[“I Like It,” by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin]
Natalia: Hi! I’m Natalia Camino. I am a freshman here at Northwestern University, double majoring in Econ and International Studies.
Maria: And I am Maria Caamano, and I am also a freshman here at Northwestern, and I am majoring in journalism. For this podcast, I think we want to clarify that what we mean by Latin music isn’t just Latin artists. Like, we’re not just gonna be out here talking about Selena Gomez.
Natalia: Or Demi Lovato.
Maria: Yeah or like anyone who is remotely Latino but makes music in English. We’re talking about real Latin American artists.
Natalia: Artists. Yeah. And, like the type of music that primarily comes from Latin America but is not really only listened to in Latin America.
Natalia: As we will discuss in our podcast.
Maria: However, in this episode of our podcast, we are touching on Latin American artists who do make music in English.
Natalia: Yeah. So that’s kinda why we made this podcast because we love Latin music, and we listen to Latin music all the time in our room.
Natalia: On the way to class, we have passionate discussions about Latin music. On the bus to Chicago. And we kinda just feel that Latin music is not really represented in the US. Even though it is listened to by a lot of people in the United States.
Maria: Yeah. In 2018, the fifth most heard genre in the U.S. was Latin music, and it surpassed EDM and country music, which I mean, I’m not sorry about it surpassing country.
Natalia: I mean...it makes sense. So, kinda going off of that, the relationship we have with Latin music growing up has been very different. So it’s kinda weird that we both have this – the same passion and love for it. Even though we come from very different backgrounds, I guess.
Maria: Yes, for sure.
Natalia: So it’s kinda weird that we both have the same passion and love for it, even though we come from different backgrounds. I guess.
Maria: So do you want to talk about your background?
Natalia: So I moved to the U.S – I moved to Michigan- [from Mexico] when I was six years old and I grew up in Farmington Hills, MI. Which is considered one of the most diverse cities, or areas, in the U.S, but even with that, there were still only ten Latinos in my class of 300-some people. So, for me, my experience with Latin music has been very individual. I started listening to Latin music sophomore year, and I would be like, “Hey guys, listen to this,” but my friends didn’t speak Spanish so they were like “Oh cool...okay.” Because they didn’t know what I was talking about. But, for you it was very different.
Maria: Oh yeah, for sure. From my experience – I’m from Dominican Republic – I just moved to the U.S., about, I think now it’s four months?
Natalia: She’s an international student! So exotic!
Maria: So exotic! So tropical! But I grew up in obviously, a Latin American country. So, obviously Latin American music was what I would hear on the radio. By the time I was in my teenage years, it kinda became this thing where I just felt very connected to it. As well as, like, just you would go to parties, and that’s the only music they would be playing. So, eventually, if you want to avoid being the awkward person who doesn’t know what’s playing, you eventually learn the songs. And then I had the privilege of being able to go to summer programs in the U.S. while I was in high school. So, I got to meet a lot of American kids by the time that Latin music was on the rise. It was just very different, and it was very interesting to come from another country that that was solely the music you listen to.
Natalia: To being the only one who listens to that.
Maria: Exactly. And also like the idea of people being more open to it, I guess. I was more surprised by people being like, “Oh, I want to listen to this. Can you recommend songs for me to listen to?” than by them being like, “Oh, she listens to Latin music.” But, that’s it.
Natalia: Yeah, I mean, we’re kinda talking about this too, but there’s definitely been a change in the U.S. recently in which people listen to Latin music more. So, also just another introductory thing for our podcast. We’re mostly focusing on reggaeton and urbano, which are under the umbrella of Latin music. There’s obviously a lot more; there’s banda, norteña, classic Mexican, like José Miguel...NOT José Miguel. That’s my Uncle! [laughter]
Maria: That’s my stepdad!
Natalia: Luis Miguel and Jose Jose.
Natalia: But yeah, so first we wanted to start with some misconceptions about reggaeton.
Maria: Oh, yes. I guess we both have had this experience where our parents were like: “Oh my God. Reggaeton?!”
Natalia: Yeah, I told my parents I'm doing a podcast on reggaeton and my mom was like, “Reggaeton??!!” Like, scandalized, she was scandalized. If you listen to some of the big reggaeton and urbano hits, they’re kinda – the language they use sometimes can come off as kinda vulgar.
