Best of the 2010s

The Club Fonograma staff have reunited to recap the Best Iberoamerican (Latin America + Iberian) music of the decade. This project consists of essays from ex-Club Fonograma writers and friends, along with a full list of our top 100 songs and top 50 albums of the decade.

Best Albums of the 2010s
Coming Soon
Best Songs of the 2010s
Coming Soon

How Women Reclaimed a
Space for Themselves in this
Decade of Música Urbana

by Lucas Villa
A post-Ivy Queen generation fights for
representation in a male-dominated genre.
The Night Dënver
Gave Me a Future

by Richard Villegas
How Música, Gramática, Gimnasia
changed my life.

by Sam Rodgers
The Latinx LGBTQIA+ artists who
globalized queer culture.
How Spain Turned to Música
Urbana in the 2010s

by Pierre Lestruhaut
Trap music found a new outpost
in the Old World.

Club Fonograma Archive

Club Fonograma was a United States-based music publication established in 2008 by Carlos Reyes, and featuring collaborators from 10 different countries. The site was devoted to music criticism and commentary focused on global pop and independent music from artists of Spanish and Latin American origin or background.

The present site is an effort to preserve Club Fonograma's full archive, as it still remains a rich and exhaustive testimony of Latin music and culture from 2008 to 2016. Below you'll find links to pages compiling some of Club Fonograma's most meaningful work over the years, which includes end-of-year lists, album reviews, compilations, artist interviews, and coverage of music festivals.

Carlos Reyes

Contributors/Staff Writers:
Paulo Correa
Jean-Stephane Beriot
Andrew Casillas
Juan Manuel Torreblanca
Blanca Méndez
Pierre Lestruhaut
Enrique Coyotzi
Adrian Mata Anaya
Reuben Torres
Giovanni Guillén
Souad Martin-Saoudi
Claire Frisbie
Sam Rodgers
Glòria Guso
Jeziel Jovel
Monika Fabian
Cheky Bertho
Marty Preciado
Pablo Acuña
Stella Vásquez
Zé Garcia

Déjenme Llorar: Thank-You Letters To The Songs That Held Me 2009-2019

   By Phoebe Smolin | Nov 11th, 2019

    Artwork by Alonso Ayala (@ouchal)

To all of my friends, who are also songs:

I am right here because of you.

Here is on the floor of my Silver Lake apartment listening to “Me Voy” by Julieta Venegas on repeat because, once again, it’s all too relevant and here we are (life why you gotta be so cyclical?); here is at the end of the decade that saw me through the bulk of my twenties, scrambling to turn love into money but never quite getting the hang of it. Here is home, and the way I’ve come to understand it across latitudes. Here is a sound that rings of one moment and every moment since – you are that sound, you are my here.

To all of my friends, who are also songs: let me briefly explain how we got here.

It must have been about 2007 when I was sitting in my childhood room listening to the radio at the tail end of my dad’s show (shout out KPFK/public radio), when a song came on that happened to be Bebe’s “Siempre me quedará.” I was deep, deep into my punk phase at that point (and probably angry that I wasn’t old enough to get into the X show that night) and that should have been the last song to perk my ears. But for some reason that raspy whisper, that language I only kind of understood, and that strange way of putting a melody together hit me deeply. I wished I’d made that song. I proceeded to obsess over it, scouring Google with vicious searches for the lyrics until the bigger story revealed itself to me. I swapped out the Sex Pistols for Café Tacvba and Julieta Venegas and found a strange sort of solace in the entire musical history that surrounded them – an obsession that would eventually become the profound remapping of my sonic environment. And that is how this insanely contentious-to-categorize musical world (that I’ll call Latin Indie for simplicity’s sake) found an unassuming teenage Jew from Los Angeles.

When I found Club Fonograma, I found a heavenly vortex on the Internet that made me feel a little less alone. It was my everything for a while, my favorite place, teaching me how to think critically about the music that I resonated with and didn’t know why, giving me the tools and the words to understand my position and privilege when I listened to it. The site introduced me to the songs that would be catapulted from their existence as isolated sounds to things that I would love deeply, that would start movements in some cases, that would be there to catch me at any given moment.

Over the last decade, what began as an obsession became my entire life. And there are certain songs that, within this batch of absolutely confusing and gorgeous years, I’ve kept coming back to, as if they themselves were places. Little homes I’ve come to feel safe in for some reason or another. I’ve grown with them, I’ve heard them echoed in the songs that succeeded them. I’ve cried to them (with them?) after terrible days, and revelled with them after the good ones. These are the songs that may not have been critically praised – or even acknowledged – but they’re the ones that I needed. They’re my favorite places, my sweetest friends. And so, when tasked with reflecting on ten highly formative years, I feel duty-bound to simply thank them.

So, to all of my friends who are also songs, this is for you.

