For Latin music, the decade started inauspiciously. Revenue was down and labels were tightening their rosters. But as we look back to 2010, we find a year of exciting, ambitious albums, rife with experimentation.
They set the stage for what would become Latin music’s big comeback, fueled by a streaming revolution, the explosion of urban music and a bounty of new artists. Billboard’s Latin staff traversed genres and countries to bring you our top 50 albums of the decade, arranged below by year of release.
La Vida Boheme, Nuestra (2010)
Caracas band La Vida Boheme exploded onto the international music scene with the subtlety of a Molotov cocktail. Led by the Ramones’ inspired single “Radio Capital,” the 2010 album Nuestra sent a prophetic message about the declining social and political situation in Venezuela that was at the same time universal. The band’s punk and new wave sound, retrofitted with tropical roots, and its call to rebellion are impossible to ignore. -- JUDY CANTOR-NAVAS
Shakira, Sale el Sol (2010)
Long before pop/urban collabs were the norm, Shakira tested the waters with songs like “Loca” (feat. El Cata) and “Gordita” (feat. Calle 13). But Sale el Sol was also beautifully evocative in songs like its title track. With few female acts around her in the mainstream at the time, Shakira showed that gender did not define success in any genre. -- LEILA COBO
Calle 13, Entren Los Que Quieran (2010)
Full of unfiltered witty lyrics and experimental mini-masterpieces, Calle 13’s Entren Los Que Quieran brings to the forefront the duo’s feelings on many controversial topics. “Calma Pueblo,” performed along with The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez, is a message to critics, driving home the fact that authenticity has bred their success, while the topical “Latinoamerica” features social and historical commentary from singers Susana Baca (from Peru), Toto La Momposina (Colombia) and Maria Rita (Brazil). Entren Los Que Quieran nabbed Calle 13 nine awards at the 12th annual Latin Grammys including album of the year. -- JESSICA ROIZ
Dejarte de amar, Camila (2010)
Some of Camila’s timeless hits live on their sophomore studio album. Mario Domm, Pablo Hurtado and former member Samo launched a collection of 11 magical tracks that navigate pop, rock, a tad of blues and lots of soul, tied together with gorgeous harmonies. “Bésame,” “Mientes,” and “Alejate de Mi” are some cuts that still connect with people of all ages. “Dejarte de Amar,” which was the last album released before lead singer Samo left the group, nabbed the 2010 Latin Grammy for best pop album by a duo or group. -- J.R.
The Chieftains feat. Ry Cooder, San Patricio (2010)
The Chieftains, Ireland’s most iconic folk group, made a ballsy move recording San Patricio, an homage to the fabled San Patricio -- or St. Patrick’s -- batallion of Irish soldiers, who defected from the U.S. army to fight for Mexico in the Mexican American War of the 1800s. Featuring collaborations with the likes of Linda Ronstandt, Los Tigres del Norte and Chavela Vargas, this stunning and progressive album is an example of kinship and artistry through music, with not a single accusation of cultural appropriation. -- L.C.
Ivy Queen, Drama Queen (2010)
At a time when women were simply not properly represented in the Latin urban landscape, Puerto Rico’s Ivy Queen totally broke paradigms with her provocative, blunt Drama Queen. Armed with beats, melodies and a healthy dosage of love, Ivy Queen showed it's not necessary to sexually bare it all in order to be the Queen. -- L.C.
Cachao, The Last Mambo (2011)
The Cuban master Cachao’s Grammy-winning final album, The Last Mambo captured a triumphant concert recorded in Miami in 2007, when he was 89, just months before his death. Cachao is accompanied by multigenerational Latin greats including Cándido Camero, Alfredo de la Fe, Dave Valentin and Jimmy Bosch on the poignant set, which paints a portrait of the pioneering bassist, a brilliant and innovative artist with uncommon grace. -- J.C.N.
Drama Y Luz, Mana (2011)
After a five-year hiatus, Latin rock’s most successful band pushed the boundaries of its comfort zone with this ambitious album, full of grandiose tales -- including “Sor María,” the story of an errant nun, which also features dragons, and "Lluvia al Corazón,” which compares one’s hopeful situation to that of a free and flying butterfly -- grandiose arrangements, and of course, plenty of rock n’ roll. This was an album full of hits, but also full of risks. -- J.R.
