At this point, Spanish-language covers of English-language songs – or Latinos covering Anglo artists– are pretty par for the course. Without even looking it up, we can guarantee that YouTube has MULTIPLE bachata, merengue, and Spanish-language takes on Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home.” And let’s not forget what happened when O.T. Genasis’ “CoCo” blew up. More recently, there was the Mexrrissey project – the Camilo Lara-spearheaded tribute to Manchester’s sweetheart Morrissey by Mexican artists – which just played its last gig in Los Angeles this week.
As much as we love a lot of these covers, we couldn’t help but think about how dope it would be if the tables were turned and gringos started covering Latinx songs/artists. It’s not like it’s never happened – Solange’s Selena cover comes to mind – but it’s certainly a rare occurrence.
We gathered the staff to brainstorm what Latin songs would be great for gringo musicians to cover. From Hector Lavoe’s “El cantante” to Fuete Billete’s “Hasta el Piso,” here’s what we came up with.
Any other ideas? Post them in the comments thread.
Kanye West covering Calle 13's "Adentro"
It would be more drums-heavy, a la Black Skinhead, and at the same time have that raw power that both Rene and Kanye put into their projects. Plus it would be just as innovative as ever.
– Nadia Reiman
Tyler, the Creator Covering Fuete Billete's "Hasta el Piso"
The sound of “Hasta el Piso” already feels like something Tyler the Creator would do, so why not invite him to throw a couple of verses in the song? Maybe even produce some tracks for Fuete? I imagine Tyler and Pepper Kilo singing at unison “zapatos de tacón / culo bien cabrón” in the recording booth – this sole image confirms to me that this would be a match made in heaven.
– Carlos Soto
Poison covering Cristian Castro’s “Azul”
Pretty much every Mexican with a jones for music knows Cristian has a thing for metal. He has a huge Tool tattoo on his chest and he talks constantly about his love for Limp Bizkit and Yob (how can these two artist compare, I would love to ask him). He even formed the goth-tinged band La Esfinge. But “Azul” is probably the heaviest of his big hits, featuring a hair metal riff and Iron Maiden-worthy falsetto vocals in the end. We would love to get Bret Michaels and the essential glam band this song and go to town; it’s right up their alley, like a Mex-pop cousin to “Talk Dirty To Me.”
– Marcos Hassan
Tegan and Sara Covering Clubz's "Celebrando"
“Celebrando” has that happy/nostalgic feel and catchy hooks any acoustic cover could amplify. Considering Tegan and Sara have a history of making wonderful unplugged versions of their own songs, I would be very excited to hear what they could do with this track.
I’m hearing it more acoustic, with some banjo, slowed down and some brass in the back. Sufjan’s pretty and heartfelt voice would make the chorus sing.
– Nadia Reiman
Frank Ocean Covering Bill Yonson's "Chola"
The nice guy from California covering the bad boy from Chihuahua. It would be an R&B track like “Thinking Bout You” where hopefully Frank would show the best of his vocal and production skills while singing in Spanish. Maybe he can take some lessons from Drake?
– Carlos Soto
Elliott Smith covering Silvio Rodríguez's “Ojalá”
Elliott Smith releasing music in 2015 would mean fire collaborations with musicians like Waxahatchee, and hopefully a healthier and more peaceful life. Ideally, we’d see artistic and cultural worlds collide, forging long-overdue exchanges between Cuban nueva trova musicians and indie folk or lo-fi artists in the United States, like my dream scenario where Elliott Smith covers “Ojalá” by Silvio Rodríguez. With the recent release of Heaven Adores You and the imminent renewal of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, it’s an apt moment to reflect on both artists’ legacies. As many have noted over the years, Elliott and Silvio are poets at their core – emotive, unabashedly personal, intimate but capable of haunting universal appeal. Smith once described his own music as “pictures made of words.” Likewise, Rodríguez observes that he “sings with images because [he] began to describe the world with them.” It makes perfect sense, then, that Elliott would cover “Ojalá,” a 70s ballad drawing on some of his own influences (like Bob Dylan and Nick Drake), but with a certain warmth that is unmistakably Cuban. I see Smith adopting his early, affecting acoustic style, his whispery vocals, and introspective, melancholic presence for his version of one of Latin America’s classic love songs. I like to think that he’d do service to Silvio’s inimitable revolutionary spirit and tenacity.
– Isabelia Herrera
Drake Covering Hector Lavoe's "El Cantante"
As much as people may have been squarely divided on “Odio,” Drake’s 2014-released duet with Romeo Santos, it certainly showed that the OVO crew head honcho is unafraid of that whole “language barrier” thing. While it was a success insofar as Santos’ next-level crossover rise to fame, Drizzy would be wise to stay within the Latin musical market and dig into salsa to find a song that could lead to his own global pop appeal as well as a “shocking” pop hit.
“El Cantante” is sadly-deceased Puerto Rican vocalist Hector Lavoe’s quintessential song, a career-defining 1978 hit that if sampled by Noah “40” Shebib could be transformed into a rap ballad that would be well within the singer-rapper’s wheelhouse. Translating the song from Spanish-to English allows for the song’s similar bittersweet feel to Smokey Robinson’s Motown hit “Tears of a Clown” to become apparent for English language audiences, too.
Drake dropping English language lyrics with a Spanish language hook could end up making him the “singer” of all singers and the superstar of superstars, too.
– Marcus K. Dowling
Ariana Grande covering Paulina Rubio’s “Y Yo Sigo Aquí”
Ariana is often compared to Mariah Carey because of her vocal prowess, but if there was a Spanish-language artist who captured the catchiness and freshness of Grande’s material, it’s La Chica Dorada herself. While “Y Yo Sigo Aquí” was released in the year 2000, the song features an EDM-ready beat and a 90s pop sensibility that Grande can launch into and make it her own. It’s definitely not far from some of the dancier moments. The lyrics might be a little risqué for her but they are not poetry or porn exactly; should make for a fun one.
– Marcos Hassan
Justin Bieber Covering TKA's "Maria"
In some circles, freestyle’s universal pop appeal may be questioned. However, in a manner similar to the way pre-Fergie Black Eyed Peas mined a minor pop hit from wrapping the hook of Debbie Deb’s 1984 hit “Lookout Weekend” into 2000’s soulful and funky “Weekends,” Justin Bieber could outline his recent less-than flattering run with infamy by flipping TKA’s 1992 hit “Maria” into a soulful, thumping pop hit.
“Maria” tells the story of a young man who falls in love with a beautiful woman who is already dating a drug dealer. If the drug dealer finds out that he’s not the only man in love with this woman, our protagonist is afraid that he will be murdered. Yes, the subject matter may seem macabre, but for a maturing Bieber, material dealing with more adult themes could spell new demographics connecting to him as an artist, retaining his existing fan base and possible career longevity.