Dear “Los Adolescentes” (Dënver), 

I remember the first time I heard you. In the middle of my first snow, alone in my Massachusetts dorm room, feeling that nebulous kind of sad that comes with knowing you’ve lost something but aren’t quite sure what it is. And then I heard that electrifying opening riff, followed by Mariana’s sugar-smooth voice coming in with those simple-yet-profound lyrics perfectly encapsulating the feeling of the in-between, which is very much where I was (and have been many times since). I proceeded to jump on my bed, rejoicing in the fact that something – this song – made everything feel okay for six minutes. Even when you resolve into dissonant synth-chaos, you hold it together – a lesson I’ve kept with me ever since. There is no greater teacher than that. Thank you.

Dear Fonogramaticos Vol. 10: Nosotros Los Rockers,

I never fully admitted to myself how vital you’ve been to my personal soundscape over the last decade because there’s a certain assumed shame that comes from loving a copy. An inherent cheapness to it. But you, you are a masterpiece. When Julieta Venegas and Ceci Bastida covered Rita Indiana, I’d found the tropical indie rock rave that I didn’t know I needed. El Medio’s cover of “Tus Amigos,” making what is a totally absurd song sound sweet, is genius. Astro’s spacey cover of Los Espíritus is, to me, exactly how it should sound. In twenty-hour tracks you taught me the value in being open to new ways of seeing, and you made that acceptance sound so, so, so good.

Dear Abrázame” (Los Rakas, Uproot Andy mix),

I really didn’t want to like you. When I first heard you in the middle of an indie stupor that I took way too seriously, you were not something I wanted to let myself like. But you started sneaking your way into my mornings, the mixes I made for my friends, the bad college parties I DJ’d, the grimy Los Angeles after hours I saw too many times. You, for ten years, have not left me alone and have not let me hate you the way I wanted to and I am writing this to tell you that you win. I give up. You can’t choose who you love.

Dear Yo Sería Otro” (Dávila 666),

In 2011, when you came blaring through my crappy speakers telling me “jugar con fuego tiene fin” I agreed with you, but decided to keep doing it anyway. You, with that savage sweetness that defined the Dávila, the punk rock call and response that felt as holy as it was confusing, that dirty punk attitude that reminded me of what my priorities were. As soon as I heard you I had a feeling I was doomed (and I was). I followed you and that addictive hook of yours to Boston from Western Massachusetts to see you live and everyone thought I was insane. You led me into the arms of many bad decisions, and were always there to pick me up on the other end. You introduced me to the people who would become my family. You became impossible to unhear, and I’m so grateful for that.

Dear Pa’ Respirar” (Bomba Estéreo) [via a very stylish Vincent Moon one-take]

I can’t tell you how often I come back to you. Brought to you in an anxiety flurry, you are the first thing that sounded like actual peace to me. Me being in the world I’m in, it’s hard to admit that this version of you (what some would call a Bomba deep cut) surpasses anything else that Bomba Estéreo has ever done. Don’t get me wrong, I can get down to some life-affirming Amanecer bangers and Blow Up dancefloor throwbacks, but knowing that this pure, genuine, raspy solace is behind all of those makes me want to peel back the pump-up club sirens and hear you again. You gave me my first taste of the Andes, filmed on top of Monserrate in Bogotá during an overcast sunset – a place I’d proceed to romanticize until I found it a couple of years later only to learn that I wasn’t romanticising anything – you were just right. You are beautiful in the way that the vastness from the top of the Andes is beautiful and also terrifying, how the endlessness of it all is unsettling because of how small you are within it. You, you are that moment where I feel like enough.

Dear Rie Chinito” (Perotá Chingó),

I found you through this simple video shortly after my grandfather died in 2012, and about two weeks before I moved to Chile. I don’t know how, or what propelled you into my life at the time it did, but it was serendipitous. All I wanted was harmony in a time that was relatively dissonant. And there you were. Exactly what I needed to hear. I hope you don’t mind that I played you once in a bar in Valparaíso – I know it probably didn’t sound that great but it felt so good to sing. Once I literally tumbled my way down the tallest part of the Andes to meet you in person (sorry for how bad I smelled that day). I never understood why more people here don’t listen to you more. But I think they might find you someday soon and wonder the same thing.

Dear Sacar la Voz” (Ana Tijoux ft. Jorge Drexler)

You changed everything for me. When you were released, I was in the middle of an idyllic summer in New York City, living with wild musicians, working away at my super liberal media internship, and knee deep in what was becoming a lifelong obsession with music that can restructure society’s DNA. I was also beginning to realize the root of my interest sprung from a very personal place (as they often do). Always a quiet kid, I’d find unconventional ways to be loud – my clothes, my essays, my songs. You validated everything (on top of just being an incredible musical moment). With the line, “Sacar la voz, no estoy sola estoy conmigo,” you reaffirmed that I already had everything I needed. On a larger scale, you exposed that one of the barriers between the ‘powerful’ and the ‘powerless’ is also silence – a barrier that crumbles the louder the collective voice gets.

