While there were small pockets of it reaching some fame in the 80s and 90s, the recent boom in popularity from the early 2000’s to now was on such a large scale that it was unexpected by everyone.
Reggaeton was originally music that was only enjoyed by the Latino community. It was getting little to no recognition in the US and rarely appeared on a radio station. The earliest showings of the sound date back to the 1940s, with Cuban ballroom music becoming popular in the US as “Latin dance music.” Its first moment in the mainstream was in 1958 with the release of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba.”
The sound originated in Panama in the late 80’s and early 90’s, when artists such as Nando Boom would take existing Jamaican reggae songs and sing over them in Spanish. The sound grew a bit but stayed local until it started gaining popularity in Puerto Rico. This is where it was given the name Reggaeton, so that it could be different from the music in Panama.
The artist who really helped birth the sound that is seen today was Daddy Yankee. His music was growing across the whole country, and he would soon release a song that changed the public’s view. With the release of “Gasolina” in 2004, the music was finally seeing some mainstream success in the US.
Because of the somewhat sexualized content in the music, the government was trying to get rid of it and would raid record stores to clean out all the cassettes. The style of music, throughout its popularity, has appealed to people of all ages because of the rhythmic beats and catchy, upbeat vibe.
Despite there being a language barrier for some listeners, the music is danceable and relatable because of how the song makes you feel and move, instead of what is being said. Take the famous classic “Macarena,” for example; most people know the signature hook and dance by heart but don’t know what it is about.
This shows the sound is universally liked, despite what the songs say. It is currently the 5th most listened-to genre in the world and accounts for 9.4% of total album sales in the US. Artists such as Bad Bunny and J. Balvin, are on top of the charts right now and are some of the biggest pop culture presences within the US and South America. The appeal of the music is so prominent that there have been many collaborations with American artists such as Drake, Travis Scott, and Future, pushing the sound forward.
Video by: Daddy Yankee