae rhythm, with an instrumental album that takes on revolutionist themes, specially on “ Destroy The Empire ” — a political shot at Puerto Rico ‘s colonial state, with music, and energy, that speaks for itself. —Isabella Gomez Sarmiento


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Myke Towers, Lyke Mike

If our list features an assortment of genre experiments, let Myke Towers ‘ Lyke Mike be a example in how to absolutely dominate a pilothouse. Towers has proved himself a mainstream Latin pop music player in late years, but Lyke Mike shines a foreground on the inimitable flow that sets Towers apart from his peers, driven by his own handwriting as a producer and a vision of loyalty to his belowground come-up. It ‘s a constant anchor across the album ‘s exercise excursions and familiar trap offerings, defining an hour of persistent authenticity. —Stefanie Fernández

Songs


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Xenia Rubinos, “Sacude”

Xenia Rubinos ‘ music sounds like it ‘s from the future. She ‘s tapped into a synth-heavy sound that feels out of this universe, and her lyrics about grief land this song in the hera and immediately. On “ Sacude ” Rubinos contrasts a intonation, harmony-drenched outspoken line against a singular clave driving the perplex. Rubinos takes us to companion worlds on this sung, but colors the feel with minor-chord harmonies and a booming bassline that makes it all feel disorienting and brand modern. —Cat Sposato

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Pabllo Vittar, “Bang Bang”

A Western-influenced individual from brazilian drag queen and pop ace Pabllo Vittar, “ Bang Bang ” features a horn line and Morricone-worthy guitar under powerhouse vocals. Pabllo has always been destined for cross-cultural greatness — she ‘s an icon who gained prominence around the universe over the past year, branching out of her native Brazil. This track is the close on Batidão Tropical, her 2021 album filled to the nines with bombast and charisma. — Reanna Cruz

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YEИDRY, “Ya”

YEИDRY is a Dominican-Italian singer whose Caribbean and european influences fall through her fingers like fine grains of backbone. Her unmarried “ Ya ” is the kind of birdcall you use to summon an inner power, a concealed vitality kept guarded merely to be conjured in moments of crisis. Over high-pitched synth stab and a firm dembow riddim, Yendry ‘s voice flutters into the sky, only to curl into a growl through gritted teeth : “ No me asusta ná / No me importa ná. ” This is an incantation of fearlessness. —Isabelia Herrera

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Álvaro Díaz, “Bbysita ᐸ/3”

Álvaro Díaz ‘s album Felicilandia is inspired by an amusement park in Puerto Rico where he used to go as a child, except for this stick out he ‘s remember of it as a seat “ where sad kids go to find happiness. ” The theme captures a blend of sounds that are a little emo but besides endlessly wellbeing and experimental. “ Bbysita ᐸ/3 ” is one exemplar : Diaz says he was channeling Blink-182 in the guitar-driven open, which transitions into a Frank Ocean-inspired R & B track that shows how he draws from a tapestry of references to build something new. —Julyssa Lopez

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Nathy Peluso, “Mafiosa”

Of all the Latin artists I threw myself behind amply this class, Nathy Peluso tops the stan tilt. Peluso has been known for her fiery bearing and unpredictability both on and off the stagecoach. These traits, essential for standing out in the growing Latin music diligence, are encapsulated in part by the way she skates through and around genre conventionality, floating between trap, R & B and traditional Latin sounds from merengue to tango. “ Mafiosa ” is her film on the salsa good, moving her music in a more traditional direction after her 2020 album Calembre focused on honing her blame and R & B art. It ‘s absolutely loca, sing-along desirable girlbossery. —Reanna Cruz

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Rauw Alejandro, “¿Cuándo Fue?”

“ ¿Cuándo Fue ? ” is the kind of pop concoction that conceals itself, at inaugural. Over starry synth pads, Rauw Alejandro ‘s auto-tuned croon oozes torment, as he asks himself what circumstances could have led him to this abyss of grief. It seems like a childlike track, the kind of bathetic melodrama that crop up music loves to amplify. But before long, the producer Tainy pulls back the curtain. A Goldie-adjacent jungle break crashes into the production, modest screams slicing through the beat. In just a flash, Alejandro and his producers reveal the promise and countless directions that Spanish-language pop have yet to glide into. — Isabelia Herrera

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Cimafunk (feat. Lupe Fiasco), “Rómpelo”

When the Afro-Cuban funk irregular Cimafunk teamed up with the manufacturer Jack Splash for El Alimento, the two of them immediately began trading music. They sent each other Afro-Cuban salsa, soul from the ’70s, and tons of hip hop—all sounds reflected on the criminal record, which ended up being a celebration of the ways in which Afro-Cuban sounds and genres like hip hop, funk and pat have always been in conversation with one another. The album includes collaborations with George Clinton, Los Papines and Lupe Fiasco, who lends his rap skills to the infectious bounce of “ Rómpelo. ” —Julyssa Lopez

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Aventura, Bad Bunny, “Volví”

On possibly the biggest individual of the class, Aventura is binding — and back with Bad Bunny ! “ Volví ” is a stunning collaboration between two titans of Latin music. It fuses the legato, bachata flow of the early aughts mastered by Aventura with Bad Bunny ‘s signature, cheerful reggaeton. amazingly, Bad Bunny ‘s furrowed and fixed articulation is arrant for this sensual bachata track. Clubs are re-opening and it seems that this sung with a close grip on the charts is the one to welcome us all back. —Cat Sposato