Maria: Yeah, it’s kinda like dirty.
Maria: But we’ve talked about this in the past. Like, we both think that it’s very...like, it wouldn’t make sense if they didn’t use that type of language.
Natalia: The more you listen to reggaeton, the more you can tell that the words they use, they use it to either catch people’s attention, and then they also use it ironically. Like, these artists know what they’re doing.
Maria: Oh, for sure.
Natalia: They put a lot of thought.
Natalia: Like, it’s true art. Yeah. And so, I think also reggaeton has a negative connotation with the older generation.
Maria: Oh, for sure.
Natalia: It’s like Elvis Presley. In the 50s, people kinda thought Elvis Presley was scandalous and dirty. That’s what the older generation thought, but now he’s like an icon. And I think reggaeton kinda is that way too, like the older generation is like, “Oh, this is so scandalous! Ugh! our childrens’ minds!”
Maria: “Cover their ears!”
Natalia: “Cover their ears!” But, I think also reggaeton, like, some of the stigma surrounding reggaeton is because it comes from predominantly Caribbean sound.
Natalia: And so, the Latino population is kinda – it’s not racist necessarily because we’re all kinda the same...we’re a mixture of races, but it’s like colorism.
Maria: Well, like, the thing is, we’ve had this discussion in the past and obviously we’re not gonna get too much into it because its...
Natalia: That’s not what this podcast is about.
Maria: Yeah. And it’s also very controversial. But I think colorism is definitely a thing in Latin America.
Natalia: It’s just stereotypes.
Natalia: So the older generation has a stereotype for what reggaeton is, and it’s subconsciously racist. But we’re not gonna really get into that. But yeah! Earlier we were talking about how recently we’ve seen a rise of Latin music in the U.S. And I think the first one, like...
Maria: We have to give it credit as much as we hate to.
Natalia: Yeah. I mean there’s been some hits here and there, like “Danza Kuduro” and “Gasolina;” those still go hard everywhere.
Natalia: But the first one...That really like...
Maria: That really resonated with people.
Natalia: With the American public.
Natalia & Maria: “Despacito.”
Natalia: By Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and lastly Justin Bieber. If you have not listened to the original Despacito with just Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee…
Maria: That goes way harder than the Justin Bieber remix.
Natalia: It’s like...Justin Bieber did to “Despacito” – this is an analogy – Justin Bieber did to “Despacito” what Justin Bieber did to “Bad Guy” with Billie Eilish.
Maria: Oh! Yes.
Natalia: He ruined them.
Maria: Yep. But basically most people don’t know that “Despacito” had an original version, before Justin Bieber, that was only Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, and it was released in January of 2017. The Bieber remix, however, was released after they had already gained a lot of fame and success in Latin American countries with “Despacito.” And then they released it in April of 2017 with Justin Bieber.
Natalia: I was listening to the original one.
Natalia: Like January through March.
Maria: Oh, for sure.
Natalia: I was like, “Oh, this goes hard. It’s a good reggaeton song.” It's very different, but it was still a good song. But then “Despacito” came out and people literally did not know how to act. They were acting like it was the first Latin song to ever exist. But now, like today, whenever I hear “Despacito” – the remix – whenever it comes on shuffle, it’s just a reminder that I have to get my shit together because “Despacito” to me now represents all that is bad in the world. I can’t listen to “Despacito” anymore.
Maria: Of course. “Despacito” was a really good song. Like she said, I was jamming out to it when it came out. And Bieber hadn’t done music for a long ass time during that time. And he just decided “You know what? Imma jump on this song. I’m gonna like…”
Natalia: Justin Bieber didn't even know the words! He couldn't sing them because he…But yes, so “Despacito” – other than – with Justin Bieber as much as he kinda ruined the song, he allowed for it to really propel forward in the United States.
Maria: For sure.
Natalia: Because, as you were saying, he hadn’t written or he hadn’t released a lot of music in a while. And so he kinda propelled it forward, and people were losing their minds because they were like, “Latin music is good? What?!”
Natalia: “Like, What?!”
