Remember your fifteenth birthday? Your family made sure you wouldn’t. They dressed you up like a damn snowflake, paraded you around, and made you take wild tacky photos in a ridiculously poofy dress (bet that photo is still hanging in the sala). Cumpliendo quince años meant everything to your folks in that moment. It meant you finally reached a new stage of young adulthood, and even though you still had a curfew and had to keep cleaning every Saturday morning, you were a little more grown. Such a symbolic milestone requires an equally symbolic celebration: a quinceañera.
Picture the local banquet hall, the court of acne-scarred teens, the candles, the awkward waltzing. Trays upon trays of meat and too many side dishes to list. The tears of all your tías dramaticas, the transition from slipper to heel (or if you were a bird like me, an Air Max 97 sneaker to a pump).
But it’s clear that the music we play at family functions produces the most nostalgia. A good playlist is the key to a fire quince, especially when you consider the fact that you have to satisfy the music tastes of multiple drunken generations of your family. Stream our ultimate playlist of quince bangers via Spotify, and check out some of our favorites below. –Amelia Capaz
"Suavemente" - Elvis Crespo
As Latinxs, it is our duty to remind everyone how much we hate “Suavemente” when we hear it in non-Latinx spaces. But when it’s played at our family parties (usually after chugging a bottle of romo or tequila or two), our reaction to this song is quite different. Obviously, the song is beyond played out, but it remains one of the most iconic and memorable merengue bops of the century. I’ve seen many a Corona-wielding tío get low to Elvis Crespo between numerous shouts of “damelo,” and I’m sure you have, too. Admit it: you pretend you’re more sick of this song than you actually are. –Amelia Capaz
"Mi Niña Bonita" - Vicente Fernandez
“Mi Niña Bonita” has been responsible for an endless stream of fatherly tears since it was recorded. Naturally, a song as meaningful as this one would make its father-daughter-dance debut at your fifteenth birthday, and later in life at your wedding (if you’re into that sort of thing). This is the song that plays while your dad whisks you across the dance floor, right before he makes his speech about how proud he is of you and how much money he spent on this party, even though he was like an hour late and got drunk as soon as he touched down (or maybe that’s just my dad?). Regardless, it’s an emotional number for most papis to endure. –Amelia Capaz
"El Tucanazo" – Los Tucanes de Tijuana
If you had a dad like mine, he was the quinceañera dance floor superstar, owning la pista like a boss as a banda banger like the rowdy “El Tucanazo” blared from party speakers. Donning a cowboy hat and boots and a proper cinto piteado was a must, and all of your tías and mom took turns playfully dancing with him as he showed off his skills in front of the entire function. Of course, as a reluctant teenager, it induced a thousand eye rolls, but today it’s one of those nostalgic memories that returns, endearingly so, with accordion-driven regional jams. Today, when norteñas like this one by the formidable Los Tucanes play, they still propel us to get shuffling, maybe even quebradita-style. –Isabela Raygoza
"Tiempo de Vals" - Chayanne
A languorous but coy vals was kind of a big deal in the 90s if you were a pimply preteen rehearsing a choreographed slow dance for your older cousin’s quinceañera — all while innocently caking with your crush/chambelán, of course. Chayanne’s “Tiempo de Vals” relives the awkward moments that once built your PG-13 wet dreams and visions of saliva-swapping (Admit it, everyone once had a little Tina Belcher in them). Plus, the Puerto Rican singer’s sweetly boyish croon exacerbated that mood…embarrassingly if it showed. After all, he was the boy next door, the quintessential baby-faced Latin pop poster boy. (That persona isn’t too removed nowadays, strangely; the man doesn’t seem to age much.) Even though it’s nearly three decades old, this song sowed the seeds for enough thirst for a lifetime. –Isabela Raygoza
"Tiburon" - Proyecto Uno
As soon as this song as dropped at the quince, non-Latinx guests writhed with disappointment after realizing they weren’t about to hear Cheryl Lynn’s “Got To Be Real.” But us? We already knew what the fuck was up. This is the kind of song that makes party-goers de-heel and dance barefoot around the function. There’s definitely something endearing about a meren-rap that bosses you around (“No pare! Sigue, sigue!”), and it’s a classic song that isn’t leaving our family party rotation anytime soon. –Amelia Capaz