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La Goony Chonga (feat. Maxine Ashley), “Descontrol”

Neoperreo has been on the come-up in the underground Los Angeles picture over the past few years, and this year I found myself diving amply into the digi-influenced subculture. La Goony Chonga specifically has been one of my lead artists to watch over the by few years — she systematically pushes the acerate leaf of perreo into extremely unpredictable directions. Aided by Maxine Ashley, this single is a breakneck recall to the reggaeton that Goony grew up on while keeping it her stigmatize : clubbish, Cuban, and chola. —Reanna Cruz

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Tokischa, Haraca Kiko, El Cherry Scom, “Tukuntazo”

Dembow skeptics might dismiss the genre for being insistent and unoriginal, but Tokischa, Haraca Kiko and El Cherry Scom ‘s “ Tukuntazo ” is like an ultra-triathlon of iteration. The trio of rappers, who are besides dembow ‘s house physician crazy, spit about their love of the bedroom and all its possibilities for play, as an irresistible, echoic hook shot clacks over and over again in the background. This is a song about carnal pleasures, but do n’t be surprised if you by chance find yourself singing “ Yo tengo novio que e ‘ mujeriego ” to an empty room, in the shower, or while washing dishes – “ Tukuntazo ” is the kind of song that gets in your muscles. —Isabelia Herrera

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Omar Apollo (feat. Kali Uchis), “Bad Life”

The king and queen of Latinx indie music have collaborated on a massive, swelling murder. Toeing the argumentation between option and R & B, this ballad is delightful, with a healthy that ‘s fit for a classic Disney fairytale film. Apollo ‘s sensual lead vocals and Uchis ‘ harmonies pair perfectly with the song ‘s symphonic string section and plucking electric guitar lineage. It ‘s a song so pretty it ‘s dizzying. —Cat Sposato

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Arca, “Rakata”

Electronic pioneer Arca returned in 2021 with an onslaught of raw music, following her 2020 albums KiCk iodine and Riquiquí ; Bronze-Instances ( 1-100 ). Never afraid to break free past the confines of genre and convention, “ Rakata ” is a cut that imagines what reggaeton would possibly sound like in the class 3000. A dull dembow beat backs up a dystopian, off-tune synth, underscoring what Arca describes as “ a sung about seduction, about wanting to devour the entire world out of a desire to f***, without shame. ” It ‘s a bizarre authorization hymn, beamed to your speakers from another earth, not unlike ours. —Reanna Cruz

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Silvana Estrada, “Tristeza”

Silvana Estrada is one of this year ‘s standouts for me, and a Tiny Desk concert she did from her parents ‘ house in Veracruz actually highlighted her endowment. Both of her parents are instrument-makers, and Estrada grew up close to the process of creating music her solid life. It ‘s something you can hear through the simplicity of her song “ Tristeza, ” which is tender and concise, guided by the heartbreaking affair of her part. She besides has myriad musical influences that are at turn here — she ‘s sung son jarocho music for years, but she besides studied choir music and went to school for wind. All of that informs “ Tristeza, ” a birdcall so flimsy it sounds like it could break apart at any moment. —Julyssa Lopez

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Natalia Lafourcade, Caetano Veloso, “Soy Lo Prohibido”

A reimagining of Lafourcade ‘s previously released adaptation, this transformation turns “ Soy Lo Prohibido ” into an even more romantic song than its original. A stunning, lone trumpet line pushes the song ahead in a way that boldly gives the track more movement. Veloso is a perfect addition to the song and he truly makes it his own — his belty articulation forces Lafourcade out of her comfort partition, and hearing her dig into her chest part is a delight. —Cat Sposato

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Camila Cabello, “Don’t Go Yet”

On “ Do n’t Go so far, ” Camila leans amply into the heritage-inspired sound she ‘s been toying with over the last few years. Alt.Latino producer Anamaria Sayre put it best when she said the track “ meshes sounds and orchestration not only from her own Cuban inheritance but Latin America at large. ” It feels like a return from an artist that continues to touch the stratosphere — invoking her polish and bringing her back down to Earth. —Reanna Cruz

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QOQEQA, “Kshanti”

QOQEQA ‘s “ Kshanti ” is all sapphire percussion, the kind of midnight parade of drums and polyrhythms that you might find in the most erectile corners of the mind. The peruvian producer knows how to conjure a tenebrous climate, but it ‘s his refusal to fall into simple tropes of musical coalition that sets him apart. On “ Kshanti, ” he practices fear for the Afro-diasporic traditions of his ancestors, playing the batá drum, then chopping and flipping it aboard strings and crescendo synth pads. It ‘s a prescient sight of electronic music, one that harnesses invention and court in equal measure. —Isabelia Herrera


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Diamante Eléctrico, “Suéltame Bogotá”

In this indie rock song Diamante Eléctrico brings us an upbeat exploration of the tension between patriotism and political repression. A bounce bassline backs lead singer Juan Galeano ‘s sensual vocals as he begs Bogotá to let him go. It ‘s a birdcall that ‘s taken on a newfangled biography after the political protests in Colombia that took place this summer. The upbeat, funky implemental line represents a uniquely colombian gladden turned haunting when juxtaposed with lyrics that detail an intense frustration with the country ‘s oppressive political government. —Cat Sposato