Maria: And then “I Like It” came out, and when “I Like It” came out I don’t think Cardi realized the power this collab was gonna have. I appreciate Cardi, I’ve told this to Nat, I love her 'cause she’s Dominican. I appreciate that she’s honest, that she’s that bitch, and I like that she tried to make a song...
Natalia: That went back to her roots.
Maria: Yeah, exactly!
Natalia: It’s like what she was trying to do. Yeah, so Cardi didn’t really know the power that Bad Bunny and J Balvin possessed in Latin America. Okay, I listened to “I Like It” because of J Balvin and Bad Bunny.
Natalia: Because, for those who don’t know, J Balvin...Last year in 2019, he was one of the top Spotify artists...
Maria: He was the artist of the decade for 2019 with Ariana!
Natalia: J Balvin has a musical monopoly. Sorry, my econ major is showing. He has a musical monopoly of the Latin American music industry in a sense. So, I listened to “I Like It” because of that.
Maria: Yeah, same.
Natalia: But then my American friends were like, “Oh, Cardi B! This is such a new song! Oh, it’s so good!” And I’m like, “Yeah, did you listen to Bad Bunny’s verse? It goes so hard!” And they’re like, “Who’s Bad Bunny?”
Natalia: And I’m like melting on the ground like, “Ughhhhh”.
Maria: No yeah, I told Nat when we were having a very heated discussion at like 11 at night in our dorm that I think that without “I Like It,” Latin music couldn’t have stayed…
Maria: Yeah. I think “Despacito” was kinda like what you would say a one-hit-wonder, I guess.
Natalia: Kind of, yeah.
Maria: It was like,
Natalia: It was a little sample.
Maria: It put people’s minds into like, “Oh, Latin music is okay I guess.”
Natalia: It’s like a little sample. It’s like, “Ooh, that was kinda good!”
Maria: They saw that it was successful, and then they released this, which was just amazing. It was the song of the summer. Cardi herself said in an interview with W magazine that she never thought that it would take off like it did.
Natalia: And in 2018, Apple Music released that “I Like It” was the 6th most-streamed song of that year, which is crazy.
Natalia: Because like, no Latin song had ever reached that point before. Yeah, and especially with streaming, it allows music to be so much more globalized.
Maria: Exactly, yeah.
Natalia: Yeah, so like music has been able to be listened to around the globe so much more easily because of these streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify and all that. So this kinda has allowed for Latin music to be on the rise in the U.S., so how do you feel about that? That’s like some of our closing remarks, I guess.
Maria: I guess. I feel like it’s good. I think music, however, is something that is very global. And I think that I am very pro-listening to other culture’s music.
Maria: I feel like other people listening to Latin music makes it also so that Latinos are kinda heard out a little bit more?
Natalia: Yeah, I feel like it allows us to feel like we’re more a part of the American culture. But I still feel like there is a very long way to go.
Maria: But I guess you could also make that argument that there’s a long way to go for everyone.
Natalia: Yeah, I mean I feel like overall the music industry is very whitewashed.
Natalia: For sure. “I Like It,” even, which was the biggest Latin American song, they do swear in both English and Spanish in the song.
Natalia: For those who don’t speak Spanish, they say all this stuff and the American government or censor people or whatever…the Federal Censorship Commission or whatever...AP Gov showing through. They censor the English swear words, they censor the n-word, but then they don’t censor like chingar and cabrón which are, like, for the large majority of Spanish speakers in the U.S., they know what that means.
Maria: Oh, for sure.
Natalia So like, I think that’s kinda ironic and really shows how the American public doesn’t fully understand.
Maria: In the end, what we are trying to say and what I think also what we are trying to achieve with this podcast is that we want more people to be able to listen to Latin music, understand it, even if you don’t understand Spanish – we are here to try and ease you into it.
Natalia: So, along with our podcast, there’s gonna be a playlist with each episode. I’m curating the playlist so this week it’s some of the songs we mention in today’s podcast, and also some of the songs by artists that we are going to be covering in the next episodes because the next episodes, we are diving more into different artists.
Maria: And just their history, how have they been affecting Latin America, how have they been changing the music industry – just more about specific artists.
Natalia: And that is it.
Maria and Natalia: So tune in next time, or Guatever.
Natalia: This has been Natalia Camino.
Maria: And Maria Caamaño. On NBN.
[Outro of “I Like It” by Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin]