Best Latin Singles of 2018: 'Te Bote,' J Balvin, Bad Bunny, Anitta - Rolling Stone
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20 Best Latin Singles of 2018

The year in party anthems, protest ballads and feel-good hymns from Spain to Latin America

Rosalia, Shakira, Bad Bunny

Andre Csillag/Shutterstock; Jorge Nunez/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock; Gustavo Caballero/South Beach Photo/Shutterstock

Although 2018 was a banner year for Latin albums, there were also plenty of stand-out singles that refused to be ignored. As reggaeton royalty like J Balvin and Bad Bunny cleaned up on the Billboard Hot 100 with multiple genre-bending hits, first-time chart-toppers Nio García, Darrell and Casper Mágico struck gold with their dark horse contender, “Te Boté.” And though it was originally released in 2017, it was the gift that kept on giving, finally generating a Number One-worthy remix in 2018 with Ozuna, Nicky Jam and Co. Meanwhile Brazilian superstar Anitta sashayed her way from Portuguese to Spanish-language radio with “Medicina,” Spanish visionary Rosalía took the Anglophone world by storm with her brooding flamenco-pop fusions, and girls like Karol G and Becky G just wanna have fun — strictly on their own terms.


Becky G and Natti Natasha, “Sin Pijama”

Mexican-American pop chameleon Becky G takes off the gloves — and nearly everything else — in “Sin Pijama,” her saucy duet with Natti Natasha. Guest-starring bachata monarch Prince Royce, the video shows the two women indulging viewers in a heteroflexible slumber party fantasy, assuring one another in the chorus that nobody’s sleeping a wink that night. Jokes aside, in what Anglos might call “No Pajamas” lies a beguilingly catchy assertion of female desire and sexual expression. “In this industry they try to pit [women] against each other,” Becky G told Genius earlier this year. “People were like, ‘[Natti’s] your number one competition, why would you do that?’ But I respect talented women who know what they want.S.E.

gepe, joane video

Gepe, “Joane”

The prolific Chilean artist Gepe schooled fans in longstanding Latin American folk traditions in his LP, Folclor Imaginario; yet it wouldn’t be a genuine Gepe track if it didn’t offer some fresh revelation. Flushed with sunny hues, Gepe’s original song “Joane” reverently illustrates the life and tragic death of Joane Florvil, a Haitian immigrant woman who died under dubious circumstances following her incarceration in Chile. “It’s time for me to stop being normal,” he meditates, “[And] thinking that someone who is a stranger/Is a threat to my neighborhood.” Knowing one’s history is crucial, no matter the birthplace; to an artist like Gepe, diligently connecting the dots between past and present lays the foundation for a more imaginative future. S.E.

Cuco, "Amor de Siempre (Mariachi Version)"

Cuco, “Amor de Siempre (Mariachi Version)”

Off his 2016 mixtape, Wannabewithu, the new and improved version of “Amor de Siempre” thrusts the bedroom pop artiste out of his usual computerized bathysphere sound and into the buoyant domain of live mariachi. Although Cuco typically goes it alone in his records, he’s no stranger to the traditional Mexican art form: the 20-year-old once did a stint playing trumpet in a youth mariachi band. Capping it off with a brisk samba breakdown, together Cuco and Las Lindas reclaim the vintage, exoticist kitsch of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass and bring it on back home to sunny Los Angeles. S.E.

Monsieur Periné - Bailar Contigo

Alejandra Quintero/Courtesy of the Artist


Monsieur Periné, “Bailar Contigo”

An ode to love at first dance, Monsieur Periné’s “Bailar Contigo” is one of the year’s most charming singles. But what makes it great is its coy expression of infatuation as an equal mix of optimism, exhilaration, and desperation. Behind the bossa nova guitar line, Caribbean rhythms and atmospheric synths is a song about two people begging for the other to whisk them away and dance together for eternity. That the song’s soft instrumentation doesn’t deviate into bland adult contemporary music is a testament to Catalina Garcia’s vocals, which mix flirtation with a subtle yearning that only the hopelessly romantic can conjure up. A.C.

