10 Best Latin Albums of 2018 - Rolling Stone
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10 Best Latin Albums of 2018

Rolling Stone ranks the year’s finest Ibero-American releases, including Ozuna, Balún, Gepe and more

year end latin

If 2017 was the year Spanish-language music broke into the mainstream, 2018 is when it flaunted its staying power. At the epicenter of the Latin popquake has arguably been Puerto Rico, whose denizens emerged swinging from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria with formidable shows of strength and genius — take Ozuna’s Aura, a multitude of hits by Bad Bunny, or viral reggaeton track “Te Boté” and its ceaseless stream of remixes. Meanwhile from across the Atlantic, Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía became ubiquitous well beyond Europe with her sophomore LP El Mal Querer, and melded her incisive pop mind with J Balvin’s kaleidoscopic one on his own breakthough, Vibras. Yet while Hot 100 power players like Balvin go global, indie stalwarts like Gepe keep their magic close to home. Here are Rolling Stone‘s top 10 Latin albums of 2018.

Rosalia El Mal Querer

Rosalía, ‘El Mal Querer’

On her sophomore album, the Spanish singer Rosalía dares to use the ancient form of flamenco as a springboard for hyper-modern experimentation. As she sings staunch, trembling lines about jealousy, rapture and romantic torment, there are riptides of festival-ready electronic bass in “Pienso En Tu Mirá” and decaying lines of pitch-shifted vocals in “De Aquí No Sales” — along with a vrooming motor, screeching car-brakes and shrieking sirens. A few songs later, on “Di Mi Nombre,” a beat of claps and kicks evokes Lumidee’s hit “Never Leave You (Uh Oh),” while “Bagdad” riffs beautifully on Justin Timberlake’s classic “Cry Me a River.” The premise is bold — maybe flamenco wasn’t as far from contemporary radio R&B as we thought — and the fusion is flawless. E.L.

J Balvin Vibras

J Balvin, ‘Vibras’

If 2015’s Energía helped shift the course of reggaeton, J Balvin’s globetrotting opus, Vibras, paved the road to mainstream acclaim with sunshine. Part science experiment, part internationalist platform, the Colombian singer’s breakthrough embodies the post-“Despacito” urban zeitgeist taking Latin pop by storm. Blessed with a chameleonic chill, Balvin hardly paints himself into a corner: His flirtations with dancehall, Afrobeat and electro-pop are blended seamlessly in the hands of young producer Sky Rompiendo and reggaeton stalwart Marco “Tainy” Masís. No matter the genre, nor how high he ascends, Balvin’s mission statement remains the same: As he noted on his first Top Ten single, “Mi Gente,” “My music doesn’t discriminate against anyone.” S.E.

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