10 Alt-Latin artists you need to hear
While reggaeton and regional Mexican music might be the dominating Latin genres right now, if you listen closely, there's an alternative element that's pushing these sounds into the future. Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny tapped acts like The Marías to feature his blockbuster album Un Verano Sin Ti. Mexican-American teen DannyLux is putting out traditional Mexican corridos with a classic rock influence. That's just the tip of the iceberg on how alternative and Latin music are colliding in interesting ways. With Hispanic Heritage Month here, we want to celebrate the new generation of Latinx and Spanish artists who are proudly rocking out in their own language. Hopefully this can serve as a primer on these artists that should be listened to all year round.
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After years of working the music festival circuit, The Marías made their mark last year with the stellar debut album Cinema. Throughout the dreamy collection of songs, lead singer María Zardoya proudly represents her Puerto Rican roots by singing in English and Spanish. For instance, she's equally captivating in both the alluring "Un Millón" and atmospheric "All I Really Want is You." This year, the indie rock outfit has continued to skyrocket, even earning their first entry on Billboard's Hot 100 with Bad Bunny on the sublime "Otro Atardecer," which beautifully blended breezy guitar riffs with reggaeton beats.
Mariangela is representing Mexico in the Latin alternative music scene by way of Texas. The Monterrey native, who later relocated to San Antonio, started out on YouTube by posting covers of Lana Del Rey and Mexican alternative icon Carla Morrison. Earlier this year, Mariangela signed with Sony Music Latin and released her debut single, the lush "Himalaya." But everything came full circle when she opened for Morrison's concerts in Texas soon after. Now Mariangela is channeling Depeche Mode in her latest release, the heartbreakingly beautiful "Soñarte." Like another one of her inspirations, Hayley Williams in Paramore's "When it Rains," Mariangela serenades a loved one who has sadly taken their own life.
Álvaro Díaz is taking reggaeton music to places where it's never been before. On his breakthrough album, last year's Felicilandia, the Puerto Rican singer and rapper blended elements of rock, jazz, and hip-hop into the project. In the breezy "18+1," a rush of guitar riffs back Diaz and Jesse Baez's swaggering lyrics and in the thumping "Chinita Linda,” he channeled A Tribe Called Quest alongside funky Venezuelan group Rawayana. Diaz's imaginative mind as a producer and artist has crafted incredible, futuristic reggaeton fusions. Perhaps his most electric moment yet is pop-punk banger "Ramona Flowers," Diaz's ode to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World which previews his next album Sayonara.
After writing hits for pop stars like Christina Aguilera, Shakira, and Cardi B, GALE is stepping into the spotlight this year. Earlier this year, the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter signed with Sony Music Latin and released her debut single, the angsty "Inmadura," where she blended reggaeton beats from her island with pop-punk elements. From the get-go, GALE has set out to create her own lane with an alternative twist. Her follow-up single, the fierce and flirty "Problemas," is even more electrifying. Backed by a blast of guitar shredding, she sings about working out relationship problems with some makeup sex.
Pol Granch rose to global prominence last year as part of Marc Seguí's sunny "Tiroteo" remix with Rauw Alejandro. With that hit, people became acquainted with his adorably distinct Spanish and French accent. This past year, the Madrid native found the angst in his voice with a string of rock-infused bangers. Granch blasted into 2022 with the emo rush of "Kriño." He followed up that love song with the heartbreaking ballad "No Te Bastó, Mi Corazón." Granch channeled his frustrations of falling short in a relationship into a guttural scream that cut through the guitars. His pop-punk rebirth meets club-ready beats in "Solo x Ti," the latest addition to his sad boy anthems that preview his album Amor Escupido that’s due out Oct. 28.
Blue Rojo is pushing Latin pop into the future with elements of punk music. After creating buzz online with his openly queer anthems, the Mexican-American signed with Universal Music Group last year. His debut album, Solitario, followed soon after. Blue Rojo channeled his angst for having an unrequited crush on a straight man into a musical rollercoaster of emotions. Industrial music and EDM collided in "Después de la Pandemia Volví a Ser Católiko," where Blue Rojo pleaded to God for guidance. He embraced his inner baddie in the sexy "Eslabón de Bonbón," a sonic lovechild of reggaeton and punk music. Blue Rojo's operatic voice cuts through the genres he's exploring to create an alternative sound that's all his own.
DannyLux is putting a rock spin on regional Mexican music. The Mexican-American teen has created a stir with his Mexican corridos that are influenced by the classic rock bands that his parents grew up on. A psychedelic intro that wouldn't sound out of place on a Beatles album opens his fiery kiss-off track "Tristeza y Traición." There's a breezy, Eagles-like soul in the nostalgic "Nuestro Pasado." A Pink Floyd-like haze leads into his emo love ode "No Te Quiero Perder." The guitar is a powerful instrument in corridos just as music just as much as it is in rock and DannyLux harnesses its full potential in his beautifully bicultural songs.
Kevin Kaarl is channeling the romanticism of Mexican music into his soulful folk sound. The Chihuahua native broke out in 2018 with his nostalgic love song "Amor Viejo." His breakthrough album, San Lucas, arrived a year later with the winsome title track, an ode to Kaarl's hometown. Earlier this month, he dropped his follow-up LP, Paris Texas, that added an electronic gloss on his heartfelt tunes. It sounds like the Lumineers meets Beach House in "Siente Más," Kaarl somber ode to life after the party is over. In the alluring "Cuéntame Una Historia de Rencor," he teamed up with El Guincho, the co-producer of Rosalía's El Mal Querer album. As an independent artist, Kaarl is doing folk music in his own way and leaving his stamp in Spanish.
Mau y Ricky
Mau y Ricky's next musical project will be Desgenerados, which roughly translates to "without genre." Though the Venezuelan brothers don't want to be limited to one genre, they've been injecting Latin genres like reggaeton and regional Mexican music with rock influences, especially on their last album, rifresh. The LP featured the breezy "Papás" and the punk-infused "Fresh," which has become an empowering anthem in live shows. Recent delights among their electrifying fusions include the alluring "Mal Acostumbrao" with Argentine singer María Becerra and the frenetic "No Puede Ser" alongside rapper Eladio Carrión. Mau y Ricky are riding in their own lane while refreshing every sound they come across along the way.
Danna Paola is going in an alternative direction for the next chapter of her career. Earlier this year, the Mexican pop princess teamed up with glam rock band Moderatto to cover a classic by telenovela band RBD. She dialed it back to the 2000s pop-rock era for her dreamy duet of "Sólo Quédate En Silencio" with lead singer Jay de la Cueva. In her comeback single "XT4S1S," Paola has amped up her sound. It marks the first time that she's produced one of her songs alongside her boyfriend Alex Hoyer. Backed by the thump of guitars that are reminiscent of the xx, Paola sings about enjoying life on a constant climax. There's no coming down from the high that she evokes with this fierce, feel-good anthem.