The Latin urban genre has pulled the reigns of the Latin music market in the last couple of years. Truly, 2018 was dominated by the urban beast, which set the table for a nifty menu of newfangled sounds and collaborations, and with four of the top five acts on the year-end Top Latin Artists chart representative of the genre.
The year 2019 has been no different, though attractive and unusual collaborations have arrived within the Latin pop domain: Pedro Capó and Farruko’s remix of “Calma” –which topped the Latin Airplay chart for one week (April 13) — got a new voice as 15-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys joined in on the new bilingual tune, while Kany Garcia joined forces with long-time friend Tommy Torres on the poetic acoustic ballad “Quédate,” the first single from her upcoming album Contra El Viento, and which made it to the top 40 on the Latin Pop Songs airplay chart. Meanwhile, Sofia Reyes channeled her female power as she convened British Rita Ora and Brazilian Anitta for the bilingual “R.I.P.”, a top 20 debut on the Hot Latin Songs chart.
As part of Billboard’s 2019 Latin Music Week, Latin pop acts, Puerto Ricans Kany García and Pedro Capó, Mexican Sofía Reyes, Spanish Beatriz Luengo, and Colombian Fonseca, sat together in Las Vegas to give their take on the future of Pop music in an urban world and what drives them to create pop music.
Moderated by Suzette Fernandez, associate editor for Billboard Latin and Bryant Pino, director of Latin music programming, Sirius XM Radio, the Latin pop panel launched with the basic and most important question: What is the evolution of pop music, its future, and how it compares with the '90s boom — a time when pop-rock songs snarled with strong storytelling narratives, when we experienced amalgams of flamenco pop, taunting folk-pop tunes with messages of endurance, and even pop songs which bounced with dance beats — ?
Here are what the five pop artists shared.
On the recent wave of collaborations:
Pedro Capó: The melodic side of pop with [an] urban sound is becoming a new thing, and we can see it through collaborations, through fusions. It’s refreshing, so there is a bright future for pop music.
Sofia Reyes: I hope that it’s not just a wave, that these type of collaborations keep happening, like “Calma” with Alicia Keys, which is incredible. I feel like it’s really inspiring, for music in general, for pop music, for Latin music.
Fonseca: Fusions, especially in Latin music, have always been present. What is happening with urban music worldwide is definitely huge. I like pop-urban fusions because it is a good connection of the two worlds, a good mix that is neither urban nor pop; it’s its own new sound. I agree with what Sofia said about it not being not a [trendy] subject, it is a theme that is going to stay and will continue to open doors. Latin music today is one of the biggest flags Latinos have to describe what we are.
On whether the Latin pop song is losing its composition and poetic spark by becoming more rhythmic:
Kany García: For many people, it may feel like we have somehow lost what we call traditional music, popular music. But at the same time, it is our culture, and like everything else, it has also gained a boost by so many other things. One of the nice things about pop is its capacity for elasticity. Letting yourself flirt with urban music, with vallenato, with regional Mexican music is the beauty of pop. Pop has the ability to dress in many ways while still being pop at the end of the road.
Beatriz Luengo: Songs today have a very explicit language. I miss the poetry that is involved in the double meaning, in images when defining certain things. Salsa, for instance, and its sexiness, was never explicit and gave way to the double meaning. One could be at a party with friends and children knowing that the kids wouldn’t understand the final language of the message. I miss the street poetry, lyrics that talk about sexuality but from a poetic point of view, with a more hidden message.
On Latinos becoming global and the importance of singing in their own language:
Pedro Capó: Thanks to our contributions, the Latin music has no language barrier. It is more than proven that songs in Spanish are monopolizing the world and that the intention goes beyond the actual word. We see it with songs that are heard by countries that perhaps do not understand half of what is sung. It's not a priority to sing in English, but it's nice to have the option to explore that side, too. I hope the music continues to grow in a direction that makes it more universal.
On mirroring the collaborations of Urban Latin acts:
Sofia Reyes: Music is always going to evolve. What’s happening in the urban world is fascinating; I have a lot of urban influence. As artists it’s healthy to explore, to change, to create and innovate. It’s great to be able to get inspiration from so many amazing sounds and bring that inspiration into a song. What do I want to try, where do I want to go, what do I want to explore for my next song? Then there are situations in which certain acts are pushed by the industry into paths they don’t belong to and lose their essence.
Kany Garcia: Let me give a visual example: seems the current fashion trend is high-top white sneakers. I tried them, I’m short and they looked terrible. The shoes are in high demand and I would love for them to look good on me, but they don’t. If somebody would tell me, “You have to wear them because they are in high demand and artists are wearing them,” it would be terrible of me to accept [that], as perhaps I like other white shoes that actually fit well. So, in essence, we need to allow ourselves to flirt with other sounds, to change and evolve. What’s wrong is to do change by force. We have to question ourselves how we want to evolve as artists, because we want to make music or because we just want to sell, to chart.
Pedro Capó: Even though there is a structural definition that falls into pop, there has always been a lot of noise in other Latin regions. There are always variants whether by electronica, hip hop, reggae or current sounds. Music is impacted by the new generations, films, fashion, the street, our conversations, our sexuality. In my case, I like to be open to the challenge of transformation; it’s a nice game to play with your art and integrity and adapt to those new spaces without losing your essence. “Calma” was composed with a pop melody and a Caribbean vibe (reggae roots) but taking advantage of the contributions of urban music. It’s a song with certain simplicity, with intention and with lyrics of well-being. This is what brought in Farruko for the first remix and Alicia Keys for the second: a song that not only represents Puerto Rico but our Latin joy.
Fonseca: Pop music has a peculiar characteristic, it’s like a chameleon, always adapting. There is space for folk music in pop, the traditional music, there is space for all fusions and this is why we are privileged of making pop music, because it gives us liberty to walk through different paths.
On their favorite Latin pop song or album of all time:
Pedro Capó: Ricky Martin’s “Vuelve,” written by Franco de Vita and the genius of Draco Rosa and K.C. Porter.
Fonseca: “Si Tu No Vuelves” and “Nada Particular” by Miguel Bose, which are two of the songs that have influenced me the most.
Sofia Reyes: “Morena Mía” by Miguel [Bose], which I have been singing since I was a little girl, and “Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos” by Shakira.
Kany García: Alejandro de Sanz’ album MTV Unplugged.
Beatriz Luengo: Bebe’s album Pafuera Telarañas, which touches woman topics, sexuality; an album that was super important for me from a subjective standpoint.