September 28, 2014
If you've been listening to American pop radio in the past five months or so, you likely heard Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias' hit song "Bailando."
The song debuted at No. 1 on the Latin streaming charts. Before long, Iglesias released a Spanglish version of the song that broke into the American pop charts; 21 weeks later, it is holding steady at No. 15 on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart.
Gary Trust, Billboard's Associate Director of Charts/Radio, says Iglesias told Billboard that he thinks there's something "addictive" about the song.
"It's romantic, it's sensual; I think addictive is actually a perfect word to use for how the song totally comes together," Trust tells NPR's Arun Rath.
Of course Spanglish crossover isn't new. It just doesn't happen very often — "occasionally," Trust says. Shakira had a crossover hit with "La Tortura" in 2005, and going back even further, "La Bamba" was a hit in 1987. And let's not forget 1996's earworm "Macarena."
"As much as people might chuckle at that song now, it was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks," he says.
"Bailando" crept into American markets last February, by way of Latin radio stations in Miami. It got a ton of air time and it scored high on Shazam and iTunes.
Based on that success, Republic Records guessed that "Bailando" would survive the leap from the Latin market to the American market, but they added a rap by Sean Paul — just to be safe.
"Bailando" has rocked other Latino hubs like New York and Los Angeles. It's even taken hold in the Midwest.
"For it to be working there, again, is another sign that the song really doesn't seem to have any boundaries at this point," Trust says.
Of course, you have to wonder if "Bailando" is just the latest "Macarena" or "Rico Suave." That is, will it be another one to six years before the next Spanglish crossover?
Trust thinks things have fundamentally changed since the days those older songs made it to the top of the charts. Today, a quarter of this country's youths are Latino. Already, the market is so diverse that Latino artists don't have to pick just one language, or even two. There are actually four versions of "Bailando" out there, including a couple in Portuguese.
"The Latin American audience is rising," Trust says, "and I would think as that audience grows, it would make perfect sense that music targeted to that audience would cross over as well."