The Power of Spanglish Music
A few weeks ago Billie Eilish and Rosalía released a song called, “Lo Vas a Olvidar” for an episode of the popular HBO drama series Euphoria. Billie and Rosalía’s soulful singing styles were complementary and paired wonderfully. By featuring this collaboration of a mesmerising song between these young, talented and beloved female artists at the cross-section of Euphoria’s latest installation, they asserted the presence of Spanglish music in today’s pop culture landscape.
When I first heard the song, it made me think of how powerful music can be in creating connections. Music-listening to me, is a vehicle for connectivity. It is a way we, humans, can achieve a connection with one another, with our memories, feelings and cultures different than our own. The rise of Spanglish music is creating a space of great social-cultural importance in both English and Spanish speaking populations.
My personal experience of Spanglish music is a feeling of connection to my culture and heritage. There are a mounting number of Latinxs that grew up in the U.S. who did not learn to speak Spanish at home. Despite both of my parents’ fluency in the language, I learned to speak Spanish in school. The Americanization of the immigrant population can make it hard to feel fully connected to one’s cultural roots and yet, Spanglish music’s multicultural nature helps reinforce that connection.
What would a dialogue of the recent rise in Spanglish music be without highlighting the 2017 mega-hit, “Despacito”? What began as a Spanish track by Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee became a global sensation. The song reached even greater heights when Justin Bieber hopped on the track with English verses in the remix. I have heard this song an innumerable times as it was an absolute anthem for the summer of 2017. Although one is keen to note that Justin Bieber’s pop style is anything but Reggaeton and he is obviously not a native Spanish speaker, his collaboration with these artists in the remix introduced Reggaeton to an audience that perhaps had never listened to it before.
The following year, another Spanglish powerhouse rose in popularity: “I Like It Like That” by Cardi B featuring Bad Bunny. This song's cross-cultural importance is evident in its use of Spanish and English speaking artists and lyrics, but most importantly, its allusion to older generations of Latin music. The original song it was sampled from is salsa singer Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 hit “I Like It Like That (A Mi Me Gusta Así).” Like Cardi B, Pete Rodriguez grew up in the Bronx. Rodriguez was born to Puerto Rican parents or also known as “Nuyoricans.” This song’s recent revival sheds light on the American Latinx population Rodriguez grew up in and one that is the ever-growing today.
Cardi B’s “I Like It Like That” also points to how Latin music’s presence in American culture has come such a long way. From Tito Puente’s mambos to Carlos Santana in the 70s—Latin music has been a force in American popular music and is currently reaching all-time heights. Spanglish music is playing a major role in how Latin music is inserted into mainstream culture. In fact, 2020 saw a high number of bilingual music productions with great success featuring collaborations such as Maluma and The Weeknd’s “Hawái,” Rosalía and Travis Scott’s “TKN,” and The Jonas Brothers and Karol G’s “X”–to name a few.
Just as the population of America is diverse and the foods and clothing styles reflect that diversity, so do the sounds of music on the radio and in Billboard’s charts. With Hispanics now being the largest minority and making up over a fifth of our population, the Spanglish sounds of Reggaeton and Salsa in our musical landscape are a natural evolution of music and pop culture mirroring our populace. I personally find this broadening of our musical outlook to be enriching and to be a reminder that America is truly a multicultural fusion. Music connects us and reminds us that regardless of our backgrounds or our different views, we all can get lifted up by a rhythm and find ourselves singing the same chorus.