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Spanish-Language Hit Songs

Spanish-Language Hit Songs


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English is the usual language of pop music, almost exclusively so in the United States. But that doesn't mean you can't find some Spanish-language hit songs if you look around. Nearly a dozen such songs have become hit material in the U.S. since the 1950s, and so have a few bilingual ones. Here's where you can find them:

Despacito

Luis Fonsi appears at a shopping mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2019.

Gladys Vega / Getty Images

Puerto Ricans Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee handily made this the No. 1 international Spanish-language hit of all time with its reggaeton beat and racy lyrics in 2017. It had been more than a decade since Macarena had topped the Billboard 100 as a Spanish-language single, and Despacito stayed there for nearly four months. A version featuring Justin Bieber received the Grammy for Best Song.

La bamba (Los Lobos)

Los Lobos perform at the White House in 2009. White House photo

Los Lobos revived this '50s dance tune, originally a Mexican folk song, which also became the theme song of the movie La Bamba. This song is almost certainly the oldest in this list: The first known recorded version dates to 1939. Covers have been made by numerous audiences.

La bamba (Richie Valens)

The tombstone of Ritchie Valens and his mother in Los Angeles. Public domain

Ritchie Valens was the first Mexican-American rock star in the U.S., and some of his songs (most of them in English) were popular in the late 1950s. His original name was Ricardo Valenzuela, but his agent wanted a less Mexican-sounding name.

Bailamos

Enrique Iglesias performing in Lithuania in 2007. Kapeksas/Creative Commons.

This bilingual hit by Enrique Iglesias is also the title of his 1999 greatest-hits album. As its name suggests (it means "Let's Dance"), it's a great tune to dance to, and it remains one of his most well-known Spanish songs for English-speaking audiences.

Bailando

Unlike his Bailamos, Enrique Iglesias' 2014 hit Bailando is entirely in Spanish. It was wildly popular in Latin America and also reached No. 12 on the U.S. pop charts.

Dreaming of You

This is the best-known bilingual hit by the best-known female Tejano singer ever, Selena, murdered at the age of 23 in 1995. Although Selena often sang in Spanish, she grew up speaking in the English and learned Spanish in order to better market herself in Mexico.

Amor prohibido

Meaning "Prohibited Love," Amor prohibido was the title track of Selena's hit 1994 album and perhaps the best-known crossover song of the tejano genre. The album was in the top five of Billboard's Latin album list for nearly two years.

Macarena

The Spanish dance of this name (it was recorded in various mixtures of English and Spanish) was all the rage in 1996, when it was performed at numerous sporting events and even the Democratic National Convention.

Oye como va

A cover of this song, written in the 1960s by Cachao, was performed by Santana a decade later and became one of biggest hits of that band.

Mariposa traiconera

Mexican band Maná in concert in Madrid. Carlos Delgado/Creative Commons

Meaning "treacherous butterfly," this song by the Mexican band Maná topped the U.S. Latin charts in 2003 and gained crossover appeal.

Eres tú

This was a hit for Mocedades in 1974. Although the title means "It Is You," there is an English-language version of the song called "Touch the Wind."

Feliz Navidad

As much as anything, this repetitious bilingual hit by José Feliciano has made the phrase "feliz Navidad" understood even when Spanish isn't. It has become a modern holiday classic.

Guantanamera

It's little surprise that The Sandpipers chose this song, a 1966 hit and their best-known song, for the title of their biggest compilation album.

Livin' La Vida Loca

This hit by Ricky Martin includes a smattering of Spanish in addition to the title.

El watusi

Roy Barretto, who was of Puerto Rican descent, made this mostly spoken (rather than sung) dance tune a hit in 1963. But reports are that he never particularly cared for it, and copies of it now are difficult to find.

Lo mucho que te quiero

Rene and Rene made this a midlevel hit in 1968, and a remake by Pedro Fernandes played briefly in 1993. It now can be difficult to find. The title means roughly "how much I love you."

De colores

This popular Spanish folk song has been performed by numerous singers well known among English speakers, including Joan Baez, Los Lobos, Raffi and Arlo Guthrie.



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