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Hispanic voices shine in weekly playlist

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September is Hispanic Heritage Month; and in celebration of everything that is Hispanic, here are some songs that are rich in Latin voices. 

Nick’s picks:

  1. João Gilberto, Stan Getz, Antônio Carlos Jobim – “Doralice”
  2. Kali Uchis – “Moral Conscience”
  3. Rubén Blades, Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra – “Ban Ban Quere” 

“Doralice” is the second track on João Gilberto and Stan Getz’s hit bossa-nova album “Getz/Gilberto.” Following up the album’s most popular song, “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Doralice” is an underrated bop. Getz’s saxophone playing is full of depth and subtone, embodying his nickname as “The Sound.”  João Gilberto’s singing and guitar playing embody the classic and cool bossa-nova sound we all know and love. The group paired up musically with Sebastião Neto on bass and Milton Banana on drums for a calming and smooth track full of head-bobbing tranquility. 

Starting with a booming drum groove, Kali Uchis’ “Moral Conscience” hits with a bang. The roaring verses juxtapose a calm grooving chorus. The standout feature of this song is Uchis’ strong voice, tempering the track with a steady prominent guiding point. As she sings about a scorned lover, repeating the phrase “You’re gonna feel it,” Uchis infuses the song with an energy that’s strong and confident. If you listen to the song, I know “you’re gonna feel it” too. 

Rubén Blades’ collaboration with the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra combines the band’s virtuosity with Blades’ ability to perform and create music full of groove. The backing vocals and a trumpet solo by JLCO bandleader Wynton Marsalis are the standout moments on this track. The Blades and JLCO collaboration is an interpretation of a song by Calixto Vera Gomez, made popular by Ray Barretto and Tito Puente. Blades, an 11-time Grammy winner, is most known for his politically radical songwriting but still finds a way to stand out on a more traditional song choice. 

Caleb’s picks: 

  1. Shakira – “Hips Don’t Lie”
  2. Benjamin Bratt – “Remember Me” 
  3. Ricky Martin – “Adiós” 

“Hips Don’t Lie,” was first released in 2006 as part of Shakira’s seventh studio album, Oral Fixation, Vol. 2. This song features powerful Latin pop beats that really invigorate one’s spirit. The song is also very influenced by Reggaeton music. “Oh, boy, I can see your body moving / Half animal, half man,” the lyrics themselves feel very dynamic and sensual and perfect for a night dancing and having a good time. 

For my next song I chose something dear to my heart. “Remember Me,” is a song from the 2017 Pixar film “Coco.” My family and I really enjoyed this film and felt it deeply resonated with our Mexican culture and identity. This song specifically was touching, and I remember listening with my Mamá and crying together at the beautiful memories we shared together. The lyrics were very heartfelt, and I enjoyed them a lot:  “For even if I’m far away I hold you in my heart / I sing a secret song to you each night we are apart.” This part really reminds me of my family and those precious moments we shared. This song embodies some of the most important things I hold dear from my culture. That is to say that even when we’re not physically together or a loved one is no longer with us, we hold the memories of our time together in our hearts always. 

“Adiós” is a song by Ricky Martin released in 2015 for his album “A Quien Quiera Escuchar.” It was released in English, Spanish, and French and is one of Martin’s most eclectic songs. The song features a fast upbeat tempo that is perfect for dancing and energizing the listener. It also features influences from electronic dance music from around the world. I typically prefer to listen to it in Spanish because I find Latin dance music to be the most enjoyable. Although I’ll be honest, I usually just listen to it for the sick beats as I don’t usually understand all the lyrics. 

Ibrahim’s picks:

  1.  Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee – “Despacito” 
  2. Ozuna – “Baila Baila Baila” 
  3. Rosalía and J Balvin – “Con Altura”

“Despacito” is a Latin-pop song by Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. It was released on January 13, 2017, and quickly became a worldwide hit, becoming one of the most commercially successful Spanish-language songs of all time. The song features catchy melodies, a reggaeton beat and Spanish lyrics that alternate between singing and rapping. The song received several awards and nominations, including nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 2018 Grammy Awards. It has been praised for its catchy melody and for bringing Latin music to audiences around the world. “Despacito” remains a hugely popular song worldwide and has opened the door for other Latin music artists to find mainstream success. 

“Baila Baila Baila” has been commercially successful worldwide, reaching the top 10 charts in several countries, including the United States, Spain, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. The song has also become a popular track for dancing and clubbing and has been remixed by other artists. The song’s success has further established Ozuna as a leading artist in the Latin music scene. The lyrics of the song highlight the singer’s desire to have a good time and enjoy the company of someone special. The chorus, which consists of the repeated phrase “Baila baila baila,” translates to “Dance, dance, dance” in English, emphasizing the song’s upbeat and party-centric vibe. The success of “Baila Baila Baila” is part of a larger trend of Spanish-language music gaining popularity in mainstream music markets. Ozuna has helped to bring Latin music to a wider audience and solidify its position as one of the most dynamic and exciting genres in the contemporary music landscape.

“Con Altura” is a reggaeton and Latin pop song by Spanish singer Rosalía and Colombian singer J Balvin. The title “Con Altura” translates to “with height” in English and refers to the confidence and swagger exuded by the two artists. The lyrics of the song are predominantly sung in Spanish, with some English phrases mixed in, and describe a night out with friends, flirting and celebrating. The video has garnered over 2.1 billion views on YouTube and has been praised for its fun and energetic visuals. “Con Altura” has been well-received by both fans and critics alike. The song has been certified platinum in multiple countries, including the United States, Spain, Italy and Mexico. Rosalía and J Balvin’s collaboration on “Con Altura” is an example of the growing trend of Latin music artists collaborating and combining different styles and cultures to create exciting new sounds in contemporary music.

Sarah’s picks:

  1. Bad Bunny, El Alfa – “La Romana”
  2. KAROL G, Nicki Minaj – “Tusa”
  3. Shakira – “Whenever, Wherever” 

“La Romana” is the second collaboration between artists Bad Bunny and El Alfa. The song starts off with feel-good musical beats that continue to be heard throughout the rest of the song, albeit faint at times. High intensity electronic beats soon take over, accompanied by Bunny’s rich vocals. El Alfa’s entrance comes at about the 2:15 mark, when sirens start blaring. The sirens, which replicate a fire alarm, always scratch something in my brain, and Alfa singing “Fuego, fuego (Fire, fire)” is easily the best part of the song. The two men compliment each other and their voices make for a sassy track that’s easy to belt the lyrics to. 

Unlike the previous song, “Tusa” is more chill and leans heavily into the genre that feels more soulful. The queen of rap herself, Nicki Minaj, collaborates with KAROL G, adding in fresh vocals that bounce off of G’s honeyed ones. The song tells a definite story of a girl who is trying to get over a heartbreak and heals her broken heart with parties, dancing and alcohol. The guy did her wrong, but she’s unable to fully get over him. Blasting “Tusa” in the car with the windows rolled down is the ideal place to appreciate the beat and musical tone. The song was also nominated for two Latin Grammy Awards in 2020. 

Adding in a throwback song, Shakira’s “Whenever, Wherever” released in 2001 and was a favorite of mine growing up. Shakira sings about how she has found the love of her life and how the two are meant to be with each other whenever and wherever in the world they are. She describes what she would do for her lover such as climbing the Andes mountains, which is the longest mountain range in the world and are quite dangerous due to frigid weather conditions. Because of the repetitiveness, it’s a simple song to sing along to and move your body like the way Shakira does in the music video. 

Ethan’s picks:

  1. Peso Pluma, Grupo Frontera – “TULUM”
  2. Peso Pluma, Gabito Ballesteros, Junior H – “LADY GAGA”
  3. Fuerza Regida – “Sabor Fuerza”

Peso Pluma’s third album “GÉNESIS” was released June 30 and flew through the rankings on Billboard’s Top Album Charts. Less than one month later on July 22, “GÉNESIS” rose to No. 1 on Top Latin & Regional Mexican Albums charts. The success of Pluma’s junior album is largely due to two of the most-streamed songs on the album, “TULUM” and “LADY GAGA.” The combination of accordions, bajo quintos and drums create a rhythmic melody for “TULUM” that makes every listener want to bust out their favorite dance moves. In the song, Peso Pluma and Grupo Frontera pour their hearts out for a girl that is in a relationship she’s unappreciated in. The artists’ story pairs perfectly with the hip-shaking, cumbia melody that “TULUM” provides.

“LADY GAGA” immediately embraces you with the sounds of the bajo sexto, a 12-string Mexican guitar. The combination of the bajo sexto and Peso Pluma’s signature horn sectmion in the background creates the perfect song for a party that needs life. Gabito Ballesteros and Junior H complement Peso Pluma’s deep singing voice flawlessly in “LADY GAGA,” as they all come together for one of the catchiest hooks of all Mexican regional music released in 2023. After the line “Solo disfrutan, solo disfrutan,” I often catch myself singing the refrain at the top of my lungs. 

“Sabor Fresa” is easily one of Fuerza Regida’s best songs of 2023. Like “LADY GAGA,” the hook is extremely catchy and easy to get up and dance to. Translating to “strawberry flavor,”the song is as sweet as the title denotes. Fuerza Regida’s suggestive lyrics pair perfectly with the mix of the strings and trumpet melody that produces “Sabor Fresa.” For me, the song evokes positive emotions that also serve as a reminder to enjoy the moment. A definite go-to song for a loud car ride with friends or a function that needs more people to bailar juntos.

Bridgette’s picks

  1. Elvis Crespo – “Suavemente”
  2. Juan Gabriel – “Amor Eterno”
  3. Jeanette – “El Muchacho de los Ojos Tristes”

Did you expect us to let the Spotify playlist for Hispanic Heritage Month be free of “Suavamente” by Elvis Crespo? If you’ve ever been to a wedding with Spanish speakers, a birthday party or even hung out at a big event with middle-aged family, this song has a 75% chance of being played. As a bonus: If you’ve ever tried learning Spanish, this is the right-of-passage song to have memorized. When this bop comes on, you know it’s time to practice (or show off) those dancing skills.

Juan Gabriel, a famous gay Mexican artist, famously sung this tragically sad song after the death of his mother. Gabriel’s mother was extremely close to him, and the lyrics make that clear: “Como quisiera / Que tú vivieras / Que tus ojitos jamás se hubieran” (How I wish / that you were alive / that your eyes never closed). If you’ve ever experienced loss that is nothing like you’ve ever felt before, you may want to skip this song and go back to one of our two Shakira songs on the playlist – it’ll be much less heartbreak.

“El Muchacho de los Ojos Tristes” by Jeanette, a Spanish singer popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s, recently regained popularity after the song went viral on TikTok in 2022. The song sounds like modern Lo-Fi mixed with that slow ‘80s dancing tune famous for the time. Jeanette’s singing voice is strikingly mild and even, making this the song to lament “the boy with sad eyes” in your life.

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