Romeo Santos, Formula, Vol. 1 (2011)
After leaving Aventura in 2011 to embark on his solo career, Romeo Santos dropped his debut album Formula, Vol. 1, marking territory as the “King of Bachata.” The 20-set production includes a hilarious intro featuring Mexican comedian George Lopez, as well as hit tracks “La Diabla,” “Llevame Contigo,” and “Debate de 4" -- the latter of which sees Santos joining forces with bachata veterans Anthony Santos, Luis Vargas and Raulin Rodriguez. Vol. 1, which is Santo's longest-leading title on Billboard's Top Latin Albums (17 weeks in 2011-12), also fused bachata with flamenco (as heard in “Mi Santa,” featuring Spanish guitarist Tomatito), showcased Santos’ romantic pop side in “Rival” (featuring Mario Domm), and dipped into Spanglish with “Promise," a collab with American pop star Usher. -- J.R.
Jenni Rivera, Joyas Prestadas (2011)
While Jenni Rivera would always be at heart a banda singer, she was capable of much more. In Joyas Prestadas, her last studio album, she set out to demonstrate how big her range of action could be, recording covers of beloved songs in two genres: pop and banda. Bigger than life, Rivera delivered in both, a rare feat. The double-duty set, released a month before her death, showed that regional Mexican music could live outside its niche, and cemented Rivera’s stature as the most important female regional Mexican singer of her generation. -- L.C.
Ricardo Arjona, Independiente (2011)
After nearly two decades signed to major labels, the Guatemalan singer/songwriter went indie and released the aptly-titled Independiente on his own Metamorfosis Records. It debuted at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums, with two tracks, including the guitar driven “Te quiero,” reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart. An album of wonderful songs set to acoustic arrangements (with “Mi novia se me está poniendo vieja,” dedicated to his mom, a particular highlight), Independiente was Arjona’s triumph of music over industry. -- L.C.
Alejandro Sanz, La Música No Se Toca (2012)
Penning songs about love, heartbreak and music as usual, Alejandro Sanz’s 12th studio album was also his first album on Universal Music Latino after 20 years with Warner. “I needed a change,” Sanz told Billboard. “Starting again is like renovating your illusions." The set includes songs highlights as the alternative funk jam “Camino de Rosas,” the chart-topping “No Me Compares,” and the Latin Grammy-nominated “Mi Marciana.” Sanz said that his objective with this album was to create a monumental album of symphonic pop, and he certainly succeeded. -- J.R.
No Te Va Gustar, El Calor del Pleno Invierno (2012)
No Te Va Gustar’s sublime rock reached a peak on El Calor del Pleno Invierno. A key album for the nine-member band formed in 1994 in Montevideo, it went platinum in three days after its release in Uruguay and propelled the band to double-Platinum status in neighboring Argentina, confirming their place in the pantheon of Latin rock’s biggest stars. Key tracks include “Nada Fue en Vano" and “A las Nueve.” -- J.C.N.
Prince Royce: Soy El Mismo (2013)
Prince Royce returned to his bachata roots with this bilingual album of beautifully crafted hits, including the bittersweet title track. In Soy el Mismo, Royce wanted to go to basics, and he does -- with only one collaboration, alongside superstar Selena Gomez on “Already Missing You." -- SUZETTE FERNANDEZ
Carlos Vives, Corazón profundo (2013)
Following an eight-year absence from the Billboard charts (and largely from recording), Vives returned to a No. 1 spot with his beautiful Corazón Profundo, which includes some of his best writing in years, and was his first album of new material since 2004. The album’s linchpin is “Volví a nacer,” which parallels Vives’ musical rebirth with his emotional rebirth, and which debuted at No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs. With other hits like “Bailar Contigo” and “Como le gusta a tu cuerpo,” the set demonstrated that comebacks are possible and that Colombian trop-pop was still very much alive. -- L.C.
Draco Rosa, Vida (2013):
Vida, the life-embracing collaborative album, could have been Draco Rosa’s swan song. Instead, it set a new bar creatively and commercially for the Puerto Rican rocker, who started out as a member of boy band Menudo. The album debuted at no. 1 on Top Latin Albums chart and went on to win the Latin Grammy for album of the year and best Latin Pop album at the Grammys. Vida was produced in the artist’s Los Angeles studio, after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, for which he underwent a successful stem cell transplant. "Some doctors thought I'd be dead in a few months. I thought, 'Well, if this is it, at least I did this record with my peers,” he told Billboard when the record was released. Vida ("Life") includes tracks with Ricky Martin, Romeo Santos, Shakira, Alejandro Sanz and Juanes, and. "Esto Es Vida," his duet with Juan Luis Guerra, is one of the most beautiful love songs -- and life-loving songs -- of the decade. -- J.C.N.
Marc Anthony, 3.0 (2013)