Dear Derecho de Nacimiento” (Natalia Lafourcade)

Building on what I began to learn from Ana, when you were released in 2012 you gave me further proof that I was not totally out of my mind for believing that music had magical powers. Written as a hymn for the student movement in Mexico, I heard this for the first time when I was living in Chile, when many of my friends were also involved in constant protests against an oppressive education system. It was insane how something so similar could be happening so far away. It was outrageous that something so human could be made inaccessible. It was amazing how all of these voices I’d already loved for their sweet songs about life came together to show us another side of their craft in this video. You made everything feel so entirely connected. And you still do.

Dear Jardines” (Chancha Vía Circuito ft. Lido Pimienta)

When I heard you I had no idea that music could sound like this. I’d found a song I wanted to live in. Between Lido’s voice and Chancha’s intricate, creeping beats I found myself ripped from my reality which, at the time, was at a desk in North Hollywood, and reconnected with a poetic sense of existence that I’d lost touch with in trying to synchronize with the rhythm of capitalist America. Hearing you invoked a feeling I felt was left in my bones by my ancestors for me to find at that exact moment. Nothing ever really was the same after that. You led me to some of the people who’ve become my family over the years, and you’ve led me back to the shamelessly human part of myself.

Dear Jamaica” (Ela Minus)

You were one of those songs I hid in. When you came out I was in the process of navigating one of the most evil relationships I’ve ever known, something that ripped me so far from myself that no one was sure I’d ever come back. Most of my moves were highly surveillanced by my partner at the time. I’d become aimless in a lot of ways, living purely to tip-toe around this person’s disapproving outbursts. I’d become convinced that so much of what I’d loved before was irrelevant. But there was something about you that woke me up. “No hay luz sin oscuridad,” you sweetly repeated with a quiet strength. There are so many songs I’ve loved because they aggressively confronted society’s ills loudly and obviously. You were my own quiet revolution, my first dance with my own shadows that I gladly dance with every day now, thanks to you.

Dear Give Me Some Pizza” (Nathy Peluso),
Some loves can be simple. Not everything is the end of the world. You, in all of your ridiculous realness, came into my life to remind me of that. That cravings hurt because they matter. That they’ll only get louder if we don’t listen – or, in this case, sing to them in the key of a distant Ella Fitzgerald after a long night. You are fearless in your realness, and you’ve saved so many awkward silences since you were released and for that I love you (and pizza) forever.

Dear Te Guardo” (Silvana Estrada),

You are where memory activates – echoing so many of the trovadoras before you while feeling so, so distinct. When I heard you for the first time it was raining in Los Angeles, you’d been sent to me by a friend in Mexico with no words, just urgency. I lost track of time for a minute. Coming from the mind of such a young person you sound like you contain the ages. Hearing you at a time where the musical climate leans in favor of the all holy autotune, digital glitches, and juicy bass drops was refreshing. A reminder that there are still so many layers to who we are and what this moment sounds like – that the decades after this one promise so much light, that the profound wisdom of the youth is not to be underestimated.

Dear Convéncete” (Princesa Alba),

Unlike a lot of the songs here, I’m writing to you mere months after hearing you for the first time. You’re new, but that’s not how it felt upon hearing you. You immediately recalled the moment I heard Teleradio Donoso for the first time: urging me off of my bed and onto the proverbial dancefloor somehow all of a sudden in love and unsure with whom. That is the magic of a flawless pop song. That is the magic that the Chilean pop scene exposed me to ten years prior to hearing you. I listen to you and immediately feel like I’m at the end of a 90s rom-com, butterflies in my stomach, dramatically panning out to some ambiguous skyline while I twirl on a football field. That lightness, especially lately, is invaluable.

Dear This Is How You Smile (Helado Negro)

I don’t mean to make the rest of the songs feel bad but the whole of you, glittery being, have been my greatest friend this year. From the soft realness of “País Nublado” to the permeating drone weaving in and out of melodic glitches on “Fantasma Vaga,” it feels as if you are the album that I (and a lot of us, really) have been waiting to hear for an entire decade. You are proof that there is a way to find sweetness amongst the dark pieces that make up our reality these days. It’s been a strange year, a heavy-yet-revealing end to the decade, and you have been by my side every day in all of your glitchy glory assuring me: “quédate que hay luz.”

I will, I promise.

As Christopher Small (Musicking, 1998) so simply put it: “to take part in a musical act is of central importance to our very humanness.” So, to all of my friends who are also songs, thank you. Without you, there is no me.

