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50 Greatest Latin Pop Songs

Rolling Stone chronicles Latin America’s most influential pop songs, from the 1950s to now

50 greatest latin pop songs

With Latin pop getting heightened visibility in the American mainstream this year, it’s time we call for a history lesson. This summer “Latino Gang” Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin nabbed the Number One spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with their Latin trap hit, “I Like It.” But in sampling the Tony Pabon and Manny Rodriguez-penned single, “I Like It Like That,” this win marks the third time the boogaloo song has cycled through the United States pop chart: first by Pete Rodríguez, whose original recording hit Number 25 in 1967; then again by Tito Puente, Sheila E. and the Blackout All-Stars supergroup in 1996.

By reading Anglophone music media, one might think Latin pop’s ubiquity in the United States is a sudden one – but it’s hardly as recent a phenomenon as new listeners believe. From the Cuban mambo craze of the 1950s to the global virality of “Despacito,” Latin American music has been a fixture of popular music around the world so long as it’s been recorded. Just ask Romeo Santos and the Bronx-based bachata group Aventura, whose 2002 single “Obsesión” scored Number Ones across France, Italy and Germany before the United States caught on.

Encompassing everything from salsa to rock en español, Latin pop is a constantly evolving genre colored by the traditions, migrations and innovations of Latinx people in spite of all odds. Some of the most famous Latin pop songs have survived military dictatorships, war, famine and natural disasters – and they still hold up in spite of passing trends. Rolling Stone contributors selected 50 of the most influential songs in Latin pop history, ranked in chronological order.

50 greatest latin pop songs
14

Luis Miguel, “La Incondicional” (1988)

Tu, intensamente tu,” (“You, intensely, you,”) murmurs Luis Miguel over a yearnful, slow-burning backdrop that could easily inspire the biggest tearjerking session any listener can handle. A former child protégé gone big-haired dance-pop heartthrob, Miguel pivoted to lovesick crooner in the late Eighties. He resurrected the Latin American balada in “La Incondicional,” and passionately channeled the spirit of Seventies-era crooners like José José and Camilo Sesto. In its accompanying video, the golden-voiced gallant departs from his darling love as he’s drafted to war. If this won’t make any love skeptic grovel at the feet of Aphrodite, then who knows what will? I.R.

50 greatest latin pop songs
15

Timbiriche, “Tu y Yo Somos Uno Mismo” (1988)

Never mind the tepid Kidz Bop of Menudo – Mexico’s Timbiriche was the baddest group of child stars in the Eighties. Mentored by Spanish new wave singer Miguel Bosé, the gang of six was a mixed-gender cornucopia of musical prodigies that brought forth pop royals like Paulina Rubio, Thalía and many more. In their biggest hit, “Tu y Yo Somos Uno Mismo” (“You and I Are One”), pretty boy Diego Schoening takes center stage, beckoning a ghosted lover back to his side. A portrait of the band at the top of their game – at least before the departure of most its original members – their 1988 double album Timbiriche VIII + IX introduced a gutsy pop-rock group that was not afraid of growing up. S.E.

50 greatest latin pop songs
16

Gloria Trevi, “Dr. Psiquiatra” (1989)

Shock-pop bombshell Gloria Trevi went full Rebel Girl after her controversial televised debut of “Dr. Psiquiatra” on Mexican variety show Siempre en Domingo. The song that made Ms. Treviño a superstar follows a girl who is taken to the asylum and put under the care of an older man who ogles at her legs. This risqué song, as well as her headbanging single “Pelo Suelto,” heralded the arrival of a different kind of Mexican pop star, à la Madonna wild, outspoken, but utterly charming – during a time when female singers were expected to be wholesome like Lucerito, or elegant like Daniela Romo. But more troubling than her songs was her relationship to then-manager Sergio Andrade, who was discovered to have led a teenage sex abuse cult disguised as a talent school for girls. I.R.