Make way for the modern, globalized pop scene which features collaborations from artists ranging from English pop to K-pop and Latino pop genres. For a long time, the global pop industry has been dominated by hits released by English or American artists. However, today’s top global hits is experiencing more language and genre diversity as a result of globalization and growing online social platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc.
Ever since Despacito became the song of the year in 2017, songs with Latin influence began to boom in the global pop industry. Since then, major hits such as Taki Taki (DJ Snake, Ozuna, Cardi B, and Selena Gomez) and Échame La Culpa (Luis Fonsi and Demi Lovato) have topped global charts.
Bad Bunny, the rising Puerto Rican artist, has won numerous awards for his collaborative hits, including MTV’s Song of the Summer award for I Like It with Cardi B and J Balvin. In an interview with Apple Music about his chart-topper MIA, which he sang with Drake, Bad Bunny reportedly said: “Obviously, this song is an achievement for me in my career, but what makes me feel really good is to make Latinos feel proud. To provoke that pride that a pop figure and someone so big in music globally like Drake would sing with me completely in Spanish and create this hit.”
Why is this significant? Finally, the international music community, which has commonly been dominated by English pop songs from American and U.K. artists (of course there are exceptions such as Justin Bieber from Canada), is showing a steady growth in diversity. In the late 1990s to early 2000s, artists from Latinbackgrounds such as Shakira or Ricky Martin launched successful careers and placed on the top charts. And now about twenty years later, it is great to see more Latino pop songs thrive and penetrate the top global hits, traditionally home to English pop music.
For newer fans or those unfamiliar with K-pop, I know the first group that comes to mind is BTS. BTS is one of South Korea’s latest acts to have worldwide success, and one of several to receive international acclaim. PSY’s Gangnam Style in 2012 played everywhere around the world, becoming the first YouTube video to reach over 1 billion views and the first Korean song to be performed at the American Music Awards. This performance was monumental as many viewers around the world enjoyed the song’s upbeat and fun nature, and one of live television’s greatest international collaborative performances involving PSY and MC Hammer.
Since then, the reach of Korean pop has continued to grow exponentially; this spread of influence is dubbed as the Korean Wave. Most recently, girl group BLACKPINK performed their biggest hits at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, one the largest music festivals in the United States. BTS, after PSY, became the second Korean act to perform at the American Music Awards. BTS also won the Top Social Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards in 2017 and 2018, beating big names such as Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Selena Gomez. Without a doubt, BLACKPINK and BTS are disrupting the international music industry, dropping successful hits with artists like Dua Lipa (Kiss and Make Up) and Nicki Minaj (IDOL) respectively.
Latino and Korean pop artists, emerging from the shadows and disrupting the global pop scene, have also begun to collaborate and create unique, wonderful music. The veteran Korean boy band Super Junior has collaborated with two popular Latino artists. Lo Siento, my personal favorite, is a collaboration with Leslie Grace and Play-N-Skillz; the song playfully features Korean and Spanish verses, with a few English lyrics spread throughout. Otra Vez is a collaboration between Super Junior and Mexican band Reik. The song prominently features the dembow, the beat commonly used in Reggaeton and Latino pop music, and the Spanish guitar. Both songs masterfully showcase the grandeur of international collaborations. While there aren’t many crossovers between these two genres yet, we can hopefully expect more in the future.
A couple decades ago, artists commonly recorded songs in various languages to appeal to international audiences (think Shakira’s Whenever, Wherever or the Wonder Girls’ Nobody). Now thanks to globalization and the ease of communication, bilingual and intercultural collaborations have become a great way to reach major target audiences across the globe. I cannot wait to see what other collaborations happen in the near future!
Until then, you can listen to my playlist with some international collaborations and genre/cultural crossovers on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/3l8b93zudrwan1cu9zf264ast/playlist/5igab2MNUnMQbIUHLiP284?si=XY2ShPGKThmAmpyNvIt3tQ.