Here’s to another ten,


Phoebe Smolin is a nerd from Los Angeles who lives to create and understand spaces of sonic exchange. She fell into the music industry by accident 7 years ago, and has since been working as a publicist, label coordinator, artist manager, producer, curator, connector, researcher, among whatever other title makes sense in the moment. Working with artists and arts organizations from Latin America and beyond, the heart of her professional adventures has always been a drive to bring creative expression to the forefront, and to help make often prohibitive industries easier to navigate for artists. 

IG: @phoebelousmolin
Twitter: @phoebesmolin

How Women Reclaimed a Space for Themselves in this Decade of Música Urbana

   By Lucas Villa | Nov 8th, 2019

    Artwork by Alonso Ayala (@ouchal)

“Eso no quiere decir que pa’ la cama voy,” (That doesn’t mean I’m going to bed with you) declared reggaetón music's first lady, Ivy Queen, on her 2003 breakthrough single, “Quiero Bailar.” Fast-forward to 2018 and one of the women who has risen in her wake, Karol G, boasted in Spanish, “Mi cama suena, y tu recuerdo se va,” (As my bed squeaks, your memory fades away), on  “Mi Cama.” Ivy was part of the female voices in reggaetón standing on her own during the genre's exposure in the 2000s. The past decade has seen reggaetón, and the larger música urbana movement, come back stronger than ever and fortunately, many women followed in Ivy's footsteps and fought harder for representation and space in the industry.

As the decade-end think pieces start to pop up, many of the men of reggaetón like Daddy Yankee, J Balvin, and Maluma, and the recent Latin trap music upstarts like Bad Bunny and Anuel AA, will be revered for helping globalize música urbana. However, women hold a higher regard, in part for pushing through the male-dominated genre and accumulating accolades as well and regardless of quantitative accomplishments, women deserve respect on their names. Inspired by Ivy Queen, reggaetoneras like Karol G, Natti Natasha, and Becky G were able to stand strong like the guys and further spread the female perspective on topics like sex, heartbreak, and swagger.

Near the middle of this decade, Colombia's Karol G and Dominican Republic's Natasha released a string of singles that earned them notoriety in reggaetón while Mexican-American singer Becky G was starting to crossover from the Top 40 pop of “Shower” to music in Spanish. As Latin music and artists experienced a global outreach in part due to the amassed appeal of  “Despacito” in 2017,  women  collaborated with their male colleagues and lessen the gender disparity of the genre exposure Natasha earned her first big hit with Ozuna on “Criminal” and Karol G rack up millions of views leading Bad Bunny on “Ahora Me Llama” while Becky G did the same with “Mayores,” a smash that solidified her as a force in reggaetón.

With their heightened profiles in música urbana, the women were able to follow-up with hits that highlighted the girl power the genre was lacking. On the bouncy “Mi Cama,” Karol G seamlessly switched between sweet and hard in letting an ex know that her bed was still getting plenty of action without him.

“There was a journalist that told me he didn't respect a woman making a song about her bed squeaking,” Karol G said in a L.A. concert leading up to last year's Latin Grammy Awards. “My bed is bringing me to the GRAMMYs and it keeps squeaking and squeaking.” A few days later, Karol G became the first female reggaetón act to win Best New Artist.

One of Natasha's songs that really made an impact was “La Mejor Versión de Mi,” an emotional ballad where she discovered her self-worth after leaving a toxic relationship. Finding strength in solidarity, Becky G scored one of the biggest hits in Latin music this decade with Natasha on “Sin Pijama,” a reggaetón-pop romp about throwing a sexy sleepover.

“The industry, the press, the audience would rather see women compete against each other and fight against each other,” Becky G said in an interview with Billboard this year. “I would like to change that. So many people told me not to do ‘Sin Pijama’ with anybody. Imagine two powerhouses coming together. That's lights out. That's a moment in music history. That's more than just a hit song. That is making a statement that will change the game and that's exactly what we did.”

With women of música urbana teaming up, female Latin pop stars also joined. Argentina's pop princesses Tini Stoessel and Lali Espósito worked with Karol G on separate occasions. The former racked up millions of views with Karol on the empowering “Princesa” while the latter broke through a power studded lineup of Latinas on Mau y Ricky and Karol's “Mi Mala” remix alongside Becky G and Leslie Grace.

Just before “Despacito,” Colombian superstar Shakira was back in the reggaetón game with “Chantaje” featuring Maluma. In the early 2000s Shakira and Alejandro Sanz attempted a similar feature with “La Tortura.” Currently, “Chantaje” nears 2.5 million views on YouTube while Spanish artist Rosalía, has a pop take on flamenco music turning heads, and now rubbing elbows with urbano with “Con Altura” with J Balvin and “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi” with Ozuna.

Like Shakira, Jennifer Lopez is a powerful Latina who dabbled in reggaetón this decade. On a remix of the male-centric “Te Boté,” she gave the savage kiss-off track a much-needed female voice. “Let's be real, I threw you out,” J.Lo fired back. Brazilian superstar Anitta found her groove in música urbana, especially on “Downtown,” where she took control in the bedroom and gives J Balvin the directions where to go.

