This year, in addition to rounding up our own favorite songs of 2015, we invited music experts across the industry – writers, editors, producers, DJs, festival directors – to share what Latin music they were feeling most in 2015.
Check out our guest picks below!
Roberto Montero, Director of Epicentro Festival
Nicola Cruz’s “Colibria” manages to convey a very Latin sound through unexpected elements, acoustic instrumentation, and electronic beats. This song was my constant soundtrack this year, especially on the road – it’s a nice complement to the highways of my country, Costa Rica. “Colibria” has a ritualistic vibe; it’s an exquisite combination of percussion and regional melodies that transport us to a time immemorial, but dressed up in polished, contemporary electronic production. Discovering Nicola Cruz’s music was one of my happiest surprises of 2015. ¡Pura Vida! – Roberto Montero
Naomi Zeichner, Editor-in-Chief at The Fader
This summer, I loved hearing Messiah’s “Commas” remix blended into Future on Hot 97, during prime drive time. I was psyched when Justin Bieber dropped a reggaetón single produced by Skrillex, and more excited when he put J Balvin on the remix. And J Balvin’s own “Ginza” was a standout, for its soda bubble beat and indisputable refrain: If you need reggaetón, you should get it. – Naomi Zeichner
Ebro Darden, DJ at Beats 1
My favorite Latin artists this year were Bomba Estéreo. “Amanecer” – I fell in love with the song. I love their production style and I love her energy on the record – the flow, everything. – Ebro Darden
Suzy Exposito, Online Producer at Rolling Stone & Illustrator at Rookie Mag
Imagine that for every time a classmate called your skin tone “dirty” or your accent “dumb,” Victoria Ruiz and her squad of punks wielding saxophones pummeled through brick walls (and structural racism) just to blow that hater’s eardrums out. She’s brown, she’s smart — and don’t you forget it. – Suzy Exposito
Gary Suarez, Critic at Billboard, Complex, Consequence of Sound & Forbes
In recent years, the Tanboys/Tangirls collective has helped filled the Terror Squad sized void left in New York Tri-State hip-hop. A genuine standout on the Menace Tan Society tape, Bonnie B’s solo single outlines her modus operandi, blowing away the competition and introducing us to a talented rap artist on her come-up. – Gary Suarez
Toy Selectah, Producer & DJ
The Spanish remix of Major Lazer’s “Lean On” was definitely the song of the year, and it was an incredible experience to have conceived of the idea to do a Spanish remix with J. Balvin and Farruko and see it turn into a TV moment at the opening of the Latin Grammys.
The other song of the year was “Hotline Bling” – it seemed like nothing would be bigger than “Can’t Feel My Face” until this song came along. Special shoutout to Fuego for his Spanish cover of the song, which was just as good if not better than the original. – Toy Selectah
Marcos Juarez, Latin Music Curator & Programmer at Pandora
Trying to recall everything I’ve listened to this year is really difficult, so here is what caught my ear this week. I’m really feeling Yomil y El Dany’s “Como Te Descargo.” I think reggaetón cubano is about to have a huge impact in 2016; “El Taxi” was just the beginning. The overall production quality and lyrical content have really come a long way, and I feel like you can finally put this up against what Puerto Rico, DR, and Colombia are doing. – Marcos Juarez
Remo del Orbe, Matatán at Remolacha.net
My favorite Latin song this year is actually a guilty pleasure…it’s a mixtape Omega track called “En La Avenida.” This song got little airplay in DR, but it is straight up dope. It has a throwback minimalist drumbeat and distorted organ sounds with Omega’s unique “cuco” voice spitting boastful lyrics. (The same voice that scared the crap out of Italian singer Laura Pausini).
The line from this song that got me hooked was: “La gente bajan de
suiza y tu matando una chincha.” To quote Chazz Michael Michaels from the movie Blades of Glory: “Nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative.” – Remo del Orbe
Marlon Bishop, Writer & Radio Producer at Latino USA
I listened to Bomba Estéreo’s Amanecer by far more than any other release this year, en español or otherwise, so I have no choice but to pick a song from the album. I think 2015, more than anything, was the year Latin America re-discovered dancehall and West Indian music – from Pitbull’s throwback “Murder She Wrote” sample in “El Taxi” to guest spots for Sean Paul and Shaggy on new reggaeton tracks. When I was in Colombia last year, I was happy to hear reggae everywhere. Bomba Estéreo tapped into this trend in the most creative way of anyone, combining dancehall beats with champeta-inspired guitars, psychedelic textures, and raw electronic drops. It’s a major achievement for the band, and it bangs from start to finish, which I feel is rare these days. While the Will Smith remix of “Fiesta” is terrible garbage, the original is still utter fire. Guaranteed to achieve the party the song’s title promises. – Marlon Bishop
Nico Vallejo, Editor at VICE Colombia & member of La MiniTK del Miedo
Sidestepper’s “Song For The Sinner” is a hymn of redemption, a spiritual balm that reminds me that music is, in essence, magic. And that it has powers. It’s also a universal and moving track that heralds the return of a fundamental band that is without a doubt one of the most influential in the new wave of Colombian music. – Nico Vallejo
Since there’s two of us, we’re picking two songs: J Balvin’s “Ginza,” because it’s impossible to hear it without dancing, and because as soon as it’s over, the instrumental melody and chorus get stuck in your head endlessly. Our other favorite is a track by lesser-known artist Lito Kirino, called “Chapo sin H,” which we love for its originality, sticky chorus (despite being a darker, underground track), and because we think he’s the next big thing in Latino rap – a rapper who can stand alongside Messiah and Tali. – LWLGHT
Moni Saldaña, Journalist & Organizer at Festival Nrmal
To choose only one song when there are so many amazing things happening in music is very difficult. But at times when you wonder what the fuck is going on in the world, it’s beautiful to find a song that gives you hope. Helado Negro’s “Young, Latin & Proud” does that for me and not in the most direct way like saying “things will be fine,” but even better, in a way where you feel empowered. I don’t want to sound like a cliché, but it’s that Latin power that’s uniting us, I see it every day. And it’s not about who’s Latino or who’s not, it’s just about having a sense of community and sharing that with the world… for the good. It’s beautiful to be proud of something and it’s great to have a soundtrack for it.(“Knowing that you’ll be you for the rest of your life.”) – Moni Saldaña
Valerie Miranda, Label Relations at Spotify
Banda Los Recoditos’ “No Llega El Olvido” is a simple, beautiful guide for attempting (and failing) to get over someone. It never points accusatory fingers at the causer of the pain. It only blames el “olvido tan desgraciado” for not coming soon enough. Some of the best singing of the year, unadorned, like the lyrics. The best songs don’t rely on production tricks, on swag and bling. They rely on universal emotions laid bare. This song brings tears to my eyes, it reminds me of all the times when I wanted to run to a cantina and make olvido arrive sooner. Songs like these almost make pain feel good. – Valerie Miranda