Historically Racist Country Finally Elevates Non-English Language Music

Historically Racist Country Finally Elevates Non-English Language Music
Image:Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

Conejo has done it again! Bad Bunny, everyone’s favorite reggaetonero, has scored his first No. 1 album on the famed Billboard 200 chart with his latest release, El Ultimo Tour del Mundo, beating out Miley Cyrus’s Plastic Hearts. That in and of itself is newsworthy, but also: Benito’s album is the first-ever fully-Spanish language album to reach No. 1 in the chart’s 64-year history, according to Billboard, via Nielsen Music/MRC Data. If that seems hard to believe, take a moment to remember this country is a deeply divided and very racist one, where non-ironic “Speak English” bumper stickers ornament Ford F150s in more than a couple states.

I was hopeful this day would come years ago—in 2017, when “Despacito” proved U.S. audiences were open to welcoming non-English, Spanish-language music in traditional (re: white, mainstream) pop spaces, but it never came. (It’s also worth noting that the version of the song most are familiar with is the Justin Bieber remix and not the fully-Spanish original.) K-pop group BTS has proven that young people are curious music fans, willing to engage with art in a language and culture foreign to their own, but it still took until 2020—this hell year—for Bad Bunny to reach the top. He’s standing on the shoulder of giants: Il Divo’s Ancora and Selena Quintanilla’s Dreaming of You both hit No. 1 in 2006 and 1995, respectively, but each had songs recorded in Spanish and English, a common practice for Latinx performers hoping to “crossover” into mainstream pop. The fact that Bad Bunny didn’t have to appease an Anglophonic audience speaks to some shift towards inclusion, and I’m fucking stoked.

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