As música urbana goes global, more artists around Latin America are finding their voice in the movement. ChocQuibTown from the Afro-Colombian city of Chocó recently dropped a single titled “Que Me Baile” where the group's female member Gloria “Goyo” Martínez takes the lead in demanding hot-and-heavy dancing in the club alongside Becky G. In the music video, Martínez reigns and shines like a rightful queen over her bandmates and a team of dancers. Acknowledging reggaetón is a Black sound, seeing and hearing women like Martínez reclaim the genre for Afro-Latinx women is powerful, such the case of Dominican-American rapper Cardi B dominated the charts in both Spanish and English.

Women have been thriving in the genre for the better half of this decade. The opportunities they're pushing will be carried into the next one.

Lucas Villa is a freelance music journalist based in Santa Ana, the barrio of Orange County, California. He has been writing about all things pop music for 8 years now. He's covered countless pop stars, concerts and events across the country and abroad. As a Mexican-American writer, his coverage lately has been more focused on Latin music and its movement across the globe. He feels the most proud to give Latinx artists (especially the divas) the coverage that they're lacking and deserve. His words have been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, MTV News, and Remezcla. Connect with him on all social media @MyPrerogative15.¡Vamos órale!

The Night Dënver Gave Me a Future

   By Richard Villegas | Nov 7th, 2019

    Artwork by Alonso Ayala (@ouchal)

What’s the record that changed your life? I don’t mean the one that helped you get over a break up or nursed you through mourning a loved one. Those records are essential, but I mean the one that shattered your fundamental understanding of what music is and can be. I mean the one that forced you to reassess your beliefs. The one that unmasked you as little more than a young, arrogant fool. For me, that record was Dënver’s sophomore album Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, an emotional whirlwind of synthesizers, orchestral strings, romantic daydreaming and teenage angst that forever shattered my US-centric musical outlook.

Melodrama aside, that record really did change my life. In late 2011, after nearly three glorious, if hectic, years in South America, a wild adventure came to a crashing close as ending jobs, friendships, and romantic relationships indicated it was time to begin a scary new chapter. That October I headed home to New York City, an amazing but tough fucking town, where my less than glamorous circumstances ushered in a deep and ugly depression. I was broke as a joke, sharing a bedroom with two friends in The Bronx and unable to secure a job for the first six months of my return. This apparent fall from grace was a sharp contrast to my South American life, where for the past two years I’d lived in Santiago, Chile, making extremely cute coins and living excessively, to the point of vulgarity. It was a humbling shift, and looking for any nostalgic taste of my past life, I remembered a friend had gifted me the new album from this random band for whom he designed a website.

I distinctly recall my incredulousness as the shimmering disco strings of “Mi Primer Oro” gave way to the filthy, saturated synths of “Olas Gigantes.” How had I never heard this? I loved dance music. Disco had been my favorite musical genre since I started paying attention to the whole damn artform! How had this music existed right under my nose and completely escaped me? What the actual fuck was happening? Who were Dënver and why had I not yet pirated their entire discography?

But the bitter truth was I had known about this gold mine and didn’t care when I was actually in it. I had seen Dënver, Ana Tijoux and Astro perform at the first Lollapalooza Chile in 2010, and I shrugged them off as local filler talent as I walked over to catch whichever other US or European act was performing at the same time. Javiera Mena and Francisca Valenzuela opened the festival’s main stage on their respective days, promoting their sublime debut albums, as well as new cuts from their even better follow ups Mena and Buen Soldado. I, of course, showed up later, eager to see some mediocre band I can’t even remember. More galling still, I saw Dënver perform twice more during my time in Chile; once at a post-earthquake fundraiser in 2010 and again opening for Cut Copy later that year.

Back in my friend’s Bronx dining room, the epic orchestral crescendo of “Lo Que Quieras” was hitting and I was already frantically searching for related artists. That night I discovered Gepe, Adrianigual, Fakuta and Alex Anwandter, also going back and giving Javiera Mena and Astro a proper shot. I was blown away, and while the Chilean indie pop explosion came as a buzzy and gradual wave for most, it was a rude awakening for me. I looked back on my life in Chile, and even further back to the year prior in Argentina, and found cherished memories lived through a jarring gringo bubble. In many ways I’d been bratty and condescending, disinterested in local music scenes I was repeatedly told were excellent. Maybe it was knowing that soon I’d have to go sleep on a dirty, deflated air mattress, or perhaps it was the pit of regret expanding in my stomach, but that night Dënver threw me a lifeline.

