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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.

shakira maluma clandestino video
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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

5

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

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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

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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)”

Mariscal/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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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

1

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.