Ozuna feat. Romeo Santos, "Ibiza"

Ozuna feat. Romeo Santos, “Ibiza”

No one had more hits than Ozuna this year: He placed a mind-boggling 43 different singles on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs chart, including “Ibiza,” a handsome duet with Romeo Santos that finds a bridge between Santos’ beloved bachata and the reggaeton that is Ozuna’s bread-and-butter. Usually in situations like this, the youngster is boisterous and the veteran is unflappable, but that dynamic is upended here: Santos’ voice is tense and volatile, full of melismatic quavers and dramatic confessions of love, while Ozuna remains even-keeled. Of those 43 hits, none was prettier than this. E.L.

mon laferte, el beso video

Mon Laferte, “El Beso”

Mon Laferte’s latest album Norma is a globetrotting rendezvous that ventures into the rise and fall of romantic love, and this tropical-flavored kiss-off captures its bittersweet breaking point. Rather than displaying a sour disposition with a snarky “Let’s just kiss and say goodbye,” the coquettish singer brings an exhilarating perspective to calling it quits. In a similar spirit as the timeless ballad “Bésame Mucho,” Laferte gives her soon-to-be-ex — played by one of Mexico’s biggest heartthrobs, Diego Luna — valuable lessons in how to plot your exit make-out session. Because after all: last impressions matter just as much as the first. I.R.

shakira maluma clandestino video

Shakira and Maluma, “Clandestino”

Fans of the Colombian duo’s previous bangers — “Chantaje,” “Trap,” and “La Bicicleta” remix — are spoiled with a fourth helping in their buoyant reggaeton single, “Clandestino.” Shakira’s breathy soprano melds hotly with Maluma’s smirking harmonies, as they sing of an illicit romance; it’s near-vexing how the significantly younger of the two stars can sound so chill while sing-flirting with a goddess like La Shak. Are they destined to be the Latin pop world’s Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers? Guess we’ll have to wait for the release of Shakira’s 2019 album, El Dora2, to find out. S.E.

Bad Bunny performs at the Latin Grammy Awards, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas2018 Latin Grammy Awards - Show, Las Vegas, USA - 15 Nov 2018

After racking up a string of major global hits, Bad Bunny released his debut album, 'X100PRE.'

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock


Bad Bunny, “Estamos Bien”

In praise of those for whom zero fucks are given, Bad Bunny’s psychedelic gospel trap — which translates to “We Good” — is one of Bunny’s most driving and evocative vocal performances yet. The song took on a more political tenor after he performed a haunting rendition on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, pleading the United States government to be accountable to the victims of Hurricane Maria. “Joda que se joda,” he bellows — “fuck it” — and it resonates across the ether like a prayer. S.E.

Karol G, “Mi Cama”

Karol G, “Mi Cama”

John Parra/Getty Images


Karol G, “Mi Cama”

All the single ladies: Colombian reggaeton princess Karol G gets one over on a philandering ex in her campy pop missive, “Mi Cama.” Here the Latin Grammy-winning singer lets her inner rude girl out — “My bed [creaks],” she brags in Spanish, “And your memory leaves” — offering an empowered woman’s point-of-view amid a genre full of womanizers. As for the unsung star of the song? That would be its slinky, bedspring squeak-turned-beat, which needs no translation. S.E.

J Balvin and Nicky Jam, “X”

J Balvin and Nicky Jam, “X”

Courtesy of Rogers and Cowan


J Balvin and Nicky Jam, “X”

Do you believe in love at first sight? Nicky Jam and J Balvin do — and they have a super sensuous, bordering-on-salacious way of saying it. The Latin pop titans combine their lovers rock with dancehall swagger, marked by a head-spinning, synth-horn doodle. Offering “kisses on your neck to quench the thirst,” Jam’s silver-tongued come-ons complement Balvin’s effortless cool. S.E.

Rosalía, “Pienso En Tu Mirá (Cap. 3: Celos)”

Rosalía, “Pienso En Tu Mirá (Cap. 3: Celos)”



Rosalía, “Pienso En Tu Mirá”

A long-time scholar of flamenco, Spanish singer-producer Rosalía broke away from folk tradition to interpolate facets of American pop and hip-hop into her praxis. As a result her sophomore album, El Mal Querer, resonated like a shock wave across both Anglo- and Hispanophone worlds. The supple tremble of her voice adopts a dusky tenor in “Pienso En Tu Mirá” — a striking electro-R&B fusion that poses a chilling, 360-degree look at a romance envenomed by jealousy. S.E.

Nio García, Casper Mágico, Darell, Bad Bunny, Ozuna and Nicky Jam, “Te Boté (Remix)”

Nio García, Casper Mágico, Darell, Bad Bunny, Ozuna and Nicky Jam, “Te Boté (Remix)”

John Parra/Getty Images


Nio García, Casper Mágico and Co., “Te Boté (Remix)”

Puerto Rican MCs Nio García, Casper Mágico and Darell dominated the island airwaves with their no-frills kiss-off track, “Te Boté” (or, “I Dumped You”). And their seven-minute reggaeton jaunt upgraded to an international smash success thanks to this remix, featuring Latin pop heavyweight champs Ozuna, Bad Bunny and Nicky Jam. The urbana playboys take turns distilling wounded comebacks to their exes (and boasts of their next encounters). Most notable line: “Baby, life is a cycle,” sings Bunny; “If it doesn’t work, I recycle.” S.E.

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