Chilean indie pop suited me shockingly well, then and now, and while I remain a fervent acolyte of this musical golden age, Música, Gramática, Gimnasia is still my favorite way of getting lost in a wondrous hipster fantasy. I’ve always had a taste for quirky, left-of-center pop, so songs like “Los Adolescentes” and “Segundas Destrezas” left me twirling on the moon. Mariana Montenegro’s almost childish cooing on “Feedback” and “Cartagena” still gives me chills, and while she remains the face of Dënver to this day, it was Milton Mahan’s reluctant leading man energy that had me hook, line and sinker.

I was completely sold on the cinematic romanticism of “Diane Keaton” and “Lo Que Quieras,” the latter of which always gets me on the last line. After offering us heaven, earth and everything in between, Mahan closes the song by meekly gasping “Y si no quieres nada...” – an extraordinary reminder that having each other’s company is more than enough to get by in this terrible world. On “Los Bikers,” we also get a glimpse of the subtle darkness that has become a hallmark of Mahan’s writing, minimally unspooling a tale of sexual assault that grows even tenser when coupled with its modern dance and sadomasochism-flavored music video. Finally, on “En Medio De Una Fiesta,” he provides a perfect bookend for the record, exquisitely colliding the melancholy and disco ball euphoria we’ve heard explored throughout.

In my life there’s a before and after Música, Gramática, Gimnasia. Before Dënver opened the floodgates of an entire generation of Latin American indie musicians making brilliant, challenging work without so much as an ounce of credibility to envy their US and European peers, I was willfully ignorant and unaware of my staggering gringo arrogance. Afterwards, I became hungry and curious again, reconciling several aspects of my identity and devoting the better part of the past decade to supporting and uplifting this artistic universe. As a writer I’ve been lucky enough to meet, interview and befriend many of my idols, while as a fan and adventurer I’ve traveled the world, being welcomed into scenes, shows and homes I could only have dreamed of while sitting in my friend’s plastic covered chairs in The Bronx. Today, this music pays my bills. It literally feeds me. After years in the game, it still sounds like madness every time I say it out loud.

Gracias Dënver, por darme lo que quería.

Richard Villegas is a music journalist, culture writer, world traveler, Instagram thot and hot mess. He is a frequent contributor at Remezcla, Bandcamp and Rolling Stone and produces the SONGMESS podcast, where he interviews Ibero-American musicians and industry professionals over beers, coffee and chisme.
IG: @rixinyc / @songmess


   By Sam Rodgers | Nov 6th, 2019

    Artwork by Alonso Ayala (@ouchal)

In the past decade the Iberoamerican world has stepped up to the plate in regards to LGBTQIA+ rights. Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, the United States, Colombia, and Ecuador have legalized same-sex marriage nationwide within the past ten years. In Mexico, same-sex marriage has been recognized in a majority of states, while Canada and Spain legalized the practice in the 2000s. Latin America has also seen some of the more progressive legislation for trans* people adopted in the last ten years compared with other countries. Politcally, it would seem that the rainbow is bursting out of the Western Hemisphere – indeed, over the last decade not just Iberoamerican, but queer artists worldwide have become more visible and celebrated by an ever growing audience. 

This past decade, at least in the Club Fonograma world, has been dominated by high profile queer Latinxs, Alex Anwandter and Javiera Mena. Both artists have seen tremendous growth over the decade as their fanbases expand outside of their homeland, Chile. Anwandter won a Teddy Award for his first feature film, Nunca vas a estar solo (2016), and has sung the words “el maricón del pueblo” in a Latin Grammy performance. He referenced seminal ballroom scene documentary Paris Is Burning (1990) in the video for “Cómo Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo?” (2012). He’s also led the way for newcomers like fellow Chileans Francisco Victoria, Entrópica, and Playa Gótica’s Fanny Leona. Meanwhile, Mena created an iconic lesbian music video for her single, “Espada” (2014), and more recently collaborated with Colombia’s gay pop idol Esteman on “Amor Libre” (2019). That’s not to exclude other Chilean queer icons Kali Mutsa and Dënver, the latter producing the very homoerotic video for their song “Los Bikers/Segundas Destrezas” in 2011. 

Across the Andes, Argentine band Miranda! has continued their run of dizzying camp pop, while Uruguay’s Carmen Sandiego’s “Mi Novio Gremlin” (2010) was one of the best-received indie songs of the decade. In Brazil, trans artist/activist Linn da Quebrada (“Linn from the margins”) raps about the issues she faced growing up queer and black in a São Paulo favela. Joining her are São Paulo’s Quebrada Queer, a hip hop cypher which is gaining popularity among young Brazilians living under Jair Bolsonaro, showcasing the argument that being visibly queer and pissed off is the new punk. Their videos have millions of views, but nowhere near the success of Pabllo Vittar, “the Most Popular Drag Queen In The World,” who has over a billion total YouTube views. Just as much in the Brazilian national consciousness now is Club Fonograma favorite SILVA, who, with his 2016 video for “Feliz e Ponto,” cheekily came out as bisexual. 

Staying in the Lusophone world, Titica, Angola’s trans “kuduro” artist, has been a UNAIDS goodwill ambassador following her breakout single with Ary, “Olha O Boneco” (2012), which remains a guaranteed slap. 

Venezuela’s Arca, who is non-binary, has risen to be a worldwide critical darling, not to mention his collaborations with the venerable Björk. Queer Colombian artist Lido Pimienta received the Polaris Music Prize in 2017 for La Papessa (2016) and the world eagerly awaits for the follow-up, Miss Colombia, which should propel her to even greater heights. Dominican author and Club Fonograma heroine Rita Indiana was voted one of the 100 most influential Latinx personalities in 2011 by the newspaper El País, even though we might wait forever for new music from Los Misterios. Meanwhile, this year in Mexico, Juan Manuel Torreblanca went all out with “Maricón” (2019), a song proclaiming reclamation against the slur, haters be damned. And riding the zeitgeist of YouTube makeup tutorials, drag, and anime is Sailorfag, a Sonora native studying fashion in Guadalajara, spitting rhymes about gender performance and homophobia. 

But while there seems to be a wave of LGBTQ artists reaching not-just-niche audiences, not all has been felicitous. The aforementioned President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is a “proud” homophobe. In 2018 alone, there were a reported 420 murders of LGBT people in the country, and hate crimes are on the rise around the world. In the United States, the Trump administration wants to instill the Religious Freedom Bill giving legal protections to religious organizations to discriminate against LGBT workers. But nothing exemplifies the daily terror experienced by the marginalized more than the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016. Forty-nine people were murdered by a single gunman, while over fifty were wounded. What hit me hardest was that the majority of victims were Latinx and queer. Their tragic deaths remind us that there is still so much work to be done, moving ahead in solidarity, pushing for human rights every person under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella deserves. While queer art can seem the most fun, most colorful, and most human in complexity, it is often underpinned by so much pain and trauma. We’re so proud of the leaps and bounds the queer Latinx artist community has made in the 2010s and we celebrate the bravery it takes to put the self, and the work, “out” there. Judging by the positive support so far, the artists included in this piece (and others you can find here) are blazing a trail to more acceptance and, for their own community, more love.

Remembering those we lost at the Pulse tragedy:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Amanda Alvear, 25
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Antonio D. Brown, 30
Darryl R. Burt II, 29
Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Luis D. Conde, 39
Cory J. Connell, 21
Tevin E. Crosby, 25
Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Deonka D. Drayton, 32
Mercedez M. Flores, 26
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Juan R. Guerrero, 22
Paul T. Henry, 41
Frank Hernandez, 27
Miguel A. Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jason B. Josaphat, 19
Eddie J. Justice, 30
Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Kimberly Morris, 37
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Jerald A. Wright, 31

Sam Rodgers is a writer and ESL teacher living in Sydney, Australia. He joined the Club Fonograma team in 2012 after years of fanaticism and he feels so honored to have been part of the family. You can follow him everywhere @anoddgeography.

How Spain Turned to Música Urbana in the 2010s

   By Pierre Lestruhaut | Nov 5th, 2019

    Artwork by Alonso Ayala (@ouchal)

In a move that would certainly end up causing the anger of the old (likely misguided) guard of 2000s indie rock fans, the 2019 Primavera Sound lineup was headlined by international reggaetón staple J Balvin, a stage was fully curated by Spanish trap pioneer Yung Beef, and a good chunk of the local acts were heavy on the (for lack of a better term) música urbana side of the musical spectrum. The message was clear: perreo has triumphed in la Madre Patria. But years before that, even when Primavera lineups were still heavy on Anglo guitar-driven rock and British electronic musicians, notable changes were starting to emerge in the artistic output coming from Spain.

As a music publication, Club Fonograma didn’t start to notice that there was such a thing as trap music made in España until Granadan trapero Yung Beef, and his crew PXXR GVNG (now called LOS SANTOS), started getting coverage from Latin American music blogs. Despite Yung Beef being widely seen as the face of Spanish trap back then, he’s also forayed into reggaetón with band La Mafia del Amor, something that has certainly added to the fact that trap and reggaetón have been bundled together scene-wise in Spain. Although most of Yung Beef’s output has not tried to distinguish itself from American trap’s main thematic or sonic trends, his heavy Andalusian accent has left its imprints on the rhyming style of Spanish trap, to the point that traperos from other regions will often sound a little Andalusian when rhyming.

Another equally popular (but less street cred-worthy) Spanish trap personality is C. Tangana, a Madrid rapper who initially caught our attention as part of rap collective Agorazein. With lyrical output often centered around habitual trap themes like flex culture or making money, he’s also had top-notch Barcelona producer Alizzz making the beats for a lot of his bangers and has been very vocal about having Hova-like business-centric mentality. But the madrileño is also comfortable moving out of his comfort zone (as testified by his salsa keyboard infused pop hit “Mala Mujer,” or his collaborations with flamenco artists Rosalía and Niño de Elche), and has repeatedly given high praise to older Latino reggaetón stars (“Dios bendiga al reggaetón, Dios bendiga a Daddy”).

But even if trap has felt like Spain’s main música urbana export, it’s clear that reggaetón has begun to supplant trap’s popularity in the country. A few months ago, El Mundo ran an article chronicling the evolution of trap and reggaetón’s popularity in Spain. There’s a brief mention to the function that the 2008 financial crisis could have played in the popularity of reggaetón, and with that, the implication that increased unemployment and leisure leads to higher consumption and creation of frivolous music among young people. But said observations are more in line with patronizing YouTube comments discrediting reggaetón as lowbrow music that’s only enjoyed by the uneducated youth.

The piece does a better job at analyzing the more robust role that immigrants have played in the explosion of trap and reggaetón. Although the article is more interested in reggaetón as a genre invading Spanish urban nightlife than as one invading Spanish music, neoperreo as a movement is discussed, name-dropping its Argentina-born, Spain-based star Ms Nina. Alongside other musicians not based in Spain but who also emigrated from South America (Tomasa del Real, Talisto), she has embraced the neoperreo tag proudly, both operating in a DIY manner outside of the mainstream and major labels, but also infusing reggaetón with edgier production, brasher lyrical themes, and a much-needed sex-positive female energy.

But one of the most surprising Spanish musicians to have found recent international success, is one that has operated outside of trap and reggaetón. Starting out in Catalan beach town Vilassar de Mar before moving to Barcelona, dancehall musician Bad Gyal initially found an audience via her own version of Rihanna’s “Work.” Singing over dancehall riddims with a thick Spanish accent, it’s hard not to chuckle somewhat at the result of dancehall performed with tacky Spanish accent instead of the smooth Jamaican one we’re used to. But she’s received her good share of journalistic praise – with features in Pitchfork and The Fader – and renowned artists have collaborated with her, as testified by having her videos directed by CANADA, and her tracks produced by the likes of Dubbel Dutch and El Guincho.

Of course, there’s also the complicated matter as to where this all fits in the cultural appreciation vs. cultural appropriation debate (some of these artists have been accused of the latter). It’s certainly not the purpose of a 1000-word internet think piece on a defunct music blog to enter the realm of such heated debates, and other media outlets have already opened this discussion successfully, most notably, Eduardo Cepeda’s review of reggaetón's black roots in Remezcla, and Manuel Carrasco’s more recent similar take on the whitening of black music in general published in Vice (in Spanish). But it’s worth mentioning that all the artists mentioned here have, at some point, shown acute awareness and recognition towards the roots of the music that they’re playing. It may not solve the underlying issues involved, but it’s a start.

There remains another not-so-optimistic view regarding the explosion of música urbana in Spain (and global pop in general), one related to the feeling that we’re moving towards a uniformization of the sound of mainstream Spanish-language music. Take, for example, Rosalía, the much hyped new star of Spanish pop. Starting her career in the flamenco circuit performing in tablaos, her enormously praised second album El Mal Querer (2018) went decidedly towards what many have described as a modernization of flamenco via the aesthetics and production techniques of present day hip-hop and electronica (mainly trap). But in less than a year, her 2019 singles (collaborating with J Balvin and Ozuna) have mainly abandoned flamenco and veered decidedly towards global pop and reggaetón sounds, causing both surprise and mixed feelings from fans and critics.

The combination of major label capital and streaming platform algorithms is the easy-to-identify culprit behind the perceived lack of variety. But despite this, the boom that música urbana has had among Spanish music is generally seen as a positive phenomenon that speaks volumes about a group of artists that’s open-minded, adventurous and unprejudiced. When looking at interviews with the people who have tended to gravitate towards scenes like neoperreo, “unprejudiced” is a word that is very often uttered when describing themselves. This suggests not only the progressiveness of the people that make up the scene, but also that prejudices still exist among the audiences that reject música urbana.

The generational component behind said prejudices is here the most obvious one, and the decades old analysis that has been done regarding older generations rejecting rock in the 1960s, or hip-hop in the 1980s, points out to the very cyclical nature behind the phenomenon of differences in taste between generations. Which is why there are reasons to feel optimistic. There’s the sensation that youth culture’s ability to get rid of old prejudices and constantly seek for novelty will keep things moving. Because it’s precisely that need for novelty that gave us the idiosyncratic array of artists that defined late 2010s música urbana in Spain, one that succeeded at exploring musical territories that, a few years ago, were neither hip nor fashionable.

Pierre Lestruhaut is a Club Fonograma contributor based in San José, Costa Rica. You can find him on Twitter @pedrito_les.